Monday, 12 May 2014

School before the corner

During the 1950s the farmland purchased by the council in the 1930s and continued in use as "chicken land" since that time, revealed its new function, becoming the London Road Estate.  A proportion of its homes were offered to London boroughs to ease their waiting lists, even though St Albans had a seriously long list of its own.

On a rectangle drawn on a map of the time was the written label site for school.  Next to it was a broken line labelled proposed new road – which later became Drakes Drive.  The rectangle did not quite reach London Road as there was a house and garden (no longer there) fronting London Road and standing next to Hill End Lane; in the 1950s this was the only route between London Road and Camp Road.  The rectangle was drawn so that Hill End Lane went through the middle, the idea being that the new road would replace it.
Francis Bacon School under construction in 1963.
Photo courtesy CHRIS NEIGHBOUR.

The county council had some success in negotiating with key London schools, in which spacious sites would be offered, enabling them to sell their metropolitan plots and move out to the countryside.  Parmiters and Clement Danes schools were among those which arrived as a result.  The two Central Foundation Schools in Islington and Bow were also aiming to rebuild their institutions in Hatfield (boys) and St Albans (girls).

For the county council this move would prove extremely useful, partly as some funds for school buildings could be diverted elsewhere.  It was also in an embarrassing position regarding the Eleven Plus selection system.  In St Albans there was a woeful shortage of grammar school places.

However, by 1959, the Central Foundation Schools decided to stay where they were, and the county council had no alternative but to proceed with the new school on its own.  The only way to launch a new school in the short term was in existing accommodation.  Dependable Alma Road was the answer, but part of Marshalswick School was billeted in the old board school building in 1960, waiting for the completion of its new buildings at The Ridgeway.  So Marshalswick was removed early and Francis Bacon Grammar School installed and born, only moving to its permanent site in 1963.
Very close to Drakes Drive the school under construction in
1963.  Photo courtesy CHRIS NEIGHBOUR.

The former Hill End Lane continued to separate the buildings from the sports field as a public right of way for many years until officially closed and diverted via Drakes Drive.

No longer a grammar school, Francis Bacon School recently changed its name to Samuel Ryder Academy, became an all-age school (in a throwback to the old elementary school system?) and has just completed extensions and a new 14-classroom primary suite.

No comments:

Post a Comment