Eton College, Berkshire

The Grade I listed Eton College was founded by King Henry VI in 1440. When construction was interrupted the size of the chapel was compromised resulting in many of the buildings surrounding the school yard to be completed by various wealthy benefactors between 1517 and 1729.

The state of school yard was always reported to be in bad condition. It was a series of ever evolving paths crossing a gravelled area. The school yard layout was modified and patch repaired several times with various materials. A mix of these mainly 20th century materials created a series of visually disconnected paths and resulted in a very unsightly appearance.

Martin Ashley Architects were given the task to not just repair the school yard but to redesign its entirety. We were confronted with a hotchpot of mainly 20th century materials, not necessarily suitable for this purpose, yet needed to be reassessed. A holistic approach of the representation, including the re-consideration of materials, designs, details and layouts was required.

After research into materials used at this location, one of the original quarries was discovered and materials were sourced from there. Eton College was keen for original quality materials to be used to undertake this project. The resulting colour palette harmonised beautifully with the surrounding buildings, enhancing their character and appearance.

Various pavement trial works were carefully carried out to consider materials, proportions, finishes and laying patterns. Random laying patterns and sizes were favoured over strong geometric patterns in order to keep the school yard`s informal character. The resulting proposed subtle paving design details also reflect the path development evidence and stages, thus retaining the path archaeology and hierarchy.

As part of this project, the Grade II* bronze statue of Henry VI standing in the centre of school yard was also carefully conserved together with the railings surrounding it.