Royal Victoria Patriotic Building

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The Royal Victoria Patriotic Building is a large Victorian building in a "gothic" style combining Scottish Baronial and French Châteauesque. It is located off Trinity Road in Wandsworth, London. It was built in 1859 as the Royal Victoria Patriotic School, by popular subscription as an asylum for girls orphaned during the Crimean War. It is a Grade II* Listed Building designed by the architect Major Rohde Hawkins.<ref name=Listing>British Listed Buildings: Former Royal Victoria Patriotic School, Wandsworth. Retrieved 8 June 2012.</ref>



The building's architect was Major Rohde Hawkins (1821–84). It is made of yellow brick with Yorkshire stone dressings. It consists of three storeys arranged around two courtyards separated by a central main hall. There is an additional single-storey court on the east side. The roof is steeply pitched with slate. The metal-framed windows are mullioned and transomed. The style is a combination of Scottish baronial, Jacobean and French. There are five major towers (three at the front) with pyramidal rooves, and many smaller corner turrets (tourelles). The central tower at the front has a projecting frontispiece three storeys high; above it is a statue of St George and the Dragon in a niche.<ref name=Listing/>


Much of the interior detail has now been lost, so the interior is mostly quite plain; some rooms have surviving boarded rooves. A wallplate in the main hall has carved foliage. The main hall's roof is in three sections; it was painted by J.G. Crace.<ref name=Listing/><ref name=RVPB/>


Nineteenth century

The Royal Victoria Patriotic Building is a Grade 2 Gothic Revival listed building on the edge of Wandsworth Common, South West London. It was built as the school of the Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylum on land enclosed from Wandsworth Common, one of 53 such enclosures made (lawfully) in the years between 1794 and 1866. The building was designed by Rohde Hawkins in the then popular Gothic style. The foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria on 11 July 1857; the building was completed in only 18 months.<ref name=RVPB/> The rapid construction was facilitated by offsite prefabrication of many components such as cast iron windows, stone dressings, roof trusses, iron floor joists and decorative pieces of leadwork.<ref name=RVPB/>

The money raised for the building, £1,500,000, came from Prince Albert's Royal Patriotic Fund, collected for girls orphaned by the Crimean War.<ref name=RVPB/> However only £35,000 was actually used in the building's construction by George Myers of Lambeth.<ref name=RVPB/>

The orphans lived in hard conditions; they had to pump water up to the tanks in the building's towers, do all the washing, and be washed outside in cold water. When the installed warm air heating system failed, no fireplaces were built in the orphans' quarters. The orphans were reportedly abused by the Rector, one orphan dying as a result, leading to a scandal.<ref name=RVPB/>

Twentieth century

In the First World War, the building was refurbished with stronger roof trusses, repointed brickwork, new Westmoreland slates on the roof, and a new heating system.<ref name=RVPB/> It was used as the 3rd London General Hospital. The field behind the hospital was packed with marquees holding about 1800 soldiers wounded at the front; many thousands of soldiers were treated at the hospital during the war.<ref name=RVPB/>

After the First World War, the building reverted to its earlier use as the Royal Victoria Patriotic School, still for girls, until the children were evacuated to Wales in 1939.<ref name=RVPB/>

During the Second World War, MI5 interrogators including 'spycatcher' Colonel Oreste Pinto interviewed over 30,000 immigrants to the UK at the euphemistically named "London Reception Centre"<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> in the building over a period of four years.<ref name=RVPB>Template:Cite web</ref>

After the Second World War, the building initially housed a teachers' training college.<ref name=RVPB/> In 1952 it was bought by London County Council; from 1957 to 1974 it housed Honeywell Secondary Mixed School, followed by Spencer Park Comprehensive School for Boys. As the building aged, it became structurally unsafe and the school moved to a new building.<ref name=RVPB/>

From 1974, the Royal Victoria Patriotic Building fell into disrepair, losing most of its windows, and thousands of feral pigeons moved in. Thieves stole lead from the rooves and water tanks, allowing rain into the building's fabric: dry rot then destroyed much of the timber structure including floors and door frames.<ref name=RVPB/> The building came under threat of demolition, but was saved by campaigning by the Victorian Society and the Wandsworth Society, and became a Grade II listed building.<ref name=RVPB/>

In 1980 the Greater London Council (GLC), successor to London County Council, granted a lease with the option to buy the building for £1 to a developer, Tuberg Property Company. Restoration took six years. Just before formal handover by the GLC, the main hall with its elaborate hammer beam ceiling was destroyed by arson. The hall was fully restored from a photographic survey which luckily had been made two weeks earlier.<ref name=RVPB/>

The Civic Trust awarded a commendation in 1985 for the hall ceiling. In 1987 the Civic Trust awarded another commendation for the restoration of the building as a whole. Also in 1987, the restoration won the Europa Nostra Order of Merit.<ref name=RVPB/>


The building was refurbished in the 1980s, and now houses a variety of small businesses, the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, flats and the "Le Gothique" restaurant. The restaurant hosts the Wandsworth Common Beer Festival twice a year; until 2012 it was held annually.



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