Birley House
Open Air School
 108 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3PO
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1908 - 1927

Open Air School

After the success of the experimental school at Bostall Wood in the summer of 1907, the LCC established several new open air schools the following year.

One of these was in Forest Hill, in the garden of Birley House, a mansion on the north side of the London Road, a little to the west of the recently built Horniman Museum, and with the public Horniman Gardens behind.

The school - also known as the Horniman Park Open Air School - accommodated up to 75 delicate boys and girls aged from 6 to 14 years, with a teaching staff of four, plus domestic help.  Some of the teaching classrooms, or pavilions, were constructed by the pupils themselves, to a design by the headmaster.

Plans had been made before the outbreak of WW1 to move the school to larger premises at Herne Hill.  However, the relocation did not take place until about 1927, when Brent Knoll Open Air School opened in Lower Sydenham.

Present status (January 2013)

There are no indications of what use may have been made of Birley House and its gardens once the school departed.  The house and its neighbour appear to have survived until about 1950, when they were demolished and their grounds incorporated into the Horniman Gardens.

The site of the Birley House garden is now the location of some of the educational garden plots.

Horniman Gardens  Horniman Gardens
Looking across London Road towards the Horniman Gardens. 

Horniman Gardens  
Horniman Gardens  
Looking down into the Gardens from London Road (left).  The Medicinal and Food Garden areas west of the Horniman Museum (right).

(Author unstated) 1913 The care of London's school children.  British Journal of Nursing, 19th April, 303-306.

Broughton H 1914 The Open Air School.  London, Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons.

Johnson AV 1914 Open-Air Schools.  British Journal of Nursing, 6th June, 499-500, continued 13th June, 523.

London County Council 1911 The Organisation of Education in London.  LCC Education Offices.

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