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Alexander Stewart , February 2013

Change at the OLD SCHOOL, Stanwick

Consider the vast changes that have taken place between 1839 and 2013. The Old School was built in a period of change with an emphasis on reform, and it was a new school and a significant development in Stanwick in 1839 and beyond.  The idea of a school in Stanwick reflected a change in attitude to the rural poor and to the value of education for all.

The Idea came from the Rector of Stanwick in 1838, the Revd. John Sergeaunt, MA (Oxon). He had already built a school at his last parish of Great Doddington, near Wellingborough. In his letter dated 3 Feb 1838, he writes: “I am desirous of establishing a School in this Parish in union with the National Society.” He goes on to refer to the flourishing school he built at Doddington, where he was Vicar, and which he left a year before.

According to the 1839 Trust Deed for the Stanwick School I see that the agreement was signed on 21st August and it was enrolled on 19th September. We also learn that the Rector gave the land from the orchard garden of the Old Rectory. From his letter dated 28 November 1839 he also paid for the stone and its cartage. He refers to a 'respectable builder' called Litten from Wellingborough who estimated £245 for the work to build the school and a Master's house. This was accepted after gaining several estimates. He states that the funds and grants received or promised amounted to £197.19.3. As the overall total cost was £252.14.4 he was troubled by the deficiency of £54.15 which he had to raise. He refers to the exertion in gaining the funds to which he added his own subscription. He even refers to “despairing of even having a school if I did not act as I did in this case there would be no school.” He went ahead with the building, and in the same November letter he writes: “The building is in progress. The walls are up, the window frames in, the roof on and just covered in.” We owe so much to the Rector's pioneering vision and determined drive that the Old School was built. We also owe much to all those who supported the Rector and for those who gave money. The two Churchwardens who became trustee owners with the Rector were George Gascoyen of Stanwick Hall and William Denton of Stanwick Lodge.

In the 1841 census for Stanwick we read that the Rector, his wife Sarah and 11 of their children were living in the Old Rectory. In 1851 he had 320 acres and employed six agricultural labourers. The Rector had a brother Charles, who according to the census of 1851, lived at Rushden High St, West side, in the centre of the town. I understand the large house was called Rushden Cottage, which was bought later by Campbell Praed, a Brewer. There is a photograph of it on the Rushden research project site, taken by H. Sartoris, a fellow church warden at St Mary’s. Charles Sargeaunt states in the census that he has no profession but is living on income from various sources. I am informed by a direct living descendant, who is a great grandson of Henry Sargeaunt who was born in Stanwick in 1866, that the Sargeaunts were a wealthy family. The Rector’s father, John Sargeaunt, lived in Gower Street, London, and had a large house in Coleshill near Amersham. His wife was Henrietta Birch, the daughter of William Birch the London coachbuilder. John Sargeaunt invested in the Birch business after making a fortune supplying goods for the British Army during the Napoleonic wars. There is some evidence that he may also have been a successful lawyer. We know that the brothers, John and Charles, were undergraduates at Oxford University as Grand Compounders, which is another indicator of the wealth of the family.

The Old School was inevitably bound up with further change as the Victorian age progressed.

The expansion of the population and the important Education Act of 1870 showed up the inadequacy of the Old School building. This led to an extension which explains the plaque showing 1876 over the porch. The Old School changed to meet the greater demands of State education in the 1870s and beyond.

In a letter written by the Rector of Stanwick, the Revd. W.F.M. Hamerton on 27 August 1931, he states: “Under the Elementary Education Act of 1870, the Rector and Churchwardens granted the School to the Stanwick School Board and their successors by lease for 99 years on 15 June 1875.”

In that year of 1931 further change for the Old School was inevitable as the County Education Authority rearranged the local education and established the current Stanwick Infants and Junior school in the village. The Old School was then closed.

In the same letter to the Secretary of the National Society the Rector wrote about the Stanwick settlement: “The Northampton(shire) County Council is about to surrender the School to the Rector and Churchwardens from whom they hold it on lease ......because the County Council in consequence of other arrangements have no further use for the premises. The site and buildings therefore will revert to the possession of the Rector and Churchwardens, but their possession and use of the premises is apparently governed by the terms of the original Deed of the 31st August 1839.”

With the exception of a short time during the early 1940s when it was used as a temporary school for evacuees and teachers, the Old School changed again to become the Village Hall for Stanwick. It served the community well until 2011 when it became redundant as the new and large Village Hall was built next door. The members of the Parish Church Council anticipated the problem ahead and gave careful thought to the future of the Old School in the previous summer. I was asked by the Rector to oversee this project. It became clear that the Church would not be in a position to repair and maintain the building with no income from it. We received an offer from the shop at Stanwick which we believed would be the best way to preserve the 1839 building and at the same time provide a valuable and popular new amenity for the village. This was endorsed at an open meeting of the Parish Council in February 2011 when the change of use for the Old School received an overwhelming vote in favour by the large number of people present with only three votes against. The Parish Council passed the matter on to the East Northamptonshire Planning Authority without any objection. At that meeting in May 2011 the planning application for the change of use was granted with several councillors speaking in favour and none against. The Chairman stated it was one of the easier decisions they had to make.

The Old School was sold on 12 August 2011 to Messrs. Frost, Ware and Brailsford at the Post Office and became the new Post Office, shop, bistro and coffee shop we have today. I have no doubt on the basis of their splendid work in the old shop and in the new that they will make a considerable success of the Old School in its new format in the years to come. It now has a much needed new roof, and a refurbished interior. It was a significant innovation in the village in 1839-40; it has experienced substantial change throughout its 174 years, and has changed again today, and I am sure with Vernon, Neil and Steven in charge the Old School will flourish as a popular amenity for the village of Stanwick for years to come.

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