Built on a site formerly occupied by a cottage, this is an impressive building bordering the Common.
Built in 1913, it sustained bomb damage during World War 2 but was restored to its former elegance. Behind the building are modern extensions added by Powell and Moya in 1973.
The school had the Old Mill (sketch by Ranwell) as its logo. Plumstead Manor School was opened as an eight form entry comprehensive school in 1967, amalgamating 3 schools: Kings Warren Grammar, Waverley school and Church Manorway.
Plumstead Common has been used for schools in our area since the beginning of organised state education in 1870, and even earlier for church-run schools at St Margaret's on the Common. Ancona Road School, as Waverley was originally known, was an elementary school, as was Church Manorway. The log books reveal the elementary curriculum that was taught, along with the early focus at Ancona Road on girls' education; there were always more girls than boys.
Plumstead County School for Girls, which became known as Kings Warren, was opened in the wake of the 1902 Education Act which acknowledged the need for some kind of secondary education for those especially bright people from the elementary school.
The brand new building, opened in 1913, contained every facility for a 'liberal education' for girls and forms the front part of the present day Plumstead Manor. Girls were required to take a test to enter the school and came from a number of elementary schools, in practice one or two from each. Some girls were fee-paying but many were given a free place.
Miss Bartram, the first headmistress, and the other teachers were highly educated in the late 19th century expansion of secondary education for middle-class girls, and the reluctant acceptance by some universities of the right of women to study for degrees.
However, while encouraging a few to the heights of degrees and teaching certificates, the aim of the school was also to provide a practical education for girls so that they could seek employment in commercial and domestic fields. The 6th form was never large in the early days, for example.
Reminiscence reveals that working-class girls were often the first to be given a secondary education in their families, although the girls who came were never from the poorest families. The school began well, although it suffered from falling numbers during the first world war, due to girls leaving to work in the Arsenal.
The 1920s and 30s
Plumstead County School flourished in the community, with the rising numbers and with girls taking external examinations. Oral testimony reveals that the teachers were strict but loyalty to the school was high. A magazine was published which shows the high standard of some of the girls' written work and the extensive and intensive nature of extracurricular activities. The teachers on their side battled to keep the girls quiet in the corridors between lessons!
The common was used for sports day and games, and in the early days there was no PE kit - the girls ran in their brown uniforms. Ancona Road and Church Manorway carried on their curriculum as laid down by the government. Fluctuating local populations meant that there were constant reorganizations, with schools amalgamating, becoming central schools where higher levels were taught, or becoming girls or boys schools. At some point Ancona Road became a girls section of another school.
The 1930s and 40s
During the early 1930s, Kings Warren school magazine shows how the country hoped for peace in the future. The girls were part of the local League of Nations group and the curriculum was designed to foster an understanding of other countries.
However, by the late 1930s schools were being given evacuation plans and war was looming. Along with other London schools Kings Warren was evacuated. The girls went first to Maidstone, and then - when it was clear that Maidstone was just as dangerous as London - to share a girls grammar school in Bedford. Some girls did not go with the school, but those who did were able to carry on with their education. The teachers worked tremendously hard to fashion a new school with new rules, new clubs and new timetables in their evacuated premises. By contrast, the girls at Waverley and Church Manorway carried on in temporary classrooms when they were laid on. Waverley was closed for part of the war. The education of these girls was seriously disrupted.
The 1950s and early 60s
During the War Kings Warren was badly bombed, and in the financial climate of the time did not get fully repaired until the 1960s. The biggest change during this time was the setting up of the grammar school/secondary modern system to assure all pupils had the right to secondary schooling. Kings Warren was the grammar school, Waverley and Church Manorway became secondary moderns, although Waverley continued as a central school, and unlike Church Manorway, offered O-levels. However, it must be noted that the London School Plan of 1948 envisaged comprehensive education for all in the future; there was just not the money to finance it at this time.
The three schools rapidly built their own traditions. Testimony from girls who attended Kings Warren shows how much the girls valued their schooldays. Despite closure over 30 years ago the old girls association remains strong. We have not a great deal of testimony from the other two schools, but what we have again reveals the value than the girls placed on their school days. All the girls from the schools talk of the discipline in each school and of the hard work of the teachers, and the ethos that encouraged hard work at each of the schools. Competitive games, music and drama were a feature of all three schools, although there were more opportunities at Kings Warren.
Some parents could not afford the uniform for Kings Warren, so that even if their daughter passed the test she went to a secondary modern. One old girl from Church Manorway explains that the lack of opportunity to take examinations might have held her back but at the time she accepted the situation and did not question it. Certainly it is good to validate the experiences of individuals from all the schools, as many enjoyed their school days and made a lifelong friends, even though politically the idea of a lack of equal opportunity is abhorrent to us now.
Change in the 1960s and 70s
The proposed change to the comprehensive system came as an unpleasant shock to Kings Warren and Waverley. Parents of pupils at Kings Warren waged to a massive campaign to try to stop the amalgamation and feelings ran high. The staff of Church Manorway were all for the amalgamation but even here some parents feared that the large size of the new school would lead to discipline problems.
In a very short time span consultation took place, plans were laid and new school buildings proposed. Despite the pleas of staff from all three schools to be given more time to plan the necessary changes, the amalgamation went ahead in 1967. Building work was not yet complete and the Church Manorway building continued in use for a while. Parents who believed their daughter would be going to the Grammar School suddenly had to buy a uniform, the change came so rapidly.
Many parents and pupils were sad and angry to see the destruction of their traditions and their school; indeed Waverley was physically knocked down in sight of the new school.
Just before the opening of Plumstead Manor, the first group of Asian and West Indian girls began arriving at the three schools. The Asian girls came from East Africa and their fathers were largely carpenters and builders. Testimony from some of the first girls to attend schools on the common tells us that many girls had had a British education in East Africa. One girl was placed in Church Manorway but found the work too easy and her father got her moved to Kings Warren. After 1972 Ugandan Asian girls also arrived at Plumstead Manor.
The 1980s and 90s - and Beyond!
The 1980s saw a number of notable developments at Plumstead Manor. In the first place, along with most schools, anti-racist policies were written into the school's prospectus. Girls were now given equal opportunities to study all subjects, and design and technology was introduced into the curriculum. In addition, the first computer arrived for use by the whole school!
Throughout this period and into the 1990s the school continued to receive students from around the world, and this has led to school becoming a vibrant multi-cultural community. From one computer the school now has over 200, housed in five computer suites, and information technology is an integral part of the school curriculum. Additionally during this period the 6th form has expanded considerably and now has over 400 students, many of whom go on to university and further education.
Plumstead Manor has moved into the 21st century with an exciting future ahead as a performing arts college, building on its already strong educational achievements. The school has been fully refurbished between 2010 and 2013 and now has two new buildings; one for the sixth form and the other for Performing Arts and Sports and will continue to forge new links with the community.