Enlightened architecture for its time

The St Luke’s school building was the last major work of the Brighton and Preston School Board’s architect, Thomas W Simpson. It incorporated much that Simpson had learned over the previous 30 years since the Board was created under the 1870 Education Act.

Building on a monumental scale
It is generally regarded not only as the culmination of his career with the Board but as an enlightened piece of school architecture for its time. It is described in ‘A Guide to the Buildings of Brighton’ thus: ‘The monumental scale of the buildings is partly the result of the height of the ceilings which were raised to admit light and air into the classrooms.’

Two schools in one building
Two schools occupy the building: St Luke’s Infants has the ground floor, St Luke’s Juniors the two upper floors. In my term as chair of governors of the Infants, we had spent putting the argument for the repair and renovation work that the school needed.

Long periods of neglect
The building retained many of its original internal and external features more because of a long period of neglect than careful conservation. It was not unknown for water to pour down the walls and stone staircases of the upper floors after heavy rain and I recall seeing three feet of water in the cellar.  The rooms are, by modern standards, quite large, but they had been designed for much larger classes.

Comments about this page

  • I went to St Luke’s Infants from 1976-1980 and also St Luke’s Junior 1980-1981 before moving to Bevendean. Until then it was the only school I knew and it wasn’t until I went to a newer school (Bevendean Middle) that I really appreciated the massive scale of St Luke’s. The classrooms are massive with really high ceilings. When I went there, the juniors school hall had a mural covering all of the walls commemorating “The Great War 1914-1918”. I bet it isn’t there any more! Also the music room was in a portacabin in the middle of the playground. We’d often play football around the portacabin, and I always wondered why the goals, painted on the walls at each end of the playground (and still there to this day) were so disproportionate – one was about twice the size of the other.
    St Luke’s was lucky enough to have it’s own indoor heated swimming pool too, which meant we were lucky enough to have swimming once a week. I can also remember us taking part in a sponsored walk at Brighton Racecourse to raise money for an adventure playground for the school. Sadly I moved away before work even started on it.

    By Gary Christer (18/10/2007)
  • Gary – I have good news for you. The war memorial is still there – it survived an earlier threat in the 1970’s to paint it over, and has been subject to restoration during the school’s summer holiday. Contact the school if you wish to see it. The restoration has been expensive (but worth it) and any donations would be very welcome.

    By Jeanette Eason (26/10/2007)
  • Thank Jeanette, I will follow that up for sure. I’d love to go back there. I’m sure now I’m all grown up the school won’t seem quite so massive as it did back then, but the place holds some great memories for me. It’s funny the things you remember. When I was at St Lukes infants, you got to the hall (where we did PE, listening to Radio 4 VHF) by going up a ramp. We always did PE in bare feet and I can remember the feeling of the plastic flooring on the ramp digging into my feet as though it were yesterday.

    By Gary Christer (03/11/2007)
  • Fond memories of the school, which I left in July 1980, then off to Stanley Deason. Ron Guildford was my last teacher, who took retirement in either 2005 or 2006. He was responsible for fracturing my wrist whilst we played ‘Wembley’ in the playground. He took my legs away when we both went for the ball. Great days! Would love to know when the next reunion is, as have yet to go to one, and am dying to catch up. I live off Surrenden Road now, but drive past the school whenever I visit my dad in Down Terrace. I still see people who were in my year, so the school is still close to my heart. Gary…I still remember that ramp, and the radio. Glad that the war memorial is still there…you couldn’t not have that, could you. I see Mrs Bell every now and then in passing. Don’t know about the other teachers though.

    By Darren Stuart (formerly Rushin) (15/11/2007)
  • Hi Darren, I didn’t go to St Lukes at same time as you but my life took a similar path to yours. I too went to st lukes while Ron Guilford was there but he was headmaster while I attended. He did not like me at all, and then when I left I also went to Stanley Deason which was called Marina High by then.

    By Ashley Phillips/Heath (27/11/2008)
  • I went to St Luke’s in 1971-75. My headmasters were at that time Mr Dunkley who died and then Mr Daffin. I too remember the wall mural and am pleased to hear that it still survives. I look back at my school days there as some of the happiest days of my life. My class had an excellent teacher who was then just out of teacher training college. His name was Geoff Starkey and he went on to become Headmaster. He was so cool. When we were all getting really bored he would look in the play ground and if it was empty would stop the lesson and we would all go out and play rounders/cricket on the spur of the moment. He also organised a school holiday trip to Hindleap Warren near East Grinstead for our class which was unusual in those days. Our class all adored him, he was such fun, although I did get the odd board rubber thrown at me for talking. My husband and all his family went to the school so it is much loved and part of our family history. I then went on to Margart Hardy school for girls as it was then but life was never as care free and happy as my time at St Luke’s.

    By Caroline Burnard (Fensom) (10/06/2009)
  • I drive past the school a couple of times a week on the way back from my dad’s place. I should stop and have a good look at both the junior playgrounds. How can they play in the smaller playground? Looks like a garden centre. Still…reunion on Friday…can’t wait to see the teachers, and looking forward to mocking those boys from my classes who have lost their hair and looks, and occasionally made my life a misery. I’ll get my own back, don’t you worry about that.

    By Darren Stuart (22/06/2009)
  • My old School … Mr Daffin and Mr Guilford (Mr G being my class teacher). I remember that he played Led Zeppelin at our end of year school party. Anybody know the name of the teacher with the gym slipper that was more commonly known as “Cecil”… I know his room was next to Mr Guilfords (our registration classroom) and that I avoided that slipper throughout my years there? Finally, I also got to see the attic in my final year, but we never saw the “Ghost” in the bell-house.

