Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Sidell Gibson Architects have been appointed by the French Education Property Trust Ltd. to refurbish and extend an existing Victorian school building in North London. The New French School, Kentish Town will include a nursery, primary, and secondary school for 700 pupils. The Grade II listed Holmes Road School was last used by Kingsway Community College and has been lying empty since 2008. The scope of Sidell Gibson's appointment includes conservation and restoration work to the existing slate roofs, lead gutters, brickwork facades and timber sash windows whilst at the same time upgrading the thermal performance of the existing fabric.
As part of the Planning Submission, Sidell Gibson's conservation architecture department researched the original history of the building:
The Holmes Road School is an early example of a Victorian Board School built 1872 – 74 to the designs of the First Board School Architect of London, E.R. Robson 1837 – 1917. Typically, the Board Schools are three-decker buildings – ground, middle with high ceilings, and the second floor with steeply pitched roofs. Infants at ground level, Boys on the first floor, with Girls on the second floor. Board Schools introduced separate classrooms for different age groups, when before, classes were held in one large single space or hall. Each floor had six classrooms arranged on three sides of a large central space or hall. The first floor included the school hall rising up one and a half storeys with a gallery on one side to give access to the Girls’ classrooms. Above the hall was the Girls’ covered play area. The Board School came to have long school rooms with windows in the end walls and in the centre of long external walls, to bring light to desks from the side rather than from the front and back. This resulted in large areas of blank walls with high window cills to stop children looking out of windows during classes. 1,200 children was the average size of these schools and with no playground or trees owing to the tight constraints of the sites that were compulsorily purchased resulting in wholesale demolition of houses such as at Holmes Road.
The school site that now forms part of the Inkerman Conservation Area on its northern edge along Holmes Road, as we see it today, was built following the Crimean War where streets were named after prominent battles – Alma, Inkerman, and its personalities – Raglan. As a result of the 1870 Education Act, Board Schools were established to provide new schools paid through the local rates. Robson’s Holmes Road School was designed as a response to the tight constraints of the site available to him at the time after a number of Victorian houses were compulsorily purchased during successive periods, along Holmes Road, then called Mansfield Place, Willes Road and Cathcart Street. During Robson’s time, his school was hidden by houses on the south side and was not intended to be seen, therefore, the setting and grouping of the buildings are not original to 1874, but are from a later period after further houses were compulsorily purchased and demolished to form the playground. The playground itself is therefore not original to the school.
After the First World War, in 1923 the school opened after school hours for evening classes as a Community Centre for Education. In 1924, again after normal school hours, it was a venue for the Kentish Town Camera Club and Weightlifting Club, then by 1927, held courses as the Junior Men's Institute where practical skills were taught in wood, metalwork, boxing, hygiene and first aid . The last children left in 1931 and the school renamed as the Kentish Town Men's Institute then the Kentish Town & East Hampstead Institute. During the last war, the buildings were used for Local Civil Defence, the RAF Volunteer Reserve and A.R.P (Air Raid Precautions) Training, and in 1940, was requisitioned by the Meals Service for Home Guard Training and as a Rest Centre. The front iron railings were removed in 1942 as part of the war effort - and towards the end of the war, sections of the buildings on the first floor, was taken over by Camden School for Girls, the Junior School and first year seniors remaining there until 1949. By 1956 the 45 separate Men's and Women's Institutes in London were reorganised into 33 mixed Adult Education Institutes, each with between 3,000 and 4,000 students and usually five branches based in secondary schools so that residents should not be further than half a mile away from classes. The Holmes Road School became the headquarters of the Kentish Town & East Hampstead Institute, finally becoming the Kingsway College for Adult Education, providing classes in car maintenance, art and dance (pictures below show 1970s dance class and same room today) amongst others.