New homes planned

15th December 2020 | posted in News

Railway Housing Association has started work on the £5.2 million redevelopment of a rundown old school which was once attended by comedy legend Stan Laurel.

We are building 28 affordable homes for rent on the site of the old King James School at Bishop Auckland.

This includes the sympathetic restoration of the front of the main Grade II listed building - often referred to as the Laurel Building after the school’s most famous former popular pupil – which was badly damaged in a fire in 2007.

The building is being converted into 12 two-bedroom apartments with a further 16 two-bedroom bungalows being built at the rear, in a cul-de-sac layout. All the homes will be let to older people.

The contractor on the scheme is T Manners & Sons Ltd, a family-run construction company based in Bishop Auckland which was formed in 1860.

Anne Rowlands, Chief Executive of Railway Housing Association, said: “We are delighted to have started work on our newest affordable housing scheme and the first in Bishop Auckland in our 100-year history.

“When completed, it will provide much-needed high quality, energy efficient two-bedroom older person’s accommodation in the town.

“In addition, it will transform what has become very rundown site on the main road in and out of Bishop Auckland into an attractive development.”

Railway Housing Association bought the former school from Durham County Council’s Cabinet, who are the trustees of the King James School Foundation. The trustees’ request to sell the building for non-educational use was approved by the Charity Commission and followed a public consultation, which saw the majority of people in favour of a sale.

As part of the planning conditions, Railway Housing Association has vowed to retain the western façade of the building which fronts onto South Church Road. This part of the building dates back to 1875.

Although the rest of the building will need to be demolished, due to its poor and unstable condition, the Association will use materials in keeping with its history, including a Victorian-style tiled roof.

Anne added: “It’s a building with lots of history and the fact Stan Laurel attended school there illustrates its importance as a local landmark.

“In 2019, Railway Housing Association won an award for our development in Darlington, which included the sympathetic conversion of a listed railway engine shed built in 1844 and during our 100-year history, we have also been able to successfully redevelop other sites of historical importance, such as the old Stockton railway station.

“We are therefore mindful of the history and significance of the King James School site and our scheme will ensure we preserve a key element of the historic part of the building.”

Wayne Harris, Construction Director for T Manners, said: “We are extremely pleased to have been appointed to deliver this prestigious scheme and to be working on another project with our valued client Railway Housing Association.”

Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “This is another example of ongoing investment into Bishop Auckland by both the public and private sector.  Railway Housing Association’s plans will not only see the restoration of the historic frontage of a much-loved building but will ensure the site is once again benefiting the people of Bishop Auckland by providing affordable homes. 

“This builds upon the work of our Heritage Action Zone project to bring vacant historic buildings back into use, while also complementing the Bishop Auckland Masterplan, which outlines ambitious plans to regenerate the town.” 

The total cost of the development, which is expected to be complete in October 2021, is £5.2 million which includes a grant of £1.1 million from Homes England.

Stan Laurel attended King James School as a boarder between 1902 and 1903.


Back to News

  • New homes planned - Railway Housing Association

Latest News