Dulwich College

Dulwich Common, London SE21

Date of construction: 1866 and 1870

Original architect: Charles Barry Jr

Client: Dulwich College

Dulwich College, an independent boys’ school, has been admired for its extravagant style and extensive use of pioneering terracotta. The College comprises three main buildings, North Block, Central Block and South Block that are linked by two arcades, known as the cloisters. The buildings are all grade II* listed and designed in an ornate North Italian Renaissance style employing a mix of red brick, cream and red terracotta and Portland stone.

The Central Block is the largest of the three and the most architecturally rich and daring, featuring an elaborate lattice balustrade around its perimeter, along with a series of cupola’s, pinnacles and a substantial central timber lantern and flèche.

Julian Harrap Architects initially completed a restoration of six of the elevations in 2002, under a grant from Historic England (formerly English Heritage). The current project is essentially a continuation of this work to include the remaining six elevations, the Cloisters and the Wodehouse library.

The original Blashfield terracotta blocks will be retained and repaired wherever practicable. However, due to the nature of some of the defects and need for both structural integrity and longevity of repair, approximately 1,300 new replacement terracotta blocks, made by the two leading terracotta manufacturers in the UK; Hathern Terra Cotta and Darwen Terracotta, have been specified for all three buildings.

In addition to the cleaning and repair, an ambitious programme of re-pointing of the brickwork will be carried out, which includes different types and colours of tuck pointing that will reflect the original meticulous details. The original timber sash windows will be draft-proofed, overhauled and re-balanced. Where the original brass ironmongery, designed by Charles Barry Jr survives, it will be restored and where missing, will be replaced with historically authentic replicas.

Photographer: Sarah Tsang