Secondary school with perimeter walls, railings and groundskeepers’ lodge built 1908-1909 to the designs of W H Robinson, architect to Kent Education Committee.
Reasons for Designation
Clarendon House Grammar School, built 1908-9 to the designs of W H Robinson, and its associated groundskeepers’ lodge, walls and railings are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as a particularly well-composed and finely detailed neo-Georgian school, which is complete with its original perimeter walls and a groundskeepers' lodge.
* as a very well-preserved Edwardian secondary school with a significantly unaltered plan-form that serves to demonstrate the adaptation of school design in the wake of the 1902 Education Act;
* with the near-contemporary S D Adshead Public Library on Guildford Lawn with which the school forms a prominent and distinctive architectural pairing.
Clarendon House Grammar School was built 1908-1909 to the designs of W H Robinson, architect to Kent Education Committee, one of over 700 secondary schools built nationally by 1912 following the transfer of responsibility for schools to local councils under the 1902 Education Act. The school’s plot, which had formed part of the gardens of the house of Admiral William Fox (1733-1810) on Effingham Street, was acquired at the start of the decade under the leadership of the influential local Councillor and former Mayor, M J Poole. The purchase was initially arranged to provide a site for a new technical institute and a Carnegie-funded library, which was completed by October 1904 to the designs of S D Adshead on the eastern portion of the land. The western corner was however left vacant by this development and, with the Ramsgate Higher Education Committee keenly aware of the growing need for new secondary education provision in the expanding town. The land was subsequently secured for the new school. Building work undertaken by George Browning of Canterbury commenced in March 1908 and was completed by September 1909 at a total cost of £11,222.
The school was established as a ‘dual school’, comprising the County School for Girls (relocated from a temporary home at Cavendish House, which had been vacated by the earlier library) and the newly-formed Ramsgate County School for Boys. In addition to the day schools, the upper-floor rooms were used for evening technical classes. The boys and girls were initially taught in separate wings; boys taking the north range and the main hall and the girls occupying the south part of the site. Classrooms were arranged over the three floors of the wings flanking the central hall, these including chemistry and physics laboratories, a dissecting theatre, dark room, music room and practical rooms with fixed workbenches. A groundskeepers’ lodge was built on site to the south and a larger headmasters’ house was built nearby on Chapel Place. The first County School for Boys intake was just 56, with a teaching staff of four and the headmaster, but the school grew rapidly after the First World War to become the largest public secondary school in Kent by 1921 (with a total of 420 students; significantly more than the school was built to accommodate).
The rapid expansion of the school after the war brought about a proposal to the Kent Education Committee from the headmaster, H C Norman, that new premises be acquired for the County School for Boys. The Chatham House School on Chatham Street, which had been vacant since its requisition in the war, was the suggested site. There was some reluctance to this proposal, owing in part to bomb damage the site had sustained during the war which would require costly remedial work. Despite objections, no other economical options were found and, in 1921, Board of Education approval was given for the acquisition. The County School for Boys relocated to Chatham House in September 1922, leaving the Clarendon Gardens to be solely occupied by the County School for Girls.
The Clarendon House site saw significant development into the 1930s. An existing network of chalk-hewn tunnels beneath the school was extended in the lead up to war to provide air raid shelter for the school, with a reinforced concrete cut-and-cover tunnel leading to a reinforced room added at this time (not assessed as part of this listing). A gymnasium block was built, this being shown on the 1939 Ordnance Survey map (Kent; 1:2500). By the time of the 1956 revision a single-storey extension (accommodating the kitchens) had been added to the rear of the central hall. Into the 1960s, a single-storey range set in front of the 1930s gymnasium was built, along with a three-storey block set against its east end. A later temporary structure single-storey was added between the two wings of the school in around 1990. Clarendon House and Chatham House were merged in September 2011 to become the co-educational Chatham and Clarendon Grammar School, with the lower school accommodated at Chatham House and the upper school at Clarendon House.
Secondary school with groundskeepers’ lodge and perimeter walls built 1908-1909 to the designs of W H Robinson, architect to Kent Education Committee.
MATERIALS: red brick, Bath stone dressings and clay tile roof.
PLAN: butterfly plan fronting onto the junction of Clarendon Gardens and Elms Avenue with ranges set at right-angles to the north and south. The central portion of the school consists of a bowed entrance vestibule with stairs above, giving access to the double-height assembly hall and, via curved stairs, an upper-floor gallery. Set above the central hall is the present library (formerly technical classrooms). The wings to the north and south consist of classrooms and offices (facing out towards the street side) accessed from corridors (facing in) set over two storeys, with the south wing integrating an additional lower level as a result of the uneven ground level. Staircases occupy the ends of both the north and south wings.
