A new home for Abacus Belsize Primary
 
www.abacus-cfbt.org

Restoring heritage at Rosslyn Hill

Although it wasn’t the first station for police in the area, the Hampstead Police Station and Courthouse on Rosslyn Hill provided the busy and vibrant operational home of Hampstead’s part of the Metropolitan Police Force for 100 years. It was built by Metropolitan Police architect John Dixon Butler and opened in 1913. It has been listed as a high quality example of his work. 

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The layout reflected emerging new ideas about police accommodation and incorporated a magistrates’ court along with dedicated facilities for dealing with juvenile cases. It also provided lodgings for officers, accommodation for 30 unmarried men and quarters for married couples. 

Rosslyn Hill remained home of ‘S’ Division of the Metropolitan Police until the station was decommissioned and closed in 2013. The building remains in public hands and was acquired for Abacus Belsize Primary School by the Department for Education in 2014. It’s remained empty ever since. 

All about change

 

The building’s long history has already seen many alterations that reflected the evolving needs of its occupants. External walkways and extensions were added, internal spaces have been repurposed, combined or changed entirely – the original stables even became offices. Not all the changes were sensitive to the appearance of the building. 

Once the unsympathetic modern additions are removed, the building will be back to its original proportions and look much more attractive from the rear as well. The one-time stable block at the back of the property will be restored and become classrooms for children in Years 5 and 6.

The school’s professional team of specialist advisers has worked closely with the council’s planning and conservation teams, as well as Historic England, to make sure that the plans to turn it into a permanent home for Abacus Belsize enhance and maintain the historic character and features – not only of the building but also the conservation area in which it is a landmark – while providing the modern fit-for-purpose school the community has long required. 

The main street views of the existing building will not change. Aside from repairs and refurbishment, all the original features, entrances and windows, roof and brickwork will remain, and the station will look even more striking than it has done for the last 100 years. 

Although listed, the whole building is in poor condition and will be refurbished – inside and out – and access will be improved. We plan to bring the current steps up to the main entrance forward and introduce a ramp behind the front railings to provide convenient wheelchair access through the front door. Those internal features that are unfit for modern use, or were only of value to the operation of a police station and courthouse, will be upgraded to meet modern safety and accessibility standards, or removed altogether. ​

Once the unsympathetic modern additions are removed, the building will be back to its original proportions and look much more attractive from the rear as well. The one-time stable block at the back of the property will be restored and become classrooms for children in Years 5 and 6.

The school’s professional team of specialist advisers has worked closely with the council’s planning and conservation teams, as well as Historic England, to make sure that the plans to turn it into a permanent home for Abacus Belsize enhance and maintain the historic character and features – not only of the building but also the conservation area in which it is a landmark – while providing the modern fit-for-purpose school the community has long required. 

The main street views of the existing building will not change. Aside from repairs and refurbishment, all the original features, entrances and windows, roof and brickwork will remain, and the station will look even more striking than it has done for the last 100 years. 

Although listed, the whole building is in poor condition and will be refurbished – inside and out – and access will be improved. We plan to bring the current steps up to the main entrance forward and introduce a ramp behind the front railings to provide convenient wheelchair access through the front door. Those internal features that are unfit for modern use, or were only of value to the operation of a police station and courthouse, will be upgraded to meet modern safety and accessibility standards, or removed altogether. ​

The internal layout and features will be adjusted where necessary to provide the suitable, safe spaces that are required by a primary school – distinctive features like the feature staircases will be restored and reused wherever possible, and we will reveal and enhance the original fabric like the tiled walls where we can. 

The court will retain its handsome magistrates’ bench and remain a separate entity – reinstating one of the original divisions envisaged by Dixon Butler. It will become the home of a business enterprise unit for local small businesses and start-ups. 

New home brings new life

 

Abacus Belsize Primary School will breathe new life into this long vacant public building, whose historic features will be refurbished and maintained into the future. 

  • The key aspects of the external appearance will be preserved, and access will be much improved. 

  • Where essential changes need to be made to bring the structure and the layout up to the safe, modern standards required, they will be sensitive to the history and the character of the building and its environment. 

  • The neighbourhood will feel quite different when the building fulfils its new role and provides a much-needed permanent home to the school. Pupils and staff will be there for much shorter periods of the day than any previous occupants and only during school terms – that adds up to three months less time every year. 

  • Close neighbours can expect a notable contrast to the unanticipated disruption generated by the perpetual comings and goings of an operational police station and courthouse. 

Abacus Belsize Primary School will be an ideal and wholly appropriate occupant for the old Police Station, promising this characterful Grade II listed building as rich and exciting a future as its long and distinguished past.