Mary Datchelor School latest

Both appeals by St George regarding the Mary Datchelor School have been turned down by the planning inspectorate. You can read the full decision by downloading this PDF file.

In summary, the Inspector says that the architectural proposal is horrible and completely out of keeping with its surroundings, and that the facade of the school must remain intact. While the Camberwell Working Party lose a few small decisions, this is really a complete smackdown of the St George plans.

It will be interesting to see if they bother to resubmit, or cut their losses and run. It doesn’t do anyone any good to have that space empty, and redevelopment would be very welcome. It would be great to have it redeveloped as an art/cinema/cultural complex, but who’s got the money to do that?

Author: Peter

Long-time resident of Camberwell, author of this blog since July 2004.

42 thoughts on “Mary Datchelor School latest”

  1. What central Camberwell needs is a school. The Mary Datchelor site would be ideal. As a hot and harrassed parent of a 3 month and 3 year old, I’m looking at having to be cleansed from Camberwell altogether because the school lottery is such a disgrace. A disgrace! Even people paying the property tax of going to the ghastly ghetto of East Dulwich — all education now is paid for in some way — aren’t sure what they’re going to get over there. I don’t wanna go there, anyway, Camberwell is a proper place. East Dulwich is a set of overpriced hutches for yummy mummies and chaps who work for Channel 4 or are website designers or even lawyers.

    Sorry, I am hot & bothered, too hot to go to the Irish Festival on the Rye or Brazilian Festival on the South Bank which would have been brilliant.

    Also, my national football team have dumped theirself out of the World Cup. Their star player grinned like a kid who’d just been Asbo’d when he was red-carded.

    However, this website is back up, yay! It is my social life. Thanks for giving us the report, Peter.

  2. I agree with Dagmar — The Mary Dachelor site should be refurbished back into a school — After years of population decline and selling off all the grand old Victorian Schools for loft apartments — guess what? Southwark (and Lambeth) need new schools!!! maybe they could fund a new school together? (I know! lets ask New Labour to build us an MDF Academy) — the Art/Cinema/Cultural complex also sounds good to me too…

  3. Good Stuff!

    Make The Forum do it!

    There’s a free creche at Cambridge House on Tuesday night.

    - Meeting 8pm Cambridge House 131 Camberwell Road — the corner of Addington Square opposite Iceland (another shop is above Iceland, Rock-IT computers who, if your little ‘puter has a hissy fit, will sort it out. Ask for Gary)

    Electing a committee, adopting a constitution, and deciding things we consider priorities for the way ahead.

  4. Dagmar, you missed a cracking Irish Fair- one of the best I’ve seen in my 5 or 6 years of going.

    Although I was a little dissapointed that there were no little ringletted girls in neon crowns dancing.

    Also did anyone go to the arts & craft fair on the Green, Saturday?
    It had a fantastic camberwell Boho feel, poetry reading, african drummers, the Tango, graffiti art & more body piercings than you could shake a sharp pointy stick at. Great stuff!

  5. I’m a designer and I sometimes work for channel 4 and I’m an alrght person (I think)! But then I don’t live in East Dulwich.

  6. I went to the Arts & Crafts fair, and I’ll be writing something about it a bit later.

    Also, I’m a website designer (sort of), but I also don’t live in East Dulwich so I guess that makes me alright too.

  7. Forgive me, the pilates-riddled but dull-of-soul East Dulwich is sold to me as the El Dorado, Shangri-la, Hampstead, Totnes or Brighton of Britain. Also, I myself am an eager consumer of websites and Channel 4.

    The England defeat has made me question to whole national psyche. I am currently copy-editing an excellent leaflet written by some Germans on handling post-traumatic stress for G8 activists. This is helping me.

    Can we have “all right” instead of “alright” please, thank you. Oh dear, the leaflet’s wearing off.

