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Royal Russell School Croydon


Royal Russell School, then known as Ballards School, was built in 1924 on the former Ballards Estate. The school's origins date back to 1853 when a charity was established by a group of City clerks to clothe, support and educate orphaned children from deceased colleagues in warehousing and manufacturing trades. Initially in New Cross, the school moved to larger premises in Caterham Junction in 1862, and then to the current site after WWI. The land was donated by Lord Hollingsworth, of the retailer Bourne and Hollingsworth, who had purchased 44.5 hectares of the Ballards Estate in the early 1920s. The school is named after its first president, former Prime Minister Lord John Russell.

Basic Details

Previous / Other name:
Ballards, Ballards School

Site location:
Coombe Lane, Croydon

CR9 5BX ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Institutional Grounds


Sir Aston Webb

Listed structures:
Local List: Main Lodge


Site ownership:
Royal Russell School

Site management:
Royal Russell School

Open to public?

Opening times:
Open days for prospective pupils

Special conditions:



Public transport:
Tramlink: Lloyd Park, Coombe Lane. Bus: 130, 353, 354

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/12/2008
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:

In Conservation Area:

Tree Preservation Order:
Not known

Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance II(w Ballards Plantation)

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeology Priority Zone

Other LA designation:

Fuller information

Ballards School, as Royal Russell School was once named, was built here in 1924 to the designs of the celebrated architect of Buckingham Palace, Admiralty Arch and the V&A Museum, Sir Aston Webb and his son Maurice. The original buildings comprised three blocks configured as an 'H'. The origins of the school date back to December 1853 when a group of clerks from wholesale warehouses in the City of London met to discuss how the widow and family of a colleague might be helped. This led to the decision to set up a charity to clothe, support and educate the orphaned children from deceased colleagues in warehousing and manufacturing trades, and within a year sufficient subscriptions had been raised to establish a school under the auspices of the Warehousemen, Clerks and Drapers Livery companies. Former Prime Minister Lord John Russell agreed to become its President and remained so until his death in 1878, hence the name of the school. From 1855-58 the committee leased Hatcham House, a building in New Cross, for the school, which took 6 girls and 15 boys. By 1859 their needs had outgrown this building and a new 9-hectare site was purchased in 1862 at Caterham Junction, now Purley, where the Warehousemen, Clerks & Drapers School was opened in 1866 by the Prince of Wales, who had laid the foundation stone 3 years previously.

After WWI the demand for places, particularly due to the number of orphans of those in the textile trades, led the School Board to seek a larger school. Lord Hollingsworth, of the West End retailer Bourne and Hollingsworth, donated land he had purchased in Croydon, comprising 44.5 hectares of the Ballards Estate 'well timbered and stocked with rhododendron, [. . .] a mansion [. . .] 5 lodges [. . .] stables etc.' Prior to the Reformation, ownership of the Ballards land was vested in the Priory Church of St Mary Overie, Southwark and became Crown property in 1538; the name probably arises to describe the 'bare heads' of these hills and was used as grazing land prior to being planted. It was owned by Nicholas Leigh and his family from 1544 until c1760 when Barlow Trecothick, later Lord Mayor of London, bought the Addington Estate and it remained in his family until 1802. By 1822 Ballards was owned by Charles Piescal Hoffmann, left him by his father, and he then sold it in 1872 to Charles Hermann Goschen, brother of George, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Goschen built a new mansion designed by F P Cockerell as his country residence, situated on top of the hill and known later as St Andrews. The old mansion of the Hoffmanns was called The Hills and sited on lower ground to the west, but was demolished in 1874. Goschen died in 1915 and his family lived at Ballards until 1919 after which it was put up for sale. In 1920 house and grounds were purchased by Howard Houlder who had purchased Heathfield the year before. Houlder then sold Ballards to Lord Hollingsworth.

Goschen's house was demolished for Webb's new school in 1923, which was opened by Edward Prince of Wales in 1924, who also laid the foundation stone for a new chapel. In 1953 the school was granted the prefix 'Royal' to commemorate the Warehousemen and Clerks' centenary as well as the coronation of Elizabeth II. The Russell Hill school still housed junior boys and girls until 1961, when it was sold and later opened as Thomas More School (q.v.). As a result of this there were significant additions made to the school buildings at Ballards in the 1960s to accommodate children transferred from Russell Hill. In 1968 it became a fee-paying independent school with a separate Russell School Trust to administer payment of fees for the foundationers, previously the Textile Industry Children's Trust.

Sources consulted:

Cherry B & Pevsner N, The Buildings of England, London 2: South, 1983, p205; Lilian Thornhill, typescript notes on Ballards Estate, May 1990; S Hopewell, Royal Russell School: A History' (Hutchinson, Benham), 1978; LB Croydon, 'Local List of Historic Parks & Gardens', December 2008.

LPGT Volunteer Research by Patricia Birch

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