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Former Blickling School, attached School House and service yard

A Grade II Listed Building in Blickling, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.8107 / 52°48'38"N

Longitude: 1.2255 / 1°13'31"E

OS Eastings: 617483

OS Northings: 328560

OS Grid: TG174285

Mapcode National: GBR VD0.YDX

Mapcode Global: WHLRH.SMS3

Entry Name: Former Blickling School, attached School House and service yard

Listing Date: 23 February 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1423657

Location: Blickling, Broadland, Norfolk, NR11

County: Norfolk

District: Broadland

Civil Parish: Blickling

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Blickling

Church of England Diocese: Norwich

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School and attached school house, built in 1867-68 to the designs of Robert Bartram.


School built in 1867-68 to the designs of Robert Bartram.

MATERIALS: uncoursed closely laid knapped flint with red brick dressings and a roof covering of red plain clay tiles.

PLAN: linear plan running east-west consisting of a high single-storey rectangular school on the west side with a later infants’ room to the north, and an attached two-storey school house which has an enclosed yard to the east and a single-storey range of outbuildings.

EXTERIOR: the building is in a picturesque Tudorbethan style with irregular elevations, steeply pitched roofs and tall chimney stacks. Much of its decorative effect is created by the extensive use of red brick for the dressings, including the plinth, an eaves cornice of three stepped courses of headers, quoins and window surrounds with a zigzag edge, rubbed brick window arches, and banding in the gable heads and edging along the verges. The south-facing front elevation consists of the long side of the school room which has a gabled ventilation louvre on the ridge and is lit by three large windows with ovolo moulded glazing bars and square leaded lights with margins. The first and third windows have four lights and the central window six lights, the upper lights opening from the top. The sills are of stepped brick as is the band that runs just above mid-window height. To the right is the gabled entrance porch which is supported by columns on brick plinths and has a steeply pitched roof with moulded barge boards and an open gable head defined by five moulded struts. The front door is set in a shouldered arch surround and has vertical planks with applied moulded fillets. The floor of the porch has an inset tiled square laid in a lozenge pattern. To the right of this is the two-storey projecting gabled bay of the school house which has tumbled in brick and stepped banding on both floors. The ground floor is lit by a nine-light casement window with ovolo moulded glazing bars, and the first floor by a six-light window. In the gable head is a square stone plaque inscribed with the date ‘1868’ and the Lothian family coat of arms, set in a brick surround with a gauged arch, stepped brick sill and lintel. The stepped ground-floor storey band continues along the right return which is brick below and flint above, and has a central dormer with the window below the eaves line. Rising from the centre of the ridge is a prominent chimney stack that has three flues with a decorative shape on plan, oversailing brick courses and tall circular pots.

The west elevation presents a double gable, that on the left being a late C19 replica of the original. The gables are crow-stepped and have saddleback coping with a roll moulding on the ridge. There are two brick bands in the gable head, a lintel band, and a stepped band that runs just below mid-window height. Each gable end is lit by a large eight-light casement window with ovolo moulded glazing bars and a transom on a higher level than the centre. The stepped band continues along the left return (north elevation) which has a centrally placed projecting brick chimney stack with brick zigzag quoins and oversailing brick courses. The east gable end of the infants’ room has the same treatment as the west, except it is blind and has a similar recess in the gable head as that on the house, presumably for a date stone that was never added. There is a small flat-roofed projection providing an entrance and cloakroom which has a plank and batten door on the east side and a C20 metal framed window on the north side.

The north elevation, from the left, consists of the projecting gabled bay of the house which has tumbled in brick and two stepped storey bands. On the ground floor is a back door with two lower panels and nine lights above with a gauged brick arch. To the right is a three-light casement window with a stepped sill, a similar window above, and a date stone of ‘1867’ in the gable head in a similar surround as that already described. What was formerly a recessed area between this gabled bay and the infants’ room has been infilled by a mid-C20 range, providing a kitchen and WCs. It has a catslide roof and is lit by two two-light casements and has a vertical plank door in between. This addition has subsumed what was formerly a projecting chimney stack which has a broached plinth on a base from which rises a circular shaft embellished with patterns in moulded brick and surmounted by a concave-sided octagonal cap.

