A private school is bidding to move into Hampstead landmark, Jack Straw’s Castle.

Ham & High: Jack Straw's Castle c1900. Photo courtesy of Michael Hammerson.Jack Straw's Castle c1900. Photo courtesy of Michael Hammerson. (Image: Archant)

Heathside School, which is currently spread across six sites in Hampstead, has submitted a planning application to occupy the former pub on the edge of Hampstead Heath, which has been vacant since a gym moved out in 2017.

The Grade-II listed structure, built by architect Raymond Erith in the 1960s, had been the site of an inn since the early 18th century, with the likes of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx said to be regular visitors. The pub closed in 2002.

Jack Straw’s Castle commemorates Jack Straw, Wat Tyler’s second-in-command during the Peasants’ revolt of 1381, who is said to have had a camp on the site.

Heathside already has links with another pub, the Old White Bear, which poured its last pint more than five years ago, but the school has no plans to end its occupation of upper floors of the building at this stage. This week the New End pub has had its Asset of Community Value (ACV) status renewed to the delight of campaigners.

Ham & High: Jack's Straw's Castle c1955. Photo courtesy of Michael Hammerson.Jack's Straw's Castle c1955. Photo courtesy of Michael Hammerson. (Image: Archant)

The school, which caters for almost 500 students from nursery up to Year 9, has also confirmed to the Ham&High that Jack Straw’s Castle will not be used as a facility for boarding pupils.

Principal Melissa Remus said: “This application has been submitted with the aim of developing a best-in-class learning environment for some of our current classes.

“Rather than adding to the school’s capacity, it will consolidate classes and enable us to relinquish other space in favour of this more appropriate long-term accommodation. Jack Straw’s Castle is a unique and inspiring building and, if our application is approved, would provide a perfect space for Heathside staff and pupils.”

Heathside parent Charlotte Pearson, who lives in Hampstead, added: “Jack Straw’s Castle is a very exciting prospect for Heathside with its location in the heart of Hampstead and its local history. It’s a stone’s throw from Hampstead Heath where the children play and I think this would be a perfect fit.”

Ham & High: Jack's Straw Castle c1965. Photo courtesy of Michael Hammerson.Jack's Straw Castle c1965. Photo courtesy of Michael Hammerson. (Image: Archant)

Philip Atkins, head of Planning Resolution Ltd which submitted the application to Camden Council for the school, said there had been no luck in finding a taker for Jack Straw’s Castle in the 18 months the building had been empty.

“After several failed business enterprises and unsuccessful marketing attempts to identify an operator or commercial occupier, the sales agent and freeholder of Jack Straw’s Castle are in support of the application and the alternative commercial use of the building by the school,” he said.

“Heathside School would provide an excellent opportunity to see the building in beneficial use once again.”

The news comes in the same month that the school was judged to have met all of Ofsted’s independent school standards, after a damning report found that “leaders and staff do not know how to keep pupils safe”, and that record taking was poor.

This year it has been all change at the school, where fees range between £9,000 and just under £19,000 a year, after several “experienced and highly competent” staff were appointed to join Heathside School’s “key leadership” team – a taskforce to improve health and safety and all other provisions required by Ofsted. In addition, the Heathside governance and safeguarding advisory board has been established with 11 governors in place, as announced today in an update on the school’s website.Heathside is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted overall.

What do you think of the plans? E-mail editorial@hamhigh.co.uk. For more information on the development go to heathsideprep.co.uk.