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Former Welborne School, now Village Hall

A Grade II Listed Building in Runhall, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.6498 / 52°38'59"N

Longitude: 1.0544 / 1°3'15"E

OS Eastings: 606714

OS Northings: 310159

OS Grid: TG067101

Mapcode National: GBR TDD.WZ5

Mapcode Global: WHLS6.5NCH

Entry Name: Former Welborne School, now Village Hall

Listing Date: 23 February 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1423708

Location: Brandon Parva, Coston, Runhall and Welborne, South Norfolk, Norfolk, NR20

County: Norfolk

District: South Norfolk

Civil Parish: Brandon Parva, Coston, Runhall and Welborne

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Welborne All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Norwich

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Former school built in 1847 by C. Cattermoul and Sons Builders. Extended between 1906 and 1928 and again in early C21, now used as a village hall.


Former school built in 1847, extended in early C20 and again in early C21, now used as a village hall.

MATERIALS and PLAN: the former school is built in flint with buff brick quoins, buttresses, stepped coping and chimney stacks. The historic rear extension is also built in brick. The slate roof has been replicated on both the historic extension to the rear of the building and the C21 extension to the north. A copper ventilator sits central to the ridge. The moulded stone mullioned windows are complimented by similar moulding around the pointed arch to the porch.

EXTERIOR: the original school is a three bay, single storey building of simple rectangular plan with a projecting porch to the north-west corner and a rectangular extension to the rear. A small C21 extension to the north is of a similar plan. The gothic, pointed arched opening of the porch sits beneath a slated, pitched roof, supported on carved head stops, with stepped coping. A clock is positioned within the apex. Diagonal, brick-built buttresses support each of the four corners of the original building although that to the north-east corner has been truncated, presumably in the construction of the historic extension to the rear. There are two sets of four light, horizontally leaded windows to the left of the porch. These stone mullioned windows with trefoil tracery and hood moulds are replicated on the southern gable, on the rear elevation of the former school and in the historic extension to the rear. A reproduction, smaller, two-light window is replicated in the C21 extension. Brick built external stacks with tapering shafts stand at the rear of the school and on the north elevation of the extension. That to the rear of the school has angular brick decoration to the upper courses and that to the extension has dentils.

Each gable of the original school building has a quatrefoil ventilation brick in the apex, and that to the south has a blank stone inscription panel above the window. The school bell hangs from the northern gable, adjacent to the C21 extension.

The C21 extension is built of flint with a two-light reconstructed mullioned window to the front elevation and buff brick to the rear with two UPVC windows. The northern gable is accessed externally by a timber panelled door. This extension is of no architectural and historic interest and is excluded from the listing.

INTERIOR: internally the school is comprised of four rooms; the main school room (now used as a village hall); a kitchen (in the historic extension); a WC and cloakroom (in the C21 extension) and a small store room (again the modern extension). The main school room is lit on three sides by four mullioned windows, below which wide timber panelling extends around all but the front wall; parquet flooring survives throughout. An imposing moulded stone fireplace, with a stone apron and bottle-green glazed tiles surrounding the grate, sits central to the rear wall. The roof space was inaccessible at the time of the site visit; an inserted ceiling hides the roof structure but it is understood to survive.

In the north-east corner of the hall a pair of timber panelled and glazed doors open to the kitchen. The kitchen is lit by a stone mullioned window in the south wall and the UPVC window in the gable end. The room is surrounded on three sides by base kitchen units with an ‘emergency exit’ door inserted into the southern wall. No visible evidence of the fireplace survives.

The C21 extension, on the north side of the school room houses the WC, a cloakroom and a small storage room; it does not have architectural and historic interest and is excluded from the listing.


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, followed in 1814 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; 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.

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. The tripartite plan remained in use, added to and modified as necessary; more complex plans are found particularly in the market towns.

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 a 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. During this period a growing interest in health and hygiene, with a concern to introduce light and fresh air, is physically represented by classrooms lit by large windows on two sides and by the introduction of hopper opening windows, allowing cross ventilation with reduced draughts; 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.

It is documented that in the 1820’s some children from Welborne attended a Dame School at Mattishall, kept by ‘Gunton’s wife’ (2000, Esebury and Baxter). This expressed the desire for education of the children living in these rural areas and as a result Mr John Jonson started a Sunday school in Welborne with a non-resident Rector and a curate, to teach reading and scripture. The situation changed when John Barham Johnson (Rector at Welborne), at his own expense, set up a school in the church. Two classes were held, one in the nave and the other in the tower room. This was an improvement but more was required to meet the need for education in the rural community. An appeal for public subscription and grants was made to local landowners, tenant farmers and grant giving bodies. The appeal was successful and the total cost of the school, £237.10.7 was raised. Included within this was a grant of £10 from the Norwich Diocesan Society and £30 from The Promotion of Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church. The Rector also made appeals to the Government's Special Committee of the Privy Council (1838) which was set up to give additional grants to schools which had been able to raise funds by voluntary contribution. The application was successful and £42 was granted on the proviso that inspectors could be sent into schools, which received state help. A full and detailed account of the subscriptions is given in ‘A Place of No Importance’ (2000, Esebury and Baxter ).

Welbourne School was built in 1847 by C. Cattermoul and Sons Builders in the corner of the churchyard. It was built ‘… for the education of the poor children of the parish’ and was to be ‘…conducted upon the Principles of the Incorporated National Society…[i.e] the principles of the Established Church.’ (2000, Esebury and Baxter, p196). The school was extended to the rear early in C20. The extension doesn’t appear on the 1906 OS map but is evident on the 1928 edition. The County Council took over the running of the school in 1903 with a responsibility for staff, buildings and furniture and it may be, as a result of this take over, that the extension was built. Alternatively the extension may have been built following the closure of the school to make the building more usable for other purposes.

At the time of opening the school was attended by 63 children but by 1883 this had dropped to 40 and by the time the County Council took over it was down to just 32. By 1925 Kellys directory records that ‘by order of the Education Committee it is no longer maintained’ and children were moved to Mattishall or Brandon Parva.

A further extension was added to the northern gable in early C21 to provide disabled access to the WC and cloakrooms.

Reasons for Listing

Welborne School, built in 1847 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: as an assured work using local building materials in the Tudor-Gothic revival style;
* Intactness: it has survived with a high degree of intactness, both its plan form and function remain clearly legible providing a near complete example of a mid- C19 school;
* Interior detail: for the exceptional interior survival of the original plan form, doors and surrounds, parquet floor, Tudor-Gothic revival fireplace and windows;
* Group value: for the historical and proximity group value with the adjacent church of All Saints, listed at Grade II*.

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