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Fossdene School with associated schoolkeeper's house, handicraft block and boundary wall and gates

A Grade II Listed Building in Charlton, London

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Latitude: 51.4843 / 51°29'3"N

Longitude: 0.027 / 0°1'37"E

OS Eastings: 540843

OS Northings: 178102

OS Grid: TQ408781

Mapcode National: GBR LW.CG9

Mapcode Global: VHHNJ.FY4H

Plus Code: 9F32F2MG+PR

Entry Name: Fossdene School with associated schoolkeeper's house, handicraft block and boundary wall and gates

Listing Date: 11 December 2009

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393586

English Heritage Legacy ID: 506980

ID on this website: 101393586

Location: New Charlton, Greenwich, London, SE7

County: London

District: Greenwich

Electoral Ward/Division: Charlton

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Greenwich

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Charlton St Luke with Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

Tagged with: Building

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This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 16 April 2021 to reformat the text to current standards


Fossdene School with associated schoolkeeper's house, handicraft block and boundary wall and gates


Board school, designed by TJ Bailey for the School Board for London, 1895. C20 single-storey range to west elevation is not of special interest.

PLAN: central hall block flanked by square stair turrets with pyramidal roofs topped by lanterns. Link blocks either side with end range to the north. The southern end range was never built.

EXTERIOR: designed in a free Queen-Anne style, three storeys at the front, four at the rear due to its sloping site. Of yellow stock brick with red brick detailing and some stone dressings with a blue brick base on the rear elevation. The hall block has a tiled hipped roof, all others are of slate except the pyramidal staircase tower roofs which were originally tile, now replaced in lead. Windows are all uPVC in their original openings and would formerly have been timber sashes, painted white. There is a conjoined pair of tall yellow stock brick chimneys to the northern range; a corresponding pair adjoining the un-built southern range have been demolished.

The principal (Victoria Way) elevation is to the west and has a three-storey (plus attic in the hipped roof) central hall block flanked by higher square turrets with pyramidal roofs topped by lanterns. Either side of these are lower link blocks with swept parapets adjoining, in the north only, a higher, pedimented end block. Fenestration is regular throughout with all upper windows under arched openings and all others square. The stone dressings are mostly limited to: the parapets; string courses; plain swag shaped panels under the third floor hall windows; panels bearing the date 1895 under the top floor windows of the link blocks and surrounds of entrances with lintels inscribed 'Girls' and 'Infants' between scrolls with floral motifs; arched panels in the pediment of the north range bearing the School Board for London monogram. The rear (east) elevation has a four bay central section, each bay (divided by red brick pilasters topped by small pediments at parapet level) is of three windows, again with arched windows on the upper floor, square below. Either side of the central section are slightly recessed single bay links containing the stairs and the boys' entrances, with the east elevation of the pedimented north range mirroring the west elevation but with the stone panel in the pediment inscribed 'Fossdene Road School'. Each bay of the central section and the north range has a segmental arched opening in the blue brick basement level with alternating stone and red brick voussoirs. These are open to create undercover playground space although that in the north range has been subsequently glazed. Blue brick base continues round the north elevation with the four bays of windows having matching segmental arches on the lowest floor and the same fenestration as the other elevations of the north range above. The south elevation has irregular fenestration with un-keyed brick and glazed brick dado panels anticipating the interior of the un-built south range. A small single-storey C20 extension adjoins the north-west corner of the north range and is not of special interest.

INTERIOR: standard later Board School plan comprising a central hall, with a bank of classrooms down one side, and corridors leading to further classrooms in the single wing. The plan is readable on each of the three-storeys. In the attic the former drawing classroom retains its timber roof trusses. There are hardwood block floors and some (later) yellow and green chequered terrazzo floors in the lobby corridors, russet glazed brick dados (mostly painted), and semi-circular glazed fanlights and internal windows in most corridors and classrooms, some under later plywood panels; the upper floor corridors have skylights. There are four stairwells, two on each major elevation, with cream glazed brick walls, metal balustrades to the upper flights and hardwood handrails lower down.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: two-storey combined COOKERY AND LAUNDRY WITH SCHOOLKEEPER'S RESIDENCE above in the south-west corner of the site. Of yellow stock brick and red brick dressings with gabled tile roof. Large ground floor windows to the playground elevation and a wide chimney stack to Calydon Road. The upper windows are uPVC replacements. Single-storey HANDICRAFT BLOCK on the eastern edge of the site. BOUNDARY WALL, rising to an impressive height particularly where it acts as a retaining wall along Fossdene Road to the east, retains three of its original GATEWAYS with stone surrounds and metalwork although the gate and a section of wall on Victoria Way has been lost.

