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Did you go to this Victorian school? Owner celebrates 25 years of living history

PUBLISHED: 08:40 13 March 2019 | UPDATED: 08:50 13 March 2019

Sally North in her Victorian School at Great Cressingham, which she has been running for 25 years. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Sally North in her Victorian School at Great Cressingham, which she has been running for 25 years. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

In a former school, buried deep in the heart of the Norfolk countryside, lies part of the county’s living history.

The Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

For 25 years, Sally North has been providing children with the chance to travel back in time and experience what life was like as a Victorian schoolchild.

Running her school in Great Cressingham, near Watton, Miss North welcomes groups of primary school children into her classroom, which is packed with taxidermy animals, maps and schoolbooks, all watched over by a portrait of Queen Victoria.

The school, originally built in 1840 and run as a school until the mid-nineties, was in 1995 reopened by Miss North, who estimates she has taught between 20,000 and 25,000 children about Victorian education in the years since.

She said: “I never had a timescale on it. I am amazed I can still feel every day like a new day, every time I see a bus it feels like the first one.

Sally North in her Victorian School at Great Cressingham, which she has been running for 25 years. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSally North in her Victorian School at Great Cressingham, which she has been running for 25 years. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“I love giving children that day that is out of their normal range of experiences. I love having them and I feel very privileged.

“Sometimes people come up to me in the street or shops and say ‘I came to your Victorian school, my children have now been to your Victorian school’ and I have had at least four or five girls who are teachers bringing their class here who came when they were young.

“I can see when the children leave they are sort of sparkling, they have really had a great experience.”

In the 25 years since opening, the school suffered a fire which nearly destroyed the building in 2003, but the biggest change has been in technology available to children and the number of historical items in the school.

The School Cupboard, which is an original Victorian cupboard, filled with curiosities at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe School Cupboard, which is an original Victorian cupboard, filled with curiosities at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Maps, books, skeletons and stuffed animals including a stoat, a pike and a kestrel fill the school’s walls and windowsills.

Miss North said: “I started really on just the most basic skeleton. I had the desks, I had the blackboard, I had tortoise stove but it has organically evolved.

“I think keeping children linked to the past gets more and more important. Twenty-five years ago, children had hardly reached the technological age - there were just a few BBC computers in classrooms.

“Now it is a different age altogether, but it is still very important they connect back to these moments before that age.

Books and games at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYBooks and games at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“I hope I will keep going. The Rolling Stones are still going so I should just have to keep fit.”

Ink pots and pens at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYInk pots and pens at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The boys have metal hoops and the girls have wooden ones at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe boys have metal hoops and the girls have wooden ones at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Items on an original long bench Victorian desk at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYItems on an original long bench Victorian desk at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The classroom entrance at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe classroom entrance at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The boys and girls separate entrance doors at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe boys and girls separate entrance doors at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Some of the games on display at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSome of the games on display at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A quill and ink pot at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYA quill and ink pot at the Victorian School at Great Cressingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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