William Patten Primary School
(Version 2)

History: Part 1

revised: May 29, 2010 10:47 AM

The school was built in 1892 as Church Street School. It was a three-decker London Board School building with a frontage of the slightly plainer kind which I associate with Champneys, who was the second architect to the Board.

The building appears to have been altered a good deal since 1892, but the story of these changes is not yet completely clear.


Description of the existing building

1894 Ordnance Survey showing the site of William Patten Primary School

William Patten School in 2006

The school has been enlarged since it was first built in 1892

The Church Street School Plaque still on the wall of
William Patten Primary School in 2006.

The initials LSB, for the London School Board, are at the top. Below are the words Church Street School. These have been carved into panels of Oolitic Limestone and surrounded by an elaborate brickwork plaque made of both moulded and cut bricks. The red bricks contrast with the wall of yellow/grey London Stock bricks. The red bricks were made of Brickearth, while the London Stocks were made in the London Estuary and contain about 17 percent of Chalk. This plaque was built by a highly skilled bricklayer and must have been very expensive.

This detailed examination of one small part of the building is designed to show what unusual buildings these first London School Board buildings were. In 1870 ‘Education for All’ was a completely new idea. Some people resented it. One said ‘We shall be educating donkeys next.’ Others saw it as a wonderful advance. In one of the Sherlock Holmes stories he is travelling into London by train with Dr. Watson. He says:-

“Look at those big isolated clumps of buildings rising up above the slates.

“The Board Schools?

“Lighthouses my boy! 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.”

Hopes ran high and the London School Board was determined to carry the public with it. One way was to make their buildings stand out against the drab, ordinary streets. They were big and in a distinctive new style. Tall, out-topping the surrounding streets and light, with huge windows and bright yellow and red brickwork, they dominated the London shyline.

Hopes for education ran high, but the buildings had to be paid for and the London School Board was determined to carry public opinion with it. People had to realise that they were getting good value for their new education taxes. One way was to make the new school buildings stand out against the drab, ordinary streets, so they were tall and in a distinctive new style called Sweetness and Light. They out-topped the surrounding houses, full of light, in bright yellow and red brickwork with huge windows, and designed to dominate the London skyline.

The Board did more than this. They first priced the cost of building and then ADDED TEN PER CENT, so that the architect could make the building of ‘architectural interest’. It was this 10% of extra money which paid for the good quality materials, the fine workmanship and the elaborate decorations like the Church Street School plaque. One can imagine the bricklayer walking past the school years later with his grandson and quietly boasting that he had been chosen out of all the men, to build that plaque, the only one in the firm who could do it. The child, in his turn, may have boasted in the playground that his grandfather as the only person in all London who could have built it.


The History of the Site in Maps

The 1848 Tithe Map of the future William Patten School site.

William Patten School Site in 1863


William Patten School Site in 1894



William Patten School Site in 1914


William patten School Site in 1936


The Bombing Map

The 1939-45 Bombing map of the area near William Patten Primary School

Colour Key References


Black -Total destruction Orange - General blast damage, not structural
Purple - Damaged beyond repair Yellow - Blast damage, minor in nature
Dark Red - Doubtful if repairable O V1 flying bomb large circle
Light Red - Seriously damaged, but repairable at cost o V2 long range rocket small circle
There will be slight variations in the colours because the original maps
are old and the colour balance on computer monitors will vary

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