Rugby College carpentry students have designed and created a new bench for historic Compton Verney.
The project began in January 2017 when Compton Verney contacted the college with a request to design and build a contemplation bench for their reflection area in the wooded grounds of the Georgian Mansion house which is home to the award-winning Gallery and Museum. The bench looks out onto a new ‘labyrinth’ maze and is also near the base for Forest School sessions, where young people access outdoor learning and educational trips to the countryside.
The students visited the site, taking part in a forest school session with Grounds Learning Programmer, Vix Powell. During this session they discovered some disused oak posts which, after some careful cleaning and machining were used to create the final bench.
Martin Williams from local company Timber Master supported the students to finalise designs, with Archie Pearcey’s design being chosen due to his striking and sympathetic approach to the reclaimed materials. Fellow student Ethan Gwilym turned the design into a CAD technical drawing so the students could begin work on the bench in earnest.
With the support of tutors John Billings and Bernard Wale the bench came together over several weeks, with students dedicating their free time to the project. It was installed in the park ready for Compton Verney’s seasonal opening on Saturday 6 May – also World Labyrinth Day.
Archie Pearcey, 18 from Rugby, is studying for a Level 3 in Carpentry and was the designer of the bench. He said, “I came up with the design after seeing the materials we had, so I kept it pretty simple and only a couple of tiny things have changed. We all took on different parts of the project, so I did the seating and backing area with some of the students, while others were in the machine workshop.
“Surprisingly everything went to plan! I’ve never built anything like this before I’m pleased it looks so good. It’s nice to think that thousands of people will be able to enjoy our bench.”
Vix Powell from Compton Verney said, “We are absolutely delighted with the bench the students have created. The materials and design were all down to them as we wanted to give the students ownership of the project, so I actually didn’t see the bench until just before we installed it! I was amazed, it’s fantastic – so natural – and the colours fit in perfectly with the backdrop of the woods and the new labyrinth. They have given some old oak posts we found under a tree a whole new lease of life.
“We have around 70,000 visitors every year and the numbers are growing, so I hope the students are proud to have their bench here. As well as the Forest Schools, we’ll have meditation and tai chi happening in the area, so it’s a fantastic addition for us, and I hope we can work together on more projects in the future.”
Leanne Booth, Work Placement Co-ordinator for WCG said, “I am so proud to have watched this idea brought to life by the students. For some of them, the initial visit was the first time they had been to the countryside, so to see what they have created from the reclaimed wood is fantastic. They are truly inspiring and hard-working individuals and have gained so many skills in the process.”
Royal Leamington Spa College offers carpentry and joinery courses and apprenticeships at a range of levels. For more information please call 0300 456 0049 or go to www.warwickshire.ac.uk/courses.
For more information about Compton Verney, go to www.comptonverney.org.uk.