Sunday, 20 March 2011


The Magic Fish

The Selfish Giant

Detail from Tales of St Nicholas

Tales from St Nicholas

Templewood Primary School was 'system built', it had a steel frame clad with precast concrete walls and roof units. The building was one of the second generation of primary schools based on the 8' 3" module. The school was built between 1948-50. The site is on a slope which falls away from Sherrards Wood. This beautiful wood is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. Some of the original trees from farmland, on which the school was built, still remain. The school is to have its 60th anniversary of opening on 17 March 2011. It is still a charming and engaging building, even though it is in need of repairs.

Hertfordshire County Council had an enlightened approach to their post-war new school buildings. Building budgets all included a sum for art work in the new schools. At Templewood there are three murals, which were painted in the common areas of the school, in July 1950. The artist was Patricia Tew, a young artist who had studied at The Slade. Miss Tew was paid the budget allowance of £175.00. The paints cost £8.00.

Each mural is a scene, or scenes, from Russian Fairy tales. The subject choice may well have been with A W Cleeve Bar, from the County architect's office. He and Miss Tew worked out the arrangements for colours & subject matters of the murals together. Andrew Saint (Architecture Historian, English Heritage) recalls that Cleve Bar was a great Russophile.

The murals, and the school buildings themselves, were listed Grade II* by English Heritage in 1995.

Two murals are visible on walls opposite the main doors. They are the first thing to be seen on entering the school. They illustrate the tales of 'The Selfish Giant' and 'The Magic Fish'. Both have a delicious deep red colour as background. They are approximately 8'6" (3m) high by 7'6" (2.86m) wide.

The dining room has the third mural. It is immense with a different colour way to the other two. It is 12' (4m) by some 16' (5.3m) wide. It is fascinating and tells four tales from the life of St Nicholas. You could look at it every day and still see something new. It is a stunning piece of work.

These three wonderful art works have entertained and intrigued children for 60 years. However, they are in a poor state of repair and it is hoped that funds can be raised for restoration.

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