The Laurels School is located at No. 1 Chelsea Embankment in a building called Shelley House.
Its name derives from the fact that the first building to be erected on this site in 1878 was commissioned by Sir Percy Shelley, the only surviving son of Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and writer Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (author of Frankenstein). After living there until 1884, it was leased to dignitaries such as Colonel Wilfrid William Ashley who served as Minister of Transport under Stanley Baldwin and Sir Arthur Charles who is perhaps best known for presiding over the first trial of Oscar Wilde.
However, in 1912 it was demolished and re-built by Charles Harold St. John Hornby. Hornby would rise to prominence as one of the partners in W. H. Smith and Son. He also had a passion for fine printing, founding the Ashendene Press. It was through this interest that he became acquainted with Edward Warren, architect and member of the Art Worker’s Guild, who would go on to design the new Shelley House.
In 1939 Shelley House was requisitioned by the Admiralty as W.R.N.S. quarters in support of the war effort. The requisition finally came to an end in 1953, whereupon W.H. Smith and Sons leased the building from Michael Hornby (Charles Hornby’s eldest son and vice chairman of the company) to use as a ‘Staff Training Centre and Hostel for Residential Purposes’ and was used as such for twenty-one years.
By the mid-1970’s, however, the building had been occupied by squatters and some of the original mahogany doors had been used for firewood! In 1978 it was purchased by Netherhall Educational Association who transferred the building to Dawliffe Hall Educational Foundation. Since that time, the building has been used to provide a multitude of educational initiatives for women with their spiritual care entrusted to Opus Dei.
In 2019 Shelley House entered a new and exciting phase in its long, illustrious history providing a magnificent home for The Laurels School. With its unique educational project, The Laurels School hopes to continue to enrich and serve the community building upon the solid foundations of virtue ethics, a commitment to excellence and an understanding of the good, the true and the beautiful. Shelley House overlooking the timeless River Thames could not be a better setting for this!