The Old School House, Boscombe, Bournemouth

Boscombe British and Foreign School

The Old School House, Boscombe (Photo by Guy Wood)

Currently enjoying a new lease of life as a fantastic co-working space for creative small businesses, The Old School House, in Gladstone Mews, Gladstone Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth, was originally built, in the neo-Gothic style, as The Boscombe British and Foreign School. The earliest part of the building is Grade II Listed and dates back to 1878, when the foundation stone was laid by Sir Percy Florence Shelley, Frederick Moser and others on 21st August.

Sir Percy Florence Shelley, of Boscombe Manor, was the son of poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of the Gothic novel, Frankenstein.

Blue Plaque at Old School House
Blue Plaque at Old School House

The British and Foreign School Society (BFSS) was formed to carry on the work of a young Quaker named Joseph Lancaster, who founded his first school in Southwark in 1798  to provide education for “the industrious classes”. Joseph Lancaster introduced a system of “mutual and self-instruction”, which included rewards as well as punishment and a non-denominational approach to religious education. When the Education Census of 1851 was taken, there were 514 British Schools in the UK and the movement also spread overseas.

The Education Act of 1870 established a new system of locally funded boards to build and manage schools. There were objections to the local rates being proposed and, in Boscombe as well as elsewhere, schools fought to keep their autonomy for as long as possible by seeking voluntary contributions. Eventually, however, the resources of the BFSS were diverted to teacher training and the building of teacher training colleges, with the schools themselves being absorbed into the new system.

In 1876, a Royal Commission recommended that education be made compulsory to put a stop to the use of child labour; however it took many more years for full school attendance to come about, even though it was made compulsory for five- to ten-year-olds in 1880.

Gladstone Road & Boscombe British School (Bournemouth Library Heritage Zone)

The British and Foreign School at Boscombe was therefore built at a time when a great deal of energy was being devoted to improving both educational provision and the lot of children generally. Boscombe was growing rapidly during this period and the school attached to the Church of St Clements was over-subscribed. The new British and Foreign School in Gladstone Road was opened in 1879 and it consisted of two rooms, the larger one to the south being for older children.

An enthusiastic supporter of the school was Alderman Henry Curtis Stockley of “Essendene, Christchurch Road, Boscombe”, who was school treasurer. In June 1895, an appeal was made in the press for funds to provide extra accommodation and the school was extended to the south a number of times between 1895 and 1903, when it became a council school.

Boscombe County Primary School (Bournemouth Library Heritage Zone)

The building continued to be used as a school until the 1960s, after which it became a children’s theatre and, in the 1990s, it was used for adult education.

Contact Steph Woods to commission a History of your House or Family: fully researched and referenced, written and illustrated then leather-bound. Do check out Co-Working at The Old School House; also the Bournemouth 2026 Trust and the present-day charitable work of the BFSS.