School has served generations over the past 118 years

GSS partner Will Assheton undertaking a survey at Hawthorn Road School, Kettering
GSS partner Will Assheton undertaking a survey at Hawthorn Road School, Kettering

Generations of families have seen school life change down the years, but a primary school designed by one of Kettering’s most famous sons more than a century ago has stood the test of time.

Hawthorn Community Primary School in Kettering, built to a design by John Alfred Gotch in 1894, has been given a clean bill of health in a survey by GSS Architecture, the practice he founded.

The building and school life have changed to meet the demands of the town, but the sense of community and parental involvement have remained constant.

Year 5 and 6 teacher Sue Eden, who was a pupil there in the 1960s, said: “It’s a school where families come generation after generation. In effect it hasn’t changed that much.

“It’s a school of traditions. We used to have a huge autumn fair. The school hall was absolutely rammed with people. We wouldn’t think of missing it.

“Now the Christmas fair has taken over. The school has a family and a friendly feel.”

The original three-classroom infant school, known as Hawthorn Road School, which forms the main part of the modern building, was built for £1,630. Its original tower, built as part of a fresh air system to allow bad smells and germs out, stills stands as a majestic landmark.

A new toilet block and infants’ entrance were added in 1905. Houses in Broadway, to the back of the school, were demolished to give more space for the playground and a classroom with tiered seating was built.

Extensions, a hall, mobile classrooms and playground equipment have been added over the years and the size and use of rooms have changed as the school adapted to the community’s needs. The old boys’ toilets are now the school office. Bricked-up windows in classrooms show where old exterior walls used to be.

A new block was built to the back of the school in the 1990s and a community room used by a mum and tots’ group and evening events opened in 1997.

Generations of children have played under a rare Blenheim Orange apple tree that has stood in the grounds for at least 100 years. Last year it was changed into a soft outdoor play area with seating around the trunk.

One facility the school has fought to keep is its outdoor swimming pool. Now heated, the pool was freezing cold when Mrs Eden was a pupil.

She said: “I used to dread it.”

Old photographs from the early 1900s show boys in sailor suits and girls in pinafores.

One from 1912 shows pupils leaving the school for an outing to the Hilly Hollies, Weldon, in a horse and cart.

The school still has a Union Flag donated by a school also called Hawthorn in Tazmania visible in a school photograph from King George V’s Coronation Day in 1910. It was hung again for a school photograph in 2000.

Girls and boys were segregated at playtime until the 1970s with a wall dividing the playground. And Mrs Eden remembers the slipper being used in the 1960s.

About six years ago plaster from the hall ceilng fell down while pupils were enjoying a Victorian history day, but GSS Architecture said the building is fit to serve the community for years to come.

Partner Will Assheton said: “With just some necessary maintenance and remedial work there seems no reason why this lovely traditional school building shouldn’t continue to serve families for generations to come.”

For more information on the school’s history see Carl Howard’s book Our School in Hawthorn Road.