Saturday, 27 July 2013

Beaufoy Institute, 39 Black Prince Road SE11

The Beaufoy Institute grew out of the Lambeth Ragged Schools, set up in 1846 to give a secular education to local children who had previously had access only to religious instruction on Sundays. The wife of a local distiller, Eliza Beaufoy, supported the venture but unfortunately died in 1847. Fortunately for the school, her grieving widower Henry decided to fund a new school on lavish lines in her memory.
That building was demolished in 1904 to provide more railway lines into Waterloo, and the school moved to Black Prince Road taking with them this charming sculpture by Samuel Nixon.
Nixon was a local man, a friend of Henry Doulton, and employed by him at the great pottery works further down the road to design the terracotta sculptural works the firm began producing in the 1830s.
A young teacher runs her finger along a line in a book, lit by the Torch of Enlightenment. She and her young charges are in classical dress.
Below, now separated from the group by an inscription recording the opening of the new building, is a quote from Shakespeare: "Those that do teach young babes/ Do it with gentle means and easy tasks".
It seems very appropriate, until you think that this is Desdemona's lament over her husband's changed treatment of her shortly before he smothers her to death.
For many years the Torch of Enlightenment was used as a road sign to mark schools. The cartoonist Fougasse drew two tramps looking at the sign, one saying "It never torch you and me much."

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