Brighton College Overview

Given that Sir George Gilbert Scott was the namesake of my own first school, it’s quite appropriate that I should now focus on the great man’s role in designing a local educational gem.

Brighton College was founded by William Aldwin Soames in 1845 and opened on Portland Place as the first public school in Sussex. The foundation stone of Scott’s Gothic flint building on Eastern Road was laid in 1848 by the Bishop of Chichester and work was complete a year later. A distinctive brick and terracotta building was added to the south in 1886-7, again in a Gothic style, to the designs of a student of Scott, Sir Thomas Graham Jackson.

The Headmaster of the day, originally the Principal, has a great opportunity to both preserve and progress. Much has changed over the years and much has stayed exactly as it was. Girls were admitted in 1973 for the first time and, by 1988, Brighton College was completely co-educational. Dr Anthony Seldon was the first Headmaster that I came across and it was hard not to be moved in some way by the strength of his vision. Richard Cairns now holds the reigns and has equally ambitious plans for the school – at home and abroad.

This column isn’t the place for a general debate on state education but there’s no doubt that architecture has a role to play. Gothic buildings with ecclesiastical overtones instill a sense of history anywhere so, for a student taking a short walk between lessons or with more time to spare at lunch, it must be impossible to forget the school’s illustrious history. And with this surely comes a sense of responsibility. Well-manicured gardens and, indeed, large sports fields are perfect places to blow off a little steam too which only helps.

Admittedly, intake must be a huge factor in achieving the ‘best A Level results of any co-educational school in England’ but glorious surroundings would appear to be essential too – Brighton College has huge similarities with the great colleges of Oxford and Cambridge.

Over the next month, I shall be looking at Sir George’s contribution and how modern additions tie in successfully or otherwise. Architecturally, I don’t know what he would make of my little concrete South London state primary. I am convinced, however, that he would be more than excited at what’s on the drawing board for Brighton College over the coming years.