Wolverhampton's  Locally Listed Buildings

Elston Hall Primary School

Local Listing:   Opened 1938.  The only purpose built new school of the inter-war period built by the then Borough of Wolverhampton.  A fine example of "modernist" architecture, essentially plain with strong horizontal emphasis offset by the vertical clock tower.  Architect H B Robinson.  Progressive design architecturally, reflecting social and educational trends of the period. Locally Listed, approved November 2001. Another building also designed by the Borough's Engineering Department is Low Hill Library.

Comment:   The information below is taken from the booklet issued for the "Formal Opening of the Elston Hall Municipal School" on 5th October 1938 (in the Wolverhampton City Archives).

As to the design of the building, the booklet says "The sketch plans were prepared by the Director of Education (with the Superintendent of Educational Buildings, Mr. T. W. Burgess, F.I.A.A.), and the working drawings by the Borough Engineer, Mr. H. B. Robinson, M.Inst.M. & Cy.E. (the Authority's Architect), and his chief Architectural Assistant, Mr. W. Wood, F.R.I.B.A.".  

From this and other borough council buildings of the time, it appears that the only architect involved was Walter Wood, who was in the Borough Engineer's Department, and he worked closely with the client department, in this case Education, represented by Burgess.

This combination of Robinson and Wood, working with a client department, was responsible for a number of well designed buildings of the period, including the Health Clinic at Low Hill and the Library at Showell Circus. 

Wolverhampton companies appear prominently in the list of sub-contractors, including Davies Bros. & Co. Ltd. (structural steelwork), Carver Ltd. (lantern lights), J. P. Waltho Ltd. (cloakroom fittings).  The metal window frames were provided by a Birmingham company, which is a bit surprising as there were at least two large Wolverhampton companies making metal windows at the time.

The building is single storey throughout, except for the feature clock tower.  It is in the form of two large quadrangles, side by side, with similar elevations all round.  The northern quadrangle was occupied by the junior school and the southern by the infants' school.  These two schools had separate head teachers and the building was effectively two schools in one, with a projected total of 904 pupils. 

The booklet says that the "building is faced with multi-coloured bricks in tones of yellow and brown, these blending well with the artificial stone dressings and the green Westmoreland slate roofs, which are capped with a light buff cresting tile".  The planning of the building seems to have been dominated by the desire to provide as much light and air in the class rooms as possible. The total cost of the buildings and equipment was £43,550.

The school was built on an eight acre site and included extensive playing fields.  The site was acquired in 1935 in response to the large amount of residential development going on to the north of the borough in the 1930s.  

The opening ceremony was performed by Sir Frederick Mander, M.A., B.Sc., the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers.  Also present was the Vice-Chairman of the Education Committee, Alderman Sir Chares A. Mander, Bart., D.L., J.P..  Presumably Sir Frederick was a member of the same family as Sir Charles, though the Manders are not usually associated with active trade unionism.