John Cole Teacher-Practioner throwing a pot with brother Wally.

Throughout his time as Principal, John Cole ran Rye Pottery, proof again that our teachers were teacher-practitioners. Rye Pottery is still in fine form, click on linktext

Just before the BSoA closed in 1962, John Cole wrote a chronological summary of its long and productive existence. Although this document was sparse in detail about its cultural and curricula development, being as it concentrated on appointments, building development, awards of merit granted to its students, alumni and teachers, it did record an evolving institution that transferred from a few art classes in the neighbouring Technical School in Beckenham Road to a full-time art education in new premises commencing in 1908 and within a few years, evolved to become a thriving and internationally renowned centre of excellence.

Starting off with one of the first known photographs of the BSoA in 1916, showing students at its entrance dispels the long held belief that the building was originally a WW1 hospital.

1902 Art classes existed in the Technical Institute

1908 Existing building in Beckenham Road built specially for expansion of the Art classes. The Beckenham School of Art commences as a full time diploma awarding institute

19 ? Greenhouse added to site

1938 Provision of extensive additional new accommodation for cabinet making

1939 September. War commenced

1940 September. The above workshops destroyed by enemy action.

1940 September. Boys County Grammar School playing pavilion at Park Langley taken over for adaptation to Cabinet Making workshops

1941 – 44 Cycle shed converted to classroom. Surface shelter cloakroom built. Underground shelter at rear of school built.

1945 May. War ended

1946 Discussions commenced regarding provision of new building

1947 – 48 Prefabricated concrete structure partial replacement of workshops Prefabricated concrete building provided for school meals.

1949 April. Nine students gain entrance to the Royal College of Art

1950 Schedule of accommodation for new School of Art buildings agreed. Sketch plans finished, site purchased.

1950 September. One large and one small room in Mackenzie Road taken over and adapted for expanding recreative Dressmaking classes

1951 Plans completed, approved and matters moving to problems of building

1951 Cabinet Making Workshops store built

1952 New building stopped by Government economy cuts

1952 September. 25 Beckenham Road part use of premises for School of Art

1958 September. Churchfields Road Special School taken over for Modeling and Pottery Recreative

1957 September. 25 Beckenham Road, whole use of premises for School

1958 January. Ex Beckenham Secondary Technical Institute taken over

1959 September. 80 Croydon Road ex Technical Institute taken over

1961 February. Prefabricated Cedar wood Graphic Design Studios erected, 72’ x 24’ on Beckenham School of Art site

1961 Conversion of Canteen Accommodation to Photo Dark Rooms and Studies

1961 80 Croydon Road, Dental Clinic taken over

1961 September. Welding Shop built

1962 January. Additional ground at rear of School of Art taken and fenced off Underground shelter removed, site filled in and put down to grass.

1962 July. Beckenham School of Art closes down and amalgamates with Sidcup Art School and Bromley School of Art to become the Ravensbourne College of Art and Design situated at Bromley Common. After several reincarnations and locations this institute morphed into Ravensbourne University and situated itself in Greenwich with its slogan “Your digital destination”.

Former premises of the School of Art taken over by the London Borough of Bromley and established as an Adult Education Centre

1978 July. The premises are burnt down by vandals and the site is replaced by public park named the Beckenham Library Green

2008 July. Former students of the Beckenham School of Art representing every year between 1941 and 1962 gathered at the site for a Centenary Plaque unveiling ceremony.


Prix de Rome painting by Laurence Norris 1936. 8’ x 5’

Laurence Norris was a student at the BSoA from 1929 – 1932. He was also our teacher of life drawing after WWII until the school became an Adult Education Centre and he was appointed its first principal.

Laurence Norris in the Royal College of Art Prix de Rome cap and gown 1936

The following is an extract from the Kent Education Gazette Vol 16 March 1936 annoucing the prize:

The Rome Scholarship in Painting for 1936 has been awarded to Mr. Laurence Norris, a student at the School of Art, Beckenham. Mr. Norris, who is 22 years of age, was educated at the county School for Boys, Beckenham, from 1924 to 1929. In 1929 he entered the School of Art, Beckenham, where he remained for three years. He obtained the Board of Education Drawing Certificate in 1931 and the Painting Certificate in 1932. In the examination for the latter certificate, he obtained the highest mark in the country for composition. He was also awarded a Free Studentship at the Royal College of Art and the Committee awarded him a Higher Exhibition. After three years at the Royal College he returned to the School of Art, Beckenham, at the beginning of the Autumn Term 1935, and it was while in attendance at this school that he entered for and obtained the Rome Scholarship.

Candidates were required to summit for the Scholarship: compositions including designs made with a view to the decorations of buildings; drawings of the nude in life: one painting of a head and one painting from the nude; and a scheme for the decoration of the principle room of the restaurant, plans of which were supplied to the candidates.

The voting of the adjudicators of the work was unanimous and in favour of Mr. Norris. Comment was passed by them upon the practical working out of the architectural schemes on which the decoration was based. Mr. Norris’s main work was executed on a white ground in brilliant tempera colours.

The value of the Scholarship is £250 a year for two years, normally tenable at the British School at Rome, but on account of the present international situation it is tenable this year at Madrid. The Scholarship also covers extensive traveling facilities.

The Rome Scholarship is the most sought after in the world of painting, and students from all the principal Schools of Art compete for it.

Laurence Norris in WWII army uniform

The Wives’ Tale by Laurence Norris 1946

Bromley Common 1958 water colour by Laurence Norris.

St Lukes Church Bromley Common c1960s

Laurence Norris second from left and young Sally Norris c1952



Beckenham Baths home of the Bath’s Caff

Beckenham Baths Entrance Foyer


John Coleburn (Principal Bromley College of Art) and John Cole (Principal BSoA) contemplating the new Ravensbourne College of Art and Design.

By 1953 the increasing popularity of the BSoA, both nationally and internationally prompted the proposal of a new and larger premises. Even with an annexe across from the main building, another quite a distance away in Croydon Road and a pottery studio in Churchfieds Road, these were not enough. Plans were therefore drawn up for a new site just around the corner on Rectory Road. However, it was decided that as the Bromley School of Art and Sidcup Art School were also unable to cope with their growth, their amalgamation with the BSoA and relocation to Bromley Common as the newly named Ravensbourne College of Art and Design was the best option. The following drawings indicate what the proposed new BSoA would have looked like:


Beckenham Road Annexe

Croydon Road Annexe


Paradise Lost
The following photographs were taken by Bill Brooker on the day after our art school burnt down in July 1978:

101 101 102 106 106 107 108 109
Click on the miniature to enlarge, click on right side for NEXT picture, click on left side for PREVIOUS picture, click on CLOSE to close.

Press coverage July 1978


Robert Sawyers ARCA

It is always a pleasure to discover a website dedicated to an alumnus of the BSoA. While visiting the Local Studies and Archives Dept. of the London Borough of Bromley Central Library, I was directed by Arthur Holden – a member of staff there to visit the website of his uncle – Robert Sawyers BSoA 1940-42.

Robert Sawyers’s interesting use of colour and skill in capturing light are an object lesson in perception and craft. Particularly attractive are his uses of back lighting and delicate shading as can be seen at Robert Sawyers ARCA .

Cycle Works. Jamaica c1960
Private Collection. Courtesy of the owner.

This painting The Tram Ride by Robert Sawyers BSoA 1940-42, was recently sold at Christies in London for £12,500. (Permission has been requested from Christies to post this painting on our website)

Robert Sawyers and self portrait c1998

Self portrait

(To be continued)