Ibstock Place School

The History of the School

At the end of the nineteenth century, the German pedagogue Friedrich Froebel’s principles were considered radical because of the emphasis placed on the learning experiences of the very young. These experiences, as orchestrated by Froebel and taken up by his followers, were seen as the key to social progress and to the health of society. As a result, the educational benefactor Mrs Julia Salis Schwabe (1819–1896) decided to establish a teacher training college with a Demonstration School in England based on his teaching principles. She asked Claude Montefiore (1858–1938) to be Secretary of the inaugural Froebel Society, which would support the College and the School. They, as joint benefactors, agreed to meet any financial deficits.

In 1896 the College and School were opened in Colet Gardens, Kensington by the Empress Frederick (Daughter of Queen Victoria and wife of the Crown Prince of Prussia). The first headmistress was Esther Lawrence and there were six pupils at the beginning of term.

At the outbreak of World War II the School, now with about fifty pupils, was evacuated from Kensington to Dennison House of Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, led by Miss Barbara Priestman as Headmistress. The School, by necessity, was now a boarding school.

In 1922, following success and growth, Froebel College moved to Grove House, Roehampton and its headquarters, renamed the Incorporated Froebel Educational Institute (IFEI), were established at Templeton, a Georgian house, on Priory Lane.

In 1945 the Institute purchased, from Major Paget, Ibstock Place in Clarence Lane, Roehampton. (The House had been requisitioned by the Ministry of Supplies and Major Paget decided to stay in Ireland). The Demonstration School was brought back from Hertfordshire and renamed Ibstock Place, the Froebel School.

On the establishment of the University of London Institute, IFEI became one of the constituent colleges. Eglantyne Mary Jebb retired as the College Principal in 1955 and was succeeded by Molly Brearley who, from 1960, oversaw the requirement that all teachers take a three-year training course.

The School served the neighbourhood as a small boarding school until September 1976 when the age range was extended to sixteen years and boarding ceased. Pupil numbers grew steadily so by 1989 there was a School roll of 370 pupils.

Over the following years there was much investment in the building and the School’s facilities and resources were much improved. In 2005 a Sixth Form was established and the age range extended from 4 to 18 years. By 2015 the School roll numbered 950 pupils.

Ibstock Place School is now independent of the Froebel Trust (formerly IFEI) and has charitable status. The Governing Body of Ibstock Place School takes responsibility for the management of all aspects of the School.

The Buildings – St Serf’s

Sepia photo of terrace

‘Main House’ was built in 1913 by the architect Frank Chesterton with sixteen bedrooms and four reception rooms. Originally named St. Serf’s, the house was owned by the Duchess of Sutherland; she was responsible for adding the Ballroom which accounts for the off-centre Main Hall. She appointed the house in great style which, indeed, encouraged Major John Paget to purchase the house when it was put on the market in 1925. (These archive photographs are from Country Life.)

Sepia photo of gate pillarsSepia photo of stairwell Sepia photo of Dining room Sepia photo of garden Sepia photo of Lodge Sepia photo of room two Sepia photo of room one Sepia photo of room three

Ibstock Place

Major Paget renamed the house Ibstock Place after the Leicestershire village which was his ancestral home. The house was furnished with antiques including a Louis XVI suite of Aubusson tapestries and two grand pianos. Major Paget was interested in ‘modern gadgets’ and installed a telephone exchange and a sun-bed parlour. An outdoor swimming pool was built at the end of the formal garden. It was one of the first private outdoor swimming pools in Britain. Sadly without the knowledge of the benefit of chlorine, the pool quickly became algaed and was home to many frogs. The house was run with the help of a staff of thirteen in the staff wing, as well as a night watchman and a gardener who lived in the Lodge on the corner of Clarence and Priory Lane. The Pagets entertained lavishly and Major Paget’s party trick was to tell the fortunes of his guests; his daughter Winifred recounts in the early 1930s how he read the palm of Mrs Wallis Simpson, then a guest, prophesying that she would be ‘Queen of England in all but name.’ Aged nineteen, Winifred had been presented to Queen Mary after her debutante year in which she held her own ball at Ibstock Place. Later her wedding reception took place in the house and photographs of the wedding party appeared in the Court Circular of The Times.

After the outbreak of World War II the Paget family evacuated to Oxfordshire, and subsequently to Ireland, and in 1942 the house was requisitioned by the Ministry of Supply for a military radar development group (AORG).

Post-war developments

In August 1945 the Pagets sold the house to the Froebel Educational Institute to rehouse the Demonstration School from Little Gaddesden. The house was in disarray, but the air raid shelters and huts, in the grounds and on the terrace, were converted into a dining room and classrooms with a Scouts’ group hiring one disused air raid shelter.

In 1946, Grove House Nursery was founded in the old pavilion on the existing Froebel College estate, as another demonstration school. It closed in 1960 for a variety of reasons and the space subsequently became part of the School’s facilities. The building plan focused on providing classrooms for the pupils who boarded in Main House. Between 1951 and 1954 the eponymous ‘Long Corridor’ classrooms were built in 2 sections: 1951, costing £9,414, and 1954, costing £8,181. Mrs Leonard G Montefiore opened the Corridor classrooms in 1955 and in 1964 the half size Gymnasium, costing £12,427, was built adjacent to the classrooms. A Dining Room was added to the Service Wing in 1968, the children having originally used the disused army hut on the garden terrace as a refectory.

