kenton library 1
Kenton Public Library (1939)

I wrote earlier about W.T.Curtis and William Burchett, architects to Middlesex County Council, who were responsible for many schools and public buildings in north-west London, including the iconic Kenton Public Library, recognisable by their brick construction, strong horizontal emphasis, flat roofs and prominent staircase tower. I was pleased to find that they’d designed my primary school, Pinner Park, in 1934, which used innovative construction methods. (Mentioned in Pevsner’s The Buildibgs of Middlesex. No usable pictures, alas.)

My secondary school, Harrow Weald Grammar, a mock-Jacobean brick construction, opened in 1933, was very different. As the building is now being converted to housing, I became curious about its designer. I was amazed to find that it was also W. T. Curtis. Curtis’s change from traditional to modern was very sudden.

Harrow Weald County School (1933)

In their page on Curtis and Burchett, Modernism in Metroland explain how it came about:

The Wall Street crash and world financial crisis of 1931, one year into W.T. Curtis’ reign, forced a change in the departments’ designs in order to cut costs. Aiming to reduce spending by 30%, Curtis and Burchett adopted a more modernist utilitarian approach to school building. Their first innovations were using steel framing at Uxendon Manor School, Wembley (1934), and then concrete slab floors supported by pillars at Pinner Park School (1934). These techniques allowed flexibility in internal planning, whilst also keeping the traditional Victorian school courtyard layout.


  1. Curtis may also have been finding his own architectural voice that early in the chief job. HWGS looks like many a design by his predecessor, HG Crothall, eg Thames Valley Grammar School, Twickenham. Look also at Hampton Grammar School, and at Mogden sewage works at Isleworth: it is difficult to be sure which of them designed these.


  2. I have some scans on Flickr from the ‘Architect and Building News’ from 1933 of Oakington Manor School in Wembley which describes the school and how Curtis has ‘Gone Modern’ as well as some pictures and plans of the schools. This must have been the first modernist school in Britain and a clear influence on others later in the decade.
    You can see the album here:
    I also have scans of plans and pictures of other schools across Britain as well as some photos


      1. I would like to see more plans of the Middlesex schools. My Mum went to Belmont Secondary School in Harrow but there are few pictures of it. The neighbouring Primary School still remains though


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