Old Sheringham school reduced to rubble - ready for new homes

Going . . . The former Hilbre School at Sheringham, which has been demolished to make way for new ho

Going . . . The former Hilbre School at Sheringham, which has been demolished to make way for new housing. Picture: KAREN BETHELL - Credit: Archant

A slice of Sheringham's past was consigned to the history books this week when a former school for youngsters with learning difficulties was demolished to make way for new housing.

An open day held at Hilbre School at Sheringham in the 1980s. Picture: SUPPLIED

An open day held at Hilbre School at Sheringham in the 1980s. Picture: SUPPLIED - Credit: Archant

Hilbre School, on Holway Road, was built as a private house in the 1890s.

Its owners included a Colonel Atkinson in the 1940s and local politician Brigadier Henry Cubitt-Smith until the early 1960s. He sold Hilbre to Sheringham schoolteacher Gillian Wilson, who wanted to turn the building into a school for children with special needs.

Miss Wilson, who died last year aged 91, was, with her sister April, made an MBE in 1980 for services to the community.

She transformed Hilbre into a boarding school, with an accommodation block catering for 20 youngsters, as well as an indoor swimming pool and sports hall.

Pupils on the verandah at Hilbre School in the 1960s. Picture: SUPPLIED

Pupils on the verandah at Hilbre School in the 1960s. Picture: SUPPLIED - Credit: Archant


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After Miss Wilson decided to retire in order to concentrate on her charity work – which including setting up Sheringham's Stable Door Housing Trust – the school was run by the Younger family until it closed in 1994.

The site was bought by Tesco two years later and, after planning permission for a supermarket was turned down, the now empty Hilbre fell into disrepair, becoming an eyesore with crumbling walls, broken windows and trees growing from its roof.

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After squatters moved out, vandals moved in, causing further damage to the now derelict building.

The site was bought last year by Norfolk Homes and is now set to become a new housing development, with 32 houses and flats, roads and open space.

Hilbre School pupils pose for a photograph on the front lawn in the 1960s. Picture: SUPPLIED

Hilbre School pupils pose for a photograph on the front lawn in the 1960s. Picture: SUPPLIED - Credit: Archant

Chris Richmond, who has been researching the history of Hilbre as part of a Norfolk Uncovered film project, said past pupils who contacted him had mixed feelings about the demolition of the school. Some remembered their time there fondly, while others harboured some bitterness over their time there. 'I think it is a shame it went on for so long and the building was left to rot for 20 years,' he added.

'But, although it is sad to see it go, I think it is a relief to see something finally happening with the site.'

Gillian Wilson

Gillian Wilson - Credit: Colin Finch

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