Walmer Castle and Gardens Learning Centre and Café

Kent, UK. 2019

English Heritage’s Walmer Castle and Gardens has undergone a transformation with the completion of its first new substantial building for 145 years. 

We were appointed as part of a wider strategy to revive and reconnect the gardens and reclaim a lost quarry garden, known as the Glen, making it accessible to the public for the first time in a century.

Part-funded by a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the commission includes a new-build 70m2 multipurpose Learning Centre and a new café in a repurposed glasshouse, which together provide a place of shelter, education and interpretation from which visitors can explore the entire grounds of the castle. The buildings have been designed as a sequence of interventions with their own access route.

The Learning Centre is a sculptural, single-storey brick building with a shallow pitched zinc roof which draws on the brooding qualities of the Tudor castle. An expansive feature window takes the form of a five-pointed Tudor arch, echoing the castle’s gun ports and framing a view of the garden, which becomes the focal point of the space.

Until now, there hasn’t been a dedicated space for visiting groups and school pupils on the site. The new space positions education at the heart of the programme, allowing for larger groups throughout the year, in all weathers.

The new café is housed in a repurposed timber-framed glasshouse opening onto a Yorkstone terrace overlooking the kitchen garden. A low, horizontal, black zinc building with cantilevered roof canopies is positioned behind the existing garden wall to house the support spaces, including kitchen, toilets and plant room. Beyond the buildings we have reorganised the gardeners’ compound and set within the landscape a stair made of galvanised steel clad in air-dried oak. 

Selected press articles:

Architects Journal
RIBA Journal


Walmer Castle and Gardens Learning Centre and Café