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Swanton Morley Primary School

A Grade II Listed Building in Swanton Morley, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.7143 / 52°42'51"N

Longitude: 0.9779 / 0°58'40"E

OS Eastings: 601241

OS Northings: 317115

OS Grid: TG012171

Mapcode National: GBR SB6.VCW

Mapcode Global: WHLRY.Z1TJ

Plus Code: 9F42PX7H+P4

Entry Name: Swanton Morley Primary School

Listing Date: 23 February 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1423780

Location: Swanton Morley, Breckland, Norfolk, NR20

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Swanton Morley

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

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A Voluntary Aided primary school built as a Church of England School in 1916 to replace the condemned 1852 National School in the centre of the village.


Elementary school, built in 1916, extended in the C20.

MATERIALS: red brick laid partly in stretcher bond and partly in an irregular Flemish bond, with detail of tile and blue brick; tile-covered roofs.

PLAN: the U shaped plan of the original building of 1916 remains substantially intact, but with the U infilled. The plan consists of a main south range with wings to the east and west projecting north; the west wing returns to the east, lying parallel with the south range. There are large, later C20 additions attached to, and extending from, the north-west corner.

EXTERIOR: the main south-facing elevation is of four bays, the two central bays slightly advanced and with shaped, pointed gables. These bays and their gables are both framed and separated by substantial stacks rising to square sectioned chimneys that stand tall above hipped roofs. The stacks show fragmentary diaper work of blue brick headers. Similar bricks are also used decoratively on quoins at the base of the stacks, where there is also tumbled-in brickwork. All bays have tall tripartite windows, rising to eaves level, with mullions and transoms, and with sash windows below the transoms. The west bay is stepped back and has three windows separated by brick work rather than timber mullions. At the east corner of this elevation, the roof extends below the window head, slightly swept and supported by a kneeler of horizontally stacked tiles, which also form a band above the window in the east return. Decorative detail is mainly concentrated in the two central bays of the south elevation, the gables of which contain fragmentary diaper work above small moulded brick pediments, the latter slightly raised above a horizontal band of stacked clay tiles at eaves level. Below the central chimney, vertically set clay tiles form an arch over the recess between the central bays, across which is a long lead rain water hopper, set between square openings, carrying water from the roof to the downpipe.

The west elevation contains a tall window rising up through the eaves. The east elevation presents a centrally placed flat roofed porch, its east side with two round arches. Half of the porch is open, with an arched entrance in its south elevation, the other half enclosed. The north arch to the east elevation has a tripartite window, below which is a stone plaque framed by tiles. The arches rise from stacked tiles which form a cap to the square piers, the outer quoins of which are of engineering brick. Blue engineering bricks also define the outer edge of the arches, which have three tiers of recessed brickwork; at the foot of the outer tier are small, diamond-shaped medallions, also made of tile, with similar medallions set into the brickwork just below the porch roof. To the north of the porch, the north-east wing has a steeply sloped and slightly swept roofline, the eaves lower than those to the east elevation of the south range, south of the porch, the detail of which is described above. In the north elevation a long dormer window can be seen above and behind the later flat roofed section. Both north wings have tall chimneys similar to those to the south elevation. The chimney that straddles the ridge of the west wing is wider than those to the south.

INTERIOR: The entrance opens into a lobby, which is within the porch. The wide entrance has a surround with raised brickwork, forming a pattern of alternating headers and stretchers; the corners are rounded. This pattern is repeated around doors and entrances throughout the original building, and all potentially sharp corners are rounded. The entrance lobby is lit by a large, round-arched window to the east. Opposite the window are doors that open onto a flat roofed corridor with two (originally three) classrooms to the south. The corridor has a rooflight, but presumably would originally have been lit by windows to the north elevation. Each of the original three classrooms was lit by a large external window to the south, and by an internal window opening onto the corridor. Additional light was supplied to the central and west classrooms by a long dormer window, and to the east classroom by the high window to the south of the porch. Classroom doors all have nine-paned glazing to the upper half and two panels to the lower half. Although no fireplaces survive, they must have been set directly into the angled face of the chimney stacks where these project into each classroom, with the other face of the stack perhaps flush with the classroom partition wall. At the west end of the corridor, as it turns north, is the door to a fourth room. This is lit by tall windows to south and west and by a dormer window to the east; there is a chimney breast at the north end. It seems likely that there was originally a fifth room to the north of this, served by the same wide chimney, but this has been removed to create a wide corridor linking the old school to additional later C20 classrooms and school hall. Opposite, and to the east of this, is a partially blocked wide opening with raised brick quoins. Inset is a modern door, and there is a second modern door inserted to the north, opening into the return wing. The interior of that space was not seen. Apart from two tie beams that appear to mark the original divisions between the south classrooms, no elements of the original roof structure are visible.

The later C20 school hall and classrooms are plain, functional spaces; they are not of special architectural interest and are not included in 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, 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 in Norfolk (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 sub-standard; 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 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. 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.

In 1915, when the National School in the centre of Swanton Morley was condemned, a successful funding appeal was launched, and in the following year a new school was built to the north-west of the village. The school was (and is) sited in an isolated position, surrounded by fields, but is roughly equidistant from the two main foci of this linear settlement, Greengate, to the south, and Swanton Morley to the north. The design of the school took account of recent thinking on health and physical welfare, as well as changes in form and styles of teaching, which allowed for more and smaller classrooms, well-lit and ventilated; its wide linking corridor also recalls the idea of the marching corridor pioneered by the Derbyshire County Architect George Widdows in the previous decade. There were originally three classrooms to the south of the corridor, as well as a possible two to the west and one to the north-west. Over the course of the C20, new classrooms and a school hall have been added to the north-west and west of the original building, possibly removing the second room to the west to create a linking corridor.

Reasons for Listing

Swanton Morley Primary School is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: the main elevations are well balanced, and the design clearly displays architectural ambition;
* Historic interest: it is a rare example of a school built in the course of the First World War, modern in its design and advanced in its thinking about education and children’s welfare, influenced by the pioneering work of the Derbyshire County Architect, George Widdows;
* Intactness: despite later C20 additions to the school and some slight modifications to the division of classrooms, the plan of the original school survives, as does its fabric and external detail;
* Interior detail: significant interior detail remains, including windows between corridor and classrooms, half glazed doors, as well as other joinery and simple, well considered brickwork.

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