    I am glad the school idea for Mary Datchelor has met with approval from our informed readers. That tonyblair is maybe right to surf, blithely, the market forces, but his “Education, education, education” slogan comes from a man who just doesn’t get it. They who go to public school have a natural tribal antipathy to folk they see as the herd. Let them eat cake, he says. If you don’t like the fierce competition for school places in SE5, simply move to East Dullwich.

    I bin dancing naked with the baby to African music this morning!

  8. To change the subject — my neighbour came around last night and asked us to cut down the beautiful mature willow in our back garden. It’s been there for decades and is apparently a rare breed — not that I know anything about this kind of thing. She said that her extension is subsiding and that the tree was to blame. I suggested that maybe a severe pruning would do the trick but the surveyor employed by her insurance company apparently recommended the tree be removed completely.

    Anyone know how to resolve such an issue? Can Southwark Council make assessments?

    I obviously don’t want my neighbour’s house to fall down. I like her. But I also don’t want to lose my tree, which I love dearly.

  9. Not that your comments are not always absolutely welcome here, Richie, but perhaps a post on the SE5Forum might also help produce a response for you?

    Otherwise, try spending 3 hours on the Southwark Council website before giving up in frustration.

  10. That’s sad, Richie, it doesn’t look good. It’s the roots that do the damage, obviously. Sycamores are the worst.

  11. The Mary Datchelor site would be perfect for a school‑I agree its so needed in the area (mum of a 14 month year old)-combined with a nursery for youngs babes and why not have a multi-tasking centre and put in a theatre/Art/Cinema/Cultural set-up too..It would be a community project, sounds fab-who is going to start the campaign!? The Steiner school @ Forest Row (and those @ Blackheath/Tooting/Wandsworth) are perfect examples of how community and schooling go well together-why not such a utopia in Camberwell-and now Steiner is closer to be funded by govt wouldn’t such an idea be a gem in our wonderful Camberwell.…?

  12. That is very interesting, Cam_beauty. I wonder if there are any local teachers who could give us their insights into the schools situation in Camberwell?

  13. Southwark Education department has a pretty poor reputation — this kind of project would be ideal for Camberwell and would give them a much needed feather in their cap — maybe they could share the cost with Lambeth Education and have a 50/50 split of pupils from both boroughs — Lambeth need secondary school places too…

  14. Richie and Willow

    Check with the council about the tree — many trees in inner city areas have preservation orders placed on them as a matter of course. Removing a tree without checking can lead to legal problems — if a neighbour spills the beans on you. There should be a link on Southwark’s website to the tree man (good luck). If you do find someone at Southwark they should be able to advise you. Try: as a start.

    As for subsidence. Surveyors often get elbows and arses mixed up and trees are always an easy culprit to point at with subsidence if they are within ten metres of a building. With Willows it’s probably even further. It could be poor foundations — who built the extension?

    How far is the tree from your neighbour’s home? And how long has it been there. How long has the bouse been subsiding? If the tree’s really old — there’s even a possibility of ‘heave’ if it’s removed — the ground underneath swells because there’s no tree removing gallons of moisture from the soil — Willows transpire a lot and take up a lot of water and expell it through their leaves. Cool shade and all that. And the roots can go a long way laterally… which can cause more esoteric problems like they are good at finding a broken or poorly sealed join in a clay drain and can find their way up into a bathroom loo.

    You might try root pruning. Basically hacking into the ground in an arc around the tree on the neighbour’s house side.

    Do get advice from an officer though.

  15. Thanks Mark, that all makes a lot of sense. The tree doesn’t have a preservation order on it unfortunately, but I’ll get a second opinion on the subsidence and do my best to save the tree!

  16. [Cue: Boo’s and hisses from the audience]

    I hope St George will resubmit in a way that meets the inspectors requirements.

    We can all join in celebrations of how the more left-leaning Camberwellians fought off the big bad developer and won but if St George cut and run (I couldn’t resist) then the building will sit disused and empty for many years to come.

