Vanessa Nursery School


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Vanessa Nursery School, Cathnor Road, London, W12 9JA


Ordnance survey map of Vanessa Nursery School
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Statutory Address:
Vanessa Nursery School, Cathnor Road, London, W12 9JA

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:


Nursery school designed for the Vanessa Redgrave Trust by Fitch and Co (job architects Peter Crutch and Stewart McColl) 1970-1972.

Reasons for Designation

Vanessa Nursery School, Cathnor Road, London designed by Fitch and Co, 1970-1972, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest; a distinctive composition by a noted interior design company, representing an infusion of pop architecture with product design principles to create a reassuring, welcoming space for nursery age children;  * Constructional interest; an early use of glass reinforced plastic in an educational setting; * Spatial planning interest; combining discrete areas of play with a swimming pool and easy access to outdoor areas; * Historic interest; a bespoke collaborative design and approach to nursery education by the education trust established by the actor Vanessa Redgrave and the local education authority.


Located on the site of two demolished pairs of semi-detached Victorian villas, Vanessa Nursery School was funded by an education trust established by the actor Vanessa Redgrave. The brief for the design was a collaboration by the Trust, the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) and the Headmistress Margaret Walsh, and stressed the need for a variety of activity spaces, outdoor play and aquatic development.

Fitch and Company were commissioned for the design, the lead architects being Peter Crutch and Stewart McColl. Fitch and Co specialised in commercial interior design, and did not have a track record in the design of education buildings. The scheme was developed from 1970, with work completing in 1972; the management of the school was handed to the ILEA on completion. The cost of the build was approximately £60,000.

There have been some alterations to the building which include the replacement of most windows with uPVC alternatives, notably the fenestration on the west elevation of the swimming pool range, and the addition of a storage pod in a sympathetic design at the west end of the teaching range. The approach to the main entrance has been remodelled to comply with new access regulations and to provide bicycle and scooter space. Internally, the bright paint scheme has been replaced with neutral tones. Partitions have been inserted to create a new cloakroom facility and secure reception area at the west end. A lowered acoustic-tiled ceiling has been inserted into the hall and additional toilets added at the east end. The double entrance pod has renewed top-lighting. The wall tiles to the swimming pool are replaced. Modern kitchen facilities have been installed adjacent to the entrance into the swimming pool. The garden room, noted as storage in the original plan, forms part of the teaching space.


Nursery school designed for the Vanessa Redgrave Trust by Fitch and Co, (job architects Peter Crutch and Stewart McColl) 1970-1972.

MATERIALS: steel columns on a reinforced concrete slab and a steel roof structure with wood wool slabs. External wall panelling is in red and cream glass reinforced plastic (GRP), internally lined with plasterboard, and internal partitions in painted concrete block.

PLAN: L-shaped with the principal teaching range at the north boundary of the site and the swimming pool range along the east boundary. A covered walkway from the double doors in the centre of the south elevation lead to a garden room (annotated as the store in the original design). The outdoor play area lies to the south of the teaching range.

EXTERIOR: single-storey with a flat roof to the teaching and swimming pool ranges. The main entrance is set back at the west end of the north elevation, with a covered walkway open to the west, supported by columns; the single door is an uPVC replacement. The north elevation is dominated by three, tall, domed, red GRP pods, on either side of which are office and ancillary spaces with cream GRP external walling. The pods on the north and south elevations rise above the flat roof of the hall to provide ventilation and clerestory lighting to the intimate teaching spaces within. The windows to the north pods are original, single panes set within moulded oval panels. To the east of the third pod is a secondary door painted green, part of the original palette of red, cream and green. At approximately the centre of the south elevation a double pod accommodates the uPVC double doors from the hall out to the play area, protected above by the covered walkway. To the right (east) is a single red pod and to the left (west) a single door leading from the cloakroom at the west end of the hall to the play area outside; further to the west is the reception space and beyond the later storage unit in cream GRP. Along the east boundary of the site, projecting from the east end of the hall, is the swimming pool range, with continuous replacement uPVC glazing to the west elevation. The walkway has exposed lattice beams painted blue leading to the garden room, oval in shape and flat-roofed, with rendered elevations, original reinforced glass windows and blue-painted, timber double-door with tall glazing panels.

INTERIOR: the plan-form survives with little alteration, but the bright primary colour scheme has been changed. Modern partitions have been added to the west end to create a secure reception and a cloakroom near to the door leading to the play area. The headteacher’s room lies at the west end of the hall, adjacent to the cloakroom and entrance to the reception. Toilets have been inserted at the east end of the hall in the position of the original cloak area. The primary space is the open hall, the yellow-painted lattice beams partly obscured by the inserted ceiling but present. The pods on the north side provide small spaces for different play but are open to the hall, approached over storage space secured below the floor. The pods on the south side are fully integrated with the hall; the double entrance pod is now used as additional teaching space. The lintel to the door has lozenge-shaped openings, but otherwise the building is plainly decorated without embellishment. In the ancillary rooms to the north-east of the hall, many original cupboards with fittings remain; the original paint scheme remains in the utility room. The doors into the swimming pool range are original. Here, the yellow-painted lattice roof structure is exposed and the pool itself is unaltered although the wall tiles are replaced. The changing and plant areas were not inspected.

The garden room is a plain space internally. The play areas are landscaped to the south-west, but with an asphalt covering on either side of the walkway.


Books and journals
Franklin, , Geraint, , Inner-London Schools 1918-44: A Thematic Study, (2009)
'Vanessa Nursery School' in Interior Design, (April 1974), 226-227
'£60,000 worth of child's play' in Surveyor, (11th January 1974), 28-29
'Perspective goes to school' in Building Design, (27th July 1973), 4
Walker, A, 'Plastics:The Building Blocks of the Twentieth Century' in Construction History, , Vol. 10, (1994), 67-88
Architectural Review, vol. 154, no. 919, September 1973, pp. 179-84


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

End of official listing

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