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History in the making- Landmark Tower for Brighton College

Cairns Tower, Brighton College

Cairns Tower, Brighton College

A project to create a landmark tower at Brighton College has reached completion after being delayed for 125 years.

The tower – which has been named Cairns Tower after the school’s headmaster – was initially designed as the crowning glory of architect Sir Thomas Graham Jackson’s late 19th Century additions to Brighton College. However, a shortage of funds meant that this splendid creation was never completed at the time and was instead left incomplete as a rather squat, two-storey structure.

Head Master Richard Cairns, said:

“I believe Sir Thomas would feel proud to see how Brighton College has progressed into the 21st Century. In the last few years, the school has achieved tremendous academic success and the campus is being transformed so that we can give our girls and boys first-class facilities in which to learn and play. There really couldn’t be a better time to complete Jackson’s plans and create the tower he had always envisaged for the school. This tower pays tribute to one of the greatest architects of the Victorian era and marks the College’s position as one of England’s leading schools.”

Cairns Tower, Brighton College

In 2012, following a generous donation from an anonymous donor, the Eastern Road independent school engaged historic building specialists Richard Griffiths Architects to complete the original design of the tower. The practice worked with contractor Virtus Projects to undertake the work.

Speaking to Premier Construction about the project, Senior Architect at Richard Griffiths Architects, Jorge Moreira, said:

“When approaching this project we were careful to address the marriage of old and new and, although pragmatic – for instance, we resorted to a steel frame to support the roof and the lantern of the cupola, we adopted construction methods that were faithful to the existing fabric. We were determined that the extension to the tower should be based on Jackson’s original drawings and we have closely followed the form and materials shown on his drawings and sketches. The detailing, however, is simplified and acknowledges that this is a 21st century addition.”

Jorge added:

“This project was a unique challenge to complete a masterpiece in a manner that does justice to Jackson’s original design and concept while doing so in a different time and building environment. The extension to the tower is recognisably new but contextual and we like to think that Jackson would have approved our work.’’

Cairns Tower, Brighton College

The elevations have a rich palette of materials – brick, flint, lead and terracotta moulded tiles, turrets, string courses and window surrounds. The bronze windows are thermally broken, supplied by Architectural Bronze Casements and finished with historic glazing. They were chosen for the elegance of their thin sections and durability of bronze in an aggressive marine environment. Another highlight of the new tower includes an elegant Smith of Derby clock and a sun dial.

Work reached completion on the project in November 2014, ahead of the tower’s official opening. The day of the tower’s unveiling was a colourful affair, with Mandarin teacher Thomas Godber arriving through the arch of the entranceway to the school dressed as a town crier on a horse and cart.

Mr Godber conducted a tower blessing with the help of students, before the school community sang a specially composed chant and performed a dance to honour and welcome the tower. The climax of the event was the removal of the blue cloth to reveal the tower in all its glory.

Cairns Tower, Brighton College

Discussing the importance of the project, Jorge said:

“It was a joy to build this tower and it gave everyone something to believe in.”

The new tower is part of the third great wave of development at Brighton College since it opened its doors in 1845. Work has previously included the Diamond Jubilee Pavilion in East Brighton Park; an award-winning £6 million boarding house; and a new music centre which is set to make its debut in the summer.

For more information about Brighton College, please visit:

Architectural Bronze Casements 

Architectural Bronze Casements make beautiful handmade metal windows, doors and screens which are an exciting and traditional alternative to the steel and aluminium windows generally available. Made from architectural bronze, a strong and long lasting material which has an attractive aesthetic appearance. They are usually incorporated within stone, brick or timber openings and compliment period properties with their ability to maintain the characteristics of older buildings.

Cairns Tower, Brighton College

There are four systems, all of which are designed to marry with architectural requirements and the latest addition is the new Thermabronze system, an ‘A’ rated thermally broken metal window which combines thermal efficiency within the much desired slim profile frame.

Architectural Bronze Casements also make a range of bronze doors to compliment the windows. These can be produced as either single or double openers, in a variety of openings. For more information visit our website or call for a brochure.

Tel: 0845 6000 660


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