School House is often confused with the school which is now a house. School House is and always was, “School House”, but the school is called “Old School” They are not the same place.
Local historians now believe that School House could be the oldest property in the village, the lower half probably surviving from around the 1600s
School House occupies a corner of the High Green next to The Old School and the Aldbrough Beck. It is one of those village buildings which was not built at any one time. The later parts of the building span more than 100 years, but the oldest parts are probably in the region of 300 years or more. There is also evidence that a much older building stood on the site in the dim distant past.
Whilst the upper portion of the house reflects the design of the lower quite well, there are obvious differences which attest to the fact that the upper storey was not always there.
A brief inspection from the outside, reveals a “string course” a little above the ground floor windows which was the original limit to the height of the building. Looking at either end of the house provides further proof. There is a clear difference, not only in the pointing running up from the string course, which shows the shape of the single storey eves, but also in the general shape and
size of the stone blocks used in the original construction and in the added storey.
The stone “finials” on the corners of the porch are echoed on the main building and it can be seen that these have been removed from the single storey building and re-fitted to the new second storey. The builders of the upper rooms didn’t have quoins available of the same width as the finials, so simply filled the gap with pieces of stone and mortar as seen below.
The “National School” was built in 1815 by a Mr Baratt of London, who wished to be an MP and so bribed the local landowners [only landed gentlemen had the vote] into sponsoring him for the Richmond seat by building the school in return for their votes. In the history available to us there is no mention of the schoolhouse. Some 50 odd years later, in the 1870s, the National School was extended and Robbie Gill, our revered local historian, assumed that this was when School House was built. Not so. The lower part of the schoolhouse is much older than this. It seems then, that this should be interpreted as “turned into a two storey dwelling for the master” as what had been done, was not to build the house, but modify the existing building which does not seem to have previously been a house.
On careful examination, it seems that what is now School House, may have been the original school – hence the design of the old building which had only two large rooms with what was probably a central dividing lobby – probably used as a cloakroom, and the building of the new school may have been the building of a school and use of the old school as the master’s house. There is also the theory that School House may have been some other “public” building converted to a house when the new school was built shortly after 1800. I don’t think that other than a possible “Chapel of Ease”, another use would be a practical suggestion for such a small village.
One thing is for certain. This building – whatever it was, was built far too well for a two room cottage. Lots of cut stone for porch, door and windows. Cut stone string courses and relief quoins around the porch. Decorative cut and capped stone finials on all corners. Anyone who built a cottage like this could have built a larger house instead. Apart from all of this, the style of the building attests to the fact that it was not originally designed as a dwelling.
The Basic Structure
If we strip back the layers, we find only three lower rooms, with a central external porch which would have been open, and the door inside the porch on a step up into the small central room – a cloakroom perhaps? The whole of this structure is built upon very large, heavy foundation stones which were most certainly out of the question for a cottage. These foundation stones, form a rectangle with a bay window at one end, nearest to the beck.
Whilst on the subject of the house’s proximity to the beck, it should be noted that there is no record or living memory of the house ever succumbing the the rise of the beck waters, simply because there is a natural defence mechanism. The land on which the house is built is naturally above the level of the field on the opposite bank of the beck. When the waters rise, the beck breaks it’s banks only on the field side, the waters expanding over the large flat expanse of the field, and re-entering the beck some 75 metres further downstream near the Pack Bridge.
There have been many changes over the 100 plus years since the house was extended. The house now consists two reception rooms [what are thought to be the original school rooms] and where we believe what was the cloakroom, has been converted to a stair well, serving the upper floor. Moreover, at some unknown point, a large room – now the kitchen – had been added with an upper room which provided a third bedroom, making the plan of the house a “T” shape. The leg of this T being the kitchen and upper room, which together with the bay window in the beckside room, look out across the beck over open fields.
In more recent years, the “wash-house”, outside privvy and probable stable for the schoolmaster’s horse and trap, have been rebuilt as Bethany, a fully self contained annex of the house with two bedrooms, living room, shower room and kitchen. A twenty three foot garage sits comfortably between Bethany and the garden. The garden, once providing the vegetables for the house, now has a beckside lawn and decked area with flower beds and extending away from the beckside, further lawns and gazebo set in shrubbed borders. Although fully self contained, Bethany is part of School House.
Entrance Porch, Entrance Hall, Living Room, Dining Room, Side Entrance Hall, Kitchen/Breakfast Room. First floor: Front Landing, Rear Landing, 3 Bedrooms, Bathroom/WC.