Monday, May 1, 2017

Spirit of Place: Icknield Street School

Source: the iron room blog
In addition to the William Mitchell installation under the flyover, the school was my other reason for visiting Hockley yesterday. I said the school deserved a post of its own and here it is. It may seem that an apparently standard Victorian school would not merit a post on its own, and that would be the case anywhere else in the country, but the board schools of Birmingham are a different kettle of fish from those elsewhere in the country. Bearing in mind that the city was known for its nonconformity and rationalism, after the Elementary Education Act of 1870, which allowed alternatives to the otherwise religion-dominated church schools, the city set to with a will and by 1894 the Pall Mall Gazette could say:
In Birmingham you may generally recognize a board school by its being the best building in the neighbourhood. In London it is almost vice versa. With lofty towers which serve the utilitarian purpose of giving excellent ventilation, gabled windows, warm red bricks and stained glass, the best Birmingham board schools have quite an artistic finish. In regard to light and air the worst schools are equal to the best in London. Source
The lofty ideal of disinterested education for the improvement of all the population led to the Birmingham Board Schools having a rather characteristic design (a design you've already seen if you've been to the Icon Gallery, the former Oozells Street School):
[Joseph] Chamberlain believed that the architecture of schools should provide a pleasant contrast from the drab homes and environment of their pupils. The Chamberlain schools were designed for hygiene, light, fresh air and beauty. Typically in red brick and terracotta, gabled, with steep roofs supported by large arches of internally exposed ironwork, and freely planned, they were towered to provide ventilation using the Plenum system, with fresh air being drawn in from above the polluted ground level, heated if necessary, and vented also from the tower. The tower was typically placed over the staircase to draw air through the school. There were terracotta plaques, glazed tiles, ornamental ironwork, tall windows, and stained glass. Martin & Chamberlain worked for low remuneration to enable a healthy education. Source
http://icknieldshield.tripod.com/IcknieldStSch.htm
Apart from its local significance, the building is a Grade 2* listed building, as is the Head Master's House which is of a piece with it. This is the listing for the school building itself:
ICKNIELD STREET
1.
5104
Hockley B18
Icknield Street School
(St Chad's Roman Catholic
Annexe)
(formerly listed as
Icknield Street School)
SP 08 NE 7/61 16.9.81
II* GV
2.
1883, by Martin and Chamberlain. Red brick; tile roof with decorative ridge
tiles and finials. Partly 2- and partly 3-storeyed. Gabled bays, the principal
ones with triple windows, the others with couplets. All windows of lancet shape.
Good moulded chimney stack to the east wing. A major feature is the slated spire
rising in 3 stages separated by wooden louvres and terminating in elaborate
ironwork.
Listing NGR: SP0582888465 Source
Both of the buildings are separately on the Heritage at Risk Register in the highest category of buildings at immediate risk with no plan of any sort in place to safeguard them.
I'm going to have to be frank here, and say that while the building is clearly focked and has suffered outrageous neglect I can also see that the maintenance of this building would be a crippling nightmare. On a critical note, the cost of the scaffolding would be a small price to pay for the benefit to this building of sorting the drainage. If every single downpipe is running water down the brickwork, that means the owners don't give a shit. Ironically one of the features of this building, the tower, is a major weakness since it is bound to be prone to rot but also requires work at heights to maintain it. In no way is the hound excusing the scandalous mess this building is in: even closer to the ground woodwork is rotting away and you will see heaps of rubbish in the pictures. One thing that does seem to have been done is to put grilles over the windows to stop them being broken. I have read that the council are in negotiations with the owners to secure this building's future. It has already had a fire - I would hate to think that deliberate neglect would make this another listed building destroyed in a 'mysterious' fire. Anyway, on with the photos.













4 comments:

  1. In the immortal words of Cher Horowitz, that building is "a full on Monet. It's like a painting, see? From far away, it's OK, but up close, it's a big old mess."

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    1. That it is. The perfect description, thank you.

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  2. I meant to say: I thought I'd already commented here (something very similar to the Cher quote), but clearly I imagined it.

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    Replies
    1. Perhaps Blogger thought you were spamming me with your mention of erections?

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