Compulsory Education and The London School Board
The 1870 Education Act made it compulsory for children to attend school and soon the typical three-decker London school buildings were arising all over London. The newly formed London School Board was searching actively for sites, so a block of dilapidated houses in Lisson Street, next to an existing Ragged School, must have been ideal.
Bell Street School
Bell Street School opened just opposite the Ragged School. Clearly the latter would not be able to compete and closed by agreement. The London School Board took over the lease, but reserved the use of the building on Sundays to the managers of the Ragged School.1
On 7 January 1874 a Headmaster for the Boys School was appointed at £130 a year; a Headmistress for the Girls at £75 (later £80) and a Headmistress for the Infants School at £80. In later years a house in Bell Street which backed on to the playground was converted into a Domestic Science Centre.
The new school was an impressive building, with Mixed Infants on the ground floor, Girls on the first and Boys at the top, each with entrances and playgrounds segregated from the others. Incidentally, these Board schools were the first properly designed schools in the country. Earlier schools had been in churches and other buildings, constructed for other purposes, without consideration for the needs of pupils or education. The London School Board had to think out the problem afresh. Each floor had a sunny south-facing hall, and class rooms leading off, reducing corridors to the minimum. Double-height ceilings provided plenty of air for each pupil, the only defence at that time against tuberculosis. There was one unusual feature in all the building contracts. The building work was priced and then 10% was added so that the buildings could be made 'of architectural interest'. This extra money made possible good brickwork, decorative belfries, and a general feeling of wellbeing. Conan Doyle called the new schools:
Charles Booth, in his book 'Life and Labour of the People of London', said,