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Former Sydenham Public Lecture Hall with Entrance Gates, Piers and Railings, Lewisham

Description: Former Sydenham Public Lecture Hall with Entrance Gates, Piers and Railings

Grade: II
Date Listed: 19 September 2011
English Heritage Building ID: 1402184

OS Grid Reference: TQ3482372165
OS Grid Coordinates: 534825, 172166
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4325, -0.0618

Locality: Lewisham
County: Greater London
Country: England
Postcode: SE26 4BE

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Listing Text


Former public lecture hall, working men's institute and national school, later a London County Council school, now an adult education institute. Built in 1859-61 by Henry Dawson, based on a design attributed to Sir Joseph Paxton; extended 1904 by William Flockhart.

Reason for Listing

The former Sydenham Lecture Hall, built in 1859-61 by Henry Dawson (possibly adapting a design by Sir Joseph Paxton) and extended in 1904 by William Flockhart for the London County Council, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a handsome mid-Victorian public building with sympathetic and well-detailed Edwardian additions by a respected Arts and Crafts architect;
* Historic interest: an unusual instance of a building designed to provide working-class education for both children and adults, established (and possibly also designed) with the involvement of Sir Joseph Paxton.


The Sydenham Public Lecture Hall was a cultural institute founded by several members of Sydenham's Liberal elite, including the celebrated horticulturalist, engineer and architect Sir Joseph Paxton, and aimed primarily at the area's working-class population. A new building to house the institute was built in 1859-61 by the architect Henry Dawson, to a reduced version of a more ambitious design - featuring banded brickwork and two cupola-topped stair towers - attributed to Paxton himself. A programme of lectures, classes, concerts and entertainments was conducted under the auspices of the Sydenham Working Men's Association, which also maintained a library and reading room. The Sydenham British School, a non-denominational primary school established in 1851, used the building during the daytime. The school, known by various names during its history, was taken over in 1875 by the London School Board, and in 1904 by the London County Council, at which point the original building was greatly extended to designs by William Flockhart.

Henry Dawson (1827-1915) had offices at Finsbury Circus in the City of London, and was architect and surveyor to the Salters' Company. He designed a number of office and warehouse buildings in and around the City, as well as housing elsewhere in London and buildings for the Pitt Press in Cambridge. He was elected ARIBA in 1859 and FRIBA in 1869.

Sir Joseph Paxton (1803-65) was one of the foremost engineer-architects and garden designers of the mid-C19. He is best known as the designer of the Crystal Palace of 1851, re-erected to at Sydenham in 1854 and eventually destroyed by fire in 1936. His surviving works include the pioneering public park at Birkenhead (1847, registered at Grade I) and the great Rothschild mansion at Mentmore, Buckinghamshire (1852-4, listed at Grade I). For the last decade of his life he lived at Rockhills, Sydenham, a house granted to him by the Crystal Palace Company.

William Flockhart (1854-1913) was a Scottish-born architect who trained at the Glasgow School of Art and in Paris. From 1879 he was based in London, where he designed a number of commercial buildings and town-houses. His later work includes Lansdowne House (1904), an eight-storey block of flats and artists' studios in Notting Hill, London, and The Towers (1908), an Arts and Crafts-style mansion at Stapleford near Cambridge (both listed at Grade II).


EXTERIOR: The building is of two distinct phases: a central core comprising the lecture hall of 1859-61, and a low front lobby and taller flanking wings added by Flockhart in 1904. The former is an Italianate building of two storeys beneath a hipped slate roof. The main fa├žade was originally faced in red brick, with contrasting white brick used locally for polychromatic effect. In 1904 much of the facing brick was covered with roughcast to match the extensions, leaving only the polychrome elements exposed; some of the red brick appears to have been stained black at this time. The ground floor originally featured five tall round-headed windows treated as a continuous arcade, with banded brick voussoirs and raised impost blocks; only their heads are now visible above the 1904 lobby. Above these is a storey band of red and black brick laid in chevrons. The upper storey has a continuous row of ten round-headed windows with banded voussoirs and stone cills; the aprons beneath and the bases of the intervening piers are of white brick. At the eaves is a cogged brick cornice. The rear block, slightly lower in height and altogether plain in treatment, seems also to belong to this first phase. A massive rectangular stack emerges from the valley between the two roofs.

Flockhart's additions are of roughcast brick with dressings of orange-red brick and tile and a russet glazed-brick plinth. The style is an Arts and Crafts version of the 'Queen Anne' revival. Across the front of the building runs a low flat-roofed corridor whose square windows, set in brick architraves, have flat-arched tilework heads with projecting keystones and cornices. Between these are a series of cast-iron downpipes, their hoppers emblazoned with the date 1904. In the centre is a square projecting porch, treated as a low tower with corner pilasters, a belfry-like open upper stage and a pyramidal roof crowned by a three-pronged timber and metal finial. The main doorway has splayed reveals and a pointed segmental-arched tilework head, with metal plaques above displaying LCC insignia. Hip-roofed projections at either end of the corridor connect to a pair of two-storey gabled wings with broad end stacks bearing sunken keystone panels. The return elevations have segmental windows with keystone heads, and tall half-dormers lighting the first-floor art rooms. The wings are linked to the central core via hip-roofed lateral blocks, also with segment-headed windows. Flat-roofed utility blocks project to the rear.

INTERIOR: The internal plan comprises two large halls in the front central block (that on the lower floor now subdivided by a glazed partition) with smaller classrooms and workrooms to the sides and rear. Circulation is by means of the lobby-corridor across the front of the building, and by two side corridors running through to the twin staircases and utility rooms at the rear. Most rooms have wood-block floors and timber skirtings, and some have matchboard dado panelling. Internal doors have two solid panels below and six glazed lights above; in most rooms they are set in shallow curved internal 'porches', apparently added in the 1904 alterations. The rear staircases have plain metal balustrades. The ceiling beams in the lower hall rest on simple moulded corbels, and have been reinforced by means of three tall iron columns. The upper hall has a boarded floor and a ceiling of timber trusses reinforced by iron ties.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: The main Kirkdale entrance to the site is marked by a set of gates, piers and railings. The four square brick piers appear to be those shown in a photograph of 1880, but their tall stone caps were presumably added in 1904, as were the lamp casing on the left-hand pier and the present wrought-iron gates and railings with their ornamental scrollwork and heart motifs.

Source: English Heritage

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