The history of schools in Stoke Newington is quite complicated. Various schools have existed in the borough and the use of different buildings has changed from time to time. Grasmere School inherited its building from Wordsworth Central School, which was the first school built on this site. This is the story.
Building Wordsworth Central School
It was opposite what is now the end of Butterfield Green
Wordsworth Elementary School was originally in Wordsworth Road, but about 1926 it was decided to convert it into a Central School where boys and girls would stay on to 15, instead of leaving at 14. This was the usual leaving age for 80% of children at that time. Most children left their Elementary Schools at 14. About 20% passed the '11 Plus' examination and went to Grammar Schools to the age of 16 and some of these stayed to 18.
The Central Schools were to take those who narrowly missed a grammar school place. They would stay to 15 and specialize in Commercial, Science and Craft subjects. For this the school would need specialist rooms and a laboratory, so a new school had to be built.
It was quite difficult to find a site in crowded Stoke Newington. Both Palatine School, in Palatine Road, and Wordsworth School had to be fitted into the back gardens behind existing houses.
Finding a site for the new Wordsworth Central School, about 1926
1914 Ordnance Survey Map of the future Wordsworth Central School site.
The building is now Grasmere Primary School.
The Wordsworth School buildings were built very much as they are today, except that in those days they had specialist rooms for Shorthand and Typing, Science, Woodwork and Metalwork. These facilities were removed when Grasmere Primary School moved in, but were very popular. Old pupils speak of them with affection.
After the Second World War
After the Second World War the unfairness of the 11 Plus examination had become clear. A vast amount of talent was being wasted. We proved that a child's score could vary as much as 17% in the exam due to ill health, or nerves, or just bad luck. Yet two marks could make the difference between staying to 16, in smaller classes, taught by better qualified teachers, or being taught in larger classes and leaving at 14. The movement for Comprehensive Education grew powerful and in 1956 Woodberry Down Comprehensive School was built on the edge of the West Reservoir on Woodberry Grove.
We were the first all-through 11-19 school for Boys and Girls in our own purpose built buildings in London. Crown Woods, south of the river, opened a few months later but we always claimed that we were first.
For details of the History of Woodberry Down Comprehensive School CLICK HERE
In 1964 a second large comprehensive school for Stoke Newington was announced.
Primary and Secondary Schools Committee Reports, 6 February 1964. 7 July 1964 and
26 January 1965.
The minutes say that a new 10 form entry school was to be opened in Stoke Newington, amalgamating Daniel Defoe and Wordsworth Secondary Schools for boys and girls.
On 7 July 1964 the Committee was informed of the proposal that Daniel Defoe and Wordsworth county Secondary schools for boys and girls, [Stoke Newington and Hackney North] should be amalgamated in September 1965 as a seven (or eight) form-entry school, on the basis that Daniel Defoe would close at the end of the summer term 1965.
Daniel Defoe had had difficulty recruiting a 3 form entry, while Wordsworth was increasingly popular. The two schools were to be combined in 1965. They were within half a mile of each other and would then work in close co-operation, Wordsworth, with a 7 (or 8) form entry in the existing Palatine Road premises and the Ayresome Road premises of Daniel Defoe. The new school would be built in Clissold Road on the site of some old but run-down houses.
The amalgamated schools would later move into the new Clissold Road School buildings
What would happen to the old Wordsworth School building?
Primary and Secondary Schools Sub-Committee Reports continued.
It was necessary to reduce the pressure on accommodation at Newington Green primary school where the number on roll, including nursery class children, was nearly 1000. The Committee therefore proposed that a new County Primary Junior School for Boys, Girls and Infants should be established in the old Wordsworth School building in Albion Road.
Before this could happen, the old Wordsworth School Central School building had to be adapted for Primary School use. The laboratories and other specialist rooms had to be converted to ordinary classrooms, smaller lavatories installed, and new school furniture fitted. The structure of the school remained largely unchanged.
A series of School Conversion drawings
The Nineteen Seventies
In the Nineteen Seventies there was great pressure to open nursery schools and these plans show the Grasmere proposals.
Proposed landscaping for Grasmere School
Later there were plans to expand the school grounds further along the back gardens of Albion Road. This is the landscape's original plan. One could compare this with what was actually done.
Some Pictures of Grasmere Primary School
The School Playground
No doubt Grasmere School will have other pictures and details which it will add to this history
Revised: October 22, 2011