HISTORY: the pioneering Elementary Education Act of 1870, steered through Parliament by William Forster and thus known as 'Forster's Act', was the first to establish a national, secular, non-charitable provision for the education of children aged 5-13. A driving force behind the new legislation was the need for a literate and numerate workforce to ensure that Britain remained at the forefront of manufacture and commerce. Moreover, the extension of the franchise to the urban working classes in the 1867 Reform Act also alerted politicians to the need to, in words attributed to the then Chancellor, 'educate our masters'. The Act required partially state-funded elementary schools to be established in areas where existing provision was inadequate, to be managed by elected school boards. The School Board of London was the first to be founded (in 1870), and the most influential. The Board was one of the first truly democratic elected bodies in Britain, with both women and members of the working classes on the board. It comprised 49 members under the chairmanship of the former Viceroy of India, Lord Lawrence, and included five members of parliament, eleven clergymen, the scientist Thomas Huxley, suffragists Emily Davies (an educationalist) and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (a doctor), and a working-class cabinetmaker, Benjamin Lucraft. The Board's politics were ambitious and progressive, as epitomised by its passing of a by-law in 1871 compelling parents to send children to school; this was not compulsory nationally until 1880.

Such was the achievement of the London School Board in the last quarter of the C19, that by the Edwardian period few neighbourhoods in London were without a red brick, Queen Anne style, three-storey school designed by ER Robson, the Board's architect, or his successor TJ Bailey. The Board's adoption of the newly-fashionable Queen Anne style was a significant departure from the Gothic Revival deemed appropriate to educational buildings up until that point, and created a distinctive and highly influential board school aesthetic. Around 500 board schools were built in London, many in densely-populated, poor areas where they were (and often remain) the most striking buildings in their locales. The Board did not escape criticism, however, both on the grounds of expense to rate-payers and for potentially radicalising the urban poor through secular education. Yet its supporters were unapologetic, as the words of Charles Booth, justifying the expense of more elaborate schools in the East End, indicate: 'It was necessary to strike the eye and hold the imagination. It was worth much to carry high the flag of education, and this is what has been done. Each school stands up from its playground like a church in God's acre, ringing its bell'. Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The Naval Treaty' (1894) also lauded the new metropolitan landmarks as 'Beacons of the future! Capsules with hundreds of bright little seeds in each, out of which will spring the wiser, better England of the future', thus epitomising the reformers' confidence in the power of universal education to transform society. The striking design of many of these schools is illustrative of this special history. Fossdene is the earliest identified example of a particularly prominent standard design of the grander and more ornamental type that Bailey developed for the later Board schools in the 1890s and shows the start of a move away from the Queen Anne towards a more Classical style.

SAVE Britain's Heritage, Beacons of Learning (1995)
Elain Harwood and Andrew Saint 'Report on Listing of London Board Schools' held at NMR (1991)
Timothy Walder, 'The evolution of the classic school design of the School Board for London (1870-1904): a reassessment of the role of Edward Robert Robson' (Institute of Education, University of London MA dissertation, 2006)
James Hall, 'The London Board Schools 1870-1904: Securing a Future for these Beacons of the Past' (University of Bath MSc. dissertation 2006-7)

Reasons for Listing

Fossdene School is designated for the following principal reasons:
* Built in 1895, it is the earliest known example of a particularly prominent standard design for the more ornamental and grander London Board Schools by TJ Bailey that came to predominate in the 1890s;
* It occupies a prominent location on a hill overlooking the River Thames which the verticality of the design emphasises;
* Additional interest is gained from the treatment of the unfinished south elevation illustrating the planned gradual expansion of the school;
* It has group value with the combined laundry/cookery/schoolkeeper's building, handicraft block and impressive boundary wall forming a characterful ensemble of late-Victorian educational buildings.

External Links

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