Stainsby school in the news – but what is its history?

The former Stainsby board school, November 2021.

The former board school at Stainsby is in the news at the moment as the National Trust seeks to sell the property. But what is its history? In this blog we’ll take a brief look.

Our Hardwick: a great house and its estate paperback, published in 2009 (out of print but available in local libraries), outlines the history of education in the Hardwick area.  In the 1860s the 7th Duke of Devonshire erected a new school and a house for the master at Stainsby on the site of the medieval manor house there. This replaced a building at the edge of Hardwick park, which became a private residence.

This wooden building in the school yard is current leased to a community organisation.

In 1893 a school board was formed for Ault Hucknall, Glapwell and Heath. This took over the duke’s schools at Heath, Stainsby and Rowthorne (along with a school at Doe Lea belonging to the Hallowes estate). All four were Church of England school and a Church school at Hardstoft continued on a voluntary basis.

In 1895 the school at Stainsby was pulled down and a new and larger building erected by the school board. Hardstoft school was rebuilt in 1894, Doe Lea four years later.

In 1903 county councils took over former board schools. What contribution had been made to local schools by the Hardwick estate fell away. The county council built some new schools in the area, following the development of colliery villages, such as Holmewood and later Bramley Vale. Most of the pupils at Stainsby came from the farming villages near Hardwick Hall.

Stainsby school closed following the opening of a new secondary school at Heath in 1960. This took older children from the former all-age school at Holmewood (perversely called ‘Heath School’, although few children from Heath attended), which became a primary school. The school at Stainsby became redundant and was closed. 

The school sits on the top of the medieval manor house’s site. The area is a scheduled ancient monument.

The building at Stainsby then became what we describe in our book as ‘an imaginative, if short-lived venture’ as a youth music and drama centre. The first warden was a former actor who lived in the headmaster’s house. The Stainsby Arts Centre served schools throughout north-east Derbyshire in the 1960s and early 1970s. From it grew the Stainsby Festival of folk music, which started in 1969 and has long outlived the arts centre.

Now the National Trust is, somewhat controversially, selling the former Stainsby school building by auction. The school board leased the land on which the school was built from the 8th duke of Devonshire. The freehold therefore passed to the National Trust with the rest of the Hardwick estate in 1958, after it was accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of death duties payable following the death of the 10th duke in 1950.

Ault Hucknall Parish Council and a consortium of community groups are trying to purchase the property, but may be outbid in the auction, which ends on 16 November 2021.

The Stainsby Festival used the old school site, but in 1974 a lessee of the school property did not want the festival. It then moved to nearby Brunt’s Farm. This programme from the 1976 event reveals that weekend tickets to the festival were then £3.00 each. Artists included Broadside, John Goodluck and Threefold. There were also workshops.
Visitors to the site will find of parts of it adorned with bunting, a banner and notices protesting at the National Trust’s decision to sell the property and urging potential bidders not to bid against the community‘s bid for the property.

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