Saturday, 22 March 2008

The first London elementary schools

Click to enlarge

Awesome find on eBay -- though unfortunately it's a facsimile edition (Leicester University Press, 1972). Beautiful printing, with engravings and woodcuts.

Robson was the first architect of the School Board for London. The Board was elected in November 1870 -- direct elections: this wasn't a committee of the council (there wasn't a council). The Board was truly impressive. They lost no time and in 6 months had appointed a Works Committee and Robson as architect. More on the SBL another time.

Notice the date, then: 1874 is really early in the life of the School Board. (It was replaced by the London County Council in 1904). But already some schools had been built, to the high standard that the SBL and LCC kept up until 1914. (Note also that the school building was called the school-house: the term referred to the school, not the teacher's or caretaker's house.)

The school illustrated, West Street School, Hackney, was an early SBL school type. It has the familiar three storeys: from the bottom, infants, girls and boys, the three departments, as they were called. At this stage each floor would consist, apart from cloakrooms etc., of a single school-room (or hall), each housing the pupils (at desks in various configurations), the teacher and some pupil-teachers (aged 14 and over). One experimental school had been built with classrooms, a Prussian idea, but Robson found this model expensive and inefficient. At best the school-room might sometimes be divided with curtains.

Later, though, the SBL and Robson came round to the idea of classrooms, divided from the hall (the former school-room) and the landings by glass partitions, so that the teacher could easily supervise the pupil-teachers and any assistant teachers.

I'll do another entry on Robson and desks!

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