Sunday, 14 July 2019

The School House

Many of us are familiar with post-war secondary schools which were built with a house or bungalow for the caretaker of the establishment.  In an earlier era it was deemed appropriate to provide a house for the head teacher in a few circumstances, and  we might use the example of St Peter's Rural Elementary School, which became known as Camp School soon after opening in 1898.

However, Fleetville Schools, nor any others in the city that can be discovered, were built without a head teacher's house.  So the clue may be in the original title of Camp School: St Peter Rural.  While there were plans for new housing nearby, the nearest existing homes were cottages at Camp Hill.  Further away were recently built homes at what we know as The Crown.  But most of the early children came from hamlets such as Tyttenhanger Green, and isolated farm cottages in the countryside.  Children attending the new school would, of course, have walked; but a school could not open if a head teacher (and his wife, to take charge of the Infant department) could not be appointed.  To minimise this risk in an area devoid of appropriate housing, the Education Board added a house on the site.

The 1912 map with the school house on the right, directly
opposite Royston Road.

The first Ordnance Survey map which shows the school house was the 1898 revision in 1912.  On this restricted triangular site the main building housed the junior and infants departments, with the senior department separated on the western boundary.  The separate building on the east side was the school house.  Behind it in the 1930s a portable building, informally named The Bungalow, was built and the last head teacher to live in the house may have been Mr Hill.  Certainly it was empty during the tenure of Mr Belcher who, having come from Fleetville School, had been used to his own family home in Beechwood Avenue.  In fact, the school house had been empty and unmaintained for around two decades until being demolished in 1972 to provide space for the new Nursery.

The architect's drawing from 1898 shows the front elevation of the school, but not the school house.  A good quality photograph from 1914 also excludes the school house, probably because the space between the house and the school was a relatively wide area used as a playground for the girls and infant children.

I have not yet discovered a photograph of the school house, but a tantalising glimpse of its design, appears to coordinate with the school; it is in the recently discovered picture of a 1930 class with a corner of the house on the right edge of the image.  Compare that with other class photos taken in front of the main building in which the entrance porch is a key architectural element.

c1930 class showing a small part of the school house on the right.

So – and not for the first time on this site – the call goes out for photographs of the Camp School head teacher's house.  Since it was designed by the same architect as the school itself, and built at the same time as the school under the same contract, it is inevitable that  one front elevation will have been reflected in the other.

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