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Old School is the best School
May 8th 2012 | 56 comment(s)


I am quite varied in my research interests as far as children and young people, their play and their wider social lives are concerned. But one interest I have in particular is in exploring the differences between design intentions and actual use. I also like exploring changes in the design of common environments over time and identifying what difference that makes to what children and young people actually do there.

That’s why I like writing about school playgrounds – on their own and in the context of the whole school site. At the moment I have my nose in a grand project to explore and map changes in the design of school playgrounds in my home city of Hull in East Yorkshire from the year dot to the present day.

So, you can imagine the frustration I’ve had knowing that one of the oldest purpose built schools in the city, which sits just a short walk from my front door, is one that I’ve never been able to get a good look at.

The National School on Bankside in Hull (above) was built in 1852 opposite the local church and along the River Hull as a school for the boys and girls of the parish of Sculcoates. It closed as a school in 1908 and has served as a warehouse for various companies since then. But finding out who owns it now has been a bit of detective story that has lasted a number of years.

Finally, just a few weeks ago I discovered who the current owners are and today I visited it for the first time. And I tell you, you would not believe the level of excitement experienced when I turned the corner this afternoon to see the gates wide open and waiting for me!

A short visit courtesy of Rix Petroleum (same family as in the British actor Brian Rix) who now own the building meant that a half-hour snoop around with camera and notebook became the best part of a full afternoon. The building is now being used as a storage place but many original features (including roof plaster and laths) are still identifiable, and it's possible to make out where the dividing walls (for separate boys and girls school rooms) once where.

The frame for the old school bell is still in place (just below the cross).

Outside, the line of the very tiny school yard/playground can be made out (the River Hull is just on the right).

And even the old roof line of the outdoor toilet block can be made out on the rear walls (the diagonal line slightly right of centre).

Today was a great day but to cap it all …whist I was on this visit  an email popped up on my phone from the current owners of yet another of the oldest school buildings in the city (built 1828, now a printers workshop) saying, ‘Yes, come round anytime you like. And bring your camera!’ I won't bore you with photos from there too.

So, if you’ve been waiting for stuff from me today HUGE apologies … today just simply disappeared.


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Marc Armitage



Marc is an independent consultant, researcher and writer in playworking and the wider social world of children and young people.

He is a regular speaker at conferences and seminars around the European Union and beyond engaging with practitioners, educators and policy makers.


This website is a collection of writings and news, published pieces, conference papers, discussions, thoughts, ideas, Blog pieces .. and general ramblings.

Not all of it is totally 100% serious ... what would the point be in a playworker who doesn't play a little, hmmm?


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