St Peter’s Church in Walworth originally opened its Sunday School in 1836. The Rev. George Ainslie, Rector of St Peter’s, made the first contribution to the school’s funds, a donation of ten shillings (50 pence) and a five shillings annual subscription. Originally the children sat round the altar and in the pew seats, with their parents or near the teachers. Eventually they moved into three small rooms in the church building.
With the growing demand for a local day school, the Rev. Ainslie was able to secure the plot of land between St Peter’s Church and Sutherland Chapel, and St Peter’s School was built. The building with two schoolrooms, to separate the boys and girls, was erected in the autumn of 1839. The original day school stood on the site of the Old Rectory. It was occupied from 1st December 1839.
Walworth quickly developed into a crowded area attracting the poorer sort of family. As the richer folks moved further out, the homes they vacated were hastily converted into dwellings for several families. Bolts were fitted to internal rooms, with one family per room. This overcrowding eventually developed into slum dwellings, causing much poverty and disease in the area, but supplying St Peter’s School with many of its pupils.
In July 1851, Rev. Francis Statham, Rector of St Peter’s Church, laid the first stone of a brand new St Peter’s School building, in Shaftesbury Street (the present Aylesbury Road). It was opened the following year. A foul smelling cowshed stood next door.
This structure lasted until 1905 when it was demolished to make way for the Octavia Hill Estate. The children then moved into the new (and present) school building in Liverpool Grove.