Oliver House School opened in 2004 and is housed across two beautiful 18th Century buildings which overlook Clapham Common.
The first building to be acquired was known as Hollywood and is situated at No. 7 Nightingale Lane. The increasing numbers of pupils soon led to the purchase of Broadoak at No. 11 Nightingale Lane in November 2011. The rich history of these buildings is explored in the following article, written by Mr Stephen de la Bedoyere, former tutor at Oliver House and Oakwood Schools.
Oliver House Preparatory School is privileged to be situated in two historic and unusual buildings, known as Hollywood and Broadoak. The name Nightingale Lane evokes days gone by when much of the area was countryside but by the 18th century Clapham was becoming popular as a leafy suburb for the better-off and better educated. Hollywood was built in 1782 (most likely by Moses Lopes) and was for some years the home of the Harrison family who were connected with Henry Thornton, William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect who secured the abolition of slavery and, also to a great botanist and pharmacologist, Daniel Hanbury (1825 – 1875), whose botanical collection was left to Kew Gardens. The beautiful bust of the god Neptune which surmounts the house’s elegant doorway is of ‘Coade’ stone; a very hard and enduring ceramic stone made in Lambeth by Mrs Eleanor Coade at the time.
Broadoak (No.11) – a larger, darker building in the classical style (also listed) was built at a later date, 1875, for the widow of the Victorian businessman (who developed alpaca woollens!) and philanthropist, Sir Titus Salt. The Tuscan porch contrasts with the lighter Hollywood doorway. In 1896 the Xaverian Brothers, a Catholic teaching order, bought the two buildings to create a boys’ high school, Clapham College (dedicated to St Joseph). Distinguished former pupils include the actor Sir Ralph Richardson and Roland Bourke, a First World War naval officer who was awarded the Victoria Cross. The college closed on this site in 1985, and was replaced by the first of many Sixth Form Colleges including St Francis Xavier’s which continues to occupy part of Broadoak and the modern buildings behind.
No one walks down Nightingale Lane without noticing the arched niche on the first floor of Broadoak beyond the porch with its impressive mosaic of St Oliver Plunkett. The Catholic Archbishop of Armagh (Ireland), in days of persecution against the Catholic faith, was executed in London in 1681. He was chosen as a patron of the school by connection with the Holy Ghost parish and the piety of a former parish priest, Fr Martin Bennett, who died in 2005.
With the symbol of strength and endurance provided by the bust at one end, the memory of a great scientist and a great philanthropist in each building, and the memory of a hero and the icon of a martyr at the other, the edifices speak of what we want our boys and girls to be: men and women of strong and generous character, ready to stand up for the truth.