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The Preservation of Buildings in Tickhill

Sometimes historic buildings in the community are no longer needed for the purpose for which they were originally built. Sometimes these buildings can be adapted for newer purposes and saved, as happened with Tickhill’s Parish Room, built as a hospital or almshouse in 1478. In contrast, another old building, the National School on St Mary’s Road, later Tickhill’s Church of England Junior School, has been demolished. Here is an account of how attempts were made in 1975 to save the building to use it as a Further Education Centre.

Towards the end of the report written by Philip Mottram, reference is made to Drawings A to D. These plans of the building, drawn by surveyor Robert Fieldhouse, are now in Tickhill & District Local History Society’s archive.



By Philip Mottram

As the population of Tickhill began to grow in the 1970s it became clear that there would need to be an increase in schooling capacity to serve the growing number of children in the town.

It was in January 1975 when I received a letter from Mr J H Higgins, Area Head of the Vermuyden Institute of Further Education based in Rossington. He wrote to inform me that the new DMBC Local Education Authority was planning to pull down the old Tickhill C of E Junior School after the last children had been rehoused in the new addition then being built to the new Junior School. He believed that the building should be retained as a Further Education Centre with full community use. He felt that Tickhill residents should fight for its retention. The small Environmental Group of which I was then a member agreed, and we resolved to try to do something about it.

The case put forward by Mr Higgins was convincing:

• Demolition would cost money that would be better spent refurbishing the old building.

• Tickhill had no secondary school which could house F E classes

• Using a junior school would mean adults using small chairs and tables

• There is a lack of a community building and accommodation for holding daytime classes for Senior Citizens or for Play Groups

• He already had spare equipment that could be transferred to Tickhill

We were urged to lobby local councillors and the Director of Education.

On behalf of the Tickhill Conservation Group, I wrote to Mr Crompton, the Deputy Director of Education on 18 January 1975 expressing grave concern. In particular, I asked for an assurance that no demolition would take place without ample notice being given to Tickhill Organisations, that there would be a full explanation for the decision and I formally registered the view that the building should be used for combined Further Education and Community purposes. I reported that many Tickhill residents had commented that the building was originally paid for by public subscriptions and they feel that this gives them rights to object to premature demolition.

The Tickhill Town Council’s Environmental Advisory Committee met on 4 March 1975. The Minutes of that meeting record a report on behalf of a sub-committee, given by a Mrs Haslam. They had visited the school on 13 February and emphasised that this was the report of a visual inspection by lay people without any specialised knowledge. They were considering whether the building could be used as a Community Centre.

The Report made the following points:

• The outside of the building would need some pointing and small repairs

• There were 5 classrooms, two small cloakrooms but no internal toilet facilities

• A kitchen and toilets would be needed for a Community Centre

• The heating system was old fashioned and inadequate

• Whilst the building could be useful it could not take the place of a purpose-built Community Centre

• The proposed £7.000 cost of demolition might well go towards the cost of alterations.

• A technical expert should be asked for an opinion

• The building should not be demolished

The Clerk to the Council commented that a request for an independent report would surely be resisted.

The Town Council had urged the Education Authority to retain the building, it has not asked for sole use as a Community Centre because in that case the first offer would have to be made to the former owner, Lord Scarbrough. A compromise would be to keep the building as a Further Education Centre.

It was recommended that:

1. The old school should be refurbished and used as much as possible for Further Education and Community Centre use.

2. A detailed collation of information from all organisations in Tickhill was required. The sub-committee was authorised to send out questionnaires.

Twenty-six questionnaires were sent out and sixteen replies were received.

8 Groups would require regular use

8 Groups would require casual use

6 Groups stated their support for the provision of such a facility

10 Groups did not reply

2 Groups expressed no interest in the project.

On 25 September 1975 a letter from the Director of Education (M J Pass) enclosed copies of two sets of Minutes. The first referred to a meeting on 11 June when Mr S Beresford had attended in my place. The main points recorded were:

• The former architect to the West Riding had concluded that the building had reached the end of its life and that two years ago repair costs had been £35,000 and future maintenance costs would be substantial.

• The DMBC Chief Architect said the useful life might be up to 10 to 15 years and costs for minimum repairs would be £20,000 excluding a new heating system

• The provision of the new school had been on the understanding that the former premises would be dismantled.

