A school caretaker's house of 1888. Designed by HR Yeoville Thomason and Cooper Whitwell in a Tudor style.
Reason for Listing
No. 93, Benson Road, designed as a caretaker's house for Benson Road Junior School is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architecture: the house forms an emphatic compositional element in the grouping of the school buildings along Benson Road and shares the Tudor style of the school designed by Thomason and Whitwell.
* Group value: the building has strong group value with Benson Road Junior School
* Intactness: the building has lost little of its original appearance.
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.
Benson Junior School was initially known as the Soho Road School and built to accommodate 962 pupils. It opened in 1888. It was one of the few buildings for the Birmingham School Board which was not the work of Martin and Chamberlain. Instead it was designed by Thomason and Whitwell, who were amongst the best-regarded practices working in Birmingham in the later-C19 and who had designed the Singer's Hill Synagogue, the Council House and The Museum and Art Gallery in Victoria Square by this date. The design is clearly in the style established by Martin and Chamberlain and employs a similar type of plan with two, large, central halls, surrounded by classrooms, which are identified on the exterior by their gables. This follows the pattern of Foundry Road School and, as there, the caretaker's house is placed at one corner of the site. A difference from the Martin and Chamberlain idiom is established by the use of a Tudor style with much terracotta ornament and these features are also seen on the related house at 93 Benson Road.
The school is not shown on the First Edition of the Ordnance Survey map of 1890 (which would have been surveyed at some time prior to its publication), but is on the OS map of 1904, by which time the name of the street had changed to Benson Road. Both maps show a Wesleyan Methodist chapel and its Sunday School to the east of the school site .The surrounding area, bounded by Park Road and Bacchus Road, was covered with dense housing which has now been mostly demolished, including the area to the immediate west of the school, which forms its playing fields.
A school caretaker's house of 1888. Designed by HR Yeoville Thomason and Cooper Whitwell in a Tudor style. The building is of red brick, laid in English bond, with yellow, terracotta dressings and a plain tile roof. It has three-storeys and is placed to the eastern corner of the school site and facing onto Benson Road. The road front has two-light casements to the ground and first floors and a single-light to the gabled top floor, all with terracotta surrounds that have cusping to the heads of the lights. The east flank is blank and the west flank has a two-light mullioned window to the ground floor and random fenestration to the recessed rear wing at left of this.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.