From 1978-1991 the School Library had been in makeshift accommodation on the Terrace, so the move into a mezzanine conversion of the original ballroom of the house designed by Barnsley, Hewitt and Mallinson Architects was much welcomed. Its original premises became the Art Room, until 1996 when these were demolished. Art moved to the demountables at the end of the Orchard, renamed ‘The Burrows’ which had temporarily housed the Nursery after a fire in 1984 had destroyed Priestman House. The rebuilt Priestman House was opened in 1986, and a subsequent building in 1997. Roberts Hall, designed by Simpson Grey, allowed for two-form entry through the Kindergarten and Prep School. Roberts Hall, a performance space, was integral to the design and opened by Miss Sheila Roberts.

During 1988, Macleod House, the Prep School, was partially housed in a four-roomed demountable opened by Miss Sheila Macleod; the remaining classes were held in the Lodge and the four large classrooms in Main House. The original open-air swimming pool was enclosed during this year; it has been restored and refurbished many times since. It remains in the same place today as when Major Paget built it.

The Froebel Science and Technology Building, designed to offer a Design and Technology workshop and two Science laboratories, was opened by HRH Princess Alexandra in October 1992. It was positioned at the end of the Long Corridor. Plans were substantially trimmed to meet the budget and certain features redesigned to provide as much space as possible for pupils and staff. It has subsequently been redesigned and merged with New School.

In 1989 Godolphin and Latymer School supplied an unwanted demountable for the Senior School for English, Geography and History subjects which was positioned at the end of the Playing Fields and named the Lawrence Building. With the help of the PTA, the Pavilion was converted to house the Mathematics Department and in order to ensure the safe passage of pupils over Clarence Lane, a footbridge was built, financed by IFEI. In 1998 the adjacent disused greenhouses were demolished to make way for an all-weather sports court adjacent to the Pavilion.

The twenty-first century

In September 2000, the School roll stood at 612 and the much needed Dining Room extension, using the architects Simpson Grey, was completed and renamed The Conservatory. A two storied building fitted neatly on to the footprint of the Macleod House demountable and in 2003, for the first time, the Prep school children were taught in the same building. The new Macleod House, the Prep School, also designed by Simpson Grey, was officially opened by Mr Tony Salem, Chairman of Governors.

With the opening of Macleod House, the Art Department was able to move from The Burrows to Lawrence House. As the Burrows had been longstanding temporary accommodation requiring annual planning consent, this was demolished and a recreational area created for pupils’ sport and leisure.

Barnsley Hewitt and Mallinson were appointed in 2005 as architects for the ten-year School Development Plan which was to include a Sports Hall, New School and a Performing Arts Centre. The first stage of the project was successfully completed in 2008 with a full size Sports Hall and Spectator Gallery on the Lawrence House site. The Sports Hall was opened, with much fanfare, by Mr Michael Gibbins, Chairman of Governors, who thanked the parents who had given so generously to the Building Appeal, and to the PTA for its generation donation towards the cost of the Spectator Gallery.

New Sports Hall exterior

With a Sports Hall in place, the old half size gymnasium and Long Corridor could be demolished to make way for the construction of New School and the amalgamation of the Technology Centre, now to be connected seamlessly to New School. During the Autumn Term 2010, the New School Science Laboratories and the facilities for Modern Languages were functioning and in February 2011, the English, Humanities, and Mathematics faculties were ready for occupation by the Senior School pupils. The Library, with its specially commissioned shelving, was opened by the Chairman of Governors, Mr Michael Gibbins LVO, on 22 November 2011 who thanked the School’s benefactors.

Retford Nursery which had been opened by IFEI in September 2000 closed in 2008 to become, fleetingly, the Bursary which, given the increase in School numbers, had outgrown its office adjacent to Macleod House. The existing Bursary became The Dance Studio and the Design and Technology Department took over what had been, originally, the Workshops of Grove House, so the working character was returned to the buildings because the purchase of 138 Priory Lane allowed for the Bursary office and a staff flat.

Coopers Cottage had been retained as a hostel for university students until 2004 when it became staff accommodation. In 2015 this accommodation was converted to provide four additional Sixth Form rooms and staff studies; former staff residents are now housed in Priory Lane. Ibstock Place School now has a defined curtilage on the Lawrence House site.


The School's new Theatre, designed by BHM and built between the Prep and Pre-Prep School, opened in December 2015 equipped to exacting professional levels in all aspects of its technical operation. From an aesthetic perspective, the building has  been integrated seamlessly into its surroundings through judiciously chosen landscaping and planting to establish a striking visual complement with the closely neighbouring Clarence and Priory wings of New School. The Theatre has a maximum seating capacity of 300, a sizeable proportion of which is arranged within retractable seating banks that fold neatly out of sight beneath a balcony. The complex also incorporates a Drama Studio, Green Room, Control Room and Dressing Rooms. Foyer areas include a bar for the serving of refreshments while a Technical Workshop area behind the scenes is used for scenery construction, prop making and laundering.

The PTA has been most generous in its support of the Theatre and has provided a proportion of the cost of the seating bank.

Headmistresses and Headmasters

Miss Esther Lawrence (1894 - 1898)

Miss Boys-Smith and Miss Hope-Wallace (1898 - 1899)

Grace Lucknow (1899 - 1900)

Miss Annie Yelland (1900 - 1916)

Miss Wigg (1916 - 1918)

Miss Ethel Bain (1918 - 1933)

Miss Barbara Priestman (1933 - 1958)

Miss Sheila Macleod (1958 - 1974)

Mr Clifford Green (1974 - 1981)

Mr Aidan Warlow (1980 - 1984)

Mrs Franciska Bayliss (1984 - 2000)

Mrs Anna Sylvester-Johnson (2000 - )