Chippenham Civic Society

Promoting Civic Pride in Chippenham

Planning Matters

Chippenham College – Why we believe the original building should be saved from demolition.

9th July 2017

Plans have been submitted to demolish the former Chippenham College in Cocklebury Road.  Part of the old college complex is the original Chippenham Secondary and Technical School Building which was constructed in 1900.

Chippenham College in happier days

The Chippenham Civic Society is opposed to the demolition of the original building on the grounds that the building has clear historic local interest in regard to the history of Secondary Education in Chippenham.  It is also an important reference for many people who grew up in the town.  We believe it is precisely this kind of building which gives the town its sense of community and identity in a fast changing world.

We would encourage everyone who is concerned about the loss of yet another important Chippenham building to visit the Wiltshire Council website to lodge their opposition to this application.  The Planning Application number is 17/05828/FUL .

To log into the Wiltshire Council Planning website goto: and then search by number using: 17/05828/FUL

or click HERE  for a direct short cut.

The target date for a decision by Wiltshire Council is Wednesday 3 January, 2018.

Historical Significance

As an example of late Victorian design for the state secondary education sector, the original building represents a significant step change in the provision of education facilities in Chippenham at the turn of the 20th Century.

After the Technical Instruction Act of 1889, local authorities were empowered to set up schools to provide instruction in the principles of science and art as applicable to industry and agriculture.  By the late 1890s, the growing number of pupils attending the existing school in Chippenham, forced the Rural District Council to construct this purpose built Technical and Secondary School in Cocklebury Lane.  The building has fulfilled this function for over a 100 years and its loss would leave a significant gap in the history of Chippenham’s growth.

Early post card of Chippenham and District County School

Plans for the Chippenham District Technical and Secondary School in Cocklebury Road were first submitted to the Rural District Council in 1898 as part of a building design competition.

An article from 1898 showing the winning plans submitted for the new Chippenham Secondary and Technical School.


The project was overseen by Alderman John Coles, a noted local benefactor and townsperson who also provided money for the local park named after him.  The chosen design was a scheme submitted by Robert Brinkworth (born 1871), who worked for the Bath architect Thomas Hall Silcock.  (Silcock and Reay of Bath).  The building was opened in 1900 and the first chair of governors was Alderman John Coles.

Robert Brinkworth was articled to the Bath company of Silcock and Reay, who were responsible for many other churches and local schools in the South West, including Swindon Technical College which has many similar characteristics and has been recently listed and saved from demolition.   

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Robert Brinkworth commenced his practice in Chippenham in 1896 and completed not only the Chippenham Technical School, but also Secondary Schools in nearby Malmesbury (now demolished) and Devizes (later Devizes Grammar School, now owned by Wiltshire Council).

Its construction was made possible by using both local council money and public subscriptions. (The latter amounted to over £1170 – nearly 25% of the total cost).

Postcard of Technical School

At the turn of the 20th Century the Borough Council intended to name and dedicate the school building to the memory of King Alfred the Great who is associated with Chippenham both by residence and by important events in his reign exactly 1000 years previously.

Architectural Importance

The Chippenham Secondary and Technical School building represents a style of architecture much in favour when secondary technical education was introduced in Chippenham at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Building work began with the laying of the foundation stone on 7 October 1899 by Lady Dickson-Poyner. The building costs were fixed at £3,500 but the total to build and equip the school amounted to over £6000. The school was built of red brick and the roofs were to be covered in green slate.  This was later changed in favour of red tiles due to costs.  The proposed plans show a rear assembly room but this was never built.

The Building has been boarded up for several years but when fully functional was an attractive and important building and can be seen from the windows of the frequent London to Bristol Trains. It therefore has a significant visual presence for visitors as well as for local people who have been educated there.


Perhaps the first view many visitors to Chippenham have as their train pulls into Chippenham Station.  The Secondary and Technical School opened in this building in 1900.

Perhaps the first view many visitors to Chippenham have as their train pulls into Chippenham Station. The Secondary and Technical School opened in this building in 1900.

This style of public building, built as it is in red brick, is unique in Chippenham where the predominant construction material in older buildings is Bath Stone.  It is the oldest building left on the original Chippenham College campus, part of which has recently been redeveloped.  It was described in the Chippenham Area Appraisal of 2007 as a ‘building of note’.  It is mostly in original condition inside with parquet flooring throughout the classrooms, although it has been deliberately neglected in recent years.

Wing Entrance

The front windows are large and imposing, letting light flood into the main classrooms.  An original arched doorway to the front has been blocked up, but could be reinstated.  It has architectural merit in that it is well proportioned and has elements of the then popular Arts and Crafts movement in its design, namely the overhanging eaves, and ventilation louvers on the imposing roof.

 Front Elevation Boarded up

It has an additional lean-to extension to the rear of the East side and is attached to large modern extensions to the west and south elevations.  These were built in the late 20th century and could be demolished.

Cultural and Community Value

The teaching of practical lessons continued in the building from its early days right through to the 21st Century.   The loss of this important building now would remove a central part of Chippenham’s cultural heritage.

The building is included in the Chippenham Conservation Area and is noted in the Conservation Area Appraisal document dated 2007  as one of the few buildings of architectural note in this area of Chippenham; the other main buildings being the 1856 Railway Station, the 1935 Public Telephone Exchange and the art deco Westinghouse building across the railway line.

The present day college continues in a brand new building on the adjacent site, but this original building forms a backdrop to the modern world of education and is a vital part of Chippenham’s social identity.  This building should be retained for use and could be converted to become the historical gateway to a new development at the rear of the complex as was achieved when the college extensions were built.

We therefore oppose its demolition and would encourage the owner to incorporate it with a more sympathetic development at the rear of the site.