    By Alan Haines (10/11/2009)
  • You alright Alan? ‘Bout time someone else from Guildford’s class dropped a comment. I thought I’d be the only person to bother. Went back to the school end of June this year, but very disappointed with the low turn-out. Gonna go again next year. See if you can get there, and get some bodies in!!! Kind regards to you.

    By Darren Stuart (formerly Rushin) (19/11/2009)
  • I was at the school from around 1968-1970,before moving on to Varndean. I remember the mural in the school hall and I was fascinated by it. One of the striking things was the high ceilings in the classrooms, and the old style radiators. Football was our game, but with no playing fields we practiced on the sloping playground,with one goal drawn on the caretaker’s house at the bottom end. I’m sure that there were still some air-raid shelters unblocked in the sixties and we used to find ways into them. I remember there being boys and girls toilets at playground level,but almost underground,and having to retrieve footballs from the gardens of houses that backed onto the school. If I remember the library was high up in the school,overlooking the school hall,and although it was supposed to be blocked off, some of us still made our way to the bell tower. Another pervading memory is having to go into the staffroom at times, and the thick cigarette smoke that I encountered there. It wouldn’t be allowed today,and I should know as I’m a teacher.

    By Paul Hubbard (02/05/2010)
  • I left St Lukes in 1997, and Ron Guilford  was still headmaster. I didn’t realise how long he’d been at the school, but I guess you don’t think about such things at that age. My favourite teacher was a Mrs. Holford, who I think may have also been teaching there for a while as she was in her early 60s by the time I left, a very kind hearted woman who had a lot of time for me despite my obvious reluctance to learn anything. Can anyone confirm the existence of a disused train in the basement, which was accessed from the infants hall (the rubber ramp was still there too..)? Some pupils were taken down there to see it but I never had the chance. I believe this was a remnant of an underground rail system from possibly the WW2 era, but I’ve never read anything else about it. I did go back and visit during my last year of senior school, and was pleased to see the mural still there.

    By Scott Barrett (09/11/2010)
  • Hainesy, it was Mr Dukes with the slipper named Cecil! I loved that school, still go past it when visiting the old folks. When’s the next reunion? Would love to go and catch up. I had the pleasure of being part of the restoration team when the swimming pool was overhauled in the late 80s, met a few of the teachers inc. Mr Guildford and took them on a tour of the pool etc. Daz, you need to call me!

    By Sean Chapman (06/01/2011)
  • My husband went to St Luke’s Infants/Juniors/Seniors. He remembers the Head Teacher’s name was Hedgell. Also there was Mr Evans, also the French teacher who my husband liked because she told them stories. That was in the Juniors. Does anyone else remember these teachers?

    By Kathleen Catt [nee Cornford] (17/10/2011)
  • Yes, I remember those names from Kathleen’s post above. It was Miss Edgell as the headmistress, she came to the school of the juniors whilst I was there, 1946 to 1949. Also there at that time was Mr Hemmens, Miss Baldwin, Miss Crawley and Mr Tampkin (we weren’t too struck on him, he had Captain Bligh’s characteristics).

    By Vic Bath (21/01/2013)
  • I was an Infants and Juniors and left in 1995 for Cardinal Newman.

    I came to the site because I just remembered the existence of the war memorial, as it’s Armistice Day – sadly there don’t seem to be any pictures online (apart from one postage-stamp-sized one on the school’s outdated website). I’d have loved to see all the details I used to study when we were meant to be paying attention in assembly! I’m glad it has been restored.

    Scott – I have fond memories of Mrs. Holford too. She always had interesting stories, though I fear I too drove her mad with my dreamy inability to finish anything.

    And I remember Ron Guilford well, though he was Head Of Year when I was there, I think. I liked him a lot. He took us on our class trip to Wales and I seem to remember he played Kate Bush in the minibus. I think a Mrs. Thatcher was our head, though I doubt my memories, cos surely I’m thinking of Maggie Thatcher (maybe my brain is conflating women in power of the time – when you’re 9, headmistresses and prime ministers probably seem equally remote and powerful).

    I don’t know anything about a disused train! I remember the boiler room was quite cavernous and mysterious and (naturally) rumoured to be haunted.

    By Katie Miller (11/11/2014)
  • Whoever enquired about the train under the school may be right. There was a spur that came off the Brighton to Lewes line that went along William Clarke Park before disappearing into a tunnel under St Luke’s. The south end of the tunnel can still be seen from the Freshfield Road business park.

    By Sarah Mchugh (16/12/2016)
  • I went to St Lukes….. Mr Guilford was my class teacher in my last year. I remember Mrs Holford.. Miss Taylor the music teacher.. In the prefab building in the lower play ground. I remember Cecil the slipper. Miss Beaugard the French teacher.. Mr O flaraghty. Mr Starkey. Mr Daffin Mr Dunkley the Head teachers.
    People in my class… Michaela Gandey Michelle Chapman..Tracey… Sally Watts… Paul Barnard.. Wayne Burnard… Anthony Mears… In the infants Charlotte Tinker… Suzie Stevens… Dele okukenu.. Tundi okenora.. Phillip Reeves.. All these off top of my head… Might dig out some old photos.

    By Sharon Dormer (née packham) (02/03/2020)
  • In response to Sharon’s post above, I also remember a Dele who attended my old school, St Paul’s, in the mid 1970s. I do remember him suddenly going absent. If he was a mixed raced boy, I’ll assume it’s him.

    By Waiman Lee (24/04/2020)

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