1774/3/42 KING GEORGE AVENUE
06-NOV-86 (West side)
Secondary school, 1910-1914. Designed by George Widdows, architect to Derbyshire's Education Committee from 1904 and Chief Architect to Derbyshire County Council from 1910-1936.
MATERIALS: Red brick, mostly cement rendered, with sandstone dressings and concrete. Reinforced concrete and felt roofs.
PLAN: Quadrangular plan enclosing a detached octagonal hall, linked by four covered ways, which continue as a verandah facing onto the quadrangle.
EXTERIOR: The exterior consists of four long single storey elevations with square corner towers or pavilions rising slightly above the roofline of the main blocks. The south and north elevations have similar towers to the centre, each elevation of thirteen bays altogether. The central bay to the south elevation forms the main entrance, and has two storeys. It is ashlar faced, in banded rustication, with a concave centre. The doorway has three orders of moulding, and the double doors have geometrical motifs. There are five steps up to the entrance, flanked by low curved walls at the end of which are piers surmounted by tapering wrought iron lamp standards. Above the entrance is a five-light square section mullion window. The five bays on either side have large windows with hopper lights. Each bay is divided by pilasters at the top of which are decorative rectangles made of strips of red tile and inlaid pebbles, laid alternately. Above each window is a small raised panel; below the windows the red brick is left unrendered. Below the slightly projecting flat roof is a dentil cornice. The corner towers have three-light mullioned windows set in a recessed panel, flanked by pilaster strips supporting a frieze of geometrical motifs, flanked in turn by angle pilaster strips or buttresses. The east, west and north elevations have similar windows and decorative detail, but the north elevation has doorways flanked by narrow windows occupying two bays, the second and third from each end. The doorways have raised surrounds in plain cement with stepped-up panel in the centre with pebble inlay panel.
Within, the impressive quadrangle is of red brick, and is an open colonnade or cloister formed by verandahs fronting the classrooms, set below the top panes of the classroom windows. The verandahs have flat roofs supported on brick piers with rounded corners surmounted by stumpy wooden columns, and there are four similar covered colonnades linking the quadrangle to the central hall, which also has a colonnade around it. The length of the verandahs is enhanced by the black and white chequered pattern of the floor tiles, and there are paths paved with stone and brick, also in squares, crossing the grassed open spaces between classrooms and the hall. The octagonal hall is also of red brick with darker brick quoins, and a reinforced concrete dome with eight external ribs, rises to a lantern with eight circular windows. Above the ground floor colonnades are seven large Diocletian windows. There are two modern wooden structures for storage in the north-east and north-west corners of the quadrangle, and one of the walkways connecting the hall and classrooms has been extended slightly. The wooden structures are of no interest.
INTERIOR: The hall has a striking and impressive interior with eight ribs of the domed roof meeting in the middle beneath the lantern above. The space is dramatically lit by the seven Diocletian windows containing designs in stained glass by Andrew Stoddart of Nottingham. On the side of the hall without a window is a stage with tall arch over. Below the windows to either side are double doors flanked by octagonal columns and tripartite windows. Opposite the stage is a blind recess flanked by similar doors, and the two remaining sides have windows only. The windows are hopper opening. The classrooms have wooden panelling, and one fireplace survives, complete with its cast iron grate, glazed tile surround, and wooden mantelpiece with dentil decoration. The entrance hall is panelled in dark wood, and has a black and white chequered tile floor. Above the entrance is a small room with a window seat to the concave mullioned window. The headteacher's office above the entrance hall is panelled, with a boarded over fireplace. The broad window looks out over the dome of the octagonal hall.
HISTORY: Ilkeston School was designed by the architect George H. Widdows (1871-1946) and was built between 1910 and 1914. It was one of a large number of new schools built to Widdows' designs by Derbyshire County Council in the early C20. Derbyshire had the greatest percentage increase in population in the country in the 1890s, particularly due to the growth of the coal mining and textile manufacturing communities in the east of the county. Widdows had come to Derbyshire in 1897 as Chief Architectural Assistant to Derby Corporation. Following the 1902 Education Act, responsibility for schools in the county passed to Derbyshire County Council. In 1904 Widdows was appointed architect to the Council's Education Committee. In 1910 he was appointed Chief Architect to the Council, although schools remained his predominant concern. By the time he retired in 1936, he had designed some sixty elementary and seventeen secondary schools.
Widdows was at the forefront of the movement to build schools in which high standards of hygiene were as important as educational provision. The first major conference on school hygiene was held in 1904, and in 1907 the Board of Health brought in legislation which required schools to become subject to regular medical inspections. Widdows worked with his Medical Officer, Sidney Barwise, and two deputy architects, C. A. Edeson and T. Walker, to develop a series of innovative designs introducing high levels of natural daylight and effective cross ventilation in schools. His designs, in a neo-vernacular style, were characterised by open verandah-style corridors linking classrooms with generous full-height windows. His distinctive and influential plan forms were based on a linear module which could be arranged in different configurations to suit the size of school required and the shape of the available site.
The advances Widdows made in school planning were recognised by his contemporaries. In an article on provincial school building in 1913, The Builder stated that his work 'constitutes a revolution in the planning and arrangement of school buildings... a real advance which places English school architecture without a rival in any European country or the United States.' The same article describes Ilkeston School as 'a design of great merit and originality.'
There are two modern wooden structures for storage in the north-east and north-west corners of the quadrangle, and one of the walkways connecting the hall and classrooms has been extended slightly; these are the only additions or alterations. Other buildings have been added to the school site in the later C20, none of which encroach onto Widdows' original school.
G. H. Widdows, 'Derbyshire Elementary Schools: Principles of Planning', paper presented to Royal Sanitary Institute on 25 February 1910, in Royal Sanitary Institute Journal (1910), 92-116.
'The Derbyshire Schools', The Builder, Vol. 105 (31 October 1913), 460-461.
The Builder, Vol. 107 (10 July 1914), 44-45; (17 July 1914), 74-75.
G. H. Widdows, 'School Design', RIBA Journal, Vol. 29, No. 2 (26 November 1921), 33-45.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: Ilkeston School is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* It is the outstanding example of the work of George Widdows, and an outstanding example of C20 school architecture. Widdows is nationally acknowledged as a leading designer of schools in the early C20 and an exponent of advanced ideas on school planning and hygiene.
* It is of more than special interest for its innovative plan, which is shared with only one other school, at New Mills, Derbyshire.
* Its innovative and unusual plan form is allied with a sophisticated design, and with high quality detail and craftsmanship; including the stained glass in the assembly hall by the reputable designer Andrew Stoddart of Nottingham.
* High attention to design, quality and detail extends to every feature of both the interior and the exterior, and tiled floors, paved paths, panelling, doors and tiling all survive.