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Arts Centre and Music School at Christs Hospital

A Grade II* Listed Building in Southwater, West Sussex

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Latitude: 51.0423 / 51°2'32"N

Longitude: -0.3646 / 0°21'52"W

OS Eastings: 514750

OS Northings: 128268

OS Grid: TQ147282

Mapcode National: GBR HJS.JNT

Mapcode Global: FRA B63C.CT6

Plus Code: 9C3X2JRP+W5

Entry Name: Arts Centre and Music School at Christs Hospital

Listing Date: 4 December 2000

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1247243

English Heritage Legacy ID: 486893

Location: Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13

County: West Sussex

Civil Parish: Southwater

Built-Up Area: Christ's Hospital

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Southwater Holy Innocents

Church of England Diocese: Chichester

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877/11/10010 Arts Centre and Music School at Christ
04-DEC-00 s Hospital


Recital room, band room and rehearsal rooms; theatre with foyer and ancillary accommodation; library and nine classrooms. 1972-4 to the designs of Bill Howell of Howell, Killick, Partridge and Amis, assistants R J Murphy, N Catton, Di Haigh and R Barton; incorporating earlier band room and practice rooms of 1908 by Aston Webb. Structural engineers, Harris and Sutherland; theatre consultants, Theatre Projects, with the close collaboration of the Director of Drama, Duncan Noel-Paton.

Red Southwater facing bricks with fairfaced Flettons internally painted white, flat roofs with toplights to library, recital room and dressing room. Concrete stilts and exposed floor plate to recital room. Earlier rooms also of red brick, with slate roofs. Wood is extensively used internally, natural inside the classrooms and recital rooms, and stained in the corridors, library and in the theatre. Complex plan of one and two storeys. The music school is on axis with the main buildings of Christ's Hospital, based around the Aston Webb band room and practice rooms. Recital room set forward on this axis, on stilts and reached via spiral stairs to either side, allowing space for the school band to assemble underneath. Band room and music classroom/library set behind, with practice rooms arranged along corridors to either side, forming a symmetrical composition that the original building lacked. Transformer station forms link with `L'-shaped wing containing theatre and classrooms that together make a three-sided quadrangle to the right of music school. Theatre, dressing room and scene dock to rear, with classroom wing to right; entrance is in corner, on the diagonal, with library over.

The composition is conceived as a series of related and extended octagons. Projecting brick surrounds to down pipes forms a contrasting pattern to the interplay of planes around the projecting near-full height timber windows (with metal opening lights) of the classroom block. These were originally dark stained, as survives in the scene dock, but the rest are now painted white. Stone surrounds to those in earlier building. Thick timber doors with glazed panels. The whole is immaculately detailed, and is of exceptional quality.

Interiors: Steel spiral stairs with red timber slat balustrades lead to double-height recital room, designed for chamber music, and with stage and gallery. Boarded walls and ceiling. Band room with open timber roof. Entrance hall to theatre, with box office for public performances, has central white-painted concrete column, with varnished timber ceiling. Plaque commemorates the architect, Bill Howell (1922-73). The library above has slatted timber gallery reached via internal timber stairs, built-in bookcases and timber ceiling. Timber ceilings also to corridors. The theatre was designed for flexibility, capable of adaptation by `boy power' either as an end-stage proscenium or as an arena, with 450-580 seats. There are three one-row deep galleries, and a slightly raked pit; the balconies continue all round the auditorium, so that theatre in the round is possible, although rarely ventured. Timber benches, galleries and ceiling are stained red.

Christ's Hospital is the first courtyard theatre in England. The format anticipates, with greater architectural sophistication, that introduced at the Cottesloe Theatre inserted into the National complex in 1973, and the building of the Swan Theatre at Stratford upon Avon in 1986. All these theatres have a similar audience capacity, but this is significantly both innovative and unusually architectural. The late 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of the ideal theatre as a flexible black box, an interest in `found spaces' and a conscious reaction against the big budget National Theatre under construction for most of the decade. Christ's Hospital Theatre marked a first return to an evidently structural aesthetic. Along with the Barbican Theatre then under construction, Christ's Hospital is unique in its architectural panache. It is also successful as a theatre, for the visiting adult companies as well as for the schoolchildren. As Noel-Paton wrote in 1994, `its timeless design remains a perfect frame for our extensive programme of educational and professional work.' For Colin Amery, it is `a unique theatre that successfully solves that almost intractable problem of flexibility... HKPA have created for Christ's Hospital some of its best buildings; alongside Aston Webb they represent an imaginative response to an institutional situation.'

Architectural Review, vol.CLVII, no. 936, February 1975, pp.76-83
Sherban Cantacuzino, ed., Howell, Killick, Partridge and Amis: architecture, London, Lund Humphries, 1981, pp.102-3
Ronnie Mulrane and Margaret Shewring, Making Space for Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 1995, pp.164-5

Listing NGR: TQ1475028268

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