Regent's Park
Open Air School
Bandstand off the Broad Walk, Regent's Park, NW1
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1910 - 1929

Open Air School

In 1910 an Open Air School for pre-tuberculous and weak children was established in Regent's Park.  It had been made possible mainly due to the efforts of  Dr Halliday G. Sutherland, the tuberculosis officer of the St Marylebone Dispensary for the Prevention of Consumption.

A meeting was held with the parents of a few children predisposed to TB.  They were told that, as they lived in poor and overcrowded conditions, their children would have better chances in life if their days were spent in Regent's Park.  Under this arrangement they would have to provide a midday meal to be eaten in the park and also pay 6d (3p) a week towards the services of a nursemaid, a girl of 16 years.

Despite opposition to the scheme - one elderly physician predicted that the children would all die of pneumonia and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children should be involved - it went ahead.

The children were brought to the Dispensary at 9 o'clock in the morning and taken home in the afternoon.  Their temperatures were taken in the mornings and afternoons and they were weighed and measured once a week.

The ten children were then taken to the park, where their only shelter was a tree.

One day, when Dr Sutherland was walking in the park, he noticed that there were 15 children instead of ten.  The nursemaid apparently had been offering pennies to healthy children attending Council schools to join the group in the hope that her salary would increase by so many sixpences.

It was then that Sir Frank Morris, the Chairman of the Charity Organisation Society, provided funds for a certified teacher for three months so that the idea would be properly tested.

Dr Sutherland had noticed the empty bandstand in the park which, as far as he could remember, had never been used during the day within living memory.  An application for the loan of this bandstand was made to the Office of Works and, a week later, a key was deposited at the Dispensary labelled "Key of the Regent's Park Bandstand".  The next morning the children took possession of it.

Classes were held during weekdays only, which enabled the bandstand to be available for concerts in the evenings and at weekends.

The children attended in all weathers and were provided with shawls and foot coverings when it rained. By the end of term they had all gained weight, and their colour and appetites had improved; they even petitioned for the School to continue during the holidays.  Their schoolwork was at least 10 percent better than the average of the same class in an closed-in school.  The health of the teachers improved also; rather than feeling fatigued at the end of the day, they were energised enough to go for a walk or play tennis.

The School closed in December 1929.

Present status (February 2013)

Note that this bandstand was located towards the north side of the Park, a little to the south of London Zoo, on the west side of the Broad Walk. (It should not be confused with the present bandstand, on the southwest of the Park, which was moved thither from Richmond Park during the 1970s - it was this later bandstand which was the site of the notorious I.R.A. bombing in 1982.)

There is little trace remaining of the original bandstand site, which is now just the meeting of footpaths a little to the west of the Victorian Readymoney drinking fountain on the Broad Walk.

Regent's Park
Looking northward towards the site of the first Open Air School.  London Zoo is in the distance.

Regent's Park
Looking westward from the Readymoney fountain towards the site of the first Open Air School.
Regents Park OAS
A class held in the open air in December 1911.

(Photograph courtesy of Mark Sutherland, Australia, the grandson of Dr Halliday Sutherland.  The image is taken from the First Annual Report of the St Marylebone Dispensary for the Prevention of Consumption.)

References  (Accessed 15th June 2014)

(Author unstated) 1912 Open-Air School in bandstand. Popular Mechanics (August), 199.

(Author unstated) 1919 Fresh air schools. Otago Daily Times, 6th June, 6.

Colquhoun D 1919 Fresh air schools.  Auckland Star, 3rd April, 7.

Sutherland H 1933 The Arches of the Years.  London, William Morrow.

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