Open Air School, Forest Hill

aka Birley House aka Brent Knoll


The Open Air School at Forest Hill, was opened , we understand, in 1908 in London Road. In 1927 it moved to Mayow Road, Lower Sydenham and was was renamed Brent Knoll. This much we have gathered from the Lost Hospitals of London website.



Memories of

Brent Knoll Open Air School




 "I attended Brent Knoll from about 1957/8 to summer 1960 (just over two years I think...). 


"I had asthma and eczema with very poor attendance at mainstream primary school. Fortunately I was deemed fit/healthy enough to leave at 11 to go to normal secondary school. I gathered I was the second pupil to pass the 11+, the first being the previous year.


"I travelled by LCC coach to the school via a circuitous route around SE London picking up 20+ others. I can still remember most of the route even though I haven't lived in London since 1973. We had breakfast, lunch and tea, and had to eat all of the food!!! There were also various tablets and a spoonful of malt after breakfast.


"There were four main classroom huts and a craft/woodwork hut. I think classes were infants, two for juniors and one for over 11s. perhaps just over 100 pupils. We had a silent rest on couches after lunch for about half an hour +, outside mostly or in the dining hall if wet or too cold.


"There was a small plot of land which was very occasionally used for gardening. The hut used from craft/woodwork we went to occasionally and I seem to think we did art in the main house (otherwise admin, nurse and ....). We did go to Mayow Park over the road for cricket once.


"In 1958 we celebrated the 50th anniversary with a special garden display at the front which showed the dates. One year I went with a team (rest of the school???) for an inter schools sports event. (all open air schools?) We won the overall shield and I won the egg and spoon race!


"Some pupils were rarely present but unless their health problem was obvious nobody discussed their health issues.


"I can't guarantee that my memory hasn't gone a little askew with some of the info, I am now 70."


Roger Hawkins



Roger has kindly sent in copies of precious photos his father took in the summer of 1960 when Roger, and the other boys photographed would have been around 11 years old.


As we do not know the name off the indiviual boys, we cannot ask for their permission to share these photos of them so I disguised all of them exceot Roger.


If you were a boy at Brent Knoll Open Air School in 1960, and think you are in one of the photos, please let me know and I will send you a copy.





Summer 1960


The captions are Roger's own.

"Staff. Back row, from left - Art Teacher, Headteacher Mr Maddock, Craft Teacher Mr Furze, Secondary Age Teacher Mr Quays

Front row, from left - ?, Miss Duparcq (yrs 5-6), Nurse, Miss or Mrs Jones (yrs 3-4), ?? infants."

"Main building."

"My classroom for two years (heater on roof beams). I am second from right, front row."

"Boys from my class. Near door of my classroom."

"I am back row on the right. My classroom hut and boundary fences" behind.

"Winning team, London Open Air Schools. I am second from left, middle row - egg and spoon winner. Dining hall behind left. Toiltes and camp bed hut behind right wuth craft hut roof in background right."

An article about Brent Knoll in the 1930s. appeared in the Independent in 2005.

The Wellcome Library has a report about Brent Knoll here.



Some records of the school are held by the National Archives.

Others are held by the London Metropolitan Archives.