INTERIOR: the main school room has a suspended ceiling but the original roof trusses survive as do the panelled doors. The dado panelling has been removed, and the plain fireplace, which does not appear to be original, has a modern brick infill. The small room at the east end has modern kitchen and bathroom fittings. The infants’ room has a high canted ceiling and modern fitted cupboards.

It was not possible to inspect the house but it is known that it has been internally remodelled. The original staircase and tiled hall floor are thought to survive but the fireplaces have been replaced.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the single-storey brick and flint outbuilding range has kneelered gables with saddleback coping. It is attached to the house on the south side by a brick and flint wall, also with saddleback coping, which has a central timber door. The south gable end has blocked quoins, brick verges, and a stepped band. There is an opening in the gable head with the same surround as the date plaques. The north gable end is slightly different, having zigzag quoins, a band in the gable head, and a plank and batten door. The long east and west elevations are in plain red brick. The west elevation which faces onto the yard has two doors, a small six-light window, and another door, followed by a segmental arched opening with a recessed door. All the doors are of the plank and batten kind. The east elevation has an outshut with a small chimney stack and three modern rooflights. There are two doors and a window, followed by another door, and the mid-C20 bicycle store under a tiled roof. The fireplace (minus the grate) and copper survive in the former ‘tub house’. There is a water pump at the north end of the yard.


The architecture of rural schools in Norfolk is a physical representation of the history of education for poor and working class children from the early to mid-C19 up to the Butler Education Act of 1944. Nationally, until the late C17 education was provided predominantly by grammar and endowed schools, but was generally restricted to those who could pay. In 1698 the newly founded Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) established charity schools, primarily to educate urban working class children, but until the early C19 the education of rural children depended on local initiatives, generally informal classes held in a variety of existing spaces, and often referred to as 'Dame Schools'. The provision of more organised and formal education for working class children appeared with the founding of the Church of England's National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor (National Schools) in 1811, which was preceded, in 1808, by the Non-Conformist's British and Foreign Schools Society (British Schools); the former were dominant in the countryside, while the latter were mainly urban based. These two organisations were the main providers of voluntary schools, although other bodies also set up schools, and particularly in rural areas these could be established by landowners and estates, sometimes in conjunction with the National Society. In 1833 the first government grants became available for those voluntary societies willing to submit to inspection, with an increase in the budget in 1843 to cover the cost of teacher's houses (particularly essential in remote areas of rural Norfolk) leading to an increase in the number of schools in the county built in the 1840s and 1850s.

From the mid-C19 the religious societies were the main providers of education for the poor, but schooling was not universally available and the presence of schools in communities was patchy. The Education Act of 1870 recognised the need to widen access to education in response to social and political change, reflected particularly in the extension of the franchise by the Representation of the Peoples Act of 1867. The Education Act allowed for the setting up of secular school boards, empowered to establish local schools where there was a need, and between 1870 and 1902 160 new schools were built (including church schools); however, attendance was not made compulsory (for children aged between five and ten) until the Elementary Education Act of 1880. The next major change in educational provision did not come about until 1902, when the Balfour Act transferred responsibility to newly established Local Education Authorities. New Building Regulations issued by the Board of Education revealed some schools to be substandard; new schools were built, but there were also some closures in Norfolk. In the inter-war years the building of elementary schools slowed, and further closures followed. Under the Education Act of 1944 the newly established Ministry of Education required all LEAs to submit development plans with provision for secondary education, and also laid down a minimum standard of accommodation for primary schools. A programme of new school building was proposed to replace inadequate schools, and although ambitions for the building of new schools and the closure of those that were deemed sub-standard or too small were not realised, by 1990 190 schools in Norfolk had been closed.

Historical changes in educational provision and funding, as well as the evolution of ideas about education, tend to be reflected in architectural styles, and in the plan and function of school buildings. The earliest rural schools are often very plain, single storey one room structures; porches are generally present, at least one, and sometimes two, where money and space allow for separate entrances for boys and girls, and these remained a consistent and sometimes prominent feature. Within the classroom, benches were arranged longitudinally on one side of the room, grouped to allow for the teaching of smaller numbers of children by monitors, a system known as the Madras method. A development of this plan was the addition of a smaller infants' classroom at one end, which may have had raked seating; evidence of this is rarely found, and no original benches survive. A variant on this plan is where the second classroom forms a cross-wing, while a tripartite plan might be formed with an integrated teachers' house as a cross-wing at the other end of a central classroom, forming an H or U plan. From the 1840s teachers' houses might include a parlour, kitchen, scullery and three first floor bedrooms. After the 1870 Act, progressive layouts are scarce in rural Norfolk, including the widely adopted plan, devised by the London Board architect, E R Robson, of classrooms off a central hall. In the countryside the tripartite plan remained in use, added to and modified as necessary.

