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Former National School and boundary wall

A Grade II Listed Building in Shouldham, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.6523 / 52°39'8"N

Longitude: 0.4795 / 0°28'46"E

OS Eastings: 567819

OS Northings: 308944

OS Grid: TF678089

Mapcode National: GBR P6B.N1S

Mapcode Global: WHKQS.BLKK

Entry Name: Former National School and boundary wall

Listing Date: 23 February 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1423960

Location: Shouldham, King's Lynn and West Norfolk, Norfolk, PE33

County: Norfolk

District: King's Lynn and West Norfolk

Civil Parish: Shouldham

Built-Up Area: Shouldham

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Shouldham All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Ely

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Former national school built 1866 and extended in 1872, both phases by R. J. Withers, extended again in 1884.


Former school built 1866 and extended in 1872, both phases by R. J. Withers. It was extended again in 1884 and following restoration and conversion in C21 is now used as a restaurant, farm shop, bed and breakfast and private dwelling.

MATERIALS: built of pale gault bricks with red brick detailing, the school has a slate roof with decorative red ridge tiles and cruciform finials above the north and south gable of the original roof. Stone mullioned windows survive throughout the front (east) elevation with some timber casements to the rear.

PLAN: the former school has a simple H plan comprising the main, original school range and two porches, one for boys to the north-east and for girls to the south-east. To the rear (west) of the school are two gabled perpendicular wings projecting from the north-west, added in 1872, and the south-west, added in 1884. Since 2004 a timber and glass conservatory was built between the two rear gables, and a small porch was added to the southern gable. Both of these features are architecturally modest and are excluded from the listing, as indicated on the map. A small extension added to the northern end of the school is closely integrated with the historic fabric and as a consequence is included in the listing.

EXTERIOR: the front elevation of the single storey building comprises five bays including three projecting gables separated by two external, tapering stacks, with a porch at each end. The porches, with pointed-arched, timber panel doors facing to the centre, project further than the gables and are emphasised by a cat slide roof. Within each projecting gable is a tall, half-dormer, pointed arched, mullioned and transomed window with four leaded lights below a quatrefoil window. Between the four light window and the quatrefoil window is carved stone trefoil and arched detailing. Similar fenestration can be seen in the north and south gables of the original school building although these comprise six leaded lights, two quatrefoil windows and a single trefoil opening in the point of the arch. The carved stone detailing is in the same gothic style. In the west gable of the 1872 extension is a replacement three over three timber casement windows with six lights to each window. Beneath this a fully glazed patio door has been inserted. In the west gable of the southern (1884) extension the windows have been replaced and although the detailing is in keeping with the gothic style it is simpler in design. An external metal chimney has been attached to this gable to serve the restaurant kitchen. A gabled brick-built porch has been added to the southern end of the school to provide access to the restaurant and bar. Red brick banding runs around the building at sill and eaves height and has been replicated through all phases of the buildings development. The decorative detailing continues over and through the brick arches above the primary window and door openings.

The southern elevation of the former school is dominated by the gable of the main school room with its pointed arched, mullioned and transomed window with a small trefoil headed window above, possibly once used for ventilation, but now containing stained glass. Adjacent to this, in the side wall of the small class room (now a kitchen) is another stone mullioned and transomed window with Y tracery containing a stained glass. A small extension has been added to the lobby at the northern end of the school and here uPVC windows have been inserted.

INTERIOR: the king-post roof structure survives throughout with the principal rafters and short wind braces cut with a scalloped edge to dramatic effect. The principal rafters split at eaves height, partially sitting on a double, dentilled band, at the top of the wall while the remainder extends down the wall to rest on simple, carved but elegant stone corbels.

The wooden floor of the main school room is intact; a folding dividing screen was moved from this room during conversion but was repositioned to provide a partition between the kitchen and entrance hall. The original position of the screen is evident in the floor of the main room. Against the east wall of the main school room are two large and elegant stone fire places one engraved with an inscription ‘THIS SCHOOL ERECTED FOR THE TRAINING OF THE CHILDREN OF THIS PARISH IN THE LOVE OF GOD AND IN THE FAITH OF THE CHURCH WAS OPENED JULY 26 1868 W.M. ALLEN INCUMBENT.’ The other is plain.

During conversion a mezzanine floor and stair were inserted into the northern end of the main room to provide bedrooms and a bathroom. A low, raised platform and bar have been inserted at the southern end. A pointed arched doorway in the western wall has been partially in-filled with a fish tank and a new opening has been made further north in the same wall but replicates the pointed arch of the original. Another opening links the main school room to the conservatory (in use as a restaurant in 2014). The ground floor, at the northern end of the school, is used as a private dwelling which incorporates the original lobby, girls and boys toilets and cloakrooms most of which are still legible in the plan and structure. The former infants room, in the 1872 extension, originally had galleried seating although no trace of this is now evident. The room is currently used as a sitting room, with a C21 double-leaf glazed door leading to the garden and a C20 timber fire surround with tiled insert and ornamental wood burner. The original roof structure is retained and replicates that of the main school room.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: a gault brick built boundary wall with rounded brick coping runs along Eastgate Street with separate gate entrances for girls and boys. That for the boys, at the northern end, has been in filled but the gate piers are still evident. At the southern end the wall drops in height and would presumably have had railings above to secure the playground but these have been replaced with modern metal post and wire fencing. The former playground surface is tarmac with some paving and is now used as a car park and main access to the school building.


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 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.

Shouldham school was built in 1866 by R. J. Withers and opened by W.M. Allen, the parish incumbent. Original architect’s drawings show a two-bay school rather than the three-bay building that was actually constructed in 1866. Snapshots of the history of education in Shouldham can be gleaned from the entries in various historic directories. In 1865 Kelly’s directory mentions a Church day and Sunday School with an average attendance of 60. Given this predates the school building it suggests a desire for and the limited provision of education for the local rural community. Kelly’s directory of 1896 provides more detailed information about the National School stating that it was built in 1866 and enlarged in 1872 for 200 children although the average attendance was 120. At this time a Miss Hannah Pickersgill was mistress. In 1904 the same directory mentions a teachers house of 1887. The Old School house is located on The Hill, immediately south-west of the school but the building dates from the Georgian period and was probably purchased to use as a teachers house in 1887 rather than built purposely. In 1916 Kelly’s directory refers to the school as a Public Elementary School and had Henry Cuff as the master. Norfolk County Council Education Committee Development Plan of 1947 states 68 children aged 5-14 attended the school but that it was due for closure in 1954-5.

The school was also enlarged in c1884 with the addition of the south-west extension but this is not mentioned in Kelly’s directory. In the early C21 the school building was restored and converted into a dwelling, restaurant, bed and breakfast and a bar.

Reasons for Listing

The former Shouldham School, built in 1866 to the designs of R. J. Withers is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: it is an accomplished piece by R. J. Withers, a nationally renown architect, with well-crafted detailing to the windows, doors and chimneys and a varied roofscape;
* 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 respect 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 boundary wall enhances the interest of the building which, overall, provides an important and near complete picture of a school of the Victorian period;
* Group value: it has strong group value through its proximity with the Grade I listed Church of All Saints, Grade II listed Colts Hall and Colts Hall Barn, and the scheduled medieval settlement remains all of which lie immediately to the east of the school.

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