New schools for old

We went for a swift drink at the North Star tonight (our local – great pub, relaxed atmosphere, also does very good food) but hurried back for Rich to catch the football at home. As the French are now out of Euro 2008 I’ve officially lost interest, while watching Croatia-Turkey out of the corner of my eye....

On the way back, we were noting how the new buildings at the corner of Basire Street are beginning to take shape. It’s taken months to get the site ready, presumably sorting out contaminated land because it’s an old Texaco station (closed before the price of fuel took off; petrol for flats may not seem such a smart move now). But suddenly a concrete frontage has appeared and you can see the building take shape.

Beyond that you can glimpse the curved corners and light walls of the mixed private/housing association development on the site of the old Rosemary school. Despite its pretty name, Rosemary was a spectacularly ugly building (described as ‘uncompromising’ by the planners). It had been criticised by Ofsted as not providing the best environment for the its pupils, who have servere special needs. They are now benefitting from the multi-million pound new Bridge School in Holloway. So the redevelopment is a win-win; the new flats look a lot nicer and they help pay for the new school. I’m glad that the council stood firm and refused to let the developer cut down the trees on site that are part of a line going down Coleman Fields. Not sure who let them get away with the daft names however: it’s an island site, so the development is called, er, The Island, with individual flats called Fiji,Tonga, Hawaii but also Shetland and Skye. Perhaps the latter have less heating.

Back on dry land, it’s not only Rosemary that’s relocated. Nearby is the coloured dome (well, more a decapitated cone) of New North Community School, the new building housing the merged Ecclesbourne and Charles Lamb primary schools. Ecclesbourne has its place in local history as the original base for the Anna Scher theatre.

On our side of New North Road, the old Ecclesbourne site has been converted to flats, and there are still signs up directing people to new homes at ‘Chaplin Mews’. That’s the conversion of another old school, Shepperton, on Shepperton Road. It stopped being a school back in the 1950s and was latterly the Art & Design centre of City & Islington College. The colourful artworks at Islington Police Station are some of their creations.

The College have been on a building boom of their own, with striking new centres in Holloway, Finsbury Park and at the Angel. A century on, the design of school buildings may have changed. But it’s good to see the old ones being reused.


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