St James's School

St. James's Elementary School stood on Fortis Green, next to the Fire Station, about half a mile away from the new estate. It was a single storey building with a high slate roof and no ceilings, so that the steep wooden rafters were an unfailing source of pleasure. One could sit in a lesson with the mind wandering and imagine the carpenters up there sawing their joints and putting together this immense structure. If someone had asked, "What are you dreaming about?" the reply would have been, "Watching the carpenters make the roof. There is one of them who could do with a hand if only I could get up there." A far more pleasant way of spending the afternoon than fussing about arithmetic or geography.

I had been surprised when I first saw St. James's School because it was so different from my earlier one. Stroud Green School, in Finsbury Park, had been enormous, in yellow and red brick with white dressings, full of architectural exuberance. That building had been typical of the London School Board design brought in after the 1870 Compulsory Education Act, with huge windows and classrooms built without corridors, round a sunny hall. St James's School was completely different, much older, and showing by its shape how it had been enlarged over the years. A small front building linked by cloakrooms to a larger one behind and, off to one side, yet another addition. One could trace in imagination how the school had grown over the years, adding and accreting like a snail's shell. By 1925 the school was surrounded by flats and a large fire station. The Headmaster, Mr Plant, later wrote a short history of his school, full of telling detail. Footnote21

Fortis Green showing Tetherdown on the left, Queen's Avenue ahead, and Fortis Green Road to the righl, taken from the top of l.easide Avenue. The front gable of St. James's School can be seen op the extreme left.

Fortis Green c.1910

 

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21 The story of St. James's School. By J.T.Plant, 1950

 

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