Kenmont Primary School


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Valliere Road, London, NW10


Ordnance survey map of Kenmont Primary School
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Statutory Address:
Valliere Road, London, NW10

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Hammersmith and Fulham (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Board school, 1883-4 by ER Robson for the School Board for London (SBL), completed after 1894.

Reasons for Designation

Kenmont Primary School, of 1883 and after by the School Board for London (architect ER Robson), is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: a particularly impressive and well-preserved example of a Robson board school, remarkable for its unusual plan and dramatic, fortress-like composition; * Historic interest: an exemplary instance of the work of the School Board for London, whose great building programme in the wake of the 1870 Education Act transformed elementary schooling in the capital and laid the foundations of London's state education system.


The main part of Kenmont Primary School was built in 1883-4 by the School Board for London (SBL), to designs by the Board’s architect Edward Robert Robson (1836-1917). Map evidence indicates that the northern part of the building, including the hall block and north staircase, was not completed until after 1894.

The Elementary Education Act of 1870, steered through Parliament by the Liberal MP William Forster and thus known as 'Forster's Act', established for the first time a system of national, secular, non-charitable education for children between the ages of 5 and 13. A driving force behind the new legislation was the need for a literate and numerate workforce to ensure that Britain remained at the forefront of manufacturing and commerce. Moreover, the extension of the franchise to the urban working classes under the 1867 Reform Act also alerted politicians to the need - in words attributed to the then Chancellor - to 'educate our masters'. The Act required public elementary schools, managed by elected school boards and funded through local rates, to be established in areas where existing provision was inadequate. The SBL, founded within months of the passage of the Act, was the first such board to be constituted, and the most influential. It was one of the first fully democratic bodies in Britain, with a franchise that included both women and the working class. Its 49 initial members - under the chairmanship of Lord Lawrence, a former Viceroy of India - included five MPs, eleven clergymen, the scientist Thomas Huxley, the pioneering woman doctor Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the educationalist and suffragist Emily Davies and the master cabinet-maker and working-class radical Benjamin Lucraft. The Board's ambitious and progressive policies were epitomised in a by-law of 1871 compelling parents to send their children to school; attendance was not enforced nationally until 1880.

Such was the achievement of the SBL in the last quarter of the C19 that by the Edwardian period few neighbourhoods in inner London were without a red-brick, three-storey school designed by the Board's architect ER Robson or his successor TJ Bailey. Around 500 SBL schools were ultimately built, many in poor and densely-populated areas where they were (and often remain) the most striking buildings in their locality. Robson's adoption of the newly-fashionable Queen Anne style was a significant departure from the Gothicism that had prevailed in earlier school design, creating a distinctive aesthetic that underlined the Board's commitment to secularism in education. This commitment exposed the SBL to much criticism, especially from Anglican traditionalists whose grip on elementary schooling was decisively weakened by the Act, while the high cost of the new buildings, and the consequent expense to ratepayers, was likewise a subject of bitter controversy. But the Board's supporters were unapologetic. In the words of Charles Booth, justifying the expense of more elaborate schools in the East End: 'It was necessary to strike the eye and hold the imagination. It was worth much to carry high the flag of education, and this is what has been done. Each school stands up from its playground like a church in God's acre, ringing its bell.' Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in his short story 'The Naval Treaty' (1894), has Sherlock Holmes echo the reformers' confidence in the transformative power of universal education, hailing the new metropolitan landmarks as 'Lighthouses, my boy!... Capsules with hundreds of bright little seeds in each, out of which will spring the wiser, better England of the future'.


Board school, 1883-4 by ER Robson for the School Board for London (SBL), completed after 1894.

MATERIALS: stock brick with red brick and some Portland stone dressings; slate roof.

PLAN: Kenmont School is a three-storey building, originally comprising an infants’ department on the ground floor with girls’ and boys’ departments on the floors above. As usual in the later SBL schools, each floor includes a large assembly hall and a series of smaller classrooms opening onto a corridor; staircase towers connect the main floors and give access to mezzanine offices in between. Perhaps because of the constricted site or the two-phase construction sequence, the school has a somewhat unusual plan, with the hall block projecting from the north-west corner of the building rather than in the centre as was normal.

EXTERIOR: the exterior displays Robson’s trademark Queen Anne Revival style, though the profusion of shaped gables seen in many of his other designs here gives way to a crenellated parapet. Windows are large multi-pane timber sashes or casements, square- or segment-headed, paired in the lower two storeys and tripled above. Chimneys are broad ridged slabs. The bottom storey is wholly faced in red brick, and red-brick pilasters and buttresses mark the bay divisions. The symmetrical, flat-fronted east elevation to Kenmont Gardens contrasts with the dramatic and asymmetrical west elevation, where unequal projecting wings to right (classrooms) and left (hall block) frame a massive polygonal tower (six mezzanine floors of cloakrooms and office mezzanines) topped by a spire, cupola and weathervane, and flanked by two lower stair-towers. On the short south elevation is a stone plaque inscribed '1883 KENMONT GARDENS SCHOOL'. The north elevation is dominated by a tall semicircular projection that is the third stair-tower. The three stair-towers contain the entrances to the three departments, with stone lintels inscribed INFANTS, BOYS and GIRLS respectively.

INTERIORS: these are utilitarian, though well preserved. The internal doors and windows to classrooms, corridors, stairwells and halls largely survive, as do herringbone wood-block floors and classroom fireplaces with a variety of moulded surrounds. Unusually, some of the sliding timber partitions that allowed adjoining classrooms to be split or combined also survive. The north stairwell is faced with glazed white tiles, carefully fitted to its curving outer wall. The second-floor corridor is floored in coloured quarry tiles rather than the usual hardwood blocks. Another unusual survival is a panelled timber enclosure containing a dumb-waiter.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: on the western side of the playground are two small ancillary buildings, formerly a cookery and laundry classroom and a school keeper's cottage. There are also brick boundary walls to Valliere Road, Kenmont Gardens and Ridgeley Road. These buildings and structures are all excluded from the listing.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 29/11/2012

(Formerly listed under Kenmont Gardens NW10)


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Elain Harwood and Andrew Saint, Report on listing of London board schools, 1991,
James Hall, The London Board Schools 1870-1904: Securing a Future for these Beacons of the Past, 2006-7,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 25 Jan 2007
Reference: IOE01/16054/27
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Matthew Bruce. Source Historic England Archive
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