Montpelier High School

New arts centre for prestigious girls' school in Bristol

As part of Bristol’s BSF programme, Walters & Cohen worked with Skanska on the refurbishment and new buildings at Colston’s Girls’ School. In 2020, staff and students chose to move away from the name of the 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston and, through a democratic vote, changed the school's name to Montpelier High School.

Extensive consultation and a space audit identified the need for large, flexible teaching spaces for drama, music and art. Drama and art are accommodated in a new, three-storey building on the Cheltenham Road frontage. The red brick building complements the Victorian school buildings adjacent; together they frame the new student entrance, a two-storey, lightweight glass infill that also serves as an entrance foyer for performances in the arts building. Music has its own stand-alone pavilion comprising two large, multi-functional spaces and three practice rooms. The roof of the pavilion meets and generously extends the existing external social space.

Aside from the new arts facilities, we refurbished the existing school buildings, including the Grade II listed original school. The library was moved to the heart of the school, making it more easily accessible. This allowed all science subjects to be accommodated in one building with generous spaces and flexible furniture. The old Ecuadorian teak science benches, which have been part of the school since its opening in 1891, are now enjoying a new life as a reception desk and fittings for the student/arts centre entrance.

The new building was opened by Lord Adonis in September 2011 and won an RIBA South West Regional Award and BCSE Award in 2012.


2012BCSE Award

2012RIBA South West Awards


ClientSkanska; Bristol City Council

Total valueConfidential

CompletionSep 2011

Area8,343 m2



Structural engineerSkanska Technology

Building ServicesArup

EducationalistKEY Education Associates