39 Black Prince Road: a venerable address returns to life

Generations of Lambeth residents made their way underneath the elegant arch around the door of number 39 Black Prince Road for many different reasons over the last century. Entering the building as pupils, as teachers, as workers supporting the war effort, or even to make films, they could not have helped but be struck by the solid grandeur of the building.

From the cast-iron railings facing onto Vauxhall Street and Black Prince Road, through the Art Nouveau friezes on the frontage, the high ceilings, to the huge main hall with its black trusses exposed against the white ceiling, the Beaufoy Institute makes a beautiful impression.

The Beaufoy Institute, now a listed building, was first brought into use in 1907 as a school for underprivileged children.

The rosetta over the door of the Beaufoy Institute, showing the date it was completed

The rosetta over the door of the Beaufoy Institute, showing the date it was completed

The Institute was continuing the mission of the old Lambeth Ragged School, when that building was demolished and the land sold to the railway. After being a school and subsequently a technical institute for so long, the building fell into complete disuse for well over a decade, making it on to the risk register of English Heritage. Then in 2011, Diamond Way Buddhism UK bid for the Beaufoy Institute, and was successful in the bid, the subsequent planning application and purchase. The Beaufoy is now partially renovated and already a functioning Buddhist centre, offering regular Buddhist meditation classes. This new usage fits completely with the compassionate ethos that the building has had from the beginning.
As Erica Beaufoy, member of the Beaufoy Family after whom the Institute is named, said on the occasion of our public opening:

“the Institute must have given a sigh of relief when the Diamond Way came to her rescue..”

Whereas before, the Beaufoy was dedicated to learning about skills for life and developing rounded human qualities, to that these days one can now add learning about the nature of mind through Buddhist methods. Indeed one could say that the torch has been successfully and gladly passed over, as the sculpture that was incorporated into the outside wall of the Beaufoy Institute from the old Lambeth Ragged school alludes to:

The torch of Enlightenment on the wall of the Beaufoy Institute, now a Buddhist Centre

A young teacher runs her finger along a line in a book, lit by the Torch of Enlightenment. She and her young charges are in classical dress … For many years the Torch of Enlightenment was used as a road sign to mark schools.

Enjoy the pictures below of the shiny new number 39 being fixed on to the outside of the Buddhist centre by our volunteer workers, and the view of the Beaufoy from Black Prince Road.

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