The former Handsworth New Road School, a Birmingham Board School constructed to a design by Buckland and Farmer in 1901.
Reason for Listing
* Architectural: an unusual and eclectic school design of 1901 by the respected Birmingham practice, Buckland and Farmer, making an original interpretation of the established architectural manner and plan form of the Birmingham Board Schools
* Historical: the former Handsworth New Road School is one of the latest 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 former master's or caretaker's house (qv) standing directly to south, with which it has a strong visual link
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.
Following Chamberlain's death, much of the practice's design was taken over by Frederick Martin, who developed the established mode of the schools' design. Only four of the Birmingham Board Schools were not designed by the practice, one of these being Handsworth New Road School, which opened in 1901. A competition for the design school was won by the recently-formed Birmingham practice of Buckland and Farmer; Birmingham-born Herbert Buckland and Edward Haywood-Farmer would develop a reputation for their varied work, influenced by C17 vernacular architecture - particularly in the building of houses and educational buildings. Following the success of Handsworth New Road School, Herbert Buckland was briefly appointed Architect to the Board, before its abolition - Martin and Martin having demanded a higher percentage fee - and was then employed by the Council's Education Department from 1903 until the 1930s. Buckland and Farmer built eight new Birmingham schools in the first two decades of the century, and made numerous additions and alterations to existing schools.
Handsworth New Road School originally provided places for 1,100 mixed junior and infant pupils. In 1930 it became a senior school for boys and girls, and the building was still in use as a school until about 1990. In 1996 it was converted to flats.
School, 1891, by Buckland and Farmer, for the Birmingham School Board. Eclectic design, showing the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement. Of red brick, with stone dressings. Slate roofs; the line of the gables is followed by a stone coping, curving at the dips between the gables. Parts of the timber-framed windows have been replaced. A broadly rectangular plan, on a north-south axis; a large hall - originally for the junior school - runs along the northern part of the building, and a smaller hall - originally for the infant school - across the south end. Classrooms are clustered around both halls. Small extensions have been made to the original plan at the north-west and south-west corners.
EXTERIOR: The east-facing street frontage is essentially symmetrical, with five central gabled bays, flanked by cubic entrance blocks, and a further gable - projecting slightly - with a third entrance block towards the south end. To south, the east-facing roof slope of the adjoining south-facing classroom contains small dormer windows - this feature appears originally to have marked one end of each elevation, though it has been obscured by later additions except at the west end of the north elevation. Above the south end of the east elevation rises the gable end of the small hall, which is banded with stone, and has a curvilinear apex stone containing a foliate cartouche with the carved inscription 'HD 1901'. A tall ventilation shaft rises to the north of this gable. Each gable contains a large parabolic-arched window with stone frame. The entrance blocks have corner piers decorated with stone lozenges; the parapet consists of vertical bricks creating a form of crenellation, with stone coping. Each of the north and south entrance blocks has a pyramidal roof terminating in an elongated finial. The doorways of these two blocks appear to have been altered, and are thought originally to have had curvilinear keyed stone arches similar to those found above doorways elsewhere in the school. Such a doorway is seen in the entrance block to the west end of the south elevation, breaking a line of four gables, the easternmost of which may formerly have held an arched window. The west elevation has a line of four gables to north, with projecting gables to south. Entrance blocks to west correspond to those on the east front. At the north corner, a large additional early-C20 classroom - probably dating from 1908 - replicating the details of the original building. The north elevation contains two large gables with arched windows, separated by a smaller gable with coupled rectangular windows. Shield-shaped rain-water heads carry the letters 'BSB' (Birmingham School Board). The cupola which once rose from the roof - described in 1968 as 'a pagoda roof supported on cast iron brackets' - is now missing.
INTERIOR: Internally, the building has been much altered: each classroom has been divided horizontally to provide two flats, a ceiling having been inserted intersecting each arched window. The upper flats are accessed from the inside of the building by metal stairs constructed in the halls. The large hall is spanned by timber arches with steel ties, resting on corbels at two alternating heights; the ceiling and arches have been partially obscured by the insertion of a false ceiling. The small hall is similar, but the arches all descend to the same height.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: The east elevation of the school is separated from the road by decorative panels of railings with fleur-de-lys pattern, on curved copings. The low brick walls with dividing piers may have been rebuilt.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.