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The Old Queen Elizabeth Grammar School

A Grade II* Listed Building in Hexham, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.9711 / 54°58'15"N

Longitude: -2.0993 / 2°5'57"W

OS Eastings: 393743

OS Northings: 564054

OS Grid: NY937640

Mapcode National: GBR FBSY.9T

Mapcode Global: WHB2C.Q9KY

Entry Name: The Old Queen Elizabeth Grammar School

Listing Date: 2 October 1951

Last Amended: 15 April 2015

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1281643

English Heritage Legacy ID: 239021

Location: Hexham, Northumberland, NE46

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Hexham

Built-Up Area: Hexham

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Hexham

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle

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Summary

Free grammar school and attached master's house constructed in 1684, and slightly later caretaker's house, with C18, C19 and C20 alterations. Tudor-gothic style.

Description

Free grammar school and attached master's house constructed in 1684, and slightly later caretaker's house, with C18, C19 and C20 alterations. Tudor-gothic style.

Materials: roughly-coursed rubble, whitewashed to the south and west and mortared on the east; there are exposed chamfered sandstone quoins and dressings and roof coverings are graduated stone slates with a stone tile ridge.

Plan: L shaped with the school block facing south and the master's house extending to the north from its east end. The school has a rear, narrow rectangular extension and the master's house has a short, gabled rear extension and a lower block, possibly a caretaker's house attached to its north end.

Exterior: the south elevation has two storeys and five bays under a pitched roof with coped verges and ball topped kneelers and there is a chamfered plinth. The central entrance has a door has six fielded panels in a moulded stone surround with scrolled brackets carrying a cornice with a broken pediment, each arc ending in a spiral disc. The doorway is now set forward of the wall in an early-C20 shallow segmental-headed porch of rusticated simulated ashlar. There is a two-phase stepped buttress between the first and second and the fourth and fifth bays. A pair of two-light mullioned windows with trefoil heads is set to either side of the central entrance. The windows to the upper floor are set immediately beneath the eaves and are square-headed with two broad lights separated by a mullion. Between the two tiers of windows there are patches of infill indicating the presence of once taller windows. All windows have latticed leaded glazing with casements, and those to the lower floor retain the holes of vertical iron bars.

The west elevation has two gables joined by a low parapet, partly arcaded and a part-ashlar, part-rubble plinth. The gable end of the school room to the right has a single 3-light mullioned ground floor window with trefoil heads and evidence of a former transom and at first floor there is a tall, two-light square-headed mullioned window of late C19 character; a similar area of rubble infill as on the south east elevation is visible between the two windows. The gable end of the rear extension to the left has a pair of inserted 2-light mullion windows and a rainwaterhead dated 1903. A pair of tall chimney stacks are thought to be later C19.

The east elevation has a low rubble plinth, with a ground floor three-light mullioned window and a three-light mullion and transom window of later C19 date above; the head of the latter has a re-used medieval trefoil head. To the north is the master's house of two storeys and two bays with rebuilt stepped and corniced stacks at both ends of the ridge. There are four large inserted late C19 three-light mullion windows and a central entrance with C17 mouldings and a six panel door (upper panels glazed).

The north elevation: the north gable of the master's house has rusticated quoins and a shaped kneeler with a ball finial and a pair of attic lights each with a socket for a central bar . The lower part is obscured by the attached but lower possible caretaker's house which has two storeys of coursed, squared stone with a two-light mullioned window and a similar basement window on the north side, retaining a vertical iron bar to each light.

Interior: the school is entered from the front door into a small lobby from which a six-panel door opens into the large former school room with a folding partition. A large, segmental-arched fireplace occupies the north wall of the eastern part of the room, and is the original fireplace while a six fielded panel door set diagonally at the north east corner, giving access to the attached master's house, is considered to be an historic feature and probably re-used. Other features including the overmantle and cornice of the fireplace, a section of panelling to the east, panelled pilasters flanking the fireplace and diagonal doorway, a second fireplace set diagonally at the north east corner with an ornate Jacobethan surround of cast ceramic and the moulded dado and pelmet rails are thought to date from the early-C20 remodelling. The ceiling is divided into seven bays by boxed in beams which might be older, and axial joists carrying narrow boards above. A four-panel door leads through the north wall of the school room into the schools rear block housing a stair hall at the west end and a room at the east end.

The stair hall is panelled and has simulated ashlar work, all thought to date from the early C20 remodelling. The dog leg stair has stick balusters and a moulded handrail and is thought to be of early to mid-C19 origin; it has been altered by the addition of a raised handrail and a short section of balustrade and a more elaborate newel post.

