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David Hockney school demolition is ‘tip of the iceberg’

The Victorian Society has warned that the demolition of the former school of the internationally famous artist David Hockney illustrates a wider trend of demolition of Victorian and Edwardian school buildings across the country.

The former Hutton middle School, Eccleshill, Bradford - past pupils include David Hockney.

The Victorian Society has warned that the demolition of the former school of the internationally famous artist David Hockney illustrates a wider trend of demolition of Victorian and Edwardian school buildings across the country. The Society is commenting on an increasing number of schools cases – dealing with 45% of its 2014 schools workload in just the first two months of 2015. The Society is concerned that this threat could become even more acute as a result of the Government’s recent announcement of a further £6 billion to rebuild schools. The Society is urging Councils to preserve their local heritage and refurbish, rather than demolish, these distinctive buildings which tell the story of the nation’s journey to universal education.

Christopher Costelloe, Director of the Victorian Society, said: ‘It is a real shame that Bradford Council has approved plans to demolish David Hockney’s former school. The handsome building seems suitable for conversion into flats – instead Bradford will lose part of its history and identity. Victorian and Edwardian school buildings are generally of a high quality and often constitute local landmarks. However, this one case is just the tip of the iceberg. We are seeing increasing numbers of applications to demolish Victorian and Edwardian schools – even where the site will continue as a school. Councils should endeavour to ensure that these buildings are preserved where possible.’

David Hockney’s brother John has also spoken out in support of saving the former Hutton Middle School in Eccleshill, saying ‘without these important places there is no history’. However, a strong local campaign and objections from the Victorian Society were not enough to stop the Council voting in favour of demolishing the attractive ‘modified gothic’ building built in 1886. The Hutton School’s demolition will follow the demolition of another Victorian former Hockney school, the Wellington School.  

Other examples of Victorian and Edwardian schools under threat include:

  • Kirklees Council is planning to demolish and redevelop Mount Pleasant Primary School built in 1873. A petition aims to convince the Council to retain the school’s unusual clock tower described as ‘a landmark and icon for the school’ with its dramatic ‘animal water spouts, clocks and spire’,
  • Whitcliffe Mount School in Cleckheaton will also be rebuilt by Kirklees Council. While the majority of the current buildings date from the sixties, the Council proposes demolishing the site’s handsome Edwardian building for use as a carpark! 
  • Cranbury Road Infants School in Eastleigh was built in 1891-2 by W.H. Mitchell, Son and Gutteridge to a pretty low-rise design which included a purpose built cookery classroom. It’s proposed that the building is demolished and replaced with houses
  • The former school at 179 Hornsey Road, London – is listed for sale with a proposal for demolition and redevelopment ‘for indicative purposes only’. With historic school buildings marketed for sale in this way, it is perhaps unsurprising that increasing numbers are being lost, and
  • Stoke on Trent Council is believed to still be considering demolishing Penkhull Infants' School, built in 1896 to a design by local architects R Scrivener & Sons.

The Victorian Society fears that demolition of these beautiful period buildings is simply seen as easier than restoring them or adapting them for residential use. These buildings are often unlisted but play an important part in local communities both as landmarks and in people’s memories. They are worth saving.

The Victorian period marked a turning point in the way Britain was educated. The important story of our nation’s education can be seen in its school buildings. The years after 1870 saw the emergence of a effective education system. By the Edwardian period, quasi-religious architectural styles had been largely replaced by as secular school building styles – reflecting the increased role of the state, rather than the church, in education provision. 

Wednesday 4 March, 2015

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