Grace House


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
St. Christophers School, Carisbrooke Lodge, Westbury Park, Bristol, BS6 7JE


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Statutory Address:
St. Christophers School, Carisbrooke Lodge, Westbury Park, Bristol, BS6 7JE

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

City of Bristol (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Teaching block for disabled children designed in 1965 by Alec F French and Partners for the Catherine Grace Trust.

Reasons for Designation

Grace House at St Christopher’s School, Bristol, designed by Alec F French and Partners as a teaching block for disabled children, and built in 1966, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a one-off design for a Steiner teaching block specifically designed for disabled children; * the physical expression of the school’s educational philosophy and ethos as a Steiner school in its architectural form; * for its meticulous planning as a series of geometric organic volumes added together in rhythmical way to create an image of ever-expanding growth that reflects Steiner’s ideology; * for its honest and expressive use of materials which infers the building with a strong aesthetic; * for the quality of the craftsmanship and engineering of the building that is particular evident in features such as the folded-timber roof to the central circulation space and the pentagonal form of the structural concrete columns; * the good level of survival both externally and internally retaining many of its original fixtures and fittings; * as an architecturally outstanding schools of the 1960s, combining its warm and welcoming interior with bold, expressive external forms.

Historic interest:

* as a rare example of a purpose-built post-war Steiner school for disabled children; * for its educational interest as a building designed around the educational and architectural principles of Rudolf Steiner.


St Christopher’s School was founded in 1945 by Catherine Grace (1907 – 1986) as a private residential Steiner school for children with learning difficulties. Initially the school, which occupies a C19 house, had just six pupils and her objective was to try and educate the “non-educable”. In 1948 the Catherine Grace Trust was established, becoming a registered charity on 19 August 1966. In the same year, a detached teaching block for disabled children was erected in the grounds of the school. The building was designed by local architect, Alec F French and Partners and their model of the proposed building shows its immediate setting with both existing mature trees, as well as new planting, with the lawn abutting the building. A tarmac path has now been laid following the building’s circumference. The building includes a commemorative panel that was unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother when she visited St Christopher’s School on the 28 October 1966. In the 1970s educational policy shifted toward the greater integration of disabled children into mainstream school, and following the 1981 Education Act St Christopher’s School focussed on children with severe disabilities.

The design and planning of Grace House reflects the school’s pedagogy that was inspired by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Steiner (1861-1925) was the founder of anthroposophy (the belief in a spiritual world that can be observed and objectively understood by humans) and he used his beliefs to inform a number of practical subjects, including architecture and education. Central to his teaching and approach was eurythmy, the art of expressive movement to classical music and the sounds and rhythms of speech or poetry. The emphasis that eurythmy places on rhythm is key to Steiner’s underlying beliefs and the rhythm in our breath, the rhythm in movement and the rhythm in nature’s geometries is extended and exaggerated in the architecture of his buildings.

The original plans for Grace House included a room to each floor for the specific practice of eurythmy, a fundamental aspect of Steiner education. They also show sinks in some of the classrooms, storage rooms with fitted shelving units, and bench seating to the ground-floor boys changing rooms. There has been some alteration in the late C20 which includes the removal of the dog-leg staircase in the east wing and the insertion of a lift, the addition of an external staircase, and the addition of ramps to the two entrances.


Teaching block for disabled children designed in 1965 by Alec F French and Partners for the Catherine Grace Trust.

MATERIALS: built of structural and pre-cast concrete. The pentagonal blocks have structural pentagonal concrete columns, concrete pilasters and exposed aggregate and brick panels. The wedged-shaped blocks have brick fins. The central roof lantern is of folded timber construction; it is covered externally with asphalt (originally sheet copper). The other flat roofs are covered in asphalt. Double-glazed, aluminium sash windows. Concrete screed floors with wood block flooring. Plain timber doors and architrave, some with metal numbers fixed to the centre of the architrave above. The partition walls are of plastered brick.

PLAN: the centralised, geometric plan radiates from a central dodecagon that forms a double-height circulation and activity space. It is surrounded by six large pentagonal two-storey classroom blocks, connected to each other by wedged-shaped blocks that are divided into quiet rooms and storage rooms; at first-floor level, the storage rooms are accessible to the classroom to either side, providing an additional circulation route. The building extends out to the west (single-storey) forming the principal entrance, and to the east (two-storey) forming the rear entrance, both terminating with pentagonal rooms. The wings house the cloakrooms, services and staff room.

EXTERIOR: the roof plan echoes the floor plan of the building with the different geometric volumes of the building clearly articulated, and this is continued to the external elevations with the massing and juxtaposition of the pentagonal and wedged-shaped blocks. The three-bay external elevations of the pentagonal blocks have full-height splayed concrete pilasters to either side of the set back central bays and pentagonal concrete columns to the corners. There is a row of three large aluminium windows to each floor with aggregate panels to the top and bottom row, and brick panels to the central row. The wedged-shaped blocks are given vertical emphasis with tall, closely-spaced, brick fins between the narrow aluminium windows.

The covered entrances to the south and north elevation both have terracotta tiled floors beneath concrete canopies.

INTERIOR: the central dodecagonal circulation space provides both a communal activity area and a circulation space with a curved timber staircase and first-floor gallery running around its perimeter. The staircase has a double-height handrail and stick-type balusters with larger circular balusters with reed detailing, at intervals. The roof over the circulation hall is of folded timber construction. To the concave sections of the roof are clerestorey-style windows in the shape of isosceles trapeziums with slender vertical glazing bars. Beneath the convex sections of the roof are rectangular windows. Fitted to the centre of the ceiling is the original electrolier.

The surrounding classrooms are well-lit with large windows. The rooms are plain with wood block floors and plain timber doors and architraves. Some fitted furniture survives, particularly to the storage rooms.




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

End of official listing

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