To the east of the stair hall are the two ground floor rooms of the master's house, each now entered through a separate doorway. The south room has a wide early-C20 opening framed by a screen under a flat-pointed-arch and retains a fireplace with a lugged timber architrave and an ornamented mantlepiece considered to be early-C20 in date. The north room is entered through a doorway with a three centered arch and a chamfered surround thought to be original to the building but altered in the early-C20. This room has been extended to incorporate former passages from the front door and along the west wall; the stub of the entrance passage wall remains to the north of the front door. A blocked former doorway with a moulded architrave between the north and south rooms is visible in the south wall, and there is an original simple square-headed fireplace with a bolection moulding on the north wall. To the west of the latter a plain doorway opens into the northern extension where a short flight of steps leads down to the basement, which has rough beams carrying old floorboards. A boxed-in stair rises to the upper floor which has an exposed roof structure with at least one (centre) original asymetric collar-beam truss; rising from a shaped corbel on the east and a short wall post carried by a similar corbel on the west. The ridge and western purlins are relatively recent. To the north of the stair hall the rear block of the master's house has an inserted kitchen and toilet. Immediately to the north of the stair a doorway with an altered six-panel door leads into a room occupying the west end of the school's rear block. A broad projection on its south wall might be a former external stack to a second early fire place within the school room and a shallow recess to the east is possibly an early window opening to the school room.

The first floor stair hall is similarly panelled with early C20 simulated ashlar work. Modern toilets occupy the north side. The west side has a two-panelled door to a room within the school's rear block; this room has early C20 detailing and a fireplace with sunk quadrant moulding, thought to be of late C18 or early C19 date. The window opening on the north wall is flanked by raised pilasters and there is a cornice. The three-bay roof structure has hammer-beam trusses with short wall posts, carried on corbels, below the hammer beams which have raised flowers obscuring metal bolts. The first floor of the school room has been partitioned and is entered from the north side of the stair hall through a small lobby with a panelled ceiling, a cupboard with fielded-panel doors (possibly early C18 in origin) and two-panel doorways into two large rooms and a small central one. The roof that spans the whole range has five bays; the two-bay end rooms are spanned by trusses of principal rafter form (tie beams removed) with replaced collars and original high-level collars with pegged joints and two boxed-in purlins on each slope. The trusses that delineate the central room are concealed but considered to be altered. The eastern room has a recess in the north east corner, thought to be a blocked doorway and a plain fireplace of probable early-C20 date. The western room has the corbelled out stack of the ground floor fireplace in its north west corner.

The first floor of the master's house has a wide entrance into a lobby with two-panel doors opening into a pair of bedrooms. The lobby has a steep winder stair to the attic with an newel post at its foot of four urn-shaped balusters. Above the lobby are exposed transverse ceiling beams of heavy square section. The south room has a square-headed fireplace with C17 mouldings similar to those of the front door, and what is considered to be a blocked opening in its south east corner. The fireplace in the northern room is of similar form but modified by the insertion of a c.1900 Tudor arch. An relatively recent inserted opening through the west wall leads down a pair of steps into a small room housed within the rear block; this room has a fireplace with a lugged stone surround flanked by cupboards, those to the west are possibly Victorian. The winder stair from the lobby rises to the attic; this has narrow floorboards and a shallow projection to the north gable. The four bay roof has collar beam trusses of pegged construction carrying two levels of heavy purlins and an upright section ridge; one purlin has been cut short and two purlins have been replaced. The lower purlin of the southernmost bay has incised marks possibly relating to felling or shipment and the three trusses have assembly marks.

History

The Free Grammar School was founded by a Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth on 29th June 1599; having first operated in private houses, a purpose-built school building and master's house were constructed at the expense of the town and neighbourhood in 1684. The new building was constructed at the south east corner of an area known as Archbishop's Precinct, thought to have been enclosed by a wall in the medieval period.

The school is considered to have been constructed as a single storey building lit by tall full-height windows with trefoil heads. By about 1700 a northern extension to the master's house had been added, possibly to house a caretaker. In about 1800 (late- C18/early-C19) the building was altered by the insertion of an upper floor, necessitating the removal of the original windows, which were reconstructed to light only the ground floor and new windows inserted to the upper floor. A rear block to the school and a second rear block to the master's house were also added at this time. The school closed in 1881 when it and the master's house were turned into a private residence. A period of re-modelling took place in the early C20 including the re-setting of the school entrance in a new porch and the re-fenestration of some window openings. The interior was also refurbished and re-modelled at this date including the insertion of several fireplaces. It has most recently been used as local authority offices until a unitary authority was established in Northumberland rendering the building surplus to use.

Reasons for Listing

This former grammar school, master's house and caretaker's house of later C17 date, with C18, C19 and C20 alterations is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: securely dated school buildings from before the mid-C18 are exceptionally rare and this example of 1684 with later modifications has considerable significance in the national context;
* Architectural interest: this attractive grouping of school, master's house and caretaker's house, uses local materials in a Tudor-gothic style and retains several high quality later-C17 features;
* Survival of fabric: the buildings retain significant original fabric and architectural features which demonstrate their original form, including moulded doorcases, re-modelled windows, fireplaces and an early roof structure; the late C18/early C19 alterations have value in demonstrating the evolution of the school;
* Group value: it benefits from group value by its proximity to other listed buildings, some at Grade I, all of which occupy an area known as The Archbishops Precinct, thought to have been enclosed by a wall in the medieval period;
* Historic interest: as a late C17 school founded by Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth in 1599.


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