Primary school project was a memorial to his bishop father

Bishop Wilson School Library_Chelmsford by Colin St John Wilson_BWL_exterior_copyright HE

Source: Historic England

Bishop Wilson School Library, Chelmsford, by Colin St John Wilson.

A school library designed by Colin St John Wilson while he was working on the British Library has been given grade II protection.

The architect, known as Sandy, designed Bishop Wilson Memorial Library in Essex in honour of his father. Henry Wilson was bishop of Chelmsford from 1929 to 1950.

The listing was approved by the DCMS on the advice of Historic England which described the library as a “gloriously vibrant and fun interior inside a striking circular structure” and “perhaps the most successful example of post-modernism in post-war school design”.

The library was built between 1983-86 at the Bishop’s Church of England and Roman Catholic Primary School which was established to provide education for a growing population in the north-east of Chelmsford during the 1980s.

It is one of a number of library designs in which Wilson and his partner MJ Long came to specialise.

The school’s head teacher, Greg Waters, said: “Our wonderful library is a peaceful oasis away from the hustle and bustle of a busy school, where children can lose themselves in the many treasures of a good book. Its circular design gives a cosy feel yet it’s big enough for a whole class – and the vibrant colours are perfect for our young children.”

Bishop Wilson School Library_Chelmsford_by Colin St John Wilson_BWL_interior_with zodiac constellation_copyright HE

Source: Historic England

Bishop Wilson School Library, Chelmsford, by Colin St John Wilson. Interior with zodiac constellation

>> Also read: At home with MJ Long and Sandy Wilson


Historic England’s description

The striking circular structure is reminiscent of older circular libraries, reading rooms and round churches. The red brick exterior conceals a remarkably vibrant and colourful interior. Within the library, the door frame, desks, shelves and wall coverings are painted a brilliant yellow. Pairs of bright red columns support a blue-painted canopy which was purpose-built by a boat builder in Harwich. The canopy is pierced by circles arranged in the shape of zodiac constellations and a cylindrical lantern spills light through the canopy onto the reading desks.

Wilson’s vision was to inspire the primary school pupils’ imagination while meeting their educational needs.