The former infant school of Dixon Road School, a Birmingham Board School constructed to a design by Martin and Chamberlain in 1879.
Reason for Listing
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
* Architect: a handsome school by Martin and Chamberlain, one of the leading architectural practices in late-Victorian Birmingham
* Historical: the former Dixon Road School is one of the earliest of twenty-six surviving schools built by the Birmingham School Board, which together form one of the most important groups of board schools in the country
* Group value: with the associated junior infant school (qv) standing directly to west, with which it has strong visual links; the street frontage of the two contrasting but complementary schools retains its integrity
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 Chamberlain's death, 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 it was renamed Martin and Martin. The board schools operated as 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 give shape to 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.
Dixon Road School opened in 1879, providing places for 977 boys, girls and infants; a separate infant school with attached master's or caretaker's house stands immediately to west. The road bordering the schools to east was previously nameless, and the road and schools were named in honour of George Dixon, the Liberal politician and educational reformer who, as president of the National Education League, had been influential in the establishment of the school boards; Dixon was chairman of the Birmingham Board from 1876. In the 1990s the building underwent considerable alteration for conversion to flats.
Infant school and attached master's or caretaker's house, 1879, built by Martin and Chamberlain, for the Birmingham School Board. Both infant school and house are of red brick, with tiled roofs. Dressings are of cut brick, and stone, with some terracotta details. The windows have been replaced. The original school building is rectangular: the hall extends from one side of the building to the other, on a NW/SE axis, with pairs of gabled classrooms opening off the hall to NE and SW. An early-C20 gabled room is attached to the NW corner; a substantial gabled extension to W and a small flat-roofed extension to E are later additions.
SCHOOL: The scale and plan of the infant school differs from that of the main school building, being single storey, with gabled classrooms fronting the street as well as to the rear; however, the decoration of the subsidiary building is generally in keeping with that of the main school. Each gabled classroom has three large rectangular windows with cambered heads, framed by beaded brick, with gauged brick lintels and stone sills; above, three smaller windows with stone lintels and sills, surmounted by a blind round-headed arch. The windows rest on raised brick bands, and a decorative terracotta moulding follows the gable eaves. The SE end of the hall contains two tall openings, with glazed doors to the lower half, and windows above; these are flanked by tall windows, whilst two pairs of windows, diminishing in size, occupy the gable. The top of the gable is filled by a stone quatrefoil, with an apex final above. The NW end of the hall is obscured by later additions. Internally, the building has been much altered: each classroom has been divided horizontally to provide two flats, a ceiling having been inserted intersecting the tall lower windows. The later extensions also contain flats. The upper flats are accessed from the inside of the building by metal stairs which have been constructed in the hall. The hall retains its cast iron blades with pierced decoration, rising from engaged chamfered piers, forming four pointed arches, and is lit by the tiered fenestration of the SE wall.
HOUSE: The house is flanked by single-storey gabled blocks, one attaching it to the infant school to NW, and one belonging to the main school building - from which it is detached - standing at the foot of the tower. The house is a three bay, two-storey building, with central door, the outer bays having tall gables. There are tall brick stacks to either side of the building, a lateral shaft having been added to the south-east elevation. All openings have cambered heads, with beaded brick frames, gauged brick lintels, and stone sills, as in the infant and main school buildings. The doorway contains a six-panelled door, with fanlight above; the windows have been replaced. The façade of the building is punctuated by raised brick bands, with two wider bands of chevron moulding. A decorative moulding follows the line of the gables, as on the infant school building, whilst the gables are filled with patterned brickwork. The NW elevation of the house is attached to the infant school; the SE elevation, facing the main school building, has a single narrow window, and the rear elevation has irregular fenestration. The building was not inspected internally, but is understood to be much altered.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.