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Old School Old Elysians

A visit to the former WES in Allcroft Road Gospel Oak...
Near Lismore Circus Gospel Oak a part of the old William Ellis School perches above the massive railway cutting which takes trains in and out of St Pancras. A small hall built in 1897 for the school was used in recent years for cub nights and the decorative metal gates celebrate this.

However, comprehensive refurbishment is now nearing completion and this has transformed the hall into a community resource with full facilities, a gallery and new aspects. Adjoining it and next to the1970s Camden Council housing offices is a further building with a number of original embellishments indicative of it being an earlier part of the School. A weathered capping on the boundary wall hints also towards the older School fabric. The surrounding area is set to undergo radical change with new housing to be built replacing the housing offices.

Thursday 28th February 2013 saw three Old Elysians venture into the 1897 hall, marking perhaps the largest reunion of Old Elysians there in six decades. William Ellis School moved to the Highgate Road site 21st June 1937 but in the early 1950s OE and former Mayor of St Pancras Robert Trill held a dinner in the old school buildings then in use as a Council depot.

The recent visit coincided with the Gospel Oak Job Fair held in the Hall. It provided an insight into local work experience, training and job initiatives. There was a chance to meet locally based agencies and even enjoy an informal school dinner, refreshments kindly provided under the Gospel Oak Regeneration scheme. The hall is now under the care of Bacton Low Rise Tenants and Residents Association and the visit was an opportunity to explore how it might be hired for an OE event. The 150 years of William Ellis School, currently being celebrated, have been evenly divided between the two locations.

The St Martin’s Church nearby is an architectural masterpiece and is listed Grade I. From 1899 the School held Annual Services there and the Church clock would have been familiar to those at the School. A century on it duly confirmed that School hours were over and OEs Chris Willey, Charles Commander and Lester Hillman traced a William Ellis trail through to the Southampton Arms PH on Highgate Road. Here a real fire and jugs of porter revived. The ‘OE Snug’ at the back of this pub is distinguished with a photograph on the wall showing those at the School in 1975.

Lester Hillman

You can see Lester's pictures from this visit in the Allcroft Road Gallery on this site, just click on the 'Gallery' button.