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Woodberry Down Community Jmi School

A Grade II Listed Building in Hackney, London

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5736 / 51°34'24"N

Longitude: -0.0904 / 0°5'25"W

OS Eastings: 532428

OS Northings: 187807

OS Grid: TQ324878

Mapcode National: GBR GH.KW4

Mapcode Global: VHGQM.DQ11

Entry Name: Woodberry Down Community Jmi School

Listing Date: 23 January 2007

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1391843

English Heritage Legacy ID: 493785

Location: Hackney, London, N4

County: London

District: Hackney

Electoral Ward/Division: Woodberry Down

Built-Up Area: Hackney

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Olave Woodberry Down

Church of England Diocese: London

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Listing Text


735/0/10173 WOODBERRY GROVE
23-JAN-07 Woodberry Down Community JMI School

II
Primary School for London County Council's Architects Department, now owned by LB Hackney. Planned as part of the London School Plan of 1947; design published in January 1948; work began January 1949; opened 1951.

MATERIALS: Yellow stock brick in stretcher bond with recessed joints, quoined treatment to corners and soldier course over window openings. Windows square or rectangular with metal frames with shallow slightly pronounced cills. Larger windows, and those of prominence, such as to the classrooms, halls and dining rooms, are surrounded with flat architraves and mullions faced with matte pale blue and yellow tiles. Shallow pitched red tiled roofs, the east nursery ranges with clerestory windows. A spare Scandinavian influenced design aesthetic.

PLAN: That first programme of permanent school design after the war produced a characteristic plan seen at Woodberry Down. It is a long, finger plan with classrooms on the south side of a spinal corridor and cloakrooms on the north. Separate assembly halls for the infants (at ground floor) and juniors (at first floor) project at the west end, where the staff rooms and main entrance from the road are. The separate dining areas are in a similar two storey range projecting north from the east end of the site. The considerable slope of the site to the north, down towards the New River, means that the ground floors become raised at the north side, with exposed basements below. An early aerial photograph shows that the school has not been extended.

EXTERIOR: From Woodberry Grove, main approach is framed by a low brick wall with a glazed plaque featuring a crest and in red lettering: 'L.C.C. Primary School Woodberry Down'. Entrance to the site is through a two storey, flat roofed range with first floor classrooms over three wide open bays with tiled pilotis. Beyond this, the two main entrances for children, that to right recessed with tiled deep jambs featuring 'infants' in lower case red cursive script; that to left is for juniors, similarly detailed in green. Above these are the tall windows of the main stair hall, and to the right are the windows of the staff rooms, those at ground floor with matte tiled surrounds. Continuing to the north is the two storey halls range with tall tripartite window to ground floor in blue tiles, below similar window with yellow tiles. Set on a stone platform is an abstract sandstone sculpture of a man with a boar, the provenance of which is not known. To Woodberry Grove, a humble caretaker's house in similar style, but with replaced windows and doors, and not of special interest.

From north, the linear classroom range of two high set storeys (accommodating the sloping site), the central twelve bays advanced and with tall central entrance and parade of windows at each storey under shallow pitched roof. Advancing to east and west are the hall and dining room ranges. The hall has a large tripartite window at each floor, with dressed in yellow (first floor) and blue (raised ground floor) tiles; dining hall has a run of windows at the raised ground floor level with yellow tiles. A low bike shed advances west from the dining range, and a similar single storey original wing projects from the hall. The north ends of the halls range has four storeys with two windows to each floor, the dining rooms range has three windows over three storeys, both of these with a shallow pitched gable.

To east end, the nursery ranges, these lower, and featuring continuous shallow clerestory lights also under the shallow gable, so that the roof has the appearance of floating over the classroom range. The nursery classrooms have an external corridor on the south side with metal framed part panelled, part glazed walls. This links back to the dining rooms range where the first floor has a 9-light run of windows with blue tiled mullions. The entrance at this end (into the spine corridor, from the east) is fully faced with blue tiles to ground and first floor.

From south, the two storey range of six classrooms at each floor features a continuous run of ground floor windows with pale yellow and pale blue tiled surrounds; plain windows above set immediately below shallow pitched roof. The 3 entrances to west end have shallow curved cantilevered canopies.

