Rock Townsend, The Old School,, Exton Street, SE1 8UE
A 3-storey Victorian former school building which has been converted into offices containing several architecture practices and start-ups. Includes many original features.
Second floor only (max visitors 200)
The story of The Old School begins in 1824, when the church on the opposite side of Exton Street was consecrated. In 1902 The Old School was built on opposite the church site to provide children’s education for the parishioners.
A National School
This was a National School, supported by ‘The National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church’ (on behalf of the Church of England). School was not compulsory for children until 1880, and even then, only up to the age of ten, so education was a relative luxury.
National Schools generally had two separate rooms for the teaching of boys and girls, with class sizes of up to 40. This can be seen in The Old School’s design with separate entrances at each end of the building for boys and girls. Each floor of this red brick two storey building housed 5 classrooms, 3 of which connected with folding timber screens.
A Voluntary School
It is likely that the school became a Voluntary school, meaning a trust or foundation (in this case the Church of England) provided the teaching (principally the religious instruction) for the school. We know the school was called ‘St John and All Saints C of E School’.
Life in the early 1900s was likely tough for those who attended school in this building. In 1903, 19.1% (almost 1 in 5) children would die before their 5th birthday. This was due mostly to poor nutrition and sanitation. In the 1903 report of Vital and Sanitary Statistics in Lambeth, St John and All Saints was mentioned as having suffered an outbreak of measles in March. It is recorded that 43.3% of students were absent due to the outbreak, which was curbed by the closure of the school from March the 20th to the 17th of April.
In 1963 the school is recorded as being a secondary school, but by 1975 it had been converted into a Teachers Education Centre. The building became known as The Old School in 1994 and now houses several architect’s studios and tech companies. Many of the buildings original features are still intact including the large sash windows, timber room dividers and parquet flooring.
Rock Townsend Architects are located on the second floor via the eastern entrance.