Architecturally, the favoured style of early schools was the Classical, but by the 1830s and '40s Gothic had become dominant, combined with elements of Tudor architecture. Schools funded by local landowners or estates could be particularly elaborate in their design as an expression of philanthropic wealth. After 1860, a style merging elements of the Tudor and Jacobean styles, the Jacobethan, emerges, and although the establishment of school boards after 1870 saw the introduction nationally of a more secular Queen Anne style, this was slow to be adopted in Norfolk, and Gothic or Jacobethan remained in favour, as well as the earlier legacy of building styles. After the creation of Local Education Authorities in 1902 the Queen Anne style was introduced, often fused with elements drawn from the Arts and Crafts movement, with the latter occasionally featuring as the predominant style. The new Building Regulations reflected a growing interest in health and hygiene, with a particular concern for light and fresh air. This is physically represented by classrooms lit by large windows on two sides and by hopper opening windows in lower panes, allowing cross ventilation with reduced draughts. A programme of enlarging windows in existing schools was also introduced, sometimes by inserting dormers to rise above eaves level. In new schools, marching corridors also provided opportunities for exercise. The Derbyshire County Architect George Widdows was a pioneer in the development of school plans capturing the new thinking, and although these are more usually seen, nationally, in larger urban schools, there are examples to be found in rural Norfolk. In the inter-war years school building slowed, and the design of new schools adopted a functional Queen Anne style.

The school and attached school house on the Blickling estate was built in 1867-1868 for 86 children by the 8th Marquess of Lothian of Blickling Hall. This is one of the major Jacobean houses in England and the school was designed in a sympathetic Jacobethan style. The architect was Robert Bartram of Aylsham (fl. 1854-1883) who also designed the extension to St Michael’s National School in Aylsham in 1875. There are no buildings on the List associated with Bartram and little is known about him. The original plans for the school show that it consisted of one large schoolroom with two small projections at the east end: the north one was probably for the childrens’ coats, and the south entrance porch served both the school room and the house which is attached to the east end of the school. The three rooms in the house are labelled ‘scullery’, ‘pantry’ and ‘living room’, and it had two upstairs bedrooms. To the east of the house is a yard with a range of outbuildings labelled ‘girls’ (WCs), ‘coals’, ‘tub house’, ‘boys’ and ‘mistress’.

The 1886 Ordnance Survey map shows the original footprint of the building which, by the publication of the 1906 map, had been extended to provide an infants’ room on the north side of the school room, thus creating a double-gabled west elevation. In 1950 a lean-to bicycle shelter was added to the north-east corner of the outbuildings and, probably around the same time, the small recess between the school and house on the north side was infilled. The house has been modified internally: the pantry and scullery have been knocked through to create a kitchen, and one of the bedrooms has been made smaller to accommodate a bathroom. The school closed in 1982 and is now used a community centre, whilst the school house remains in domestic use.

Reasons for Listing

The former Blickling School and school house, built in 1867-68 to the designs of Robert Bartram, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: it is an accomplished example of the Jacobethan style which had become popular for school buildings by the 1860s, and has a picturesque composition incorporating some striking features of this architectural fashion to considerable effect;
* Building materials: the decorative elements are emphasised by the thoughtful use of finely crafted building materials which exploits the aesthetic appeal of knapped flint with red brick;
* Historic interest: it demonstrates the evolution of educational provision in the second half of the C19, the later addition of the infants’ room being carried out with a marked sympathy for the original design;
* Intactness: it has survived externally with a high level of intactness, and both its plan form and function remain clearly legible. The survival of the service yard enhances the interest of the building which, overall, provides an important and near complete picture of a school and attached school house of the Victorian period;
* Group value: it is an important element in the social and historical development of the Blickling estate and consequently has strong group value with the Grade I listed house, Grade II registered park and numerous other listed estate buildings.

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