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History of the School

The first Bullers Wood House was built in the middle of the 19th Century. It was a typical mid-Victorian stucco-fronted house, built on a grassy hillside. It had extensive grounds including fields, woods, several cottages and a small farm. In 1872 it was leased by John Sanderson who had returned to this country to set up a headquarters in London for his large wool exporting company.

Sanderson and his wife, Agnes, had a large family and he commissioned local architect, Ernest Newton, to extend and redecorate Bullers Wood. A leading light in the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris, was commissioned to decorate the interior, which he did whilst living and commuting from the Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire.

William Morris designed and created the ceiling in the Library.

The Library, formerly the drawing room, is famous for its unique William Morris hand-painted ceiling. The fireplaces contain original tiles and iron firebacks. Newton extended the house to the east and west, throwing out bays with mullioned windows. The house was then refaced with the present red brick. Newton also designed formal red brick terraced gardens to harmonise with the appearance of the house. The work was completed in 1889 and this date is seen on the terrace gates.

The Library used to be a Drawing room. Note the Frieze and original carpet.

We have an extensive collection of William Morris books and articles from the centenary of his death, together with a facsimile of the 1896 edition of the Kelmscott Chaucer illustrated by his friend Edward Burne-Jones. We also own some original William Morris wallpaper with what may be his hand written notes or possibly that of his assistant John Henry Dearle.

The original carpet is kept in the V & A museum in London although Bullers Wood School owns a reproduction of it.

Several of the surviving members of the Sanderson family were scattered round the world after the First World War and so the family house was sold in 1920 after the death of ‘Granny’ Agnes Sanderson. During the 1930s Sir Sydney Nicholson, a previous organist of Westminster Abbey, bought Bullers Wood so that he could found the Royal School of Church Music. He had Hydeswood built for himself and used part of it for the school as it expanded. At this time the drawing room (present Library) was used as a chapel by the school. The school remained here until the outbreak of the Second World War when it was taken over by Kent County Council and used for a time by the Auxiliary Fire Service.

In 1944 the Bromley Day Commercial School for Girls in Wharton Road, Bromley, was badly damaged by a flying bomb landing in the playground. This was previously a selective Central School for girls. The school moved into Bullers Wood and became Bromley Girls’ Technical School. Inglewood House and grounds were taken over by the school in 1947.

By the late 1950s, the school needed to expand to cope with 11-18 year olds instead of the previous 14-17 age group and so extensions were built onto Bullers Wood in stages between 1957 and 1959 so that eventually Bullers Wood was linked to Hydeswood by the so-called New Building (or Link Block) containing the Hall, classrooms and cloakrooms and a large dining hall.

The gymnasium was built onto the caretaker’s cottage and the old dormitory block of the Royal School of Church Music. The school changed its name again to that of Bromley Technical High School for Girls and eventually, with a roll of well over 750 (compared with 130 when it started as the Central School in Bromley in 1940), it became known as Bullers Wood School in 1968.

The Chislehurst Society have produced a video about the history of Bullers Wood – you can find it here.