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End of an Era: Constructive Teaching Centre moves out of Lansdowne Road
(First published in STATNews, January 2011)

The era of Lansdowne Road as an international focus for the Alexander Technique came to an end in December 2010 when the Constructive Teaching Centre moved out of number 18. It had been a teaching centre as well as a training course for over half a century. Here we take a brief look at how Walter and Dilys Carrington came to buy the house and set up one of the first training courses in the world
-a course that has now trained hundreds of teachers.

In 1955, after F.M. died and Ashley Place closed, Walter taught and ran a training course in Staflex House, Bainbridge Street. Joan and Alex Murray both had lessons there, and the teachers included Peggy Williams and John Skinner. Around 1958, the house in Lansdowne Road came up for sale. At first it seemed that Walter and Dilys would not be able to buy it, but Ursula Benn and her husband came up with a scheme that made it possible. Michael Aronson, a long-time pupil of Walter’s, acted as solicitor. Walter and Dilys were delighted, not least because they wanted to live and work at the same place. They lived in the flat at the top of the house and rented out the flat on the first floor. Tenants included the BBC TV presenter Derek Hart (best known for Tonight), and Brian Door, who went on to train and teach at the Centre. The four main rooms on the ground floor, of course, were used for training and teaching. The house also had a beautiful private garden which led into a communal garden, accessible only to residents.

Initially the training course was small and included Rivka Meshoulam (now Cohen) who, with Joan Murray, had been a trainee in Charles Neal’s class. Tony Spawforth and Edward Gellatly were qualified teachers who worked in the class, as did Peggy Williams.

The front of 18 Lansdowne Road
Holland Park, London

During the early 1960s Walter initiated an evening group class. In the late 1960s, when Chariclia Gounaris and Grethe Laub were on the course, a ‘little school’ was started in the basement. Both of these initiatives were relatively short-lived experiments. When Betty Rajna (later known as Betty Collins and Betty Langford) and Paul Collins were on the course, also in the late 1960s, Walter hosted summer week-end courses for musicians.

By 1971, Walter and Dilys wanted to make some alterations. The flat at the top of the house was too small, and Walter’s teaching room had to double as his study. Christina Wilton became Walter’s secretary, which freed up Dilys’ time so that she could work with an architect to re-model the flat across the middle of the house. When it was ready, they made the big move from the top flat to the new, much larger flat on the first floor.

In the early 1970s there was an exponential increase in the number of students on the training course. In fact, by 1972 there was a waiting list of several years, partly because the then Greater London Council recognised the course and awarded grants for studying there. (Before that, nearly all young people worked while they trained.) The character of the training course had changed markedly from the early days.
As well as housing the training course, 18 Lansdowne Road was also an extremely important centre for private lessons, with many teachers working there and hundreds of lessons being given. For the Carringtons, of course, it was also their home. Their three sons grew up there, and Dilys
-with her marmalade, clematis, roses, costumes, and tapestry -lent it a feminine, homely atmosphere.

Walter passed away in 2005. Dilys continued to live in the first floor flat until she too passed away in 2009. With the connection between the Carringtons and the Constructive Teaching Centre no longer there, it was time for the Centre to move on. It has found a very nice temporary home at The Porchester Centre in Bayswater.

Anyone who trained, taught, or had lessons at Lansdowne Road will find this a poignant and thought-provoking time, and will have fond memories of this remarkable establishment.

The Training Room at Lansdowne Road
© Noel Kingsley, FRPS

With thanks to Alex and Joan Murray and Christina Wilton for providing background information, and to Annie Sayer and No
ël Kingsley (http://www.noelkingsley.com/walter-carringtons-study.asp) for the photographs.



  The Charity for the F Matthias Alexander Technique: Company limited by guarantee and registered in England and Wales No. 3153329, Registered Charity, No.1053863