Plans to bring new life to historic Preston school

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A grand old house, built by a wealthy Preston banker more than 180 years ago and later used as a special school, is to be converted into offices and apartments.

Plans for Larches House in Ashton, which has stood empty since the school moved out four years ago, have been approved by the city council.

Sapphire Investments from Walton Summit want to carry out sympathetic refurbishment works to create office accommodation for between 30 and 40 staff, along with two self-contained flats at first floor level.

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Larches House was built in 1838 - the year after Queen Victoria came to the throne - as a home for Preston banker John Lawe. At the time it was in a rural location, surrounded by extensive grounds and overlooking the River Ribble.

Larches House was once home to a wealthy Preston banker before it became a special school.Larches House was once home to a wealthy Preston banker before it became a special school.
Larches House was once home to a wealthy Preston banker before it became a special school.

Mr Lawe died soon after and the estate was put up for sale in 1851. It had a succession of owners until 1954 when it became a school for pupils with special educational needs.

The school, now Larches High, completed a move to a site in Blackpool Road, on the edge of Moor Park, in 2017.

The Ashton building, on Larches Lane, is Grade II Listed and is said to be of "special architectural and historic interest."

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A report to the city's planning committee says: "Larches House is an early 19th century banker's residence, built in what was at the time a rural location, yet within easy reach of the business district of Preston, then a town undergoing rapid growth with the burgeoning cotton industry.

"The house is reported to include parts of an earlier farmhouse, but to all intents and purposes it appears to be a single build of 1838.

"Architecturally the house is classical in style and typifies the transition between the Georgian and early Victorian periods, in a manner favoured by many newly rich patrons at that time."

Larches House was first Listed in 1991, although the report says "its early 19th century character is far from intact."

The plans include the removal of some more modern additions including a lean-to corridor and a brick chimney.

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