Listed Building: THE NEW MILLS SCHOOL (1393319)

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Grade II
Authority English Heritage
Date assigned Monday, June 8, 2009
Date last amended


Secondary school, 1912. Designed by George Widdows, architect to Derbyshire's Education Committee from 1904 and Chief Architect to Derbyshire County Council in 1910-1936. MATERIALS: Uncoursed polygonal rubble gritstone with ashlar gritstone dressings to external elevations and red brick inner walling. Welsh slate roof coverings. PLAN: Quadrangular plan, with classroom ranges linked to octagonal plan central hall by short link corridors. EXTERIOR: Front (east) elevation of 9 bays arranged 1:4:1:4:1, with a 2 storied entrance flanked by single storey classroom ranges which end at advanced pavilion-like bays, each with a tall canted mullion and transom window with a deep parapet and flanking stub towers, all in ashlar masonry. The main entrance is of a barbican-like appearance with narrow ashlar towers flanking a wide semi-circular ground floor arch. Set back within the arch are the splayed reveals of a doorway and half-glazed double doors. The archway has attenuated voussoirs and a keystone, above which is set a canted 3-light window below a deep parapet. The flanking ranges have tall 3 light windows with transomed multi-paned window frame set below plain stone lintels at eaves level. The other 3 elevations have wide advanced end bays with pilasters between which are set multi-light flush-mullioned upper level windows and single light ground floor windows. Next to these in the 13-bay north and south elevations are single bays with shallow arch headed openings in ashlar masonry, and then a sequence of tall 3-light windows, those to bays 4 and 10 set between pilasters and with parapets which rise through the eaves. The rear (west) elevation is similarly detailed but has alternating parapeted bays which flank a central canted bay window with a mullion and transom window below a deep parapet. The red brick inner elevations to the quadrangle are plainly detailed with 3-light eaves level windows to classrooms and shallow-pitch roofs to the quadrangle corridors. Staircase towers to the centre and each end of the east range give access to the other ranges which are at a lower level. The entrance bay has ashlar towers which flank the rear windows and door to the head teacher's study. At the centre of the quadrangle is the octagonal library, formerly the school hall, set below a ribbed dome with a low lantern. Six of the facets incorporate wide Diocletian windows to the upper level. INTERIOR: The classrooms retain original door and window joinery, including the inward opening hopper windows favoured by Widdows. Some windows retain the original fittings which operated the high level opening lights. Classrooms, staff rooms and the head teacher's study retain original cupboard joinery and fireplace surrounds with glazed tiling. The inner entrance hall area retains wall panelling, and the central hall, despite subsequent adaptation to form a library, retains much original detail including columns to entrances and recessed areas, and honours boards and War Memorial boards set within a raised platform recess. The hall also retains a series of fine stained glass windows, five of which depict female figures representative of the Arts, Literature, Music, Science and Engineering. A sixth window depicts the Royal Coat of Arms. HISTORY: The New Mills School was designed by the architect George H. Widdows (1871-1946) and was completed in 1912. It was one of a large number of new schools built to Widdows' designs by Derbyshire County Council in the early C20. Derbyshire had the greatest percentage increase in population in the country in the 1890s, particularly due to the growth of the coal mining and textile manufacturing communities in the east of the county. Widdows had come to Derbyshire in 1897 as Chief Architectural Assistant to Derby Corporation. Following the 1902 Education Act, responsibility for schools in the county passed to Derbyshire County Council. In 1904 Widdows was appointed architect to the Council's Education Committee. In 1910 he was appointed Chief Architect to the Council, although schools remained his predominant concern. By the time he retired in 1936, he had designed some sixty elementary and seventeen secondary schools. Widdows was at the forefront of the movement to build schools in which high standards of hygiene were as important as educational provision. The first major conference on school hygiene was held in 1904, and in 1907 the Board of Health brought in legislation which required schools to become subject to regular medical inspections. Widdows worked with his Medical Officer, Sidney Barwise, and two deputy architects, C. A. Edeson and T. Walker, to develop a series of innovative designs introducing high levels of natural daylight and effective cross ventilation in schools. His designs, often in a neo-vernacular style, were characterised by open verandah-style corridors linking classrooms with generous full-height windows. His distinctive and influential plan forms were based on a linear module which could be arranged in different configurations to suit the size of school required and the shape of the available site. The advances Widdows made in school planning were recognised by his contemporaries. In an article on provincial school building in 1913, The Builder stated that his work 'constitutes a revolution in the planning and arrangement of school buildings... a real advance which places English school architecture without a rival in any European country or the United States.' SOURCES G. H. Widdows, 'Derbyshire Elementary Schools: Principles of Planning', paper presented to Royal Sanitary Institute on 25 February 1910, in Royal Sanitary Institute Journal (1910), 92-116. 'The Derbyshire Schools', The Builder, Vol. 105 (31 October 1913), 460-461. The Builder, Vol. 107 (10 July 1914), 44-45; (17 July 1914), 74-75. G. H. Widdows, 'School Design', RIBA Journal, Vol. 29, No. 2 (26 November 1921), 33-45. The New Mills School is considered to be of special architectural interest in a national context and is listed for the following principal reasons: * It is a notable example of the work of George Widdows, who is nationally acknowledged as a leading designer of schools in the early C20 and an exponent of advanced ideas on school planning and hygiene. * This school is one of only two known examples of a Widdows quadrangular design. Its original plan form remains clearly legible and has not undergone significant alteration. * It retains all of the notable elements of its original design and is relatively unaltered. The later enclosure of the quadrangle corridors has not materially affected the legibility of the original plan, and has not significantly affected the buildings special architectural interest. * The exterior is of distinctive and consistently high architectural quality and displays the well-crafted use of locally-won gritstone. * The interior retains a number of original fixtures and fittings of special interest, including window and door joinery, fireplaces, and, in the central hall, a set of stained glass windows representative of the Arts and Sciences.

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Grid reference SK 00358 85556 (point)
Map sheet SK08NW

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Record last edited

Dec 18 2013 4:43PM

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