Stowey House
Open Air School
 46 Clapham Common South Side, SW4 9BX
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1920 - mid 1960s?

Open Air School

Stowey House was a Victorian mansion (the 1880 birthplace of Lytton Strachey) off the south side of Clapham Common.  In 1920, as part of a second wave of establishing open air schools in the capital, the LCC set up an open air school in its grounds.

The Stowey House Open Air School accommodated some 300 'delicate' and pre-tuberculous children, selected from five times that number nominated by school medical officers.

Entered by a small door through a wall off the busy street, the School had 8 classroom pavilions (5 for boys and 3 for girls), plus a larger structure used for the pupils' daily rest, and for folk dancing and corrective exercise.  Parts of the school facilities and furniture had been built by the children themselves.  They also worked in the gardens.  Pupils remained at the School for about 12 to 18 months.

The staff consisted of a Superintendent, a Medical Officer, a nurse, a Headmaster (who also taught) and 7 teachers.

In 1923, at the suggestion of Sir Henry Gauvain, the LCC's consulting specialist for tuberculous children, an experiment was conducted to see how far sunlight treatment could be used in open air schools during the summer.  Some 35 boys were selected and, throughout the first week, worked at their class and manual lessons wearing light shirts, shorts and shoes and socks.  During the second week, the shirts were discarded and so on, until finally they wore nothing more than their breeches.  Their skin browned without any redness, and the children appeared more alert and energetic, and particularly happy with these new conditions.  It was decided the experiment had been a success and would be repeated the following summer.

By the end of the 1920s the School still featured sun therapy, used to treat anaemia or swollen gland problems.  The children, stripped to shorts or loincloths, sat on an open wooden platform.

The School survived the disruptions of WW2, and carried on at least through the 1950s.

The School closed in the mid 1960s.

Present status (February 2013)

Stowey House was demolished in 1967.  In the late 1960s its site, and the adjacent South Lodge, were redeveloped as new premises for the Henry Thornton School. These, in their turn, have been superseded by the buildings of Lambeth College.

The site of the Open Air School is now occupied by the southern part of the College and its grounds.

Stowey House OAS
The site of the School was on the southern side of the Clapham Centre of Lambeth College, seen on the left, with Brook House on the right.

(Author unstated) 1923 A sunlight treatment class  in London.  British Medical Journal 2 (3279), 837.

(Author unstated) 1929 Stowey House. An Open Air School.  Canadian Nurse 25,


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