Press Release: Grade II* Listed West Dean College recommits to biomass energy

The Edward James Foundation has invested in a new state-of-the-art biomass (wood fuelled) boiler at the West Dean Estate. After 35 years of constant use the old boiler, which heats the internationally renowned West Dean College and student accommodation, the Victorian glasshouses in the award-winning gardens and a number of the properties on the 6,400 acre estate, has been replaced. The first biomass boiler was installed in 1981 when the trustees were faced with replacing an old boiler and decided to make use of the estate's own renewable source of energy from its forestry operations. All wood used for the biomass is produced on the Estate and largely consists of softwood thinnings of Douglas Fir, European Larch, Norway Spruce and Corsican Pine, amongst other varieties.

The new and extended district heat network is powered by a Froling boiler and will receive a subsidy for each kwh of heat produced under the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). In addition to heating the properties served by the old system the new system will allow a further 22 residential properties on the off-gas estate to be added, with no increase in the amount of wood required.

"West Dean Estate has been committed to heating self-sufficiency for the past 35 years and we are proud to have made this long-term investment in the latest biomass technology," says Alex Barron, Chief Executive, The Edward James Foundation. "The new high-tech boiler system will be much more efficient so, for the same annual fuel requirement, we have been able to extend the heating system to a greater number of tenanted properties in West Dean village in addition to the main buildings across West Dean College and Gardens".

The work has been carried out over the winter months to minimise disruption to the college, garden visitors and local community. Contractors laid 1,500 metres of piping from the boiler's new location, opposite the entrance to the college, to serve the new district network. The new district heat centre incorporates a larger chip store which streamlines the production process, enough to run the boiler for two months in the winter or six months in the summer. This will allow for tight control of the moisture content of the feed stock resulting in greater operating efficiencies with a minimal wastage of around 1% ash. The new high tech system incorporates two oil boilers which will top up the heat produced in extreme low temperatures as well as provide back up in case of any maintenance.

The project team

A.F. Pilbeam Limited, Main Contractor

Kevin Whitehead, McBains Cooper, Quantity Surveyor and Project Manager

Sustainable Energy Limited, System Designers

Lorne Stewart, Mechanical and Electrical Construction

Dunster Biomass Heating, Boiler Supplier

Savills, Petworth, Building Planning and Design Build

West Dean College was established in 1971 by Edward James, poet and lifelong supporter of the Surrealist Movement. It is one of the few colleges in the world which offers graduate and postgraduate study in a range of conservation disciplines, as well as programmes in the Creative Arts. Qualifications include Foundation, Diploma, Postgraduate Diploma, MA and MFA, validated by the University of Sussex.

The emphasis for students at West Dean College is time in the studio and workshops. Conservation students gain hands-on experience working on unique and often rare objects, including many from acclaimed collections. This is combined with theoretical and scientific study and collaboration across the disciplines. West Dean graduates are sought-after and many go on to work in some of the world's finest institutions, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, National Maritime Museum, The British Museum and Imperial War Museum.

Study options and funding opportunities for students is on the website at


Notes to editors

  • West Dean College is part of The Edward James Foundation, an educational charitable trust established in 1964, also comprising West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and the West Dean Tapestry Studio. Charity No. 1126084.
  • All photography is free to use for editorial purposes.
  • West Dean College is situated on the A286, six miles north of Chichester and within easy access of Portsmouth, Guildford, Brighton and London.
  • Image captions 1) West Dean College, front elevation 2) West Dean Estate, aerial view 3) West Dean Gardens, Victorian glasshouses

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Irene Caswell, Senior Media Officer, +44 (0)1243 818301


West Dean College, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 OQZ