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Former Ensham Street School Including School Keeper's House and Front Wall with Gates and Railings, Wandsworth

Description: Former Ensham Street School Including School Keeper's House and Front Wall with Gates and Railings

Grade: II
Date Listed: 16 April 2013
Building ID: 1413287

OS Grid Reference: TQ2782571319
OS Grid Coordinates: 527825, 171319
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4265, -0.1628

Locality: Wandsworth
County: Greater London Authority
Postcode: SW17 8HF

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Listing Text


Board school built c1900 to a design by T J Bailey dated 1892; north wing completed post-WWI.

Reason for Listing

The former Ensham Street School, built c1900 by the School Board for London to an 1892 design by TJ Bailey, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: an unusually imposing and well-preserved example of a London board school, exemplifying Bailey's move towards more dramatic, Baroque-influenced forms.
* Historic interest: an exemplary instance of the work of the School Board for London, whose great building programme in the wake of the 1870 Education Act transformed elementary schooling in the capital and laid the foundations of London's state education system.


Ensham School was built c1900 by the School Board for London (SBL), to serve the expanding suburbs of Lower Tooting. The design, dated 1892, is typical of the work of Thomas Jerram Bailey (1843-1910), the SBL's chief architect from 1885; the nearby Broadwater Road and Franciscan Road schools were also built to his designs. The north wing was not built as part of the initial campaign - a common occurrence with large board schools - and was finally completed, to a somewhat modified design, after World War I. The school has seen a variety of educational uses, becoming a mixed central (i.e. advanced elementary) school by the 1930s, a girls' secondary modern in the 1950s and a girls' comprehensive in the 1970s; more recently it has accommodated a pupil referral unit and an adult training centre, and is now (2013) being returned to use as a primary school.
The Elementary Education Act of 1870, steered through Parliament by the Liberal MP William Forster and thus known as 'Forster's Act', established for the first time a system of national, secular, non-charitable education for children between the ages of 5 and 13. A driving force behind the new legislation was the need for a literate and numerate workforce to ensure that Britain remained at the forefront of manufacturing and commerce. Moreover, the extension of the franchise to the urban working classes under the 1867 Reform Act also alerted politicians to the need - in words attributed to the then Chancellor - to 'educate our masters'. The Act required public elementary schools, managed by elected school boards and funded through local rates, to be established in areas where existing provision was inadequate. The SBL was the first such board to be founded (in 1870), and the most influential. It was one of the first fully democratic bodies in Britain, with a franchise that included both women and the working class. Its 49 initial members - under the chairmanship of Lord Lawrence, a former Viceroy of India - included five MPs, eleven clergymen, the scientist Thomas Huxley, the pioneering woman doctor Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the educationalist and suffragist Emily Davies and the master cabinet-maker and working-class radical Benjamin Lucraft. The Board's ambitious and progressive policies were epitomised in a by-law of 1871 compelling parents to send their children to school; attendance was not enforced nationally until 1880.

Such was the achievement of the SBL in the last quarter of the C19 that by the Edwardian period few neighbourhoods in London were without a red-brick, three-storey school designed by the Board's architect E R Robson or his successor T J Bailey. Around 500 board schools were ultimately built in the capital, many in poor and densely-populated areas where they were (and often remain) the most striking buildings in the locality. Robson's adoption of the newly-fashionable Queen Anne style was a significant departure from the Gothicism that had earlier prevailed in school design, creating a distinctive aesthetic that underlined the Board's commitment to secularism in education. This commitment exposed the SBL to much criticism, especially from Anglican traditionalists whose grip on elementary education was decisively weakened by the Act, while the high cost of the new buildings, and the consequent expense to ratepayers, was likewise a subject of bitter controversy. But the Board's supporters were unapologetic. In the words of Charles Booth, justifying the expense of more elaborate schools in the East End: 'It was necessary to strike the eye and hold the imagination. It was worth much to carry high the flag of education, and this is what has been done. Each school stands up from its playground like a church in God's acre, ringing its bell.' Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in his short story 'The Naval Treaty' (1894), has Sherlock Holmes echo the reformers' confidence in the transformative power of universal education, hailing the new metropolitan landmarks as 'Lighthouses, my boy!... Capsules with hundreds of bright little seeds in each, out of which will spring the wiser, better England of the future'.


MATERIALS: red brick with buff terracotta dressings, clay tile roof and white-painted woodwork.

PLAN: the school is built on a standard triple-decker plan, with three main floors (containing the infants', girls' and boys' schools respectively) and four staircases - two in the centre and one in each of the outer wings. The boys entered from the north via the central stairwells, and the girls and infants from the south via the wings. Each floor originally comprised a large south-facing hall with classrooms to the north and short corridors to east and west giving access to further classrooms, cloakrooms and WCs; above the latter are mezzanines containing teachers’ offices. The attic above the hall block presumably once contained art rooms.

EXTERIOR: the exteriors display the rich Northern Renaissance/English Baroque elements that T J Bailey introduced into the SBL repertoire, with a profusion of moulded terracotta dressings and large multi-paned sash windows: square-headed on the ground floor, segment-headed with terracotta aprons and keystones on the first floor, and square-headed again in moulded terracotta surrounds on the top floor, beneath a plain frieze, heavy modillion cornice and ridge-line crowned with broad flat-topped rectangular stacks.

The symmetrical north-west front to Franciscan Road is divided into five sections, comprising a pedimented centrepiece and outer cross-wings joined by recessed linking ranges. Two very tall arched recesses run almost the full height of the centrepiece, their small windows indicating the position of the two central stairs. Below, the twin boys' entrances are set between miniature Doric columns, beneath an architrave with triglyphs, dentil cornice and little segmental pediments. High above, just below the sharp triangular pediment, is a four-light window enclosed in another little Doric aedicule. The outer wings have pediments like those on the centrepiece; the north-east (left-hand) wing, a late addition, is windowless. The south-east elevation to the playground has a similar five-part division but is less regular: the hall block projects in the centre, flanked to the left by a staircase bay with girls' and infants' entrances below and a big semicircular window and balustrade above; but the corresponding bay to the right is in a different position and is less richly decorated. The outer wings have acute pediments and circular windows with enriched keystone surrounds (that in the north-east wing is plainer), and the short return elevations have similar pediments above their projecting middle bays.

INTERIORS: like those of other board schools, these are for the most part plain and functional, and have seen a degree of alteration. The three halls have big round-arched fireplaces with moulded overmantels at either end, and many of the classrooms retain smaller green-tiled fireplaces bearing the SBL monogram. Internal windows and glazed doors, with multi-pane glazing similar to that on the exterior, survive in most parts of the interior, allowing light to pass between the classrooms, corridors and halls. A few of the original built-in timber cupboards also survive.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: The BOUNDARY WALL to Franciscan Road is formed of a series of scalloped bays with SBL-monogrammed railings, each bay flanked by square pediment-capped piers. The boys' entrances to right and left have lost their enclosing archways but retain their gates, which are scrolled to match the railings. Alongside the school, with its own entrance to Franciscan Road, is the FORMER SCHOOL KEEPER'S COTTAGE. This is a small two-storey cottage of red brick and terracotta, with a big triangular gable to the right and a little semicircular-headed dormer above the (altered) entrance bay to the left. Both of these structures contribute to the special interest of the site.

The red-brick single-storey annexe in the playground to the east of the main building is of lesser importance, as is the plain stock-brick boundary wall and associated structures enclosing the playground on its east and south sides.

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