    Other areas in London where St George have developed have seen general improvements all ’round. We could use some of that. Plus, Southwark Regeneration admits to pouring more public money into the North of the Borough because it attracts equal private investment — something they don’t see happening in Camberwell. Also, people who buy into St George developments will be people with incomes and lifestyles that will enhance the demand for better shops/restaurants, etc. around the area.

    St George also tend to provide leisure facilities. If we play our cards right, we could have them improve the Leisure Centre in exchange for giving their tenants free memberships.

    I know, I know. I sound far too much like my Father on this. But I do fear ‘winning’ on this issue will mean we’re stuck with a dis-used building and real improvements to the general area in and around the old school will take many more years, if ever.

    Throw your collective tomatoes now.

  17. I think the issue is not that residents don’t want any development at all there, more that St George have a reputation for overdeveloping unsuitable sites. One of our readers, Ben Patio, is an architect and very familiar with St George’s way of working; he wrote some very informative comments on it; see here, for example.

  18. TommyD — I totally understand the point you are putting across but the scenario you suggest can only really be achieved with a sympathetic developer who is willing to listen and appreciate the fine details — St George are absolutely terrible in this respect because they are not genuinely interested in innovative architecture, their only motivation is the bottom line — Also I absolutely loathe their development in Vauxhall on the old Nine Elms Cold Store site (a hideous building replaced by another form of hideousness) — Everything about that development is unforgiveavbly bland and unimaginative and it is completely isolated from the rest of Vauxhall and the vibrant Portuguese Community on the South Lambeth Road which has genuine character and variety and is a testament to the hard work they have put in over the last 10–15 years — it used to be pretty grim and delapidated around there but at least it now has some soul…

  19. I lived in Vauxhall 5 years – still own a flat there (in the testament to true Bohemian living Bonnington Square). I agree St George Wharf isn’t the best – but don’t see it as an eyesore. And while I appreciate what the Portuguese community has done by taking a place no one wanted and making it there own, I must respectfully disagree that they’ve played a huge part in the transformation of Vauxhall.

    St George’s private investment spurred on equal public investment in transport. The tax money gained from St George (from idle land to massive council tax) meant the Council and TfL were happy to invest. New restaurants/bars/coffee shops have come to serve the people living in St George. MI6 played a public role and more recently, a new 5 star hotel of private investment. Add to it the huge investment by the gay community in clubs/bars and now residential and that is what made a dramatic difference in Vauxhall.

    Camberwell wants to retain its off-beat, bohemian living. I really do appreciate that. But if St George (or its equivalent) isn’t allowed to redevelop Mary Datchelor – then folks best get ready to wait a long time and watch it sit idle. As you say, no developer is going to lovingly restore it and make no money.

    The option is to hope for public investment, which I’m convinced we won’t get for a very long time. Southwark has made it clear – Camberwell is not a ‘pressing need’. To me, that translates that North of the Borough they have a similar ‘Vauxhall experience’ where private investment is making it easier to match it with public funds. The same for Elephant & Castle – private investment there makes it easier to redevelop Aylesbury. To the other extreme is Peckham – which became a ‘pressing need’ when international news coverage showed how neglect led to cold blooded murder. Camberwell is neither – no major problems exposing a council’s dirty laundry, but not enough private interest to make matching public investment viable.

    I’d love to see Mary Datchelor stay open as a school – or become a community centre. But such massive public investment isn’t on the cards for Camberwell – and if they bend and say it is, I assure you it will be a ’20 year plan’ that will never come to pass.

    I think we’d do better to sit down with them and negotiate than to simply fight them, win and walk away with a boarded up, dis-used trophy.

    And I swear to any god or goddess you like that I’m not a registered Conservative!

