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Foundry Primary School, Birmingham

Description: Foundry Primary School

Grade: II
Date Listed: 26 August 2011
English Heritage Building ID: 1399843

OS Grid Reference: SP0407388506
OS Grid Coordinates: 404073, 288502
Latitude/Longitude: 52.4944, -1.9414

Locality: Birmingham
County: Birmingham
Country: England
Postcode: B18 4LW

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Listing Text


A school, built to the designs of John Henry Chamberlain (1831-83) and William Martin (1828-1900) and opened in 1883.

Reason for Listing

Foundry Primary School is recommended for listing at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architect: An impressive school by Martin and Chamberlain, one of the leading architectural practices in late-Victorian Birmingham, which uses the vernacular of enveloping tiled roofs and patterned surfaces to create a comforting and inspiring environment for children.
* Intactness: Although there have been some additions and alterations to the fabric of the school, a certain degree of change is to be expected from a functioning school. The degree of alteration is not great and is mostly confined to the periphery of the building, and the original plan of the building is little altered and can be easily read.
* Historical: One of twenty-seven surviving schools built by the Birmingham School Board, which together form one of the most important groups of board schools in the country.


The Birmingham School Board was brought into being by the Elementary Education Act of 1870; the Act, which empowered school boards to create new schools and pay the fees of the poorest children, was largely the result of campaigning by the Birmingham-centred National Education League. By 1902, when the Education Act abolished school boards and passed the responsibility for education to local authorities, the Birmingham School Board had built fifty-two new schools, as well as the Board's offices. All but four of these schools were designed by the architectural practice Martin and Chamberlain - from 1900 Martin and Martin - appointed Architect to the Board in 1870.

John Henry Chamberlain (1831-83) and William Martin (1828-1900) formed the practice Martin and Chamberlain in 1864. Following the death of Chamberlain, Martin was joined by his son, Frederick William Martin (1859-1917), and the practice continued under the same name until the death of William Martin when the practice was renamed Martin and Martin. The board schools became focal points within each district, serving as symbols of municipal pride and civic achievement; Martin and Chamberlain created a house style for their schools, which were characterised by their red-brick construction, tall ventilation towers, proliferation of gables, and decorative use of tiles and terracotta, sometimes displaying naturalistic forms. Chamberlain believed that beautiful and well-planned school architecture might offer children some compensation for drab, cramped homes, and in 1894 the Pall Mall Gazette commented that, `In Birmingham you may generally recognise a Board School by its being the best building in the neighbourhood' with lofty towers which serve the utilitarian purpose of giving excellent ventilation, gabled windows, warm red bricks and stained glass, the best of the Birmingham Board Schools have quite an artistic finish'.

J. H. Chamberlain, the leading creative force within Martin and Chamberlain, was profoundly influenced by Ruskin and his promotion of Venetian Gothic; Chamberlain played a unique role in defining Birmingham's civic architecture during the 1860s and 1870s, helping shape the city's celebrated movement of social and artistic improvement. He designed a number of other important public buildings, including libraries, baths, and hospitals, but in setting the style for the board schools he made an especially significant and lasting contribution to Birmingham's built environment.

Frederick Martin, who took over much of the practice's design after Chamberlain's death, was responsible for a variety of public and commercial buildings, and housing, as well as the Board Schools. Martin developed the established mode of the schools' design, introducing a greater freedom in referencing historical styles and, as a leading practitioner of Birmingham's 'terracotta school', an increased use of terracotta.

Foundry Road School opened in 1883 and was initially called the `and designed to hold 1,002 children. It was shown on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map, published in 1890, where it was marked as a school for `Boys, Girls and Infants'. The site, extending north-south was bounded by Foundry Road, to its south, with James Turner Road to the east (which then showed terraced development, with gaps) and Perrott Street to the west (undeveloped). The school was shown as two, roughly rectangular blocks, with the smaller one (Infants' School) to the south-east of the larger. The buildings appear to have been joined by an L-shaped walkway with glazed roof which ran between the blocks. The caretaker's house was shown at the south-west corner of the site and there were three walled playgrounds. There appear to have been covered playgrounds at either side of the Senior School block. The OS map of 1904 showed that the smaller block had gained an extension, which projected from its west flank, and that the area had been fully built up, with a further street of housing, called Eva Road, running between Foundry Road and Perrott Street. The 1918 OS map showed an extension to the north side of the larger block and covered playgrounds against the walls of the Infants' School yard. Since that time the Infants' School block has had early and mid-C20 additions to its north and west sides and the larger, senior, block has had additions made in the early-C20 to its south-west corner and in the 1970s to its north-west and north-east corners.


The building is of red, English bond brick with stone dressings and a plain tile roof. It is one and two storeys in height and has two blocks which are roughly rectangular, each of which is laid out around a central hall. The smaller block houses the Infants' School and lies to the south-east of the main Senior School block.

EXTERIOR: The Infants' School block has, to its south front, two gables, of which the left hand one marks the hall and the right hand one signifies a classroom. The right wing projects slightly. Each has three, joined windows and a further two-light casement to the gable. The gables have decorative timber framing and tiled infill which is formed of differently coloured tiles arranged in chevron patterns (a motif which is common to most of the gables on the building). The moulded bargeboards are set in projecting tiers and overlap. The western flank of this block has a projecting classroom block, built before 1904 with a similar arrangement of windows and gable, but without the upper casement window. To the left of this are two joined gables with paired windows at ground-floor level, and at left again is a door and window whose sill has been lowered. The east face has two gabled wings, of the same form as those seen on the south face, but wider, with three-light windows to the gable. To the right and recessed is a further gable with a first-floor window. The north face of the Infants' School is masked at ground floor level by a changing room with brown brick walls added in the 1970s.

The senior block has four gabled bays to its east side, and the same number to its west side, all of the type, with timbers and tiles to the gables, seen elsewhere. To the northern end of each side is a late-C20 brick addition with flat roof; that to the west side houses a kitchen, while the two-storey block on the east side has changing rooms and classrooms. The north face has two gabled wings of the established type, flanked by the later-C20 additions referred to above. The south face has a recessed portion of walling to the right, with joined, gabled bays behind which is a recessed, fluted boiler chimney. To the left of this is a projecting block, added after 1918, which has two gabled bays which have tile hanging to the upper gables.

INTERIOR: Both the Infants' School and the senior block have a central hall, around which classrooms are grouped. These have cast-iron trusses with cut-out patterns to the sides of the blades. There are five such trusses to the Senior School hall and three to the Infants' School. The floors are of wood blocks and the dado panelling is of vertical timbers. Doors are largely to the original pattern, with glazed upper panels. Windows between the hall and classrooms in the senior school have pointed arches, while those in the Infants' School have cambered heads. The majority of the classrooms also have a similar, central, cast-iron truss.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: The Caretaker's House has a frontage to Foundry Road with a door at left and a canted bay window with hipped roof at right. The front onto Perrott Street has a blocked window and a sign board frame at ground-floor level and two windows beneath the timber-framed-and-tiled gable at first-floor level. To the left of this is a prominent chimney stack. Both the north and east fronts have gables with framing and tiles.
To the rear of the caretaker's house is a single bay of one of the former covered playgrounds which were formerly placed against the walls of all three walled playgrounds. This has two metal columns to its east front but the space between, which was formerly open to the playground, is now blocked with brick walling and a small electricity sub-station has been added to the north end, which has also had clapboarding inserted to the gable.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.