New Charter School, East Dulwich
by Ian McInnes
The new Charter School East Dulwich shares the former Dulwich Community Hospital site in East Dulwich Grove with the new Dulwich Health Centre - which is expected to bring together a range of community health and GP services under one roof. Designed by architect, FieldenCleggBradleyStudios (FCBStudios) the school will start taking pupils in January 2019 - at the moment it is on a temporary site on Southampton Way. Planned with a capacity of nearly 1700, construction of the final phase awaits the completion of the health centre in early 2020 - when the NHS Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group will be able to decant services from the old buildings. Contractor Kier won the £25m contract in October 2017 and the project is being project managed by Southwark Council. The design of the two projects, although by different architects, is complimentary, with both using a red brick for their facades.
The school’s main access will be off East Dulwich Grove and the much loved ‘Chateau’ building will be retained. The class room buildings are at the rear of the site, behind the health building, near to and parallel with the railway. Playgrounds and sports pitches will replace the old wards to the west of the present gates while the site of the old doctor’s accommodation is now a lecture hall and drama complex - which will also be available for community use.
Given that the catchment area is very limited, most children should cycle or walk, the school has a positive green travel plan to try and reduce teacher car travel as much as possible - and East Dulwich station is within easy walking distance. There are also two bus routes passing the front door, the No 37 and the no 42.
The new school was funded by Central Government through its ‘School’s Building Programme’. Budgets are considerably less than the previous administration’s ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme which was largely funded via the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).
The original Dulwich Community Hospital was built by the Guardians of the Poor of the Parish of St Saviour, Southwark in 1887. Originally planned for Peckham, it was finally built on this seven-acre site purchased from local housing developer Ezekiel J Bailey for £14,000. There was stiff local opposition from both existing residents and the Dulwich Estate (led by the Estate's surveyor Charles Barry jnr.) over concerns about the impact on local property values - plus ca change! Designed by architect Henry Jarvis on the ‘Nightingale’ principle of several ‘fingers’ to maximise natural light and air to the wards, the final cost was just over £50,000 - at its opening it had a capacity of 723 beds. In 1902 the Infirmary was renamed the Southwark Union Infirmary, after St Saviour's Union became the Southwark Union. In 19l5, during the First World War, it was requisitioned by the War Office as a military hospital and the number of beds was increased to 800. Of the 12,522 wounded soldiers treated in the hospital only 119 actually died, a remarkably low figure. The War Memorial to them, restored after pressure from the Dulwich Society, remains near the front entrance and is now grade 2 listed.
The hospital was transferred back to the Guardians in April 1919 and, in 1921 it name was changed - to Southwark Hospital. When the LCC took over administrative control in 1931 it became a general hospital and became the Dulwich Hospital. Additional facilities were built, including a new operating theatre, pharmacy, and a new boiler house, and the ground floor wards were converted to an Out-Patient Department, offices and laboratories, reducing the number of beds to 423.
It continued to serve the local population during WW2 and, although bombs and V1's exploded close by, the hospital was not hit. In 1948 the Hospital joined the NHS, coming under the control of the Camberwell Hospital Management Committee, which included St Giles and St Francis' Hospital. The Accident and Emergency Department was closed in 1964 when it was taken over by King's College Hospital Group - it became a District Hospital and then a centre for renal treatment. Local support was so strong that in 1988 a new renal ward, designed by Sir Terence Conran opened, paid for from the £1m raised locally over five years.
In 1974, following a major reorganisation of the NHS, the Hospital was again under new management - the Kings (Teaching) District Health Authority, part of the Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham (Teaching) Area Health Authority. After another major reorganisation of the NHS in 1982, the Hospital came under the control of the Camberwell District Health Authority, part of the South East Thames Regional Health Authority.
The first ideas about setting up a community hospital were discussed as early as 1996 but it took ten years of consultation, and changes in Central Government Policy, before a decision was made to close the hospital and clear the site for the construction of a Polyclinic. Even though the east wing was demolished in 2006 in preparation, more changes in government policy led to further delays. The original intention was for the remainder of the site to be sold to a residential developer but Southwark Council and local residents campaigned strongly for a new secondary school and this was finally agreed by the NHS Estate in 2014.