Aspen House
Open Air School (I)
Christchurch Road, Brixton Hill, SW2 3ES
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1925 - 1977

Open Air School

In 1920 the LCC acquired the premises of Aspen House, a mansion built in the 1840s between Brixton Hill and Cotherstone Road, for a new tram depot.

The eastern part of the grounds was unused so, in 1924, it was decided to use these for an additional open air school.

The Aspen House Open Air School opened in November 1925, the fifth of the LCC open air schools to be built.  It was the first to be built in an 'improved design' which became a standard design for such schools.   Its four airy pavilions accommodated some 132 delicate pupils, and there was a shelter for dining and rest.  The stable block of the mansion house was used for administration offices.

The children, who were anaemic, asthmatic or undernourished, were taught in the open air whenever possible.  Lessons included 'nature study', gardening, physical exercises and creative play.  The children received three meals a day and rested on beds in the open air for an hour in the afternoon (longer in summer).  Most attended the School for about 18 months in classes of no more than 32 pupils per teacher.  A nurse was also employed by the School.

The pavilions had wooden walls up to waist level  and were open to the elements to allow maximum ventilation and sunlight to reach the children.  During cold weather, blankets and gloves were provided to keep the children warm.  No means of heating was provided.  In the winter snow would have to be cleared away from the desks before lessons could be begin.   In extreme weather the desks were all moved to the centre of the room to keep the pupils dry  (the open sides of the walls were eventually glazed, but not until the 1950s).

While it is likely that the School had to close for a time during WW2, as did the other LCC open air schools, it eventually re-opened and became one of the longest-lasting examples.

The School continued in this location until 1977, when it moved about 4 km north to new purpose-built premises in Kennington Park Gardens.

Present status (January 2013)

When the School moved, the site became the Orchard Centre, a special school or education support unit for excluded children, which closed in 1996.

The premises remained vacant for a decade or more.  An attempt to sell the site in 2003 for demolition and redevelopment was defeated after considerable local protest.

The site now houses the Orchard Primary School, a Voluntary Aided Muslim school.

The grounds retain the original pavilions, which have been Grade II listed.

Orchard Primary School
The School has its entrance in Cotherstone Road.

Orchard Primary School
The pavilions were Grade II listed in 1999.

Orchard Primary School
The site is now the Orchard Primary School.

Franklin G 2009 Inner-London Schools 1918-1944.  A Thematic Study.  Portsmouth, English Heritage.

Montizambert E 1928 Gazette's Budget of London Topics. Montreal Gazette, 18th August, 24.

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