(Part 5, Chapter 2, Section 3, Sub-Section 1) ( Bk. Index )

Older's Charity School

The School House

1682 and 1815
There is precious little known of the school in its early days, and even less of the building itself. The only certainty is that on the 3rd March at the end of the year 1681 - 1682 (in modern terms), a small plot of land was purchased by the trustees from John Stone, as the site for a school house. That is a combined dwelling for the prospective master, and a school room. There is no doubt this plot was at the extreme south end of the present village library site, allowing bare room to construct a building slightly back from the line of cottages to the east. The purchase price was evidently £11, which left £89 of the fund allocated by William Older for the purpose, to pay for the building - an adequate amount at this date. [HC 525] 

At 3½ perches, the site was 58 feet long [17.6 m].  By good fortune, a plan of 1844 [HC 530] outlines both the old site and the house. The site is indeed 58ft, with a boundary close behind the school house, and a small convex yard to the front. Nothing can be determined from the plan, as to which part constituted the school room and whether the ‘house’ was two storey, although this is more than likely. The main building was over 55ft long by about 18ft., as a fairly predictable measurement. But the west end of this slightly narrower and square. With the house having been enlarged about 1815, the original size is unknown.  However, in 1724 is was reported as being for 25 children, whereas in 1818 and later it catered for as many as 70 children, and that last number would have needed half the length of the building as their classroom, if each pupil had been allowed six square feet space. [VCH p59]

Older's School Site - 1838

Fig. 1

School Site in 1838 Tithe map

The 1682 school and house south of Church House and its gardens

1844 and 1853
It is well known and attested by the datestone in the end wall of Older’s School, the present library, that it was built by WGK Gratwicke in 1853, at the same time as the new church.

"Endowed by [Mr] William Older AD 1682 rebuilt by WGK Gratwicke, Esq AD 1853".

However, there are some interesting sidelights on this.

After 1818 the next documented transactions that took place were of lasting effect. Between 1842 and 1844 gardens to the north were purchased, together with the small house, or part of Church House, that became the Master’s residence.  [HC 526-30]

The garden was the first acquisition, from the George Cortis estate, in 1842.   Cortis had been an extensive landowner in Angmering, including what is now Church House north of the school. This garden was purchased for £35 6s. by an intermediary and passed on to WGK Gratwicke for £80. Then in 1844 the house was acquired for £140. It was described as a tenement, but from the architectural evidence and previous ownership, it is more probable that it was a small south wing belonging to Church House, and possibly occupied by servants. The frontage of this house was given as 43ft 6in. It comprised both the present rendered and white painted wing, and the brick faced wing north of the entrance door. In the brickwork there is evident an old brick quoin, some way left of the window, indicating a previous opening.   A theory of Leslie Baker, the last head teacher occupying the property, that it may have been a coach house is quite plausible, although the 1844 plans only indicate a path to a hall door location.

The 1844 deed indicates the old school had been “pulled down”. It has an inset plan with a new school shown on it in the location of the present north wing of the library, with its end towards the road. Dimensions of 62ft 4in by 20ft 4in presumably indicate the size of the building proposed, and an inset plan in another deed confirms that a school of about this size was built by 1844, with what was presumably a central division separating two classrooms. The whole of the land and the dwelling house had been handed on to George Olliver of Kingston, as the chief school trustee, for a nominal ten shillings [50p] paid to WGK Gratwicke. It is not known what  the new school cost, only that it had been built using material from the demolished building.

A report by the National Society in 1847 is of particular interest. [VCH p58]. This speaks of two school rooms, no doubt for boys and girls, and two teacher’s houses. It can be assumed the Master lived in the house by the road, while the other teacher perhaps had a smaller house at the east end of the new school. The 1844 plan does indicate the possibility of a small extension at the end.

In 1841 Henry Ragless was the master living in the old house, with Jane Fowler, the other teacher, evidently living in what is today Rectory Lane. Then in 1851 the new school had been built, with George Simpson in the newly acquired house, with Mary Pocock as assistant living at her own home. Any reference to two teacher’s houses could only have been the house attached to the school, and a dwelling elsewhere rented by the Trustees for the assistant.

Now the contentious point is reached, at which Mr Gratwicke of Ham decided to rebuild the church, and proclaim his charity in a datestone in the west wall of the school opposite.

It is stated quite categorically in reliable records that

The pulling down of the Old Church commenced the 14th of February 1852 and the New Church was opened for Divine Service by the Lord Bishop of Chichester on Easter Sunday the 27th March 1853.   [Par 6/1/2/2]

At the same time services had to be held somewhere, and the obvious choice of the school was made.

I send you the Licence from the Bishop authorising you to perform divine service in the School Room. [Par 6/4/1]

This makes it highly unlikely that any work was undertaken on the school until May 1853, but that left plenty of time to complete such work as was undertaken in that year, including the datestone . But there is no surviving documents with any reference to this work, including school accounts and other books.

What must be considered extraordinary is the idea that an entirely new building, similar in size to the present north wing, could be constructed in 1844 and only nine years later replaced in entirety. George Olliver would not have been amused.

