Canon Barnett Primary School

Built in 1901 as Commercial Street School by the London School Board, renamed Canon Barnett Primary School 1951

The School's Board
Contributed by Survey of London on April 17, 2018

East End historian and guide David Charnick gives some background to the School's Board which ran the Canon Barnett School.

[This is] a School's Board for London school [which] were the schools that came about from the 1870s onwards. The School's Board for London like other school's boards in other cities provided free but compulsory education for children up to the age of 13. In a very real sense, it took them away from the workforce. It's a major step towards improving the condition for children in London, and obviously gave them a proper education which enabled them to break out into more profitable life.

Education was very important for the Victorians to break the cycle of poverty so that you didn't just drift into the same social strata as your parents were. You could actually improve and by improving your condition, obviously, you would improve theirs as well.

[The School’s Board buildings built] very distinctive buildings. You can see, particularly because of their high windows, the classrooms had very tall ceilings to allow maximum lighting, which is good for the children because they were no doubt living squashed into a room with the rest of their family, and [this] also allowed through a flow of air because a lot of these families would not have access to a great deal of sanitation and consequently a bit of fresh air was needed if you've got a few dozen children crammed into one room.

David Charnick ( was speaking to Shahed Saleem on 23.02.18. The text has been edited for print.

Canon Barnett Primary School from the south, August 2017
Contributed by Derek Kendall

Mosaic on Commercial Street boundary wall of Canon Barnett Primary School
Contributed by Derek Kendall

Canon Barnett Primary School from the west in 2018
Contributed by Derek Kendall

Canon Barnett Primary School from Whitechapel High Street in 2018
Contributed by Derek Kendall