Education Provides Local House Building Sites

Since 1945 the school population has increased at a phenomenal rate. Then most pupils left at the age of fourteen. Today they cannot leave before sixteen and very many stay well beyond that. However, during the 1960s large numbers of London children moved with their parents to the New Towns, so London school roles declined and schools had to be amalgamated. Maida Vale Girls School became an Upper School and a new Lower School was built on the bomb site in Oakington Road. Moberley School, on the Harrow Road, became redundant, standing empty and bleak.

Moberly School had been built in 1874 on Harrow Road near to the present London Print Workshop and almost opposite the old Artizans' Hall. It was a typical three-storey Board School, with the Infants on the ground floor, the Girls on the first and the Boys on the top floor, with separate entrances and playgrounds for each. Infants were taught in mixed classes, but the older boys and the older girls were taught separately. Perhaps most important, when the school was built pupils left school at thirteen years old, when almost all were sent out to work.

As the school leaving age was raised, step by step, Moberly School became too small to contain the growing numbers. The site was not large enough to take extra buildings, so a new Lower School was built in Oakington Road. Later still, when it was decided to reorganize all the secondary schools into one North Westminster Community School, the Oakington Road building became Marylebone Lower House.

Moberly School, Harrow Road, when being squatted

Moberly School building was redundant, with its playgrounds full of rubbish. Quickly it was squatted by people desperately seeking somewhere to live. Westminster Council agreed that the squatters could stay on short term tenancies, at a small rent, on a month's notice. The large classrooms were subdivided into cubicles by makeshift curtains, so that the whole building looked like some silent eastern market, or a temporary refugee camp. All surprisingly neat, decorous and friendly. For some years people made their lives there, going out to work like other people and returning each evening to the squat.


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Updated January 23, 2011