Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sanford Street School

As 140 members of Swindon Borough Council’s children’s services department move out to Wat Tyler House, Sanford Street School building stands boarded up and vulnerable. It was quite a different story when the school opened in 1881.

On January 8, 1880 Ipswich based architect Brightwen Binyon presented his plans to the Swindon School Board for approval.  The cost of building a school to accommodate 800 children on the corner of Sanford Street and College Street was estimated at £4,000.

In the same year Brightwen Binyon also designed Queenstown School and Gilbert’s Hill Girls and Infants School. Westcott School in Birch Street followed in 1881 and in 1891-3 he designed extensions to the Mechanics Institution, another Swindon building in dire need of rescue.

Gloucester builder D.C. Jones & Co won the contract for Sanford Street School but by August 1880 they were in trouble.  Work was not progressing as speedily as the hard pressed School Board required.  Mr Jones was called in for a rap on the knuckles and was given a notice of the penalties his company faced if the building was not completed on time.

In February 1881 the school fees were set at 3d per week for Standards 1 to 4 and 4d for Standards 5 and 6. With the school building insured for £3,700 and the furniture for £300, the opening date was set for April 4, 1881.

Walter Painter, the ten year old son of James Painter, Manager of a Condensed Milk factory, and his wife Amelia, joined the school on its opening day, beginning an association that would span 50 years. Walter began his on the job training as a pupil teacher in 1884 and became a certificated teacher ten years later.  Walter retired on July 1, 1931 after 47 years on the staff.

As now, the pressure on school places was intense and by December 1892 headmaster Mr Williams was directed to admit only boys living in close proximity to the school.  A circular was sent to parents living out of the area inviting them to remove their boys to schools nearer their homes.

In August 1914 the building was temporarily commandeered by the War Office as a hospital.  Lessons were relocated to the Wesley Sunday School in Faringdon Road and the Primitive Methodist Sunday School in Regent Circus.

Former Sanford Street School old boys include Frederick Hawksworth, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the GWR 1941-1947, Swindon Town football legend Harold Fleming and Rick Davies founder member of the 70s band Supertramp.

In 1966 Sanford Boys’ School amalgamated with the girl’s school on Drove Road and in recent years it has housed Swindon council’s education department.

Sanford Street was built in around 1873 and named after Charlotte Sanford, the wife of Lord of the Manor, Ambrose Goddard.  The street once numbered 24 houses and a Congregational Chapel built in 1877, demolished during the 1970s regeneration of the town centre when so many of Swindon’s historic buildings were destroyed.

As the shutters went up on the former school, Coun David Renard, deputy council leader and cabinet member for children’s services told David Wiles of the Swindon Advertiser that “all the options for the building’s future use were still on the table.”

Councillor Renard said he did not want to see the building stand empty for a long period and that his personal preference would be to convert it into a central office for the charity and voluntary sector.

map of Central Swindon

1922 Sanford Street School Orchestra published courtesy of Andy Binks

Old Sanfordian Harold Fleming published courtesy of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery

Rick Davies of Supertramp

Sanford Street School today - boarded up and already looking very vulnerable

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  1. I really hope this building is saved, it would be another another small but important piece of Swindon's past lost.

    Any idea why there is a single terraced house left next door? It's as if one single homeowner refused to sell up while everything was knocked down around them.

  2. I believe this was the caretakers house.

  3. In the late 1960s (and possibly longer) the school was used by the college for O-level courses. I did several evening classes there. Feel quite nostalgic because without it I wouldn't have got to university or a law degree etc.

  4. I attended this school prior to emigrating to Australia March 1965

  5. I attended here from '56 to '61.
    In '61 I was awarded a school prize, I was unable to attend the prizegiving and to this day I still do not know for what it was awarded.

    John Taylor