Open Air Schools in Nottingham Parks

by Judith Mills, University of Nottingham and Val Wood, Friends of the Arboretum

Towards the end of the First World War, Nottingham’s Board of Education began to promote an ‘open air system of education’, which was considered to be of great benefit to scholars, especially children recovering from tuberculosis and those who lived in poorer areas, though all pupils were thought to benefit.  During April 1918 temporary arrangements were put in place in the Arboretum and Victoria Park as well as other parks around the city, including the Embankment, the Coppice, King Edward Park, Vernon Park and Lenton Recreation ground.

All schools were encouraged to use these facilities over the summer months, though it was left to the schools whether they went for just a class-period, a half-day or a full-day.  It was recommended that infant classes stayed for a full-day, and that they should take their chairs with them.

Initially, what was provided was minimal – often little more than a ground sheet and an awning, though 2000 small camp stools which had been made in woodworking classes were distributed amongst the schools most needing them.  Wherever possible, facilities to provide a mid-day meal were set up for those classes that stayed for a full-day, thus ensuring small children from the poorest areas received a good meal.

The provisions in the Arboretum were more elaborate than those in other parks.  Five marquees were set up specifically for classes for children recovering from lung diseases; they were supervised by the Medical Officer.  However, other children were allowed to use the marquees if it rained.  The bandstand was also opened up so that children could have singing lessons, and shelter from the rain.

From 1920, councillors on the Nottingham City Council gave ‘very serious consideration to the question of the provision of suitable accommodation for the treatment of tuberculous children’. An experimental unit for the treatment of children with tuberculosis at Sneinton Dale was opened in 1920 and official schools were established in 1922 on Victoria Park (now the Jehovah’s Kingdom Hall), King Edward Park and Bulwell Forest.

The Scout Hut on The Forest, formerly the Open Air School

The Scout Hut on The Forest, formerly the Open Air School

In 1924 another school was opened on the Forest recreation ground, which is now the Forest Scout Hut.

In 1927 an open air school in the Arboretum was opened for the recuperative treatment of weakly children as noted in Nottingham ‘The Queen City of the Midlands’ Official Guide Sixth Edition 1927. These schools were built to ensure that the maximum amount of sunlight and fresh air could be obtained as well as access to open areas for play.

Open Air School in The Arboretum Courtesy of George L Roberts and

Open Air School in The Arboretum
Courtesy of George L Roberts and








The other school for children who were deaf or partially deaf was on Forest Road which is close in proximity to the Arboretum and the Forest recreation ground.


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