Those who watch Anglia News may have seen a short piece on Redlingfield Old School recently (Winter 2017-2018). It is for sale with planning permission to become a residential property.
Lee Alston, architectural historian, prepared a report on the building. A quote from it tells us about the beginnings of the school: “The picturesque old school house at Redlingfield was built in 1872 to a set of plans and elevations dated July 1871 by Charles Penning of Eye that survives in the Suffolk Record Office. The Mock Gothic design includes cusped window arches identical to those drawn up in May of the same year for the Oaksmere Hotel in Brome by Daniel Penning, who may have been Charles’ father, and designed several other schools in East Anglia.
“The diminutive red-brick and slate-roofed structure consists of a single room of just 20 feet in length by a little over 16 feet in width but was intended for 32 pupils and had an average attendance of 31 in 1911. It was entered by symmetrical porches lined with coat hooks at each gable, one for boys and one for girls, and its rear yard was divided by a central wall. The two brick privies at the back of this yard were conveniently separated by a coal bunker”
It was built as a National School. The National Society was founded in 1811 and aimed to provide a school in every parish to teach the Three Rs plus religion. They were usually run by the local clergy.
In 1894 Redlingfield became a Board School. The first state-run schools were created under the 1870 Education Act and abolished by the 1902 Education Act which established local Education Authorities.
Ipswich Record Office holds the Minute Book for 1894-1922. It starts with the first meeting of the School Board on March 29th 1894. Mr. G.F. Goldspink of Green Farm was elected chairman and the first task was to advertise for a certificated mistress. The salary offered was £60 per annum, the average attendance being 30 pupils.
There were only two applicants. Mrs H. E. Last, previously of Finningham School was appointed from 2nd July. An outbreak of measles closed the school for a fortnight from 13th July. Mrs Last resigned with effect from January 1896. She was replaced by Miss Barnes of Kings Lynn, the only applicant. Later that year the first inspector’s report since the board was formed was “very satisfactory”. It was decided to exclude “extra district” children as attendance was likely to “exceed accommodation”. A monitress was employed at 1/6 per week – Keziah Stone, Alice Baldwin then Florence Coe, daughter of Wheelwright Joseph Coe, are named in the minute book.
In October 1897 Miss Barnes resigned due to difficulty in finding lodgings under a mile away. Rather than lose her the Board granted 5/- a week in winter so that she could be driven to school when necessary. Miss Barnes returned to Kings Lynn in November 1897 because of the death of a friend. There was typhoid in Lynn so she had to spend three weeks’ quarantine on half pay before returning to school. She resigned through ill health in 1898.
By April Miss Burkinshaw was appointed and was able to live in the School Cottage which was “near the Cross”. Possibly part of what is now Hill Cottage. There was another favourable report by the inspector who recommended a bell should be obtained. In 1899 Miss Burkinshaw moved to a cottage on Mr Goldspink’s farm which had become the School Cottage.
Laura Douse from Walton replaced Miss Burkinshaw in 1901. In August 1903 Laura married William Wadley of Wivenhoe in Redlingfield Church. The minute book documents closures for infectious illnesses, work carried out and various changes in staff.
Then on July 31st 1922 we learn that Mr Watkins of the East Suffolk Education Committee came to explain to the board that carrying on the school with so small a number in attendance was not feasible. It was proposed and seconded that the children would be “conveyed” to Eye and the school closed.
This was not the end of use for the building. The formation of the local WI took place in December 1922 and meetings, whist drives and children’s parties took place here. Reports in local papers refer to it as the village hall, the reading room or the meeting room. These reports imply that good times were enjoyed here throughout the 20s, 30s and 40s. It was also used as a Home Guard Post during WW2.
The Diss Express ran an article about a whist drive being held in March 1952 to raise funds for enlarging the village hall. The WI secretary reported in September 1952 that the school room was in a bad state of repair and members should be advised that it was not covered by insurance other than fire. In November it was decided to move all WI property from the school.
The advertisement, above, appeared in the Diss Express 5th August 1955. Did the Education Committee get planning permission to convert to a dwelling in order to maximise profits and prevent the village from being able to purchase the building?
The old school was bought by Freddie Hambling. Many local people remember him living in a caravan on the site. Since his time nature has taken over and the building became almost hidden. Now the site has been cleared of growth and the old school awaits the next chapter in its story.
Linda Hudson (Published in Athelington, Horham & Redlingfield News Winter 2017-2018 issue No 40).