Vernon Square School was built by the London County Council in 1913-16 catering for 1,000 pupils. During the Second World War it suffered bomb damage as indeed did Holford Square. In 1949 it became a secondary modern and was renamed Sir Philip Magnus School and indeed some of our members attended it.
In 1979-80, the school closed and in 1983 the building became part of Kingsway Princeton College. When this closed, years of planning blight followed with applications to build a large hotel ranging from the top of Penton Rise stepping down to the church. After huge public objection and a planning application rejection being appealed, the site was acquired in 1999 by the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies to be its second campus. The building was handsomely refurbished reopening in 2001.
Another round of planning battles ensued as SOAS applied to surround the school with student housing, obliterating the views of the building from three sides and blocking the outlook from the Peel Centre. After further appeals and negotiations, the scale of the proposed residences was lowered to the present size and a small park created as planning gain for the use of the Peel Centre.
We are concerned that SOAS now plans to move out in 2015 and the future of the site is once again in doubt. However we will do all in our power to retain the handsome traditional school block, possibly for educational use or housing, providing a familiar welcome to the Amwell area and to Islington.