By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools
Saturday morning and I am sitting on a hard bench in the Lupton Hall listening to the music that precedes our Open Day panel. I am looking up over the stage out of the Oriel window behind the stage at Scots pine branches that are swaying within this stark round frame. This is the first time I have sat, listened and looked within the newly reborn Lupton Hall. With the old curtains stripped away and the original stark beauty of the Lupton Hall now evident, its original conception is clear – and it’s stunning.
The New Hall, as it was originally called, is an integral part of Bedales’ founding, being a product of the friendship and early professional partnership of three of the master-craftsmen of the late Arts and Crafts movement, Geoffrey Lupton, Ernest Gimson and Sidney Barnsley. In 1911 Lupton asked Gimson to draw up plans for new buildings at Bedales – a hall, library, gym and labs around a large open quadrangle. The New Hall became the Lupton Hall because Lupton supervised the building and did most of the work himself; it is also thought that he paid for it himself. The majesty of our Memorial Library, Gimson’s design but built by Lupton and the Barnsleys (Sidney and his son Edward), has overshadowed the Lupton Hall, but the refurbishment of the latter will, I suspect, re-balance matters.
Our architect, Richard Griffiths, has re-captured the original uncompromising conception of the building: the old curtain and the sloping stage have gone, re-capturing the original volume of the room and enabling the stage to be used for music ensemble practices and for concerts across all three schools. The view I now enjoy over the stage and out that Oriel window hasn’t been enjoyed for a good 90 years because of the curtain.
Reflecting on this I remember another new view: in April 2006, hard hat on, climbing up amongst the scaffolding to the top floor of the Orchard Building site, I looked across to the Library and could see the Library’s shape from above and the clerestory windows that you wouldn’t know existed without that perspective. Only birds and passing balloonists had seen that before.
It feels just as good to see a wonderful old building restored as it did to see a new one, like the Orchard Building, opened.