A rich History
The Portico building, with its classical columns topped by a dramatic pediment, occupies a site with a rich history stretching back to the sixteenth century.
The London Orphan Asylum bought the site in 1821 and held an architectural competition for a new building to house and school orphans. Mr Inman of Lincoln's Inn Fields won the commission and the foundation stone was laid in 1823 by the Duke of York. The buildings were completed in 1825. The orphanage was relocated to the country air of Watford in 1867 after a typhoid epidemic in Hackney, caused by the state of the drainage systems.
The London Orphanage Asylum still exists today with orphanages throughout the country.
"In the year 1823 a noble structure, called the London Orphan Asylum, was erected by subscription at an expense of £30,000 for maintaining and educating the orphan children of respectable parents. There are at this time 250 boys and 100 girls partaking its benefits." (Starling 1831)
In 1882 The Salvation Army bought the Portico and named it their ‘National Barracks'. After purchase the chapel was demolished and the quadrangle excavated, roofing it over to create a massive hall capable of seating more than 4,500 people. The wings of the building were used as training barracks for 300 male and female cadets with classrooms on the ground floor, workrooms below and bedrooms above.
Cadets marching down Linscott Road with the Clapton Congress Hall behind, c.1910
2015 marks the 150th anniversary of The Salvation Army. The movement was started by pioneers William and Catherine Booth in the East End of London in 1865.
The Clapton Congress Hall was used by the Salvation Army for 87 years until 1970 when a new citadel was built on Lower Clapton Road.
The building was subsequently bought by the London Borough of Hackney. In 1975 the majority of the building was demolished leaving only the Portico and the colonnade wings, giving way to the expansion of Clapton Girls Academy and the construction of Rosa Parks Block (the sports halls), Curie Block (science facilities) and Nightingale Block (languages). During the demolition of houses on Mayola Road, a culverted stream was discovered. The newest building in the school complex is a three storey technology building, the Tereshkova Block completed in the mid 1990's.
Linscott Road still exits today, although the connection between Mayola Road and Almack Road to the East has been cut of by the CGA grounds. The remains of Mayola Road are still visible on the school ground and are now serving emergency access only.
What remained of the Portico was added to the national ‘Buildings at Risk Register' and the structure sat unused for more than 25 years. In 1999 a temporary installation by Turner Prize winning artist Martin Creed stimulated public interest in the building. Work No.203, a large neon text installed on the front of the Portico read "Everything is Going to be Alright".
In 2003 the Learning Trust was awarded funding from the Department for Education and Skills and secured additional funding, mainly from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the Portico and build the Portico City Learning Centre - a place where students and teachers could access the most up to date computer technology. The new building, designed by Brady and Mallalieu Architects, was opened by the Rt Hon. Estelle Morris, Baroness of Yardley in April 2006.
Home to the Hackney Teaching Schools’ Alliance, the Portico is an intergral part of Clapton Girls' Academy; following completion of the 'Building Schools for the Future Programme' in September 2010. CGA was one of only a hundred schools in England granted Teaching School status from the National College for School Leadership.