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School House, formerly Silfield School and attached teacher's house

A Grade II Listed Building in Wymondham, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.5516 / 52°33'5"N

Longitude: 1.1349 / 1°8'5"E

OS Eastings: 612635

OS Northings: 299481

OS Grid: TM126994

Mapcode National: GBR TFV.5R3

Mapcode Global: VHL8G.M4C8

Entry Name: School House, formerly Silfield School and attached teacher's house

Listing Date: 23 February 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1423349

Location: Wymondham, South Norfolk, Norfolk, NR18

County: Norfolk

District: South Norfolk

Civil Parish: Wymondham

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Wymondham

Church of England Diocese: Norwich

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A small rural board school of 1876, designed in the Gothic style, with an attached teacher's house, now converted to residential use.


A small rural Board School built in 1876 in a Gothic style, with an attached teacher's dwelling added in 1880. The buildings have now been converted to form a single dwelling in the late C20.

MATERIALS : the building is constructed of red brick with light coloured brick banding, ashlar dressings and a Welsh slate roof covering.

PLAN: the school building is cruciform on plan, formed from north, central and south classrooms, with the teacher's house extending northwards from the north classroom.

EXTERIOR: the school is largely single storey, but the house is of two storeys with its rear elevation extending into the former north classroom at upper floor level. The school's east elevation has an advanced gable and an integral entrance doorway to the north side beneath a catslide roof. The side wall of the entrance doorway abuts the south gable of the teacher's house which advances eastwards beyond the school frontage. The advanced gable to the school rises from a shallow brick plinth and incorporates a tall, pointed arch-headed three-light mullioned window with staggered transoms and cusped heads to the individual lights. The arch is formed of rubbed bricks which an increase in length towards the pointed arch head, and is delineated by a band of blue brick. The gable apex incorporates a small quatrefoil light beneath an arched head of alternating rubbed brick and ashlar voussoirs. The gable verges are decorated with dog-toothed brickwork which is extended over the adjacent entrance doorway. This has a shallow pointed-arched head, flanked by decorative corbelled brickwork. This pattern of decoration is repeated on the return wall to the main gable and the east side wall of the south classroom, both of which are devoid of openings. The south classroom gable has an altered double doorway at ground floor level, above which is a two-light mullioned window, each light with a cusped head. Both door and window openings sit beneath shallow segmental arches.

The west elevation incorporates gabled entrance porches which flank an advanced central gable. This gable has a three-light window in which the detail of the opening to the east elevation is repeated, but its apex also supports a small bellcote. The two porches are of two different but similar designs, that to the north repeating the detailing of the east elevation entrance, whilst the south porch has simplified detailing and a concrete lintel to the door opening, suggesting a later modification or partial rebuilding. The set-back wall to the right of the south porch also has a tall three-light window of matching form to those previously described. To the left of the north porch, a C20 flat-roofed extension has been built against the side wall of the north classroom, and the tall three-light window to its north gable has been altered to form upper and lower openings, the sill of the opening relocated at the upper level, the mullions truncated and a C21 three-light window inserted below a flat brick head.

The attached teacher's house is of two storeys and three bays, with a central doorway beneath a shallow pointed arch, flanked by stacked two-light mullioned windows with flat brick heads and stone sills. The window frames are mostly C21 replacements. There is a single ridge chimney stack to the north gable.

INTERIORS: the interior of the school remains largely unaltered except for the insertion of a mezzanine floor in part of the former south classroom, now a sitting room. The former central classroom survives as a single open space now used as a kitchen and dining room. A wide half-glazed sliding door separates the central area from the sitting room, which retains a C19 hearth in its north-east corner. The south porch is now used as a larder, whilst the north porch remains open to the exterior. Interior doorways with pointed -arched heads have been retained throughout, together with vertically boarded wainscotting. The lower sections of arch-braced roof trusses remain visible, rising from corbels set at door head height. The interior of the teacher's house has undergone some remodelling to connect it internally both with the former school and with the extension to the north, but the original plan remains legible, with a straight flight of stairs to the central bay. There are also some plain four-panel doors and domestic hearth surrounds to the ground floor rooms.


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.

Silfield School was built in 1876 by the Wymondham School Board at a cost of £589. The school was planned to accommodate 70 children from the Silfield and Stanfield districts of Wymondham, and a teacher's house was added in 1880. The 1925 edition of Kelly's Directory records that the school was further enlarged in 1895 to accommodate 90 children. The 1947 Norfolk County Council Education Committee's Development Plan mentions a roll of 25 pupils, and an anticipated closure date of 1956/7. Following the closure of the school in 1993, the main school building was converted to residential use, and linked internally with the attached teacher's house. The school and former teacher's house continue in use as a single dwelling.

Reasons for Listing

School House, Silfield, built 1876, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: the former school is an architecturally distinguished and well-preserved example of board school architecture, designed in the popular Gothic style which has been successfully adapted to residential use whilst preserving most of its original detail and plan form characteristics;
* Historical interest: the building displays the characteristics of board school architecture, as a representative of one of the most influential advances in educational provision in C19 England;
* Intactness: the former school has been successfully adapted to residential use whilst preserving most of its original detail and plan form characteristics and numerous interior features.

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