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Former Dining Shelter at Aspen House Open Air School

A Grade II Listed Building in Lambeth, Lambeth

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Latitude: 51.4452 / 51°26'42"N

Longitude: -0.1226 / 0°7'21"W

OS Eastings: 530567

OS Northings: 173474

OS Grid: TQ305734

Mapcode National: GBR FX.PRM

Mapcode Global: VHGR5.TXKZ

Plus Code: 9C3XCVWG+3X

Entry Name: Former Dining Shelter at Aspen House Open Air School

Listing Date: 25 June 1999

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1387312

English Heritage Legacy ID: 475263

Location: Brixton Hill, Lambeth, London, SW2

County: Lambeth

Electoral Ward/Division: Brixton Hill

Built-Up Area: Lambeth

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Streatham Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

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963/26/10089 (West side)
25-JUN-99 Former Dining Shelter at Aspen House
Open Air School


Former shelter for open-air school, originally used for meals and the children's afternoon rest on wet days, subsequently used for the teaching of art and crafts. Designed 1924, built 1925, and opened in November that year. Saw-tooth roof clad in roofing felt incorporating 1920s rooflights. Square plan (2,300 square feet), the building raised off ground on timber posts, which support joists carrying floor boards. Like the classrooms, the dining shelter was fully open to the elements above timber half walls when first built, but windows were inserted sometime after 1929, almost certainly in the 1950s. Continuous casement windows above dado, which fold back and can be held in completely open position by means of catches. Timber doors at each end have upper half glazed; they were originally half doors, like stable doors, open above dado height.

INTERIOR: Four by five bay interior denoted by timber columns with bracing to roof beams. Three central columns have been replaced by RSJs to create a more open teaching space.

The site of the former Aspen House, including its surviving stable range, was purchased by the LCC in 1920 and plans for the new open-air school approved in 1924. The LCC had pioneered open-air teaching in short-term accommodation as early as 1907 at Bostall Wood, and from 1908 at three sites in London. This was the fifth of the LCC's open-air schools, but the first built to an 'improved design' which subsequently became standard for such schools and for similar schools provided for children suffering from tuberculosis. Aspen House School provided classes for anaemic, asthmatic and under-nourished children, with a creative educational policy based on Pestalozzi principles, including many lessons devoted to 'nature study', physical exercises, gardening and creative play. The garden played a very important part in this regime. The trees from the orchard formerly on the site were disturbed as little as possible, and shrubs and bulbs were added to provide interest for the children. Formal intervention was kept to a minimum, limited to small paths, some sheltering hedges (which also encouraged a range of wildlife habitats) and the activities of the children themselves. The children were given three meals a day in the school, and were required to rest for an hour in the afternoon (longer in summer) on beds in the open air. This dining shelter was used only when the weather was wet. Children whose poor health disadvantaged their education in normal schools would spend an average of eighteen months here, in classes of no more than 32 to a teacher (generous at the time) with a nurse permanently attached to the school. Though the conditions seem harsh now, the stimulating form of teaching - with its accent on self-awareness and discovery - was advanced for its time and part of a wider movement for more fresh air and more informal teaching methods widely developed only after 1945.

LCC (E de la Mare Norris), London's Open-Air Schools, LCC publication no.2684, 1929, held in London Metropolitan Archives, LCC Official Publications, vol.278.
LCC Minutes 1920-25.

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