Video and photo gallery: Norfolk’s Victorian school celebrates 20 years

Headmistress Sally North has set up a Fish, Fossils, Fur and Fowl exhibition at the Victorian School in Great Cressingham. Picture: Ian Burt Headmistress Sally North has set up a Fish, Fossils, Fur and Fowl exhibition at the Victorian School in Great Cressingham. Picture: Ian Burt

Kate Scotter kate.scotter@archant.co.uk
Saturday, March 1, 2014
8:00 AM

A school which has helped tens of thousands of children take a step back in time to the Victorian era is celebrating a special milestone.

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The Great Cressingham Victorian School first opened 20 years ago after Sally North decided to reopen a redundant school building and turn it into a living history resource centre.

Over the two decades, the grandmother, who dresses in full Victorian costume and plays the role of a strict headmistress from the 1800s, has welcomed 20,000 schoolchildren from all over the county.

During their visit, the pupils experience a day in the life of a Victorian child, complete with old-fashioned desks with inkwells, slates and traditional games.

To help celebrate the school’s 20th anniversary, Mrs North is hosting a special exhibition this weekend and on Monday.

The Fish, Fossils, Fur and Fowl exhibition features a remarkable collection of natural history, including large pike, squirrel fur and stuffed herons and kestrels.

Mrs North, 66, who comes from a theatre background, said: “What I’ve noticed over 20 years is that children are wonderful, but they have become more and more distant from the earth and nature around them and that’s why this exhibition is so special.

“During their visit, we do writing, ringing, singing and hymns but I also put time into natural history – that, I feel, doesn’t matter if it’s 1894 or 2014.”

The building, between Watton and Swaffham, was a school until it closed in 1993.

Mrs North bought it in 1993 and reopened it as a Victorian school in 1994. Since then, 1,000 schoolchildren have visited every year.

“I just love it,” said Mrs North, who hosts visits three or four times a week. “I see the bus drive past and the children walk down towards the school along an old Victorian pavement.

“I’m ringing the bell and they don’t know what to expect. When it comes to time to leave, they have a sparkle about them. The experience has enriched them and they have enriched me.”

The Fish, Fossils, Fur and Fowl exhibition will run today, tomorrow and Monday from 11am to 4pm. Free entry with donations for Save the Children in Syria.

To see a video with Mrs North visit www.edp24.co.uk.

Are you helping to bring the past back to life? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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