After writing about W.T.Curtis and William Burchett, the Middlesex County architects of the 1930s who were responsible for many public buildings that define the style of the north west London suburbs, I was pleased to be contacted by Sam Smith, who had found an article about Oakwood Manor School (above), Curtis’s first foray into modernism, in The Architect and Building News. There was pressure for new school places in Middlesex, due to the rapid development of Metroland, and they had to be provided quickly and at reasonable cost. It was this need for economy and speed that made Curtis turn to functionalism.

‘Readers who have been familiar with the pleasantly “domestic” schools hitherto designed by the Middlesex County Architect,’ wrote The Architect, ‘will experience something of a mild shock at discovering that Mr. Curtis has “gone modern”. This result has arisen from the financial crisis. … From the financial point of view, the experiment seems to be juistified, since this school has been built for an inclusive cost of £28 per head, which is a low figure for a two-storied building of fire-resisting construction.’

In the building internal levels are stepped to follow the slope of the site; Crittal windows are used to make light, bright classrooms; internal walls are left unplastered because the cavity wall construction produced a fair-face brick surface inside; but there are aesthetic choices too in the horizontal stress of the elevation and the insertion of a prominent contrasting staircase tower, following the style of Willem Dudok’s Hilversum town hall.


      1. I have quite a lot going up on Flickr of school buildings of different ages. A few uploads from others well might be worth a look. There is one school in Bournemouth that is now a primary but built as a seniors that seems to be the most Middlesex looking of schools in the area:

        Boscombe Senior School (King

        The architect was W L Clowes. Someone else also has the boys grammar school by the same architect:

        Bournemouth School, Opening of East Way Buildings, 10th April, 1940

        I also have a picture of the ill fated sports pavilion that was at the grammar school site that was demolished in the 90s:
        Bournemouth School 1901-1951

        These are just a small number of the modern buildings of Bournemouth in the 30s which saw a gradual change from Victorian villas into an architecturally very varied resort


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