North St: The National School or The Parish School on North Street – Lost Heritage

The Parish school, then known as the National School, was built on the corner of North Street and College Road, in 1854.  The building was especially designed for it, by the eminent architect James Piers St Aubyn, who also designed the romantic additions to Saint Michael’s Mount in Cornwall.

Triangular gable ended school house
Bromley National School,
from the BBLHS’s Cuwood Collection

It was locally listed and, protected as a key building in a Conservation Area but nevertheless in 1987 the Council offered it to the Methodist Church to relocate from their existing site which the Council wanted for what was to become the Glades shopping centre. Thus, it was demolished.

Parish School in the 1980s

The old National School was a successor to the Bromley Charity School that started in 1717, in an old gravel pit that’s now covered by the south corner of Bromley South station.  The children of the working or middle classes were not normally educated in that day and age, so it was remarkable that the Bishop of Rochester (they were Lords of the Manor of Bromley) funded 10 boys, and (surprisingly), 10 girls.  This attitude of not educating poorer people changed with the Elementary Education act of 1880 requiring all children to be schooled.  

According to HG Wells, funding these school places was in opposition to the great and the good of the Vestry (who ran the town until it became incorporated in 1901 with a Local Board), as it was

 “achieved against considerable resistance. There was a strong objection in those days to the use of public funds for the education of “other people’s children”, and he continues to say that the school offered

 “a mere foundation of an education that saw to the children up to the age of thirteen or even fourteen, and no further.”

Glimpse of the school from Barrie-Gibson’s 1977 film
of the County Court being extended over College Green.
Thanks to Bromley Gloss.

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