This week’s #FascinatingFactFriday is about School House, which is one of our boys’ boarding and day houses.
Did you know that some of the roof trusses at School House are recorded as being the oldest of their kind in England, and among the oldest in the whole of Europe?
According to our archives, which are managed by the wonderful Mrs Elizabeth Stazicker, the most northern eight bays are beneath eighteen roof trusses constructed before 1200. This makes them the best surviving example of timberwork erected before 1200 in England, with only twelve or so similar examples in the whole of Europe. Until 1964, when Housemaster Miles Amherst promoted a project to repair and modernise School House, the trusses were covered by a plaster ceiling.
Mrs Stazicker says that the building was probably built as a granary in around 1180. It was altered in the mid 13th century when a timber floor was inserted to provide a sleeping area for the Prior’s guests (it would have been divided into individual units by hangings), probably when the King and other significant guests came together to celebrate the consecration of the new Cathedral Presbytery.
When Queen’s Hall was constructed in around 1330, further changes were made and it seems that the ground floor vaulted area (then an undercroft) was built. A little later (mid 14th century), the building was extended by adding a further five bays at the south end, but in 1541 when the Cathedral Chapter was established (after the monastery had been surrendered to Henry VIII’s agents), only the northern bays were appointed for the use of the school. The building was described as ‘the malt garner’.
In 1813, the school room was given over to the ‘national school boys school’, newly established with Dean and Chapter support. The school room was removed to the Upper Porta. When the national school’s new buildings in Broad Street were completed in 1853, King’s then regained the building, and there was ‘modernisation’ to create a boarding house. Those at school in the 1950s report wondering whether anything had been done to it since. It was one of the buildings transferred in 1879 from the ownership of the Dean and Chapter to the newly created trustees for what was known formally as the ‘Cathedral Grammar School’.
Today, School House is run by Mr Michael Ruta and his family. There are just under fifty boys from all around the world who get to say that they socialise and sleep beneath a roof that was constructed before the year 1200!