Charlton Park
Open Air School
 Charlton Park Road, SE7 8HX
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1929 - 1962

Open Air School

Shrewsbury House Open Air School at Shooters Hill had opened in 1908 on a 21-year-lease.  When the lease fell in 1929, the School was forced to move.

The LCC purchased a 3-acre (1.2 ha) site, some 2 km away from Shrewsbury House, on the northeast of Charlton Park, for £3,000.  The new buildings cost an additional £4,900.

The Charlton Park Open Air School accommodated about 90 pupils with delicate health.  It consisted of an administration buildings, five classroom pavilions and a large open-sided dining/rest hall which was used for assembly, meals and rest.

The classrooms were made of wood, with the floor some 2 ft (60 cm) off the ground resting on concrete supports.  The roof was supported by wooden posts on each corner, and the walls were filled in up to waist level and open beyond this.  Entrance was up some wooden steps where there was a gap in one of the walls.  Canvas blinds could be pulled across during rainy weather.

The outside toilets were roofless and toilet paper was made from old telephone books cut in half and hung on a nail.

The administration building was built of brick and contained the Headmaster's room, a medical room, offices and the kitchen, where meals were cooked fresh daily.  The children were examined and weighed regularly by the nurse on duty in the medical room.

The school routine began at 9 o'clock with breakfast, which was followed by lessons.  At 11 o'clock, during playtime, the pupils were given a third of a pint of milk and a large spoonful of malt.  Lunch was at midday, followed by an hour's rest period, with the children lying in neat rows of camp beds made of tubular steel and canvas.  Following the afternoon rest, there were more lessons or games.  Much of the school day was taken up with physical activities - PE, gardening and woodwork.  The children were given tea before they went home.

As with the other open air schools, regardless of the weather, no rooms were ever closed on all sides, and the midday rest took place despite rainy weather, when the air, clothes, beds and blankets might all be damp.  In winter, blankets were issued for the children to wrap around themselves, but no heating at all was provided.

On the outbreak of WW2 in 1939, the School was evacuated to Bidborough in Kent.  The school facilities became a site for the fire service initially, but were taken over in 1941 for the LCC's Londoners' Meals Service, as one of its 200 or so communal restaurants for bombed-out residents.

After the end of the main Blitz period, people began to drift back into London, and the School recommenced activities in Charlton Park in 1942 - but had to share the premises with the restaurant.

Unlike many other open air schools, it carried on after the war, up until 1962, when it closed and its buildings were demolished.

Present status (February 2013)

The site was retained for educational use, and a new school for physically handicapped children opened in 1966.

The Charlton Park School for the Handicapped became the Charlton Park School, or Charlton School.  It is now the Charlton Park Academy.

Charlton Park Academy

Charlton Park Academy (above and below).

Charlton Park Academy
Bass E 2007 Charlton Park Open Air School.  North West Kent Family History Society 11, 21.22.

Jefferson EFE 1957 England's First Open Air School.  London, Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society.

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