It is significant that the present building, excluding the part against the road, is approximately 64 feet by over 21 feet, much the same size as the 1844 building. It is a reasonable conclusion that Mr Gratwicke indulged his fancy for re-planning the centre of the village, by embellishing the existing building with a tower and wing against road, and even refaced the south wall to match, but no more. Bear in mind, the fact that the church was not totally rebuilt, with part of the chancel and the whole of the tower preserved.

A cursory survey of the north wing of the present library, and it is crystal clear that this wing was built in two stages or dates.  All of the Gratwicke embellishments stand out distinctly, with their excellent square knapped flintwork. Emphasising it there are stones with the year 1853 set in the east porch, and the west extension. The Gratwicke brickwork is also darker than the red bricks of the 1844 main body of the building, and this has simpler random cobble facings. The 1844 window arches are in small rubbed bricks which may have come from the 1782 school, along with the flints.

Inside the north wing there are more obvious signs. The west Gratwicke extension is entered through a large brick arch, which has been cut through the substantial 13 inch brickwork of the original end wall. As an internal wall it could have been much lighter. The roof truss in the end room is also slightly different to those in the main room. And finally, this same truss is seated on stone corbels carved as human heads, quite different to the heads carved in the corbels of the main room.

What was a fairly plain brick and flint schoolroom of 1844, with no porches, was undoubtedly improved. The west tower, and two porches, together with the breastwork of the firestack next to the east  porch, were both attractive and useful additions.

 In 1855 the Ecclesiologist reported:

"The Committee also inspected some drawings by Mr SS Teulon ... of the restoration of Angmering church, Sussex, and of the conversion of some old buildings there into a group comprising schools, schoolmasters' house, vestry-hall, and sexton's house with lichgate." [SAC 83]

The words ‘old buildings’ might be emphasised.

The Builder Oct. 1856
“The road along the east side of the [church], and immediately opposite are the National Schools, so the whole forms one group and is represented in our engraving.  The most interesting feature is the fact that the whole of this work was done through the munificence of a private gentleman resident in the parish WG Kinleside Gratwicke Esq  at whose entire cost the whole was carried out under the direction of Mr SS Teulon.” [Ep/I/76]

There is a very beguiling picture purporting to illustrate a view north of the church and vestry, with cottages to the south, where shops are today, and the schools to the east. The scene far from realistic, since Bakers Row would have intruded across the view to the east.  It is also very evident  that the cottages were never built. This scene was perhaps drawn for Gratwicke to illustrate a project that was only partly completed by Mr Gratwicke in 1853. [The Builder Ep/I/76]

Older's School engraving c1856

Fig. 2

The School in 1856

North wing of the present library. The artist has included an imaginary foreground from which the obscuring cottages south of the school are omitted.
1844 building with 1853 porches and tower with west room.

1883 and 1974
Unfortunately log books and other records of the school do not extend back before 1861.   Those there are have no record of substantial building work until 1883.  In May 1872, after the Education Act, the existing school was divided into two departments, separating the infants.  The c1853 picture does indeed show a building with entrance porches at the extreme east and west ends, and it is probable these were separate boys and girls entrances, as normally employed in well disciplined schools.

In 1883, the trustees “resolved to consult an architect as to enlarging the school premises”.  Sir Henry Fletcher undertook consultation for this. [Par 6/25/1]  Subsequently that year, a very detailed specification for the new infants room was prepared. [Par 6/25/7] This was quite clearly the present east wing of the library.  A note by Rev Orme indicates it was suitable for 70 infants. The specification required that the new wing be built to exactly the same style and standard as the old wing. Two of the windows removed from the 1844-53  wing were to be reused - that is to say not only the timber window but also the masonry, together with other material. Stock bricks were to be used internally and externally kiln burnt facing bricks, with panels of  [flint] boulders laid random, to match the north wing. Best blue Bangor or Penrhyn slates to be laid on the roof. It took until 1899 for the debt of £600, to the Charity Commission on the new wing, to be paid off.

A small part of the adjoining East Angmering churchyard had to be purchased in October 1883 to provide extra space for the infant’s wing, this being the last addition to the site. Nothing is recorded of finds of archaeological interest, the church was further east, and a few bones may simply have been cast aside.   [HC 1115] 

Apart from that, numerous small works were undertaken year by year. From privies to an improved playground, and minor internal fittings such as a screen in the north wing to separate the standards or classes. A restricted site made provision of a sufficient play area almost impossible, but use of the East Angmering churchyard improved the situation.  The Board of Education began pressing for a new infant’s classroom in 1902, but lack of space precluded such a provision.

Older’s School closed in 1966, when a final batch of pupils were moved to the new Church of England school in Arundel Road, St. Margaret’s, which had opened in 1965. After much debate about how to make use of old school, with the Parish Council wanting it for social purposes, it was finally opened as a public library in 1974.

The village is very fortunate to still have this fine looking building, intact and largely unspoilt by modern alterations.

RWS 15/1/2009 NRD