Houlton Secondary School

The refurbishment and alteration of the former Rugby Radio Station to be transformed into a large secondary and Sixth Form school. The Grade II listed building was built in 1926 and hosted the first transatlantic telephone call to New York, transmitted telegraph messages to the Commonwealth and communicated with nuclear subs during the cold war, all via 250m tall aerial masts.

The design of the new school involves the adaptation of the historically fascinating buildings into new school facilities including two new teaching blocks for Humanities and STEM, a new Sports Hall, drained external sports pitches, car parking, access roads and Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS).

Listed Building consent was required to undertake careful investigations into the fabric and condition of the existing buildings.

A new steelwork frame will be threaded through the first floor of the existing Transmission Block to provide an additional four floors of accommodation, while leaving the existing first floor girder beams exposed and intact. The new steel frame will sit on piled foundations, constructed so as not to undermine the existing foundations. The roof of the Transmission Block will be raised, and a cornice reinstated to match that which was destroyed by a fire in 1943.

To improve circulation throughout the buildings, two steelwork scissor stairs will be constructed at each end of the Transmission Block and ring beams added to restrain the existing walls around the new stair voids. Two further steel staircases will be inserted into the Accommodation Block.

External openings will be adjusted in the Power Block to suit its new use as a Dining and Main Hall. New steel frames will be inserted, on local spread foundations cut through the existing slab, to support a Sixth Form dining area over the new kitchen and Control Room space to serve the Main Hall.

The thermal performance of the existing and new buildings is paramount. Thermal breaks have been used throughout to isolate the new steel frames from the foundations and external cladding. 

While the tall aerial masts were demolished in 2007, the four smaller masts that remain will be dismantled, cleaned, repaired and reinstated.

The new school is due to open in September 2021 and it will be at the heart of the surrounding Houlton development including 6,200 new homes, three new primary schools, and 24 hectares of open spaces and sports pitches.

Completed 2021.

Project Information


Urban & Civic


van Heyningen & Haward




van Heyningen & Haward


Courtesy of Urban & Civic