The Margaret Stancomb Memorial Infants’ School in Trowbridge was built in 1893. The building was funded by John Perkins Stancomb, a member of a prominent local textile family, in memory of his late wife. Thousands of local schoolchildren passed through its doors over the ensuing decades, until they finally closed in 2008 when it merged with another local school to become Bellefield Primary School (at a different site). There followed over ten years of decline with the empty site attracting antisocial behaviour, including graffiti, vandalism and arson.
Selwood Housing bought the site from Wiltshire Council in autumn 2018 and works began in summer 2019. Despite coronavirus putting a halt to construction during the first lockdown in spring 2020, we managed to re-start in a COVID-secure way and delivered the first homes to customers in the autumn. The development has been renamed Margarets Close and all rented homes were filled by Christmas.
Homes England provided funding of over £1 million and gave us the support we needed to take a risk and buy the site without planning permission. E G Carter shared our vision for the site, which was not the easiest of developments, being in a conservation area in the middle of town. Other housing associations had turned down the opportunity thinking it would be too difficult, or the site was too small.
The impressive 19th century former school building was considered a local landmark, despite a decade of neglect. We converted it into three beautiful shared ownership houses, and built a further eighteen smart new affordable homes in the surrounding grounds. By providing a mixture of property sizes (1, 2 and 3 bed units) and types (apartments and houses) we aimed to cater for a wide variety of needs. Parking was also included for all but the smallest units.
The main building was reconfigured to provide well-proportioned usable layouts and benefitted from modern construction methods such as being insulated with new double-glazed windows. However, the refurbishment also took care to retain and restore many original features inside and out, such as carved stonework and wooden beams. There is even a mosaic mural from the former playground which has been preserved in the grounds.
The site forms part of one of the oldest roads in Trowbridge town centre so it was essential that the finished design was sympathetic to its surroundings. The street scene ensures the area does not feel dense or overcrowded – instead, the natural environment has been incorporated into the design and the majority of the new properties face green space, which makes the urban location feel more rural. We also installed a bat roost in one of the plots.
This area of Trowbridge had been run down for many years, but gradually, recent developments have turned it into a more up and coming part of town. Margaret Stancomb was the final piece to this puzzle and subsequently no derelict buildings remain.
We ran a two-stage consultation process with the local community to get feedback on our plans and the response was overwhelmingly positive. The site held a lot of memories for many local people and they were pleased to know that the main Victorian building would be retained and restored.
Children from Trowbridge Youth Parliament were invited to see the site as construction began. We ran an artwork competition with Bellefield Primary School where the winners saw their pictures appear on our hoardings and later visited the site to help with planting.
Our hoardings also included local people’s memories of their time at the school, dating as far back as the start of the second world war. Some of the contributors were given personal tours of the refurbished building once construction had finished.
With over 500 households on the housing register in Trowbridge alone, this brownfield site gave us the opportunity to deliver high quality affordable homes in a fantastic central location. The twelve properties for social rent are now providing secure homes for people on a lower income, while the nine shared ownership properties have helped local families get on to the housing ladder.
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted that a safe, secure and affordable home is more important than ever, and we are particularly pleased that some of the new residents are key workers.
If you have any questions regarding the former Margaret Stancomb school site, please call us on 01225 715 715.
“It has been a pleasure to work alongside Selwood Housing. These new homes are not only built to the highest quality but also provide much needed homes for residents with strong connections to the town of Trowbridge.”
Phil Barnes, associate director at E G Carter & Co Ltd
“The Town Council wanted to express its thanks to Selwood Housing for the excellent development of the former Margaret Stancomb School site. The sensitive way in which you have been able to repurpose the historic school buildings sympathetically to provide much needed new homes for local people is much appreciated.”
Lance Allan, Town Clerk and Chief Executive, Trowbridge Town Council
“It was a real pleasure to view the new homes and to see what Selwood Housing has done with Trowbridge’s well known Margaret Stancomb site. I was very impressed and wish the families that will soon be moving in every happiness in their new homes.”
Dr Andrew Murrison, MP for South West Wiltshire