Leighton Park School, Shinfield Road, Reading

Clients: Leighton Park School
Proposal: New Music and Media Centre

Research undertaken during the preparation of the heritage statement for the site, identified a plan of the Lordship and Liberty of Earley dating to 1756, which illustrated the Site itself as lying within a broad area of land belonging to Pepper Farm, which was set around Pepper House - the original name for School House, built in 1830 and in the ownership of the Cobham family.

Further map regression illustrated that by 1820 there was a degree of uniformity to the lines of trees within the Site, suggesting formal avenues in place and the beginnings of the formal parkland apparent by the later 19th century.  By the issue of the 1877 First Edition Ordnance Survey, Leighton Park is illustrated as formal parkland. The north and south lodges are shown along with the two approaches to the west end of the main drive. Both approaches pass through dense tree cover, as seen today, prior to the house being ‘revealed’ at the convergence of the two drives.

Leighton Park c. late 19th century

Armour Heritage prepared an initial heritage statement based upon a number of options for the proposed new Music and Media Centre, which was to incorporate an extant 1970s block, set within surviving elements of the parkland and close to the Grade II Listed School House with its associated Science Block designed by the British architect Alfred Waterhouse.

   Extant 1970s block

The main issues were potential impacts on the setting of the Listed Building and impacts upon the surviving elements of the former parkland. Also considered within the original heritage statement was an assessment of the archaeological potential of the Site, where the possible presence of two Bronze Age round barrows, first recorded in antiquity, was identified. Subsequent geophysical survey and a small trial trench evaluation identified nothing of significance.

Following a prolonged period of consultation with the architects, the Conservation Officer and the Case Officer, a final design acceptable to all parties was agreed which included the lowering of new roof heights and the location of the extension in an area which resulted in the least visual impact to the Listed Building. Planning consent was granted in March 2016.