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  • Writer's pictureCarol Harris

The Brockley Road Board Schools

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

The original school, where Beecroft Gardens School stands today.

In October 1885 the School Board for London announced plans to build elementary schools (separates schools for infants and juniors), on a piece of vacant land on the south side of Beecroft Road, the opposite side of the road from where Beecroft Garden Primary School school now stands. The plan failed because a good slice of the land earmarked was taken for the Shortlands & Nunhead Railway, now known as the Catford Loop.

In 1890 the Board announced new plans; this time the site was to be in Whitbread Road. By now the development of the area was in full swing, and some of the land had been built on. Fifteen houses, numbers 2 to 30, stood on the site. The Board’s proposal to demolish fifteen houses which were less than three years old caused local protest, and a second change of location was needed, to its present location.

The Brockley Road Schools, as the first Beecroft Garden school was called, opened in 1894.

Mr Alfred Garside, headmaster. He lived in St Margaret's Road.

Records show that in 1904 Alfred Garside was Headmaster; a post he still held twenty years later, until, in the latter half of the 1920s, he was succeeded by Mr Garrett.

Photographs of the area show little traffic on the Brockley Road in the schools’ early days, but the first decades of the twentieth century saw a huge increase; in 1912 the Shoreditch Observer recorded that; ‘Letters have been received by the borough council from the Automobile Association and Motor Union, offering to supply warning signs at … Brockley-road Schools, Brockley-road; and Dalmain-road Schools in Brockley Rise. The Council has accepted the offer with thanks, and directed the surveyor to arrange for the erection of the signs.’

In September 1939 the Brockley Road schools were evacuated to Limpsfield in Surrey, and the empty premises became the headquarters of the local Home Guard Company. The downturn in raiding by the Luftwaffe during 1942 meant that evacuees were soon flooding back to the area, and part of the school was used once more for its original purpose.

On 16 June 1944, Crofton Park’s first V1 (pilotless flying bomb) landed on the school just after 10 o’clock in the evening. It flattened the building and damaged over 500 houses in 40 surrounding streets.

Being evening, there were no children in the school, but the Home Guard HQ was manned, and five Home Guardsmen were killed. In June 1947, a memorial to the men killed at the school was unveiled in St. Hilda's, where it still remains.

One ex-pupil remembered seeing the headmistress, Miss Hobbs, standing among the ruins of her school next day.

After this the pupils and teachers of the school were amalgamated with Gordonbrock School, and were taught in classes of about seventy pupils.

The London School Plan of 1947 proposed the building of a new junior mixed infants’ school on the site, with a nursery department, and the new school, re-named Brockley Primary School, opened in 1951.

Today the school on the site is called Beecroft Garden Primary School.

Pictures of the school and Mr Garside © Lewisham archives

Picture of the memorial to Home Guard in St Hilda's church © Carol Harris/CroftonParkHistory

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