A SHORT HISTORY OF QUEENSTOWN SCHOOL
Queenstown (Pictured above in this 1977 Adver image) was one of the first schools in New Swindon to be built by the Swindon School Board, which had been formed in 1877.
Following the Board’s decision to build a school in the relatively new area of Queen’s Town, a Mr Barker offered them for the sum of £420 a small piece of land of some 66 perches located to the north west of Whale Bridge and adjacent to the canal, the Board made an offer of £350 but eventually settled on a price of £400, with the vendor also providing an entrance to the site from Merton Street. (Apparently one perch is five and a half yards long, or square, so 66 perches would be 5.5 yards x 363 yards or 1996.5 sq yards which is equal to approximately 1700 sq. mtrs)
By March 1879 the Board had advertised for an architect to draw up plans for a school to be of plain and substantial character that could be enlarged in the future and which could accommodate 250 children at a cost of no more than £5.10 per head.
Mr Brightwen Binyon of Ipswich secured the contract, as he had already built school for 6 other School Boards without any problems. Mr Binyon obviously impressed the New Swindon Local Board of the time as amongst other Swindon buildings he designed and are still in existence, include Sanford Street School and the Town Hall in Regent Circus.
Swindon builder T. Barrett undertook construction of the new school and according to Astill’s 1883 Swindon Almanack, the total cost of the land and building added up to £1900 8s 9d and could accommodate 275 children, although other sources quote the accommodation as both 204 and 250 places.
Queen’s Town School, as it was originally written, opened without any official public ceremony on the 6th May 1881, however notices were delivered to many homes in the area requesting that parents did not withdraw their children from the schools they were already attending until the 31st May, the end of the school year, as it might have an effect on the Government grants to those schools.
As the School Board had envisaged in the original specifications, there was a need to expand the school and a few years after it had originally opened a new 265-place Girls School was constructed at the cost of some £2234. This new extension opened in February 1885.
In the last third of its life, a number of changes occurred to the ages of children using the school, and shortly before WW2, due to building work at the Queenstown site, the infant children found themselves having to take a short walk across Queenstown Bridge to be temporarily schooled at College Street Infants. This turned into an amalgamation of the two schools in 1939 and was based at the College Street site, and as a consequence of the amalgamation, Queenstown became an all girls school. This is how things remained until 1946 when it altered once again, and a return to the use of the whole school as an infant school occurred, which is how it remained until its eventual closure in the autumn of 1977. (Right, a class from around 1945. Image from 'Andy' Andrews, his wife Margaret nee Jones is in the back row second right)
Above, a view of class 2a and 2b taken on May Day 1925
However the closure of the school for education was not the final demise of the old buildings, as there was a final swansong. Following a short period of conversion a new use emerged and it was reopened in July 1978 as a temporary Magistrates Court, a 'temporary' role that actually lasted for twelve years. It eventually closed 1990.
The derelict buildings remained in situ for another few years (Pictured left in 1992), before eventually succumbing to the bulldozers in March 1993. In those final few years, the school looked a rather lonely and forlorn sight, sat as it was all on its own, with the people and homes it had once served now a distant memory, due to the obliteration of the Queenstown Area in the1960’s and 70’s under what Swindon Council described as a slum clearance programme to remove unfit dwellings.
Following the demolition of the school (Pictured right in 1993 as demolition work began), a number of uses for the land were put forward, including the sale of the site for a Mosque, but subsequently all the ideas fell by the wayside and two decades later (2013) the site remains as open land used only as a temporary car park, with the only remaining connection to the school being the name of the car park which retains the name Queenstown.
Looking into the future, the car park is due to be closed in 2013 as the old school site forms part of the re-named Kimmerfields commercial development, but given the economical situation we currently find ourselves in, it seems highly unlikely that anything will change here for a number of years yet.
Information gathered from various sources, mainly held in the Local Studies Department at the Central Library, Regent Circus, Swindon, including Education Committee Minutes, Astill’s Original 1883 Swindon Almanack and Traders Register and The politics and Personalities of the Swindon School Board, 1877 – 1903 by William Silto.
Kevin Leakey - 03 August 2011
Updated - 01 August 2013