1964 and a New School at Last

Tudor School

By 1964 Tudor School had been created and renamed but it was still spread over several scattered sites, waiting for its new buildings to be ready. When the new Tudor Secondary School, later to be called Islington Green, was announced in 1964, everyone was impatient to move.

There had many changes in the use of the school buildings between 1910 and 1945. The old Infants School Building, enlarged in 1910, become part of the post-war Tudor Secondary School. During the Second World War some properties had been damaged and some patched up. We do not know how badly the Graded School building, at the other end of the playground, had fared. It is not marked as badly damaged on the Bombing Map but it was decided to demolish it. Streets nearby had been very badly damaged so there was room for the school site to expand.

The local newspaper announced the new school as follows:

Building Tudor Secondary School

Extract from North London Press, 11 September, 1964

Work on the erection of Islington Green Secondary School, built at a total cost of £595,000 is rapidly nearing completion. The school, which will accommodate 1,200 boys and girls, aged from 11 to 19 years, occupies a site at the junction of Packington and Prebend Street, Islington. The staff and pupils at the nearby Tudor Secondary School, including those housed in buildings in Ritchie Street and Shepperton Road, hope to move into the main, six storey teaching block towards the end of October. The children in each of the six houses will have their own assembly and dining hall. Two gymnasia and a spacious games hall have also been provided, in addition to an engineering and science section, The existing Tudor School is to be remodeled to provide a fully-equipped technical section with workshops, machine shops and drawing offices. Tudor's headmaster, Mr. C.A.Noseworthy, has been appointed head of the new school.


The New School Site

The Inner London Education Committee took advantage of the enormous local bomb damage to extend the school site. Queen's Head Street, which had been close -packed with houses, now runs down the centre if the school site. Large new blocks were added, low level gymnasiums built, and a future swimming pool was penciled in by some optimistic architect. New school plans were full of swimming baths in that heady, post-war period, before reality struck. Not one, so far as I know, was built.

The whole site sloped downwards towards the houses in Prebend Street. These had basements, so when they were demolished they left a deep trough at the bottom of the new site. Today one enters the school on a bridge over a chasm. The ground has been formed into a long retaining bank, or berm, to support the huge weight of the new school block towering above. This is interesting engineering. Without the supporting berm the tower block would slip into the old basements.

The Historical Geography of the Site 

The first small site of Queen's Head Street School in 1884 has expanded, taking over houses and gardens, a builder's yard, a road and a complete square of early houses, in its search for space.

How the School Site Expanded

Islington Green School Site in 19991

The site slopes down towards the South East. So that Section AA is horizontal and Section BB (which is along Queen's Head Street) slopes down sharply.

As a result of the natural slope and work which has been done over the years, the site is at a mass of different levels which seem to make no sense. In fact they fossilize what was there years ago. First here are the sloping remains of Queen's Head Street, which used to be at one edge of the school site. In the centre are the garden levels of the old houses. These had once been the levels of the old hay fields of the 1840s. Last are the trenches left by the rows of old house basements which used to line the fringes of the original school.

The two sketched sections of the 1991 Site Plan, AA and BB, are designed to give some idea of the different levels to be found, but they are not measured. Perhaps some day pupils will survey the site accurately and reveal the real history of each piece. Then put the 1870 Ordnance Survey map on this and the site will come to life.

These uneven levels tell us something too about the surface geology. If the underlying soil had been clay, the basement trenches would be ponds full of water. They are dry so it must be a gravel area, self draining, and favoured by the early builders. No London builder ventured onto the clay until 1870, when all available gravel sites were used up. Then house design had to change. Houses were lifted up above the wet clay and cellars were restricted to damp coal holes. The whole school area has archaeological, geological, and building interest. This is discussed in more detail later when bore holes were made during later building.

In the centre are the garden levels of the old houses. These had once been the levels of the old hay fields of the 1840s. Last are the trenches left by the rows of old house basements which used to line the fringes.


The Construction of the New School Building

The new building was to be in reinforced concrete. This involved hundreds of drawings showing every detail of the construction - where to put the steel reinforcement bars, their sizes, the concrete thicknesses and mixtures, etc. All this is far too complicated to go into here. A few details have been printed as examples of the care needed if reinforced concrete is to be strong, as light as possible and yet not crack and allow water to penetrate. If tiny cracks appear in the surface concrete, water can penetrate and will rust the steel bars. When steel rusts it expands with great force, splitting the outer concrete apart. Then more water penetrates and the rusting gets worse. Keeping the outside concrete cover thick enough to prevent water penetration, without making the whole structure too heavy, is a skilled process.


Exploring the Strength of the Site
and the Weight it Could Carry

Before the architect could build he had to know how strong his ground was and where he could place his supporting piles safely. Expert Ground Engineers were brought in to drill the ground and report on their findings.

The Soil Report

Notice that it was hand printed, not typed. This is another sign of the times.

The Plan of the new Tudor School Buildings showing the Bore Holes.


The Bore Holes dug into the site before building

The seven different pile holes which were dug into the school site. The different types of soil found have been shaded differently and labeled. They represent thousands of years of geological change as different soils have been laid down by rivers or swept away by others, changed by ice, laid down by seas, or baked in deserts.



The drawing shows the plan of the 48 concrete foundation piles which support the building. They are 5 foot 6 inches (1.68 metres) square, dug down to about 6 inches below the level of the Brown Clay. Another drawing, no. 639/F401, shows that the clay was between 5 feet and 14 feet below the surface. The piles were built in mass concrete without reinforcement bars.

The foundations of the new Tudor School can be compared with those of the old Queen's Head Street School which was a much lighter building. The Tudor School ones went deeper, there were more of them, and they had a much larger bearing area.

The Assembly Hall roof was corrugated, giving it strength for little weight. This detail was repeated time and again along the length of the roof.

The quality of the drawing shows how pressed the architects were for time. Everything was a rush. At the end of 1945 large swathes of London needed rebuilding. Houses, schools, hospitals. Everything. There was no time for fancy lettering. Quick, hand-written notes had to serve. Unreadable at this reduction, they were rapid and serviceable. A Victorian architect would have been appalled, but he would not have been rebuilding after a major Blitz, Today, the drawing would be made on a computer and the lettering typed into the computer, quick and at the same time clear. Unfortunately, architectural computers were fifty years in the future.



The Sixth Form Extension in 1971

In 1971 a Sixth Form Extension was built on about half the area of the old 1910 'Marching Space'. The drawings show that four of the grilled openings in the parapet wall were replaced by timber-framed windows and the new building was faced with aluminium. Thus on the same roof space we have the old staircase with its Arts and Crafts roof, and the new building with huge float glass windows and aluminium cladding. The last two materials were not available to architects in 1910.

Aluminium was developed after the First World War, mainly as a specialist material for the aircraft industry and did not become generally available as a building material until well after the Second World War. The float glass process was developed by Pilkingtons in the 1950s. Before that large sheets of glass were confined to shop windows and other special uses as they had to be cast and then polished, a slow and unhealthy process. This made plate glass very expensive indeed. School windows and the windows of ordinary houses, were made of plain glass, full of ripples and distortions and divided into small panes for cheapness and easy maintenance.

Thus the 1892 school roof and the 1971 sixth form extension, are interesting examples of different architects working with the materials which were available and could be afforded at the time they were building. It does not always work one way. Terra-cotta, affordable in 1892, would have been very expensive in 1971. Plate glass and aluminium were unobtainable at any price in say 1910. It s details like this that help us to `read` buildings and date them.

End of Part 4

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