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Comments from Tom Ridge – Local Historian
I object to the proposed ‘glazed link’ connecting blocks T and D because the ‘link’ (and its associated elevated room and lift shaft) would seriously obscure and disfigure both historic school buildings. And, as such, would be detrimental to the character and appearance of the Tredegar Square Conservation Area.
Although both buildings are of obvious architectural and historic interest, the Heritage Impact Assessment fails to recognise blocks T and D as non-designated heritage assets. And, consequently, fails to consider the impact of the proposed ‘link’ and associated structures. It is simply not good enough to briefly describe block T and completely ignore block D (3.4.3). Nor should it be acceptable for the applicant to provide incomplete drawings and insufficient details of the proposed ‘link’ and associated structures.
The technology block was formerly the Malmesbury Road Central School, and was opened in 1912 as the London County Council’s first purpose-built central school.
It was also one of the first three elementary schools to be planned and designed by the newly-established Schools Division of the LCC Architect’s Department. A new planform was devised which allowed Malmesbury Road to be the first LCC elementary school with single-banked classrooms – classrooms off a fenestrated side corridor providing cross ventilation and improved lighting.
The flat-roofed first-floor side corridors are of particular interest as they are ‘overlooked’ by circular clerestory windows. Also of particular interest are the two attached stair towers (which are the first of a type subsequently used on other LCC elementary schools), two attached cloakroom blocks and two attached entrance porches. All three pairs of functional units contributing to the special character of this exceptionally well designed, symmetrical neo-Georgian school.
With its yellow London stock brick and purple (Luton) brick walls and pitched and hipped roofs with sprocketed eaves and white soffits, the former central school is also of particular interest as the first (and one of the really good examples) of the most important and characteristic type of neo-Georgian LCC elementary school opened between 1912-1918.
The former central school, therefore, set the standard for the 1912-18 schools, which were the first and most distinguished of all the LCC’s neo-Georgian elementary schools.
The former central school is also one of the best-preserved and least altered of the 1912-18 schools. In addition to its important single-banked classrooms, all its classrooms have features which indicate that they were provided with a continuous supply of (warmed) fresh air; and a system for the removal of stale air to the roof space and its four very unusual louvre vents.
The central school (renamed Bow Central School in 1920) was attended by 11-to-16-year-old children who followed a four-year course with a ‘commercial bias’. The building was also used in the evenings by the Bow and Bromley Commercial Institute.
As the East End’s main central school with a commercial bias, the school (and evening institute) helped meet the huge demand for well-educated office workers in the City. And in the docks, warehouses and factories in what was London’s largest industrial area when London was still the largest industrial city and greatest port in the world.
Science was an important part of the course at the former central school, and was taught on the ground floor of the adjacent two-storey building named ‘SCIENCE ROOMS’ and dated 1900 (now the drama block, block D).
This building had been opened by the School Board for London for ‘higher grade’ pupils at Malmesbury Road board school. As far as I am aware it is the only surviving example of its particular type in London.
The SBL-style ancillary building forms an important group with the neo-Georgian LCC central school, which is also the only surviving example of its particular type in London. As the former central school is probably one of the finest and most distinguished and least altered of the LCC’s neo-Georgian elementary schools, both buildings clearly make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the Tredegar Square Conservation Area.
For all the reasons set out above, it is obviously not acceptable for a lift shaft to be built against the eastern of the two important stair towers, and for the important eastern first-floor side corridor to be breached by an access doorway. Nor is it acceptable for the whole north-eastern part of this superb symmetrically-planned, neo-Georgian school building (and the western end of the adjacent SBL building) to be obscured and disfigured by the proposed ‘glazed link’ and its associated elevated room (both standing on steel stanchions and with flat roofs) and associated lift shaft. All three proposed structures, but especially the ‘glazed link’, would also disfigure the architecturally interesting northern elevation of the adjacent SBL building.
These crude and ugly proposed additions must not be allowed: for the sake of the two historic school buildings; the staff and students at the Harley Grove campus; and the Tredegar Square Conservation Area. I sincerely hope that the applicants will be required to seriously seek a more sympathetic approach to providing disabled access to the first floors of block T and block D.
I also hope that in making what appear to be relatively minor alterations in block T, every effort will be made to respect and retain its original features (such as joinery and brown-glazed-brick dados). Also, that its original wooden sash windows are retained and properly ‘overhauled’ by experts.
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