I was acting as an architect's assistant, being paid ten pence an hour to hold the tape for a friend called David Pyne. He was an architect who had been commissioned to convert this building and the one next door into Fortis Green School. We measured, he sketched, and I learnt to calculate the height of a building by counting the brick courses. For some while we seemed to have lost a brick.Tthe flank wall appeared to be one brick lower than the back elevation, with the whole building balanced uneasily on one leg, but it came right in the end when we discovered the brick course hidden under ivy on the kitchen extension.

Fortis Green School was the creation of a remarkable teacher, Beatrix Tudor-Hart, who had founded first The Heath Nursery School for children aged 2-5, in Hampstead, and was now to open Fortis Green School for children aged 4-11. It was a co-operative non-profit-making co-educational school owned and democratically controlled by a society of parents, teachers and educationalists.

Beatrix had taken a degree in psychology and then done post-graduate studies in Vienna, Germany and USA. She was tall and striking looking, completely unselfconcious and without any inhibitions. Beatrix drove a tiny car which flipped about like a shuttlecock, much to the consternation of her passengers.

After her death, one of her friends wrote that Beatrix had 'a kind of divine contempt for bureaucrats' and that summed her up. A child's opinions were important and should be taken seriously; most adults were reasonable and responded to a direct, warm approach; bureaucrats were hidebound, knew nothing and cared less. The best thing was to ignore them mid get on with the job. My attitude to the present measurers exactly.

Fortis Green was a very succesful school - successful in the broadest sense of preparing children to be rounded, mature adults. When one compares the atmosphere and aims of Fortis Green School and the atmosphere promoted by the Ministy of Education today, one despairs, althogh some of the Fortis Green attitude has rubbed off onto teachers' thougts despite the government. This is not the place to tell the story of the school, except to say that it flourished for some years, but later, as costs rose, this sort of education became too expensive for the kind of parents who believed in it. The School became a Nursery School only, as it is today. The only nearby school I know of with the same ethos is King Alfred's, Hampstead, where incidentally Beatrix once taught.


Drawing by Jennifer Jones. Beatrix's daughter - an architect, of the Westside flats.
The final flats were not so tall.

 

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