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Latitude: 51.5765 / 51°34'35"N
Longitude: -3.0166 / 3°0'59"W
OS Eastings: 329651
OS Northings: 186896
OS Grid: ST296868
Mapcode National: GBR J4.CZY3
Mapcode Global: VH7BC.NMMS
Entry Name: Gaer County Primary School
Listing Date: 15 November 1999
Last Amended: 15 November 1999
Source ID: 22667
Building Class: Education
Location: Prominently located on the E side of Gaer Road, opposite the junction with Lansdowne Road. Set within expansive grounds.
Community: Gaer (Y Gaer)
Built-Up Area: Newport
Traditional County: Monmouthshire
Built 1949-53 by Johnson Blackett FRIBA, architect to Newport Borough Council. Contractors: D.H. Broad Ltd of Worthing and J.H. Herbert & Son of Newport. The school formed part of the extensive surrounding Gaer Estate development, also by Blackett - both estate and school won the 1951 Festival of Britain Award of Merit, and also, in the same year, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government Medal. The foundation stone was laid on 7th April 1949 by Alderman T.F. Mooney. Opened 6th November 1953 by the Right Hon. Florence Horsbrugh M.P., Minister of Education. The school provided accommodation for approximately 480 children within twelve classrooms: originally nine classrooms were intended, but another three were added during construction. The prominent sloping site was strikingly used to advantage, providing classrooms and playgrounds on two levels, with the lobby and assembly hall forming the central spine. Four other schools, all by Blackett were also opened the same day, including Alway (begun 1951), Maesglas (begun 1938), Malpas (begun 1949), and St. Julians (incomplete by 1953): except for Maesglas, the schools all served new housing estates, forming part of the Local Authority’s programme for new county primary schools. Gaer School was planned before stringent Government regulations on layout and design were carried out from 1951, retaining the characteristic ‘finger-plan’ based on corridors to give cross-ventilation and lighting: this echoed Government thinking following the Butler Act of 1944, which gave rise to a huge expansion in school building under constrained post-War economic circumstances.
The plan consists of two parallel classroom ranges terraced on sloping site, with taller N-S cross range (assembly hall and dining room) towards W end. E ends of ranges terminate in cloakroom/lavatory blocks. Walls faced in hand-made brown brick: flat roofs with deep anti-glare overhangs. Construction mostly steel-framed with precast concrete roofs made in situ. Steel windows (replaced in plastic to W side of assembly hall). Entrance (S) front has entry well to l. of centre, in line with taller cross range, set behind a broad flight of steps. Triple doors within concrete storm-canopy which has tapering sides. To l, and slightly set back, is lower administration block, which has continuous row of ten 6-pane steel windows. W end of admin. block with central door within storm-canopy and six-pane window each side. To r. of main entry is long classroom range, which has row of thirteen 18-pane windows extending to eaves-height. Range terminated by lower square cloakroom block, slightly set back, which has S front having central paired doors and three oculi each side. E face with central doors and two oculi each side. On W face of range, near entry is a foundation stone: nearby on the S face is a circular Festival of Britain award plaque. Rear elevation of classroom range has full-length flat-roofed corridor range with narrow row of windows above providing top-lighting for the classrooms. Corridor range with continuos fenestration and central door.
Cross-range is taller with low rectangular SW clock tower (simple clock-face to S; hands removed) rising above lobby: three oculi to W arranged vertically, with projecting flue to l. Tall windows in five bays lighting assembly hall to W, replaced in plastic. E elevation has 24-pane tall steel windows in six bays, rising above flat-roofed corridor range, which has continuous glazing. At N end of assembly hall is a large roof-light with tapered sides and pyramidal roof. NW classroom range has S elevation with 18-pane windows in eight bays, rising to eaves height: N elevation has long row of windows for corridor flanked by doorways, that to the l. within a concrete canopy . Continuous top-lighting for classrooms above. Terraced NE classroom range has elevations similar to S classroom range, with E cloakroom block retaining original flat-roofed top-lighting.
Dining hall/ canteen wing projects N, in line with assembly hall. W and E elevations of dining hall has six bays with tall 10-pane windows. Wing narrows to centre forming T-plan; two-bay lower service block to N.
Two small terraced playgrounds to E. Lower playground has small flat-roofed building to the NE, originally used by the gardener.
Top-lit lobby, present arrangement replacing original small glass oculi. Steps directly from lobby into assembly hall: steps split into three by metal balustrades, which have a simple geometric pattern. Hall has stage at N end. Stage area has natural lighting from a safety lantern, designed to allow the escape of smoke in the event of fire. Axial corridors off lobby serving admin range (W) and classrooms (E). Cloakroom at end of S classroom range, originally top-lit with panels of small glass oculi, which have been roofed over. Lavatories with drying room adjacent. Corridors run along N sides of ranges. N-S link-corridor with two short flights of steps running along E side of assembly hall. Rear range contains classrooms with axial corridor. Dining room projects to N in line with assembly hall: kitchens beyond.
Listed as an exceptionally well-preserved primary school, the centrepiece of the contemporary Gaer Estate, the whole ensemble being among the best post-War residential developments in Britain. Gaer School is an important example of early post-War school design, being a clear example of corridor-based planning, and is highly expressive of the architectural ideals of its time, recognised by its gaining prizes, including the Festival of Britain award of merit.
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