Premier Construction

City of London Freemen’s School

Freemen's School
Written by Roma Publications

City of London Freemen’s School

A brand new swimming pool for City of London Freemen’s School in Ashtead, Surrey, which utilised state-of-the-art timber construction and offsite fabrication, has been honoured with a RIBA National Award 2018. Designed by award-winning architects Hawkins\Brown, the new building provides a 25m, six lane competition pool with changing facilities and a multi-purpose teaching and events space.

Its recent recognition on a national level builds on regional success at the RIBA South East Awards earlier this year, where it picked up three accolades – RIBA South East Award 2018, RIBA South East Client of the Year Award 2018 and RIBA South East Sustainability Award 2018.

The new swimming pool replaced the school’s original pool building, which was destroyed by a fire in 2014. This provided the opportunity to relocate swimming facilities next to the school’s existing sports facilities on the east side of the campus. The sustainable building sits gently within its new surroundings. Adam Cossey, Partner at Hawkins\Brown, said:

“Freemen’s School’s new swimming pool is a welcoming retreat that engages with the surrounding mature woodland setting through the use of natural materials and colour schemes.

“The deep columns of the all-timber construction and wrap around glazing, which afford direct views from the water into the woodland, give the sense of swimming amongst the trees.”

Built by Gilbert-Ash, with Wiehag GmbH responsible for a Glulam timber portal frame package including CLT wall and roof slabs, the choice of all-timber construction has a number of advantages when dealing with the traditional challenges thrown up by a pool environment. Most significantly, it is resilient, thermally insulating and corrosion resistant. On site, the erection of the glulam portal frame and cross-laminated timber walls and roof took just over three weeks. This allowed the detailed design and full construction of the building to be delivered in one year.

To minimise its impact on the school’s Grade II listed landscape and adjacent Grade II* listed Main House, the swimming pool’s lower ground floor has been partially submerged. This moulds the structure into the surrounding scenery and preserves a large number of the existing trees. The highest point of the gently pitched roof identifies the main entrance.

Internally, the structurally expressive roof geometry is accentuated by a series of shifting glulam frames creating a visually dynamic space.

Roland Martin, Headmaster of the City of London Freemen’s School, commented:

“The School is overwhelmed by the beauty and quality of the new swimming pool – it is a fantastic new asset for our school and local community.”

The swimming pool marks the second phase of a 4-stage masterplan by the City of London, which Hawkins\Brown is delivering for Freemen’s School, with a view to improve the quality of the school’s listed campus setting.

Completed in 2014, the first phase saw the delivery of a new music school and a boarding house for 60 pupils. Future phases include the refurbishment of the Grade II* Listed Main House, a new playground and enhancements to the landscaping of the school grounds.


Based in London and Manchester, Hawkins\Brown is an architectural practice with 30 years’ experience. Founded by Partners Russell Brown and Roger Hawkins, the practice works across a range of types and scale, bringing a collaborative approach to its projects.

Freemen's School



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