Brief History of the Building

The building originates from around 1630 and has a very interesting life serving the villagers in many ways but its main role has been that of a school.


Thomas Aylett built the school and endowed it in his will in 1637. Within a couple of decades, it was used to accommodate the Cromwellian cavalry. An enquiry in 1739 found that the school house "ruinous and unsafe, without seat or flooring, windows and roof ready to fall in". The date of the restoration is still visible on a wall inside the library.


With the death of schoolmaster John Fuller, the school closed in 1842. Led by the Minister of the Congregational Chapel, a committee succeeded in re-establishing it as The British School in 1846. John Orst a smallholder, seed grower and part time accountant, took on the post of Schoolmaster and markedly raised the standards of discipline and education. It became necessary to add a room for infants (now the main museum room) in 1886. From 1902 to 1944, the school operated as a Non-Provided School under dual control of Local Managers and the County Authority.


When it was again occupied by troops in the First World War, lessons temporarily transferred to the Quaker Meeting House on the High Street. Its most famous teacher arrived in 1919: this was the innovative Helen Corke, confidante of DH Lawrence, who instituted a school badge, uniform, physical education and outings.


Lessons here ceased in 1944, but the building continued to serve as a school canteen for St Mary's Primary School (then in Easterford Rd) until the new school was built in 1969.


The local branch of the County Library transferred here from St Mary's Hall in June 1970, to be joined by the fledgling museum five years later.