708-1/0/10002 ABBEY ROAD/HINDPOOL ROAD
30-NOV-01 The John Whinnerah Institute Building,
with gate piers to front and bicycle
shed in rear wall
Educational institute for women, with gate piers and rear cycle shed. Building began in 1937; opened 27th October 1938. Internal alterations late C20 including single-storey extension along south side of courtyard, conversion of assembly hall to kitchen and partitions to create restaurant and coffee bar in north west corner, with hair-dressing salon above.
Plans and quantities supplied by Mr John Charles, architect. Walls faced with local 'rustic' bricks laid in ornate header and English bonds on exterior, and Flemish bond to courtyard. Re-constructed stone plinth and details, moulded cast-iron band with chevron pattern at floor level between metal-framed windows throughout, re-inforced concrete floors, flat roof. External doors and windows boarded at time of inspection.
Two storeys, rectangular plan with rounded corners and open central courtyard; corridors to courtyard on the east, south and west sides, and a full-height assembly hall on the north side. The design allows maximum light and ventilation through pivoted window frames, glazed doors [those to hall reduced], catch-light windows on ground floor corridors and clerestory windows to upper floor courtyard on east and south sides. Geometric style. Entrance facade to Abbey Road has tall entrance bay taller than the flanking 8-window bays. Entrance bay: double glazed doors, plaque above with name 'JOHN WHINNERAH /INSTITUTE' in projecting Art Deco lettering; projecting chevron drip-mould and upper floor window above, these all in a deep moulded recess surmounted by plaque with coat of arms. Corner windows to ground floor, concrete blocks with decorative slots above, and stepped stone parapet. Rear: 19 windows, the outer 4-window bays taller than the centre which has an entrance at each end [the right entrance is original]. A straight flight of steps with concrete screen wall far right, down to service room below south end of west wing. The left return [to Hindpool Road] of 5 symmetrical bays: 3:1:7:1:3 windows; the outer bays recessed slightly; full-height windows 4 and 12 are in slightly projecting bays of fine brickwork, projecting glazing. Right return abuts adjacent commercial premises for much of its length [the assembly hall], but there is a side entrance with double doors at the east [front] end.
INTERIOR: walls to corridors, classrooms and service rooms of glazed texture bricks [blue, light brown, silver grey] and white silica bricks, green tile bands at skirting level, other rooms plastered. Terrazzo flooring [cream] to corridors, cloakrooms, lavatories, two stairways. Steel stair-rails in geometric style with moulded handrails. Wood block floors to offices; classroom flooring of small red quarry tiles laid in herringbone pattern, with black border and fireplace apron.
Ground floor. East entrance wing: the main entrance hall has paired inner doors each with six glazed panels, original door furniture; flanking front offices, glazed doors to courtyard with tall flanking windows, main staircase of three straight flights, toilet with blue brick walls below. Original classroom doors are plain, with glazed panels and chrome handles. The assembly hall is on the north side of the courtyard: pilastered walls and tall paired glazed windows on south side. No fenestration to north side, wall lining of white tiles added later C20 when a breeze block partition wall was added at the west end and stoves, sinks inserted. Probably re-roofed at same time, with central ventilation unit and roof water tank. The west wing, north end: lavatories, probably originally the shower rooms [see below] have a hidden cistern room, blue glazed brick walls, iron-framed partitions with glazed panels. Stair well at south end of west wing: two straight flights, the lower with steel framed rail as main stairs, the upper flight with solid wall. Light grey brick walling below stairs, light brown above. In the south-west corner: original kitchen has walls lined with green, buff and grey bricks, 3-section wooden panelled partitions with original brass fittings screen the larder and storeroom with stone shelf below window. South wing: doors with original fittings, wood block floor to main rooms, paired catch-light windows; the original corridor now screened from courtyard by late C20 added range. In the south-east corner a former office has been partitioned, the walls are plastered above green glazed brick skirting.
First floor. East wing: the originally open stair access has been screened off; large central room over the entrance. In the north-east and south-east corners a large room with wood-block floor, later partitions. The south-west corner room has flooring of red quarry tiles with black edging, and a blocked fireplace with later drying room partition. A short flight of steps on the west corridor links to the higher-level corridors of the south and east wings.
GATE PIERS: Two pairs on east front- opposite the main entrance and at side path to north. Brick with concrete capping, octagonal, approximately 1.5m high, plinth and 3 grooved top courses. The remains of the original railings are visible on the outsides of the piers; the stone footings for the missing railings are thought to be a remnant of the boundary of the former Jute works, which stood on the site.
CYCLE SHED: Linked to the north boundary wall of the site, part of the walling of the former Jute Works, approximately 30m. from the main building and facing yard area. Approximately 10m. wide and 2.5m. high, rustic brick with flat arch of header bricks on steel beam, flat roof. The wide entrance boarded up at time of inspection- probably an open-sided building.
HISTORY: The Institute housed the Barrow Women's Institute [founded in 1925] and Junior Instruction Centre which had been in temporary premises. The 1934 Unemployment Act resulted in the building of instruction centres for girls leaving school [at 14] and unable to find employment. The description of the building at the opening includes: general classroom, craft rooms, domestic science rooms with larders and stores, changing room with shower bath compartment, headmistresses' rooms, offices, library, cloakrooms and cycle shed. Heating was by low pressure hot water, lighting by electricity with flush type ceiling fittings, cooking and domestic services by gas and electricity.
John Whinnerah was a member of Barrow Council from 1913 and chairman of Barrow Education Committee from 1924 to 1934, the year of his death.
The building was described by the President of the National Union of Teachers, as 'the finest Women's Institute in this country'.
A well-designed building that represents the efforts made between 1918 and 1939 to improve education and living standards for young people and women from the poorest areas of major industrial areas.
SOURCES: The News, Saturday 29 October 1938, p.7
Listing NGR: SD2045168382