Secondary school, 1897-1900 in advance of the 1902 Education Act. An early design by Sir Edwin Cooper in a free Queen Anne Revival style, incorporating a set of relief panels by the sculptor Henry Charles Fehr. Home to the Stephen Joseph Theatre-in-the-Round company between 1976 and 1996 under the artistic direction of Sir Alan Ayckbourn.
Reasons for Designation
The former Westwood School, Scarborough 1897-1900 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* for its accomplished design: a complex, highly detailed exterior containing an elegantly simple and effective plan form which makes very good use of its valley-side site;
* the first major work by the nationally significant architect Edwin Cooper who was later knighted for his services to architecture;
* for the artistic quality of the relief panels by the sculptor Henry Charles Fehr and what these tell us about the original aspirations for the school.
* as an early example of a council funded secondary school pre-dating the 1902 Education Act;
* as the location of one of the first theatres-in-the-round, under the artistic direction of the playwright Alan Ayckbourn, created from ideas developed by Stephen Joseph;
* the location of the premieres of nearly 30 of Ayckbourn's plays.
The former Westwood School was built as a secondary school for both boys and girls by Scarborough Borough Council from 1897, opening in November 1900. The school was technically outside the legal powers of the council as the school was not for elementary education and it pre-dated the 1902 Education Act which prompted the construction of council funded secondary schools elsewhere nationally. Consequently maintenance of the school was taken on by Scarborough Town Council which could legally fund it as an 'organised science school' under the Technical Instruction Act of 1889. It thus opened as a Municipal School, known locally as the Muni, and continued to be managed by the town council for many years, even after the 1902 Act which established county based education authorities. It subsequently became a Sixth Form College, then a County Modern Comprehensive School. Later it was used as an annex for Scarborough Technical College.
The building was the first major work by the Scarborough architect Edwin Cooper (1874-1942) who was then working in the practice of the local architect John Hall. Cooper went on to become a distinguished architect, said to have designed more buildings in the City of London than any architect since Wren. He was knighted in 1923 for his services to architecture, and has an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The six carved relief panels on the south elevation are attributed to the well known monumental and architectural sculptor Henry Charles Fehr (1867-1940).
In 1976 the principal floor of the school was taken over by the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round theatre company, under the artistic direction of Alan Ayckbourn. This pioneering theatre company, established by Stephen Joseph, had been using Scarborough Library for performances since 1955: the move to Westwood School was intended to be a temporary measure before moving to a planned purpose-built theatre. A theatre-in-the-round was constructed in the main assembly hall, one of the class rooms had a stage and balcony inserted to form an end-stage studio theatre, and mezzanine levels were inserted: the conversion work costing £38,000 took less than nine weeks. However, the planned construction of the new theatre was cancelled and the company remained at Westwood until 1996 when it finally moved to a permanent home in a converted cinema.
Between 1976 and 1996 the theatre at Westwood School saw the premieres of all of Ayckbourn’s plays produced during this period. Ayckbourn, said to be the second most-performed English playwright after Shakespeare, was knighted in 1997. Stephen Joseph (1921-1967) was the first to popularise theatre-in-the-round in Britain. In the 1950s, concerned by the decline in theatre audiences in the face of competition from television and other mass entertainment, he felt that theatre-in-the-round could re-vitalise theatre and attract new, younger audiences. In 1955, he formed the Studio Theatre Company which was the first in the country to work in-the-round. The former Westwood School is the location of one of the first theatres-in-the-round created from ideas developed by Stephen Joseph. The three-vomitorium design and the overall auditorium shape created for the move to Westwood in 1976 was reproduced exactly at the present Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough built in the 1990s and is an illustration of Joseph’s thinking of theatres-in-the-round and simple fit-out-construction.
Secondary School, 1897-1900, by Sir Edwin Cooper. Relief panels by the sculptor Henry Charles Fehr. Free Queen Anne Revival style. The principal floor was remodelled in the mid-1970s to house the Stephen Joseph Theatre-in-the-Round.
MATERIALS: red brick with extensive stone dressings, red plain-tile roofs.
PLAN: symmetrical comprising a three storey central hall block, with a two-span roof, flanked by three-storey gabled cross-wings linked by lower, set-back mezzanine ranges housing the two main entrances and staircases. Extending beyond the gabled cross wings, forming the east and west ends of the building, are two-storey classroom ranges set beneath two-span roofs. The internal plan form is based on east-west axial corridors to all floors. Although the principal elevation faces south, the main entrances are on the north elevation at first floor level, taking advantage of the steep valley side into which the building has been placed.
