Architect was school pioneer

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EDUCATION in Derbyshire would not be the same without the trailblazer George Henry Widdows (pictured).

The innovative architect, a pioneer in school planning and introducing open air sites, is up for a blue plaque from Derbyshire County Council.

His grandson David Widdows has spoken of the designer as part of our series on local honour nominees. “He was rather a stern sort of character who didn’t suffer fools at all,” said retired quantity surveyor Mr Widdows, 80, of Quarndon, near Derby.

“But he was a very great man, his legacy is all the schools that he built, and one can’t help but be rather proud of him.

“He was at the forefront of educational planning.” A native of Norwich, George Widdows was appointed architect to the Derbyshire County Council Education Committee in 1904. He established a reputation as a talented designer of modern schools, creating 60, working on more and also bringing hospitals or institutions up-to-date. In 1910 he became county architect. Added his grandson: “When he started designing schools they were the old Victorian style with rather high windows so nobody could see out.

“He had this idea of getting cross ventilation and windows so people could see out. He was a great believer in fresh air.

“I think a lot of his ideas had the health of pupils behind them.”

George Widdows, who built houses in Allestree, died in 1946 and English Heritage has listed many of his county schools. Iain Mackay of Wirksworth nominated him for the plaque.

To vote for anyone on the 12-strong shortlist visit www.derbyshire.gov.uk/blueplaques or write to Blue Plaques Vote, Derbyshire County Council, County Hall, Matlock, DE4 3AG by August 8.

l See next week’s Derbyshire Times for a profile on John Smedley.