  20. TommyD — I totally agree with you about the 20 year plan excuse that never comes to fruition…and it would be a shame if nothing constructive gets done with the MD Site and it’s idle for many years to come once again…there are some very innovative architects working on the Elephnt Development…maybe St George could be pursuaded to take the ideas of a third party on board? Somebody able to appreciate the fine details perhaps? — Have you seen the new dance studios in Elephant that were converted from Charlotte Sharman Primary School? Siobahn (can’t remember how to spell that name!) Davies Dance Studios I think they are called — it’s a really quirky and sympathetic development

  21. The hideous mountains of flats at Vauxhall are the droppings of that dumbo Prescott. That’s the opinion of Simon Jenkins, anyway, in the Daily-Mailized, scare-’em Evening Standard, but I’m inclined to believe him.

    Brendan who owns the Hermits tells me that Save the Children had the Mary Datchelor School for free and that St Georges will probably play a waiting game and get their hands on it anyway.

    I kinda agree with Jenny Agutter and the kinda kindly gentry of Camberwell Grove who curate the road with such care.

    I know people in the low-level council flats on the Grove where the Luftwaffe created space for them. They live well in those flats, cheek by jowl with the posh. It makes you think that good housing makes for good people of all kinds.

    Lottery money has done wonders in these parts — look at the Horniman. It’s time that the real middle England is compensated in this way for its anxious lives under Tonyblair and good old “I’m real, me” Prescott. Otherwise, they may vote for caring Cameron and his Nothing Hill, Zac Goldsmith/Prince Charles, neo-fascist neo-romantics and really get stuffed.

    I humbly contend.

  22. Ha.. good debate on this one. While I think a school would be great I think in reality its nothing more than a pipe dream. Academy’s are the current fad and they involve new sustainable builds with learning acoustics etc. If it has to become houses and flats I would like to see the gardens kept of course (st George were going to build on these) I would also like to see a new street opened between Grove lane and Camberwell grove running along the north edge of the tennis courts with a facing terrace of houses with iron railings.. this would open the whole area into almost a Georgian square. I think the space needs a mix of designs, those on the Grove and proposed rd should be Georgian style with the right materials — London stock brick, slates, welsh pennants, sash windows and decent ironwork – NO plastic b&q lanterns please! Those at the back could be a modern contemporary design. The site as the area needs a mix of styles otherwise it becomes an overbearing development on the area. Residents should club together and buy it off of st George and then develop something together that the majority would be happy with and make a bit of money on top.. everyone’s happy.

    I really don’t think the 1920’s building on the back is special or worth saving. I find it a dull block — but that’s just my opinion.

  23. I spent 7 years as a pupil at Datchelors and 5 years later went to work for SCF for 8 years. An educational trust was set up with the one million pounds that SCF paid for the site. Mary Datchelor was a voluntary aided (Clothworkers Guild) school. ILEA paid the staff salaries. It was a free school for bright children from all over Lambeth and Southwark. I still feel sad that politics destroyed such a valuable resource for both boroughs.

  24. I’m just trying to catch up with news on Mary Datchelor having left there 30 (yes thirty) years ago! The school was set up to educate girls, and it would be marvellous to see it return to its educational purpose.

    An aside — some of us are wanting to hold a reunion this summer — and would like to hold it as close to the school (would have like to be in it, like the 10 year one) as possible. Does anyone still living in the area have any suggestions or contacts please?

  25. I was one of the last remaining girls at Datchelor! a lovely place to learn and become part of the community! when looking for a school place for my little girl — now 20 — datchelor would have been the one for her! instead i had to pay for her to have an education! something i though i would never do bring back grammar schools!

  26. I was a pupil at Datchelor in the late 60’s / early 70’s and went on to study Chemistry at uni. I still think there is a place for single sex education, especially in the sciences. Any chance or interest in re-opening as a sixth form college specialising in maths & sciences do you think?

  27. Special Message to Carole, Lesley Taylor, Sharon Baldock and Christine. If you are not already aware, please visit Sounds like the building is suffering the same way that the club is. Protest at the attitude of the retiring officers and insist on an EGM to overturn the decision to close the Old Girls Club.

