Army huts to create new girls' school

Girls Modern School pupils 1919

  • Some of the first pupils at the Alexandra Avenue school that was created from army huts.

[From The Luton Reporter: Tuesday, April 8th, 1919]

A scheme for utilising military huts from Ampthill Camp for a temporary secondary girls' school in Luton is to be carried through. At a meeting of Modern School governors on Tuesday, the Chairman (Alderman H. O. Williams) said they originally decided to buy twelve huts, and asked the County Council to provide £2,000 for the purchase, but the huts fetched a larger sum than anticipated and the £2,000 allotted had not been sufficient to cover what was wanted.

Ten huts were bought at a cost of just over £2,000 and they were in a position to secure two more purchased by a firm at Bedford who were not in a position to use them, but they would require another £500 to cover their requirements and have sufficient to provide a fair amount of accommodation.

Alderman Williams said he had spoken to the Chairman of the County Education Committee who advised that, though they had not the authority from the County Council, if a written request were sent to the Education Committee to provide them with the further funds he thought they would be justified in passing it through the Education Committee, and he did not think the County Council would be likely to raise any difficulty.

He therefore proposed that the governors recommend that two additional huts be purchased, and that the Surveyor be asked to prepare plans and stake out the ground for the erection of the huts.

Councillor W. J. Primett said it perhaps looked a little expensive for a temporary measure, but it was either this or waiting at least five years. Higher education could not afford to stand still in Luton for another five years, and therefore it would be money well spent.

They were first class huts, the best he had seen in any camp, and after they had been used some few years they ought to fetch a fair amount of money.

Alderman Arnold suggested the Education Committee and County Council would probably require some estimate of the expenditure which would be incurred in taking down and re-erecting the huts, and the Chairman agreed they should ask the County Surveyor to provide this. He personally estimated it would require about £1,000.

This, Alderman Wilkinson said, meant that the scheme looked like costing about £3,500 which, capitalised over five years, came to £700 a year. Against that, he considered they would fetch at least a third of that amount, and therefore the loss appeared to be only about £2,000. This was roughly £400 a year for five years, and he was sure education of this order was worth more than £400 a year to the town and neighbourhood.

From the purely financial point of view, the Chairman pointed out that it would mean that the £20,000 which would have been spent on a new school would not need to be spent so soon, and thus about £1,000 a year in interest would be saved for five years. There would therefore be no financial loss to the County.

Alderman Oakley presumed care would be taken that the huts were placed in such a position as not to interfere with the site of the permanent buildings, and the Secretary said the sites had already been arranged for.

The proposition met with unanimous support, and Messrs Williams, Phillips, Primett, Warren and Wilkinson were re-appointed as the building committee, with the addition of Mrs Slatter. The suggestion that there should be a lady on the committee came from Mrs Slatter herself, on the ground that it was a girls' school to be provided.

Pictured below are images of a fire which affected part of the building in November 1921, and of the Duchess of Atholl at the opening of the permanent building on November 5th, 1930.

Modern School fire, November 1921

Duchess of Atholl, Modrn School, Nov 1930