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Thomas More Catholic School Croydon


Thomas More Catholic School was originally the Warehousemen and Clerks Schools whose origins date back to December 1853. The school began in a house in New Cross, but soon larger premises were needed and in 1862 the present site was purchased, renamed Russell Hill after the school's President. The handsome red-brick buildings were opened by the Prince of Wales and the school grounds were laid out with various sports facilities such as cricket lawn and fields. Mr Ayles, Headmaster from 1878-96 and a keen gardener, had an apple orchard by his house. Much of the school grounds behind the main buildings have been built over, but landscaping at the front remains with mature trees, steps and terraces as indicated on the map of 1868.

Basic Details

Previous / Other name:
Russell Hill School, Warehousemen and Clerks Schools

Site location:
Russell Hill Road, Purley

CR8 2XP ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Institutional Grounds



Listed structures:
LBII: Main Building of Thomas More School for Boys. Local list: School lodge


Site ownership:
Thomas More Catholic School

Site management:
Thomas More Catholic School

Open to public?

Opening times:
private, frontage visible from road

Special conditions:



Public transport:
Rail: Purley

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:

Nature Conservation Area:

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Zone

Other LA designation:
Educational Open Space

Fuller information

In December 1853 a group of clerks from wholesale warehouses in the City of London met to discuss how the widow and family of a deceased colleague might be helped. This led to the decision to set up a charity to clothe, support and educate the orphaned children of colleagues in warehousing and manufacturing trades. Within a year sufficient subscriptions had been raised to establish a school under the auspices of the Warehousemen and Clerks livery companies. Former Prime Minister Lord John Russell agreed to become its President and remained so until his death in 1878, hence the name later given to the school. From 1855-58 the committee leased Hatcham House, a building in New Cross, which took 6 girls and 15 boys. By 1859 larger premises were needed and in 1862 a 20-acre site was purchased for £2,352 at Caterham Junction, as Purley was then known. This site was known as Beggars Bush but was renamed Russell Hill in honour of Lord Russell. The foundation stone was laid in June 1863 by the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, and the schools, one for 140 boys and another for 60 girls, were opened on 18 June 1866, again by the Prince of Wales. The red-brick school buildings were designed by John G Bland and had a long symmetrical frontage in Venetian Gothic style, with a raised centre with a spike, steep roofs, gables and dormers. In 1887 it became the Warehousemen, Clerks and Drapers' Schools when a similar scheme run by the Drapers' Company was amalgamated with the school.

The school grounds were laid out with various sports facilities such as cricket lawn and fields. Soon after 1905 the then Headmaster, Mr Gutteridge, allowed his lawn to become a new tennis lawn. Mr A G Ayles, who was Headmaster from 1878-96 was a keen gardener and had an apple orchard by his house. After WWI the demand for places, particularly due to the number of orphans of those in the textile trades who had died, led the School Board to seek a larger property. Lord Hollingsworth, of the West End retailer Bourne and Hollingsworth, donated land he had purchased on the Ballards Estate, where the new school was built, now the Royal Russell School (q.v.). As a result 96 senior boys moved to Ballards, with younger boys and girls remaining at Russell Hill. The school was extended in 1931 and during WWII an underground air raid shelter was built at the back of the school. Finally it was decided to amalgamate both school sites into one at Ballards, and Russell Hill was sold to the Roman Catholic Schools Commission in 1962 for Thomas More School and Margaret Roper Primary School, the latter named after Thomas More's daughter.

Much of the school grounds behind the main buildings have been built over, including 16 houses of Russell Court in the 1980s but a later application to build 9 houses was denied. The landscaping at the front of the school remains.

Sources consulted:

David West and Dawn West, 'The History of Thomas More School Russell Hill Purley' (1999/2000); B Cherry and N Pevsner, The Buildings of England London 2: South (1983); LB Croydon, 'Local List of Historic Parks & Gardens', December 2008.

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