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Old Thorntonians Association
Henry Thornton School, Clapham

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The school was founded in 1894 as "Battersea Polytechnic Secondary School", in Latchmere Road, London, SW11. The original pupil complement was 35 boys; in 1895 girls were admitted, and the numbers rapidly increased to the maximum then allowed, 80 girls and 120 boys. Separate schools were provided in 1905, with the boys remaining at the Polytechnic.


In 1918 governance was transferred to the London County Council, the school then being renamed "The County Secondary School, Battersea". The name was again changed, in 1923, to "Battersea County School". The continuing increase in pupil numbers made a relocation from Latchmere Road inevitable, and in 1926 a new site was acquired at South Lodge, 45 South Side, Clapham Common, SW4. Building work started in 1927, and the new school - now known as "Henry Thornton School" (HTS),after one of the district's most illustrious residents - was formally opened by Lord Monk Bretton, Chairman of the London County Council (LCC),on 28 June 1929.  Mr W D ("Taffy") Evans, who had previously taught at Latchmere Road, was appointed Head Master in 1927, on the death of Mr Arnold Smith, who had held a similar post at the predecessor school in Battersea since 1918. 


The total cost of constructing and equipping the new building, located at the Elms Road end of the grounds, and purchasing the site was about £50,000. It was designed by George Topham Forrest, chief architect of the LCC, and the main contractors were A E Symes, Ltd, Albert Works, Stratford.


When the school opened in 1929 there were 261 boys. By 1934 that number had increased to 421, and in 1948 it was 450.


Pupils were evacuated to Chichester, West Sussex, from October 1939 until July 1943, continuing their education in conjunction with boys at the local High School, although both groups continued to be taught by their respective staff. During this period the "home" school. was redesignated "South-West London Emergency Secondary School for Boys", to cater also for pupils from other schools in the area who remained in London. 


After the war it was "business as usual" under Mr Evans, who retired in 1951, being succeeded by Mr D B Gaskin. Mr Gaskin moved to another grammar school headship in 1955, and Mr B J F Dorrington joined the school as Head Master in Spring 1956.


The school changed to comprehensive status in 1968, pupil numbers increasing from 450 to around 1,500, owing to the influx of boys from two other local schools. The first Head Teacher of this era was Mr R A Heaton Page.


HTS survived at Clapham until September 1986, when it merged with another school, Hydeburn, at the latter's Chestnut Grove site in nearby Balham. The remaining buildings comprising the 1929 school (South Lodge having been demolished in the late 1960s to make way for the comprehensive school fronting South Side) were used from the mid-1980s by the Inner London Education Authority as the Henry Thornton Centre of Clapham and Balham Adult Education Institute. In April 1990 the Centre transferred to Lambeth Council, which continued its use as a community education centre.


The 1929 building was demolished in 2003.

The site continues to be used for educational purposes, the present occupancy being:

  • Lambeth College, at 45 South Side, one of the largest further education colleges in London 

  • Lambeth Academy, Elms Road (built on the site of the 1929 school),which opened in September 2004. The Academy, described as "a unique new secondary school for Year 7 pupils", is owned by the United Learning Trust, a not-for-profit educational charity, and managed independently of the local authority.


A fuller version is available from Ted Hayward, Secretary of the Association; get in touch with him here.