We are excited that the restoration and refurbishment of 'Big School' has begun. Big School opened in 1862 as one of Clifton’s two original buildings. Kitto Construction will re-roof and restore stonework on the exterior of the building. The interior will also be re-modelled and existing mechanical and electrical services will be replaced. These works are essential and will greatly enhance our dining and event facilities while also making the building more energy efficient. The project will be complete by early 2019.
We are incredibly fortunate to be the custodians of such beautiful buildings. Their maintenance and restoration are an important responsibility for the College and we need to act to preserve them for future generations.
The History of Big School
Big School opened in September 1862 as one of Clifton’s two original buildings. The name was borrowed, like much else from Rugby; ‘school’ is simply a shortening of ‘schoolroom’. The ground floor was comparted into separate classrooms, with the larger upper space used for assemblies, lectures, concerts and drama. Until 1867 it was also the Chapel.
Charles Hansom’s original scheme had a matching dining-hall, linked by a southern cloister from the centre of which rose a conical tower. Big School was the only achieved element in this range, the site of the projected dining-hall would be taken by the Chapel, necessarily aligned east-west. Big School was extended at these in 1866 to create a schoolroom for the Sixth Form. Only occasionally was Big School used for meals, all regular catering being provided in the Houses.
The economic and social benefits of centralised dining were demonstrated during the wartime evacuation to Bude. On returning to Clifton, the upper level of Big School was therefore adopted as a dining room; extra space was created by extending a gallery into a mezzanine floor. These arrangements were nevertheless unsatisfactory in themselves, and impeded the continuing use of the space for other purposes. Various schemes were proposed for a new dining hall, which would have allowed the permanent adaption of Big School for drama and music. The building of the theatre in Percival Road (1966) closed that option and led to a more radical restructuring of Big School. In 1969 the mezzanine was extended over the whole area, creating two dining halls. Houses continued to occupy designated areas; but in 1972 the served meals were replaced by a ‘cafeteria’ system. The ground floor now houses the teaching staff common room and the office of the Marshal.