Swindon’s Sanford Street school for boys opened in 1881 with capacity for 794 boys. The building cost of £5 per child was in-line with the standard cost of infant schools at that time – but this one boasted a superior design. It’s reasonable to assume that the school’s designer, Brightwen Binyon, felt proud of his design for this school being as he published it in Building News in 1881. That decision had a far-reaching consequence – literally. For an Australian architect, HR Bastow, saw the publication and used the design as the basis for his Richmond North Primary School in Victoria, Australia. Thus, in Australia there is (or was??) a school if not identical then very, very like Swindon’s Sanford Street School.
The school board’s ambition gave Binyon the chance to be innovative. Their aspiration allowed him to introduce a non-denominational architectural style to an otherwise conservative (with a small c) client.
Popularising this aesthetic approach was the Chief Architect of the London School Board: Edward Robson.
The design arranged the school into three separate areas of open classrooms. Thus it went: juniors, middle, and seniors each with an individual external entrance, with through classroom circulation.
Binyon arranged the classroom blocks around the corner site to form a picturesque composition of gables and hipped roofs. Meanwhile the elevations combined different symmetries of large windows, entrances and dormers over-laid with classical motifs, decorative brickwork and terracotta monograms. Duncan & Mandy’s website has some great images of this detail on the building. Here are just a couple.
Sanford Street Successes
This blog is fond of a son and daughter of Swindon – (https://swindonian.me/category/sons-daughters-of-swindon/) so it’s interesting to see that the school has produced some Swindon citizens of note. And author Martin Robbins has produced a booklet Sanford Worthies that records four of them. Full info in this piece in the Swindon Link. But the famous four are:
- Harold Fleming. Footballer Harold Fleming (1887-1955) made his Swindon Town debut in 1907 at the age of 20, and played his first international two years later.
- Edward William Beard – he entered the world in 1878 and lived until the age of 104, having never stopped working at the building firm he led and which still thrives and bears his name.
- Frederick Hawksworth (1884-1976). Frederick joined the Great Western Railway as an apprentice at the age of 14. It was the start of a career which saw rise to the position of chief mechanical engineer.
- Frederick Herbert Spencer (1872-1946) – this Frederick was a prize-winning pupil who went on to become a teacher and obtain a doctorate.
Sanford Street School/Sanford House today
As for the present day – Sanford House finds itself put to good use. Run by Voluntary Action Swindon, the building houses eleven charities including MIND, Swindon Carers and Citizen’s Advice. You’ll also find here Swindon Borough Council’s Live Well hub tackling health inequalities by promoting and improving health and well-being and referring to other services.
In the car park you can hire scooters from Shopmobility to help you get around the town. There’s a cafe too with fair-weather seating that’s open to all and serving drinks and light snacks.
Sanford House also has room’s available to rent through Voluntary Action Swindon’s website.
And for more about Brightwen Binyon
Go to this write up on a talk about Brightwen Binyon given to the Friends of Swindon museum and art gallery by Michael Gray.
For more Swindon in 50 More Buildings posts go here: