Hackney Downs School

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Hackney Downs School
Established 1876
Closed 1995
Type Grammar then Comprehensive
Founder Worshipful Company of Grocers
Location Downs Park Road
Lower Clapton
Greater London
E5 8NP
England England
51°33′06″N 0°03′43″W / 51.5516°N 0.0620°W / 51.5516; -0.0620Coordinates: 51°33′06″N 0°03′43″W / 51.5516°N 0.0620°W / 51.5516; -0.0620
Local authority Hackney
DfE URN 100276 Tables
Gender Mixed

Hackney Downs School was a comprehensive secondary school, located near Hackney Downs off the A104 north of Hackney town centre, in the London Borough of Hackney.


Grocers' Company's School[edit]

It was founded in 1876 as The Grocers' Company's School. On its transfer to the London County Council in 1906 the school was renamed Hackney Downs School (formerly the Grocers' Company's School).

Grammar school[edit]

As a grammar school, it won an excellent reputation, with alumni including Nobel prize-winning playwright the late Harold Pinter, fellow playwright and actor Steven Berkoff, 1960s tycoon John Bloom, and athletics administrator Sir Arthur Gold. Many famous medical men attended including kidney transplant pioneer Ralph Shackman and pioneering nutritionist John Yudkin. Three current members of the House of Lords are former pupils: (Lord Levy, Lord Feldman and Lord Clinton-Davis). It had 600 boys with a sixth-form entry by the early 1970s.


In September 1969, it became a comprehensive school, and inherited more than its share of the problems of this deprived inner-city borough. It had voted to become comprehensive in 1969. Just before its closure, over 70 percent of the boys spoke English as a second language, half came from households with no-one in employment, and half the intake had reading ages three years below average.

Decline and closure[edit]

Things came to a head in the 1990s, when the school made national news by being described by the then Conservative government as the 'worst school in Britain'. Eventually, as a result of direct government pressure, the school was forced to close in 1995.

The decision remains controversial to this day, opponents of the closure pointing out that Hackney Downs was singled out for special treatment by the government (presumably pour encourager les autres) and that its academic results were not significantly worse than many other inner-city comprehensives, especially considering the problems it had inherited, including the steady 'decanting' of problem pupils—who had frequently been expelled from their original schools—to Hackney Downs.

Later use of the building[edit]

The site of the old school is now occupied by Mossbourne Community Academy, founded by Sir Clive Bourne, which opened in 2004.

While the school buildings of both the original Grocers' Company's School and Hackney Downs School have been replaced by the new Mossbourne Academy, the Old Boys of Hackney Downs continue their interactions as alumni through The Clove Club, which meets regularly, has its own website, and sponsors a very active email group called The Clove eGroup (on Yahoo), and featured on The Clove Club website.[1]

Histories of the School[edit]

An official history of the school, written by the historian Professor Geoffrey Alderman (who was a pupil there 1955-62) was published by the Clove Club in 1972. In 2012 Alderman published an updated history: Hackney Downs 1876-1995: The Life and Death of a School, in which he took the story to the school's demise, using hitherto unpublished material.


Notable alumni[edit]

Hackney Downs School (1974-95)[edit]

Boys' grammar school (1906–74)[edit]

Grocers' Company's School (1876-1906)[edit]


  1. ^ The Clove's Lines: The Newsletter of The Clove Club: The Old Boys of Hackney Downs School 3.2 (Mar. 2009): 32.
  2. ^ "MC" (Michael Caine), "A Message from Evacuee Maurice Micklewhite", The Clove's Lines: The Newsletter of The Clove Club: The Old Boys of Hackney Downs School 3.2 (Mar. 2009): 16. Print. (Sent by Michael Caine to Jerry Pam for publication in this issue.)
  3. ^ Millais Culpin


  • O'Connor, Maureen, et al. Hackney Downs: The School That Dared to Fight. London: Cassell, 1999. ISBN 0-304-70710-4 (10). ISBN 978-0-304-70710-2 (13). Print.
  • Watkins, G. L., ed. The Clove's Lines: The Newsletter of The Clove Club: The Old Boys of Hackney Downs School. Print. (Some issues are accessible online at the website of The Clove Club.)
  • Watkins, G. L., ed. 'Fortune's Fool': A Life of Joe Brearley: The Man Who Taught Harold Pinter. Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Eng.: TwigBooks, 2008. Print.

External links[edit]

  • The Clove Club ("Founded in 1884") – Official website of "The Clove Club: The Old Boys of Hackney Downs School, formerly The Grocers' Company's School – founded by The Company in its corporate right, in 1876."
  • Social Change and English, 1945-1965 - Hackney Downs is one of three schools in London that are included in this Leverhulme Trust-funded project about the teaching of English in the period 1945-1965. The project is collecting oral histories from former teachers and pupils at the school.
  • EduBase