This month it was announced that Ipswich High School, the renowned coeducational independent day and boarding school, based in Woolverstone, has won the Boarding Schools’ Association award for ‘Best Boarding House Extension or Refurbishment’ following the exceptional work that has transformed their boarding facilities into stylish, hotel-like accommodation fit for today’s discerning boarder.
Ipswich High School’s ethos is to put each pupil’s happiness and success at the heart of everything they do. This ethos was at the centre of all decisions surrounding the recent refurbishment of The Dairy House (the original accommodation for the Head of the Dairy Herd at Woolverstone Hall) and The Barns (a collection of disused outbuildings) into high-quality boarding houses.
Working with Roger Balmer Design, architects specialising in finding solutions to complicated planning restrictions, and Hills Building Group, a highly reputable local construction contractor, a predominant focus of the project was navigating the challenges that come with renovating a Grade II listed building. Especially those that sit within a conservation area and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, whilst simultaneously providing a unique, functional space for the students to study, live, and play.
The school’s award entry highlighted the specialist works required during the 18-month refurbishment project. Renovations to The Dairy House, a Grade II listed building, saw it transformed into 20 single and twin ensuite bedrooms, while retaining and restoring original architectural features such as The Creamery (where cream was originally made and which is now a social space), decorative ceiling architrave, original tiling, and antique fireplaces.
Planning regulations dictated the dilapidated cattle barns which became The Barns Boarding House had to blend in with the existing structures and look as if they were used for their original purpose, yet still provide outstanding accommodation. To achieve this, materials such as lime plaster, clay tiles and red bricks were used and, as not many double-glazed sash windows were seen in cattle sheds several centuries ago, ‘Crittall style’ windows were cleverly set back into the building’s walls so they cannot be seen.
Innovative solutions were found to navigate around the planning restrictions to provide another 20 single and twin ensuite rooms. Creating an extra floor inside the The Barns was forbidden. However, the high ceilings could accommodate platform sleeping areas with ensuites underneath, which made use of every inch of the available space and look super stylish. The Barns also features a cinema room, and vast social space, including two kitchens and a variety of seating areas.
The annual Boarding Schools’ Association Awards are a chance to celebrate the achievements, hard work, and dedication of schools and individuals in boarding. The BSA judges said it was: “An incredible transformation which has breathed life into old buildings. The décor and the modern furniture complement the buildings’ original quirky features and makes use of all available space. Of particular note are the platform sleeping areas. This boarding house would not look out of place in Architectural Digest!”
Mark Howe, Head of Ipswich High School, said of this fantastic achievement “We were proud to be shortlisted as Finalists, but to win the award truly recognises how much hard work has been put into creating an extraordinary accommodation and experience for our boarding pupils.”