• The joint site for the two new schools will be deficient in playground area by 1.6 acres and beneath minimum statutory requirements and parking would reduce the area further.

• At the proposed new Middle school on Common Lane there would be room for extension to provide community provision.

Local representatives made clear the need for community facilities.

It was suggested that a local committee be set up to liaise with the Education Department.

On 24 July I sent the following comments to Mr Pass:

• The 11 June meeting was held at an inconvenient time for working people and so proper consultation had not taken place

• Members of Tickhill Town Council were not invited.

(On 22 July the Yorkshire Evening Post newspaper printed a letter of apology from Mr Pass admitting that relevant correspondence from Tickhill Town Council had been overlooked)

• Mr Hare of the Ratepayers Association had not been in the chair, as stated.

• Many present felt that the tone of the meeting was not sufficiently concerned with an open investigation but rather that demolition was a foregone conclusion. The main theme seemed to be to persuade Tickhill to drop their concern for the old school and divert attention to provision of a new community centre in the distant future.

It was concluded that proper public consultation had not taken place. The following course of action was proposed:

• The authority to guarantee no precipitate action

• Tickhill Town Council be empowered to carry out its own investigation

• The Authority to cooperate fully by providing access, information and professional advice.

• The premises to be maintained for a reasonable period while investigations took place.

The second set of Minutes concerned a meeting on 3 September 1975. It was reported that an additional meeting had been called because of a request from Tickhill Town Council who had not been represented at the previous meeting.

After full discussion of the background, local representatives put forward reasons for asking for the premises to be kept for Further Education and reported 16 organisations already requiring use of the premises.

It was clearly stated that the requirement was for Further Education and not community use. It was confirmed that the Common Lane School would be started early in in the financial year starting in April 1976 and that the plan provided for the possibility of further education provisions although no finance was available.

There were no financial resources within existing budgets.

A Town Council sub-committee should look into the possible development of the premises and produce a report.

Sub-committee Report:

The Town Council nominated Cllr. D. C. Miller to lead a small Working Party. Other members were:

Mr R Fieldhouse (Surveyor), Mrs J Wilcox and Mr P. Mottram. The Working Party examined the premises and concluded that:

• Deterioration of the fabric was not serious and could readily be made good.

• The accommodation was basically suitable for Further Education use.

• Suitable improvements could probably be made at moderate cost. Accordingly an outline specification was prepared based on probable needs of an F.E. Centre.

The existing premises were measured and, with the assistance of an old plan of the school a drawing was prepared showing Plan, Elevations and Sections of the existing building (See Drawing A.) Using the outline specification, two possible layouts were produced and one was selected as the preferred scheme ( See Drawing B.)

The Working party felt that this scheme fully exploited the potential of the premises. However, recognising that there are currently financial constraints on Local Authority expenditure, it was decided to critically examine the scheme and to eliminate those elements which could be dispensed with initially. The resulting modified scheme is shown on Drawing C.

A further Drawing D was prepared showing car parking spaces for 25 vehicles.

Both schemes B and C were then costed using a combination of actual estimates from local contractors and realistic budget estimates.

The cost of modified scheme C was estimated to be £9,000 to include:

• External repairs to the fabric, including roof repairs, guttering and window frames.

• Internal alterations including toilets partitions, plastering, plumbing etc

• Formation of a small kitchen including cooker and fittings.

• Gas fired central heating

• Electrical work

• Damp proofing by silicone injection

• External drainage from toilets

• Internal decorations

• Opening in N. boundary wall for access to carpark and tarmac repairs.

As soon as conditions would allow the modified scheme should be uprated to the preferred scheme B to include:

• Extensions for toilets, dressing rooms etc

• Partitions and suspended ceilings for classrooms.

• Formation of corridors etc.

The cost of these improvements was estimated to be a further £10,000.

The Report recommended that to arrest deterioration and to provide an urgently needed Further Education facility for Tickhill that the above schemes should be adopted.

Doncaster MBC did not adopt these recommendations.

Truly a lost opportunity

Thirty two years later the area is still not being used as playground for the school and proposals to use the space as an extra public car park have not been accepted on the grounds that the Education Department had plans for its use.

Nor has Estfeld School on Common Lane been given any extensions for use as a Community Centre as hinted at the time.

Tickhill Town Council’s proposals in 1986 for a Community Centre on what is now the St Mary‘s Road Car Park were rejected by a ballot of townspeople.

Philip Mottram
















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