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List Entry Summary

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.


List entry Number: 1391842



The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Greater London Authority

District: City and County of the City of London

District Type: London Borough


National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: II*

Date first listed: 03-Jan-2007

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: LBS

UID: 502186

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Building

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


627/0/10279 NEW CHANGE 03-JAN-07 St Paul's Cathedral Choir School

GV II* Choir School, now also school, incorporating surviving tower of St Augustine Watling Street, or Old Change. School is of 1962-7 by the Architects' Co-partnership; Leo de Syllas, lead architect; completed after his death by Michael Powers. Load bearing cross wall on a reinforced concrete framed lowest storey. Clad in roach Portland stone in different shades of grey, with a leaded roof on the projecting attic storey. Windows are metal-framed and vertically arranged of three panels, the central a sliding sash; at the time of inspection these were under consideration for replacement.

EXTERIOR: The exterior design features the full-height recessed vertical slits with windows, asymmetrically arranged and without a regular pattern. Between the windows are varying widths of Portland stone wall, constructed with large rectangular blocks of differing colours and with a pronounced texture contributing to the overall design. Dominant above this is the attic, projecting over the walls and with full-height dormer windows, intentionally not aligned with the strip windows below. The school is organised into four blocks: the entrance is long and low, and mostly blind with a steep mansard roof. This holds the foundation stone to left of the main door. The rear elevation of this, facing west towards the cathedral, has similar tall vertical slits, but also a series of tall apertures with windows and doors out to the playground. The five storey blocks to north and south are detailed as above. Freestanding block to the south east holds the accommodation for the boarding choristers; this has uPVC doors and windows at lower ground level.

INTERIOR: The entrance is at ground floor level on New Change, this with double wooden doors, part-glazed, either side of vestibule, then a hall with wide, stone-lined steps down to lower ground floor. Immediately to the south of the entrance is a former court, now an office with a glass lantern roof added c.1987. The spine corridor, that runs north-south, has a repetitive concrete beamed ceiling, and is generously lit by the slit windows facing west to the cathedral. The corridor has a fully glazed partition overlooking the lower ground level hall. In the classroom block to the north, classrooms including library and practice rooms are generally quite plainly finished. A few partitions have been removed according to original drawings, such as in the practice rooms.

The hall is a sunken and double-height space, overlooked by the ground floor corridor. The north and south walls are fully lined with polished hardwood panelling; the east wall has climbing apparatus. A similar concrete beamed ceiling, but with two strip skylights providing diffused light. South of this, the dining hall was extended c.1998 to the south, removing a 4-light window, and now opens up into an L-shaped range that means the formerly external stone loggia is now incorporated within the seating area. At ground floor above this, the head teacher's apartment features a timber staircase with stick balusters and a moulded handrail that returns to join the newel post, which has a rounded head and indentation to hold the handrail. The sitting room has an off-centre fireplace with metal surround and shelf mantle, set on a black tiled hearth.

In the south wing, services are at lower ground floor. At ground floor level the common room with chapel was refurbished c.1998 and now includes a circular quiet space, and a nursery, although the pair of mosaic windows with a swirling, multi-coloured design remain in situ, as do fitted cupboards. Above this, former dormitories have been converted to classrooms, fitted as in the north classroom block. Attached to the south end is the St Augustine's church tower, with a staircase that serves as a fire escape and communicates with the south range at each floor. The freestanding accommodation block to the south-east has bedrooms and bathrooms for the boarding choristers, plainly fitted out and with some alteration.

HISTORY: The St Paul's Choir School was founded in at least the C12. A blue glazed City of London plaque in the south east wall announces that 'Near this spot from 1512 until 1884 stood St Paul's School founded by Dean Colet'. When the present school was rebuilt after the war, it had been operating in buildings that dated from 1875 and the 1930s. The decision to rebuild was partly taken because of the new road system around the cathedral precinct, but it seems they also wanted a landmark new building, although on a tight budget. The idea for placing the new school on a site adjoining the remains of the bombed St Augustine's Watling Street went back to Charles Holden's and William Holford's proposals for rebuilding the City of London and published in 1947. The area had seen an extensive debate over the merits of traditional versus modern architecture. A first rate architect was sought for the school after a traditional design by Seely and Paget was discredited by the Royal Fine Art Commission and a competition was held in 1962. The brief was for a small public school with boarding for about forty choristers, and dictated that the new building should incorporate the restored spire of St Augustine and that no part of the school would be higher than its cornice. All that survived above ground on this site was the tower of Wren's St Augustine Watling Street, completed in 1695-6. In 1966, the spire was reconstructed according to its original Hawksmoor design by Paul Paget of Seely and Paget.

The competition entries were varied, including a very traditional scheme by Raymond Erith although most were modern designs such as that by the significant post-war firm Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall & Partners. The Architects' Co-partnership scheme was chosen for three reasons reported in the Architects' Journal at the time: the original and informal layout of the design that made sensitive use of the tricky site; the appropriately quiet and collegiate nature of the scheme and the perception that 'the building will stand the test of time'; and the belief that it could be built within the tightly constrained budget. The job architect was Leo de Syllas, who was killed in a car crash soon after the commission began, and Michael Powers took over the job. The school initially accommodated 40 boarding choir boys and flats for a number of the cathedral and school officials. The foundation stone was laid by the Dean and the Very Reverend W.R. Matthews on 24th November 1965.

SOURCES: The Architect's Journal. April 4, 1962. Architect and Building News. April 4, 1962. pp.480-81 Architect and Building News. April 18, 1962. pp.565-8. The Builder. September 13, 1963. p.505 Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner. The Buildings of England. London: The City Churches. Yale University Press, 1998. p.61.

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: The 1962-7 Architects' Co-partnership choir school was successfully designed to stand at the foot of St Paul's Cathedral, perhaps one of the most auspicious bombed sites in post-war London. The brief not only required the utmost sensitivity to this major landmark, but also to the surviving Wren tower, which is separately listed at Grade I. The resultant building is an early work of modern architecture in the capital where the site was a priority consideration. The school's elegance is not in its deference to Baroque masters in any formal sense, but instead in the way it manipulates materials, proportion and massing to make its own mark, while respecting the humbling context in which it sits. The primary interest is the exterior, although there are special spaces throughout the interior as well. The choice of roach Portland stone (that is, stone with a high proportion of shells in its makeup) with a lead covered attic storey reflects the materials of its C17 neighbours, and the vertically oriented recessed window refer to the pilasters of the cathedral, essentially abstracting the core elements of Wren's design and interpreting them in a modern way. The skilful use of the site provides a clear view of the east end of Wren's cathedral, which remains visible and framed by the deftly placed blocks of the school. It also forms a powerful juxtaposition with St Augustine, one of the more admired City church spires with its restored Hawksmoor spire culminating in the distinctive elongated onion dome, and which is separately listed at Grade I. The school justifies listing at Grade II* as a significant piece of post-war modern yet conservation-minded design, that survives well and forms an important component of this historically rich and layered setting.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Bradley, S, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: London The City Churches, (1998), 61
'The Architects Journal' in April 4, (1962)
'Architect and Building News' in April 18, (1962), 565-568
'Architect and Building News' in April 4, (1962), 480-481
'The Builder' in September 13, (1963), 505

National Grid Reference: TQ 32157 81150, TQ 32178 81114


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