EXTERIOR: restrained, orderly neo-Georgian composition enriched by Edwardian Baroque details and generous use of Bath stone dressings. The principal elevations facing the junction consist of a central bowed entrance bay flanked by broad symmetrical gabled ranges. The entrance, which forms a frontispiece to the gabled assembly hall range, is composed of a stone door surround with Ionic columns supporting a pediment with a dentilled cornice. Set within the surround are panelled oak double doors with a leaded fanlight. Above is a stone panel integrating a heavily swagged oeil-de-boeuf window and a simple square sash atop; each level being divided by a stone plait band which continues across the whole façade. Crowning the central range is a pedimented cupola with a copper-clad dome. To either side of the stone entrance, the bowed profile of the bay continues in red brick; with keyed narrow sashes and oeil-de-boeuf windows above, capped by a run of simple square sashes which light the stairs above the entrance. Beneath the sash immediately to the left of the entrance is a cast foundation plaque set into a stone surround, bearing the date of the school’s opening (14 October 1909) and the names of the council dignitaries present at the ceremony.
The ranges to the north and south each consist of a central pair of recessed bays, with gable-fronted end bays stepping forward. Between each of the bays are towering chimney stacks, combining stone and brick. The windows to the side ranges are all original timber sashes with multi-paned upper leaves, set under gauged brick heads, with arched heads incorporating keystones to central windows of the end bays. The gable-fronted bays are framed by stone quoins and broken pediments with dentilled cornices.
The rear elevations are simpler in form. The stone plat bands between the storeys continue, though, beside this, stone dressings are reserved. Third-storey windows are introduced, with sashes either set immediately below the eaves level or cutting through to create a half-dormer window form. The ends of the ranges and the return bays (which face into the centre) accommodate the windows to the third storey through a half-hipped roof form, which raises the eaves level here. Keyed lunette windows feature on the ground floor of the rear elevations and, in the case of the north range, a secondary entrance with a stone surround with a moulded hood and scroll motifs is integrated at the end (originally for the County School for Boys when the ranges operated independently). It is probable that a similar arrangement would have originally been found at the end of the south range. However, a link block and bridge to the later gymnasium has replaced any trace of this arrangement. The north side also has a bridging structure which links the central hall to the corridor of the north wing. At ground-floor level a 1950s kitchen block with a flat asphalt-covered roof and a run of casement windows is built against the end of the central range.
INTERIOR: the arrangement of classrooms and offices along corridors leading out from the central assembly hall remains largely unaltered. Classrooms were, as archive photographs of around 1910 demonstrate, simply furnished and most original internal features remain. Fitted workbenches in the technical classrooms have been removed, though original skirting, dado and picture rails and part-glazed doors with brass furnishings are retained in the majority of rooms and the corridors. Large multi-paned glazed screens to the corridors bring in borrowed light which, along with the high ceilings, create spacious and light classrooms (this is particularly evident in the upper-floor classrooms which are open to the roof, with trusses and iron tie-rods exposed). The stairs, at the ends of the north and south range corridors, have simple iron handrails. The workshops, at basement level, retain original fitted cupboards and part-glazed doors.
The assembly hall (also referred to as the dining hall) is a double-height rectangular space which occupies the central range with a gallery to its west end. This is accessed by a curved dual staircase with original turned wooden handrails. The hall has parquet block flooring throughout, with an original low-set stage to the east with side stairs. Tall sash windows with moulded surrounds light the east end. To the west end and side walls there are part-glazed double doors set within classical surrounds; that to the west set beneath an original wall-mounted clock in a hardwood case, manufactured by Rose of Ramsgate. Giant Doric pilasters are interspersed between the end windows and entrance doors, rising through to the gallery at the west end. Skirting, dado rails and a continuous moulded cornice feature along with three later fixed boards which record the names of former House Captains, Head and Deputy Head students. The stepped gallery is screened by a brass rail balustrade and accessed via part-glazed double doors from the stairs with further original part-glazed doors set within moulded architraves leading to the side ranges to the north and south. A small ante-room to the upper gallery at the top of the stairs is flanked by a pair of offices, both with original part-glazed doors and multi-paned mottled glass screens.
The present library, on the upper floor of the central range (converted from the technical workshops), has been modernised, although exposed original roof trusses and iron tie-rods have been retained. The northern pitch of the central range has two large inserted glazed sections. The single-storey 1950s kitchen block at the end of central range has a quarry-tile floor and modern fittings and work surfaces.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: low-set undulating red brick walls with cast-iron rails between stone-capped brick piers to the west. This section of walling terminates on the north and south sides with gate piers and metal gates (both are later replacements). The low-set northern wall is of flint capped with brick and a chain-link fence, with a further replacement gate set between piers to the east. The south retaining wall is of stock brick with banked supports and buttresses on the south side.
The contemporary single-storey groundskeepers’ lodge, set to the south, follows the design of Robinson’s main school building. The lodge has a C-plan form with a double-hipped roof. The principal north elevation has a central gable-fronted bay, with stone quoins and a broken dentilled pediment which integrates a pair of sashes with keyed and gauged heads. Flanking the central gable are two dormer windows, the left one having been enlarged, cutting through the eaves course. Side ranges have further half-dormers which also break through the eaves course, although these are in their original form, rather than the product of enlargement. The interior of the lodge was not inspected (2018).