Monday, 15 August 2011

Barclay School, Stevenage, Hertfordshire

Photos of the Kenneth Rowntree mural (above with graffitti). Below, the Henry Moore family group sculpture and its original, now empty, plinth outside the main entrance of the school.

The Barclay School, Stevenage, Herts, was the first purpose built secondary school anywhere in the country after WWII. Completed in 1949 it is a comprehensive community school. From the outside, after over 60 years the school looks in a state of some disrepair. This is unlike the County Council originally thought it would be perceived. In a County Education Officer's Report on School Building in 1949 it stated that the Barclay School "will in many ways be unique and it will not only be local pride... there will be few, if any, other schools in England to compare with it." It was suggested that this flagship school should have a piece of sculpture "by the distinguished modern sculptor Henry Moore... whose work is generally recognized both in this country and abroad as being among the finest produced by any English living sculptor." The County Council could not afford to buy a Henry Moore even in 1949. But it was possible through private donations of"interested people" to raise half the cost "and for Mr Moore to materially reduce his price because a copy of the work concerned can also be sold to the U.S.A... By this means the County Council will acquire a specially commissioned and designed piece of sculputre at approximately one-fifth of its actual value".
Henry Moore actually chose the position of the sculpture and the entrance to the school was shaped around it. Sadly, in 2010, an attempted theft was made of the sculpture. It is now positioned inside the school reception area. It is cramed, rather unceremoniously against a metal railing. It is valued today at £4.5million pounds. The sculpture is stunning and gracious. It exudes warmth.
In the reception area the school also has a fantastic Kenneth Rowntree Mural. He was a very well respected English Artist (1915-1997) and for many years Professor of Fine Art at Newcastle Uni. His mural is on the wall where pupils queue for the dining room. The result is graffitti and wear and tear. But somehow it is almost part of the furniture. This bold 1950's mural has really stood the test of time and still looks amazing.

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