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Ravenswood, Rock Ferry High School, Birkenhead

Description: Ravenswood, Rock Ferry High School

Grade: II
Date Listed: 16 July 2012
English Heritage Building ID: 1403131

OS Grid Reference: SJ3291285806
OS Grid Coordinates: 332912, 385806
Latitude/Longitude: 53.3649, -3.0096

Locality: Birkenhead
County: Wirral
Country: England
Postcode: CH42 4NB

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Listing Text


A detached house of 1874. converted to a school in the early C20, now unused.

Reason for Listing

Ravenswood, originally built as a house, later a school, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Design: a good example of a late Victorian house in a free Gothic style with Arts and Crafts influences;
* Interior craftsmanship and design: the interior retains a number of original features of quality and interest, individually designed for the house, including the staircase, fireplaces, panelling, plasterwork, stained glass and fitted furniture;
* Degree of survival: the exterior is unaltered and the minor alterations to the interior have not unduly impacted the original layout or the survival of original features.


The house named Ravenswood first appears on the OS 1:2500 plan of 1899, with a similar footprint as today but with an adjoining service building to the north. It stood in extensive landscaped grounds and there was a range of outbuildings further to the north-west. There is a datestone on the main elevation of 1874. Early owners included Joseph C. Sinclair, a general broker with a business in Liverpool, and William J. Bird, a solicitor listed in the 1881 census. It was later owned by John Hargreaves, a provisions merchant from America, who was prominent in local history and literary societies in the early C20. The Rock Ferry district in which Ravenswood stood was part of a fast-growing, affluent residential area on the Wirral. It was inhabited largely by wealthy merchants who commuted by ferry to the port of Liverpool opposite.

The house and its 12 acres of grounds were bought in 1920, along with a similar estate, Stoneleigh, to the south. It was converted to a school which opened in 1926, and on the 1936 1:2500 map it is named as Ravenswood (Rock Ferry High School), with Stoneleigh similarly identified. Contemporary plans show the alterations that were undertaken at that time to both houses. The adjoining building to the immediate north of Ravenswood was used as cloakrooms for the school, but by 1982 this had been removed.

When a new building was constructed for the school in 1939, Ravenswood was incorporated, but with little change internally or externally. The building is currently unused as the school has closed and is awaiting redevelopment.


MATERIALS: the former house is constructed of stone 'bricks' with some sandstone ashlar dressings, under slate roofs.

PLAN: Ravenswood stands to the north-east of the later school building. Its main entrance faces north-east and it is roughly square in plan.

EXTERIOR: Ravenswood has two-storeys plus attics, steeply pitched slate roofs, gables and tall chimney stacks. It has three main bays on its north-east and south-west elevations. Most of the windows have relieving arches above and are mullioned and, in the larger windows, transomed. The main entrance is in the central gabled bay to the north-east in a projecting gabled porch bearing a carved coat of arms in a roundel above. To the right is a square bay window, supporting a balcony above with a pierced parapet and a basement below. Near the base to the right of this window is an incised date stone with a date of 1874 and a Freemason's compasses in the centre. The window above has a deep stone lintel with blind tracery. To left and right are further bays with sash windows in similar style. On the corner is a square oriel window at first floor level, and a corner buttress. The south-west elevation has gabled bays to either side of a central bay with a secondary entrance and window, and smaller windows above. To the right is a semi-circular bay window, also with a pierced parapet surrounding a balcony above. The upper window is similar to that on the front elevation, with diamond decoration in the stonework of the gable. The north-west elevation has scattered fenestration over three floors, and an external stack rising from the first floor. The south-east elevation has a two storey semi-circular bay window in a projecting gabled bay towards the right.

INTERIOR: the principal entrance to the north east has been blocked and the vestibule converted to lavatories. The square main hall is central to the ground floor and is open to the top floor, top lit by a leaded skylight. It contains the main stair and rooms leading off to all sides with original panelled doors having carved panels in the same style as the staircase. The open well staircase, in polished mahogany, is elaborately carved in a Jacobean style, with the ground floor newels rising to form the support for the upper level, pierced, carved and turned balusters and wooden handrail. To the left of the main entrance is a service room, with a large classroom extending through the remaining depth of the building on the south-east side, formed out of two former rooms. The ceiling has decorative plaster work and cornices, and some glass in the bay windows is stained, including two panels, one depicting an artist and the other a painter decorating a pottery bowl. There is another classroom to the right of the entrance, probably the original dining room, with a wood panelled ceiling and wainscot, with service rooms beyond. Opposite the entrance is the headmaster's room which has wainscots, a range of fitted furniture, and a fireplace with a marble surround and individually decorated tiles. To the right (west) there is a rear entrance and a kitchen with an original iron range, and a second staircase with stick balusters and a wooden handrail is situated on the north-west side. The first floor is also arranged around the central staircase and the rooms largely echo those on the ground floor. A number of fireplaces survive, including several with strongly patterned tiles and one with a heavy marble surround. The west wing has a second storey accessed from the second staircase.

Source: English Heritage

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