One of the region’s oldest and prestigious education establishments has recently completed its latest phase of development adding further to its existing range of sports facilities.

In 2013 the Royal Grammar School (RGS), which has been in existence since 1545, announced it was investing £10 million to improve and extend buildings on its Jesmond site,  in part, by replacing and relocating its swimming pool.

Durham-based Howarth Litchfield Partnership (Howarth Litchfield), the architect responsible for drawing up the school’s master plan, designed the new 25 – metre swimming pool and sports hall, while Surgo Construction is the contractor responsible for its construction.


The completed swimming pool at RGS gets top marks (L to R)
Neil Turner, HLP Architects; Richard Metcalfe, RGS; Graeme Watson, Surgo Construction; Dr Bernard Trafford, headmaster, RGS; James Walker, Surgo Construction

Working together on many education schemes, the two firms have also developed a longstanding relationship with RGS, having worked on site on four earlier projects.

The brief on this occasion was to create a new swimming pool with added sports hall and associated spaces to replace the existing 1930s building, which had reached the end of its lifespan.

As space was a critical design challenge on this project, to minimise land use Howarth Litchfield designed a two-storey building, placing the swimming pool at ground floor level and locating a second sports hall to sit on top of the swimming pool. The new building links the existing with a new fitness suite, weights room, aerobics dance studio, sports offices and changing rooms at first floor level.

The building also features an external balcony, providing a spectator viewing platform overlooking the outdoor rugby and Hockey sports pitches.

Externally, the sports hall has been designed to follow the modern tradition of its neighbouring buildings and also acts as a sound buffer, reducing noise from the Central Motorway.

Internally, for ease of maintenance and access to light fittings, the pool features a dramatic wave ceiling which also allows light to bounce off the water, adding further natural light.

With regard to construction, one of Surgo’s key challenges was working on a live school site.  Developing a detailed build schedule, the contractor was able to overcome this issue, keeping disruption to a minimum with close cooperation of the school, even through the exam periods.

Speaking about this latest project RGS headmaster, Dr Bernard Trafford praised the Surgo team on the sensitivity with which it completed the work through four busy terms including exam periods.  He said:

“Graeme and his team have been great to work with. The quality of finish is outstanding and we have a new landmark building of which we are very, very proud. Our boys and girls deserve the best and in this project they’ve got it!”

RGS Pool #2