    People of Camberwell. I spent seven years at the school in the lovely haven of Camberwell. Thanks for the views, when the lessons got too much staring out of the window was great!

    If you feel that the building should be returned to some kind of educational institute; push for it. Recently a school was opened (in an old school building) following a grant given to a group of parents. Mmm thats got me thinking!!

  28. I’ve been reading evidence to the House of Commons Public Administration Committee on the subject of Lobbying. It includes an extract from an article in the Evening Standard of 30 July 2007, quoting a letter written by a director of a PR company called PPS:

    “We have created a large number of letters for projects as diverse as power stations, quarries and supermarkets. A campaign of this kind is labour intensive, but does yield very helpful results.
    “PPS has conducted a campaign of this kind for St George as part of their programme to secure planning permission for Imperial Wharf. A steady stream of positive letters, garnered by PPS, has helped to right the balance in St George’s favour, and helped shape the perceptions of public opinion that are held by councillors, [council] officers and the media.”

    This led me to wonder whether similar tactics might have been used in support of planning applications by St George for the Mary Datchelor site. Would anybody know?

    Tony Lynes (tony.​lynes@​googlemail.​com)

  29. Hello. I graduated from Datchelor’s in 1964. Does anyone remember me? Dorothy?Linda? Brenda? Elizabeth?

  30. If anyone reading this is a Datchelor Old Girl please read the following good news. At the EGM of 5 July 2008 a vote of 337 members overturned the decision to close the Old Girls Club. Please email me if you want to know more ali@​savemarydatchelor.​org.​uk

    People of Camberwell, we hear your cry regarding lack of schools. At our EGM it was put forward by quite a few of us, that some educational establishment needs to be re-established to ensure the will of Mary Datchelor doesn’t die. The main ethos of the school was to bring quality education to those who perhaps couldn’t have otherwise afforded it. I appreciate we’ve had the education act since then, but I can’t help observing from the posts written here that perhaps it still isn’t offered on an equal basis. Best wishes to you all. Ali

  31. Hello Ali,

    Nice to hear from you

    Such a shame that Mary Datchelor and Wilson Boys moved out in the 70’s and 80’s

    My family were not privilaged enough to send me to a good school but I would have cruised into Grammar School (living in nearby Kennington at the time) — I was fully bi-lingual and literate in Spanish,Portuguese and English by the age of 11

    As a result state school compromised my level of adequate education — It may not have been fair for the majority that a small minority were “cherry picked” into Grammar Schools but at least some kids were fortunate to get a better start in life.

    Now we can be thankful that ALL the less-affluent kids have a democratic right to a sub-standard education and not just a chosen few…

    What was it Oscar Wilde said?

    “Democracy is perpetuated by the people,for the people, to the detriment of the people”


  32. Just read a bit of the comments about my old school — Mary Datchelor. Hope it will be resurected to do the job that Mary Datchelor intended it for — education! Mine was brilliant and have the school to thank for an awful lot — least of all the benefits of a good all round education. Come on Camberwell, let the old girl live again!

  33. Stella

    It’s not going to happen

    Currently, the school is being converted into luxury apartments and townhouses are being built in what was the playground

    But perhaps a school bearing the Datchelor name and with the same values could be built here again one day…

  34. I was a pupil from1945-53. I know I received an excellent education. If people in the areaant a good school they should save the old building. I remember the pretty little garden in the middle. The school was democratic not elitist. I became a teacher and feel there is a place for Grammar schools. They are after all historic. Luxury flats can be built without having to destroy an established educational institution,

  35. My mother, Gladys Bilbe, was a Mary Datchelor pupil in the early 1920s. She was forever grateful for the education she received there. As a bright child, one of 5, she would never have received the same standard of education at her local school in Rotherhithe. She used to recall the journey to school — in the milkman’s horsedrawn cart through the country lanes and over the bridges of Rotherhithe!

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