History - Government Building (formally Hanover Street School), Lord Street, Douglas, Isle of Man, IM1 1LE
The foundation stone of Hanover Street School, the building now known as Government Building, was laid on 4th July 1888 by the wife of then HM Attorney General and Chairman of the School Committee of Douglas, Mrs George A Ring. A year later, on 26th August 1889, the school was officially opened by Lieutenant Governor and Mrs Spencer Walpole. Hanover Street has now been absorbed into Lord Street but was first named in approximately 1815 when the monarch was George III of the Royal House of Hanover1.
The Education Act of 1872 established for the first time a system of national education on the Island which demanded compulsory attendance for children between the ages of seven and thirteen. The forward thinking Mr Ring and his fellow Committee Members were determined to progress education and set about their task with vigour. The building of Hanover Street School at a total cost of £10,218 was a further step in their plan to ensure the education provision in Douglas compared favourably with the best education given in other parts of the British Isles. Though the education that Hanover Street School provided was purely elementary it was one of only forty schools in the country which took science as a class subject2.
The new three-storied school provided 820 places - 290 for infants, 254 for girls and 244 for boys2, accepting children between the ages of three and eleven years. Despite such availability, on the day of opening (2nd September 1889) only 134 pupils enrolled at the school. The teaching staff of Hanover Street School educated students according to age, though a child's level of knowledge upon attending the School played a role in their class allocation. Often a child of junior age attending school for the first time would arrive at Hanover Street unable to recite the alphabet and would be situated with the infants.
The ground floor of the school situated four classrooms for infant pupils, three of which were separated only by sliding glass partitions which opened up to provide a hall for 180 pupils. Furthermore, there were two teachers' rooms, a clerk's office, toilets, cloakrooms and a large board room. The junior girls occupied the four classrooms on the first floor, two of which also opened up to reveal a hall. The first floor also hosted a cookery class with cooking range and gas stove adjoined to a store and scullery. Finally, the top floor was occupied by the junior boys who used a separate entrance from that situated on Barrack Street. The boys facilities consisted of a technical room boasting wood working benches and a lathe. As for recreation, the 850 children congregated in the asphalted yard situating climbing ladders, parallel bars, swings and seesaws, with part of the yard sheltered for playing in wet weather3.
Younger children engaged in various activities including: clay modelling; weaving; colouring; tile work; and, bead threading whilst the juniors took lessons in: Christian scripture (non-denominational); natural history; mental arithmetic; dictation; reading; grammar (oral and written); science; and physical training. The junior girls were also taught subjects such as cookery and needle work and the junior boys trained in manual work4.
The students of Hanover Street School typically came from poor backgrounds and subject to their standards of living there was frequent illness amongst the children. Common infectious diseases to the school included: mumps; measles; influenza; whooping cough; diphtheria; and ring worm. In several cases of infection some students unfortunately lost their lives and in a severe bout of measles a couple of the infant classes were temporarily closed. Neglected children would be washed at the school and poor children provided with clothes donated to the school5.
The School would often close in the afternoon for school picnics and also declared holidays for blackberry picking. On such days the students would be sent away to collect blackberries and the following day would present them to the school who would sell them to the Rushen Abbey Jam Factory. The money raised would return to the school or was donated to the Red Cross. The School would also close during every General Election of the Members of the House of Keys so that it could be used as a polling booth6.
Hanover Street School remained open as a school until 1946 following the enactment of the Douglas Town Improvement and Artisan Dwelling Act that empowered Douglas Council to carry out street improvements, purchase and demolish properties and enable new streets to be formed between Bank Hill and Ridgeway Street during the 1930s7. Along with the demand for re-organisation came the development of a new school, Ballakermeen Modern Secondary School. When Hanover Street School closed all students above the age of eleven years moved on to Ballakermeen whilst all students under the age of eleven years moved to Tynwald Street School, now known as Fairfield Junior School8.
Since that date it has provided accommodation for a range of Government education services. The College of Further Education was based here until its removal to its new home in Homefield Road in 1971. It was during proposals for the erection of a new College that the Chairman of the Board of Education, Mr GVH Kneale, declared that the premises at Lord Street and Kensington Road should be sold, being 'unsuitable and incapable of further development'9.
At one stage the Department of Education Works Division was also based in the building, the large single storey extension serving as their workshop10, and the Department's Music Service is still located on the first floor of the building. Other Government services have also been based in the building at various and for varying lengths of time including part of the Board of Social Security when an explosion badly damaged its Hill Street office.
The Board of Consumer Affairs (now the Office of Fair Trading) moved to the building in 1990 and now occupies the ground and second floors.
Report researched and written by Heather Crawford (2006)