EXTERIOR: the building is clearly designed to be impressive when viewed from Valley Bridge, one of the main routes into the town. Elevations have brick plinths and stone sill and string courses; window frames are mostly multi-paned casement or sliding sash. There are multiple, tall and narrow embellished chimney stacks with ventilation grilles; rainwater goods include hopper heads dated 1899.
The main (north) elevation has a central three-storey hall block with slightly projecting end bays. It has four arched ground floor windows with stone keys and alternating stone and brick voussoirs. The first floor has four rectangular windows set in stone, eared architraves with central stone keys, flanked to each side by an identical window. The second floor has four inset rectangular windows with moulded stone architraves, each window alternating with an engaged Roman Ionic column, with capitals in the form of faces, flanked to either side by a similar window with alternate blocking to the architrave. The aprons to all six windows are formed of stone relief panels depicting different groups of figures associated with the arts and sciences. They are thought to represent (from left to right) the creative arts of poetry and music, astronomy, architecture, engineering, chemistry/natural sciences and literature. Some figures at least can be identified, such as the astronomer Caroline Herschel and the engineer James Watt. Above is a projecting dentilled cornice and a stone-coped shaped brick parapet: the latter has a further relief panel to each end bay. Attached to either side there are narrow set-back blocks with keyed, segmental-headed entrances and five windows to each floor in keyed and eared stone architraves. The set-back bocks link to three-bay, three-storey projecting, gabled cross wings, with triple windows to ground and first floor, with stone and brick flat arches and moulded stone, eared architraves respectively. A large Venetian window to the first floors has a moulded stone architrave and extends the full width of the cross wings ending in a projecting dentilled cornice. The brick gable above has stone bands. Attached to each cross wing is a lower, two-storey range, largely blind to the ground floor, with six first floor windows, the central four with shaped heads that rise above the eaves.
The double gables of the right and left returns each have a single rectangular window (boarded to the right) and banded apexes with triple narrow slit windows.
The rear (south) elevation has a three storey, eight-bay central block, the ground floor with simply treated fenestration, and the first floor with tall, rectangular windows with stone keyed lintels incorporated into a continuous band. The third floor is faced in stone, with eight recessed short windows between short stone pilasters, and a projecting dentilled cornice. Four large roof dormer windows appear to form an attic floor, but are actually roof lights for the top floor classrooms. Above these, set centrally, is a tall, three-stage octagonal lantern with columned upper stages and a domed cap. The attached set-back flanking blocks each contain a segmental-headed entrance with a projecting open porch whose stone pilasters bear carved shields reading 'Boys' and 'Girls'. The entrances are reached across a broad area by brick bridges with segmental arches beneath and side walls with moulded stone copings; the retaining wall has stone copings and is set with railings. The attached cross wings and two-storey end blocks are similarly detailed to those of the main elevation.
INTERIOR: the original plan form of the late-C19 school remains largely intact and readable, notwithstanding the insertion of various partitions, suspended ceilings and mezzanine floors.
The ground and second floors retain original corridors with painted brick walls, some parquet flooring and classrooms off to either side, the latter with round and segmental-headed entrances and small-paned over lights. There are numerous original panelled and glazed doors and rows of upper rectangular lights to the classrooms light the corridors. Individual classrooms are plainly appointed, and mostly retain timber architraves to doors and windows and some have substantial fire breasts, a few with small, camber-headed fire-place openings and some original carpentry. Original timber roof trusses are visible in the second floors of the cross wings. The first floor has undergone a greater degree of alteration by the insertion of the theatre to the former assembly hall, which never-the-less retains its original timber panelling and one fireplace is visible. There appears to have been little adaptation to the original school spaces to form front-of-house facilities across the reminder of the first floor but mezzanine floors for costume storage have been inserted.
The 1970s inserted theatre-in-the-round is of utilitarian construction of softwood carcassing clad in plywood. The lighting rig is constructed from scaffolding poles hung from the ceiling. The central performance area has three entrances, one shared by the audience, linked by a run-around corridor beneath the raked seating which also provides access to two trap-door entrances behind the seating. The central performance area has no floor traps. The studio theatre at the western end is of similarly utilitarian construction. When in operation, access to the stage wings must have been via the audience. The balcony is not raked and is thought to have been used for lighting rather than audience seating.