Steyning Grammar School (continued)
The Church Street Buildings

Introduction to "Schooldays Remembered:
Recollections of Steyning Grammar School 1840-1960",
Edited with an Introduction by J M Sleight


Pages 1 .2. 3

The restoration of these buildings took place in the early 1980s. It was undertaken by West Sussex County Council when the weight of the early 19th century tile-hanging threatened the jetties. Seen from the street, the ancient buildings form a Wealden 'continuous jetty'. In the course of restoration the roof plate had to be replaced. Dendrochronological work on the timber indicated a date of 1461. At some point in the early 17th century the centre bay was sawn through and replaced with brick. Prior to this, entrance would have been by ladder. The floors were heavily sooted and there was evidence of frequent replacement; the further south one went, the more soot. In the new central brick bay stone steps led to the first floor, as now, with fire places on either side of them. By the 18th century the frontage was plastered, in the East Anglian tradition of outside plastering. The tile-hanging which caused the problems was a 19th century addition.

Grammar School c1900

This postcard of about 1900 is held at Steyning Museum. It shows the Grammar School from Church Street, with the tiled frontage which was removed during restoration work in 1982. Outside the tall Brotherhood Hall, a master (possibly the Headmaster) in cap and gown watches a school boy sweeping the pavement.

The old buildings in Church Street, of which Brotherhood Hall forms the focal point, have long been a source of inspiration to artists and photographers and have been reproduced many times. They have been described as a fine example of Jacobean domestic architecture, but in the past not all descriptions have been so complimentary. By 1817 the schoolhouse was apparently falling down for lack of maintenance but the schoolmaster at that time refused to allow a builder and surveyor onto the premises to estimate the cost of putting matters right. Observers from the street outside remarked that repairs had been so neglected that the buildings had fallen into a disreputable state of decay. The numbers of pupils had fallen as low as 12 whereas the proximity of the school land to the barracks, which at that time occupied the area to the east of Jarvis Lane, had boosted the master's income from rents, very little of which had been spent on the buildings. Not surprisingly he was 'retired' as was his nephew who succeeded him, the latter locking the school behind him and taking the key. It was 1843 before the Trustees heard the last of him.

Meanwhile a competent new schoolmaster, George Airey, had been appointed in 1839. He had the task of rebuilding both the reputation and the dilapidations of the school. His success was remarkable - after the performance of his two predecessors he could hardly have failed to make an impression. During his long tenure he had more than just a poor tradition to contend with. There were two outbreaks of serious illness amongst the pupils, diptheria in 1859 and a disastrous epidemic of typhoid in 1861. For 30 years he had a non-stop building problem, and doubtless a perpetual financial problem to go with it.

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