INTERIOR: The playground entrance to the north opens into the wide stair leading to the main classroom spine corridor, which is lit from the north side windows and also by skylights at first floor level. The main staircase to the west end of the building is a wide open well with metal balusters. At the landing of the main staircase, set into the exposed brick wall, is a cement and plaster mural, entitled, 'Scraffito' by the artist Augustus Lunn, and installed after having been salvaged from the Festival of Britain's South Bank 'Seaside' exhibition. The mural, in tones of brick red, beige and white, features a collage of scenes of industrial youth engaging in woodworking and reading at desks, with the central theme of a bee above a microscope and violin. There is a further landing with a circular column of glazed blue tiles, and a further double-width flight to reach the junior assembly hall. This top floor hall has an exposed metal girder roof of shallow pitch and a stage to the north end. The infant assembly hall below has a ceiling of encased beams. The dining hall has a similar beam ceiling. The nursery ranges, with clerestory lights that open as hoopers, have a similar metal girder roof structure of shallow pitch, and the underside of the roof is of wire wool construction. The classrooms are simply fitted out with ceilings of encased beams and with generous windows.

HISTORY: The London School Plan produced by the LCC in 1947 included as its first priorities a handful of primary schools to be built in, or near, large housing estates then under construction, in particular its own estates at White City, Tulse Hill and Woodberry Down. Plans for Woodberry Down Primary were commissioned as early as May 1945, along with Tulse Hill (demolished) and Abney Park. The school in Woodberry Down was begun in early 1949, just after construction began on Horn Park (Eltham, now demolished). The 1947 plan provided for a primary school for 560 children and a nursery school for 120 children at Woodberry Grove on the County Council's new Woodberry Down Estate, the largest of its immediate post-war developments. The design, largely as built, was in fact published in January 1948 in both the Architect and Building News and the RIBA Journal (it is clearly for Woodberry Down, although it is not named as such). In December 1948 permission was sought to erect the school in two sections to meet the immediate need for places. Work began in January 1949 and, while not the first permanent post-war LCC to begin construction, it was the first to be designed. It is also the earliest to survive.

The London Government Act of 1939 permitted the LCC to buy any work of art or contribute to its cost or maintenance, and a second Act in 1940 allowed it also to commission art. In late 1951 the LCC enjoyed something of a windfall, when the Arts Council granted it a number of works salvaged from the Festival of Britain. The 'Scraffito' mural by Augustus Lunn was taken from the South Bank's 'Seaside' exhibit, designed by Eric Brown and Peter Chamberlin immediately in front of the Royal Festival Hall. Two other murals and some sculpture were also from the Festival of Britain, and were installed at Woodberry Down Secondary School; they were taken into store when that building was demolished. Lunn (1905-86) was a specialist painter of murals, particularly in tempera, the cement medium used in the Woodberry Down mural seems to have been a novelty. He taught at Kingston College of Art for much of his career, in his private work straddled the boundary between realism and abstraction, much inspired by Giorgio de Chirico and Edward Wadsworth. He was also highly regarded as a restorer of murals as well as a painter of new ones.

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: The London County Council Woodberry Down Primary School was conceived just after the Second World War in the London School Plan of 1947, its design was published early in 1948, and work commenced the following year. Research has shown that it has special historic interest as the first permanent post-war LCC school to be designed (and none begun any earlier survive). The school survives remarkably well, and its quintessentially early post-war Scandinavian-inspired styling remains apparent and is rare in this period when most schools were of pre-fabricated construction and an altogether different aesthetic. For this it has special architectural interest, represented in the quality of the pale brick work, the matte tilework, the shallow pitched roofs and blocky massing, the jaunty lettering, and the impressive scraffito mural imported from the Festival of Britain's South Bank site. It is one of a small group of non-prefabricated schools that illustrates the capital's immediately post-war approach and that compares well with the one other listed school of this period in London (the Susan Lawrence School, LB Tower Hamlets). Separately listed is the nation's first NHS health centre at Woodberry Down (John Scott Health Centre, 1948-52), and these two components of the LCC's progressive estate both have individual special architectural and historic interest as exemplars of their type.

SOURCES:
English Heritage Research and Standards Dept. 'Woodberry Down Primary School' internal report, July 2006.
'L.C.C. Primary School for 80 Nursery Places, 240 Infants and 320 Juniors' in Architect and Building News January 9th, 1948.
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner. London 4: North. Buildings of England. p.538.

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