Old schools

With many dating from the Victorian era, school buildings are ripe for transformation into unique homes. Whether your school days were rosy or bleak, enjoy our round up of some of the best converted schoolhouses on the market.

Agency Smiths Gore in Northumberland is marketing The Old School House in Ancroft near Berwick upon Tweed, which dates back to 1858. Used as a school until the 1980s, this single-storey stone building is now a cosy dwelling and its former playground a well-stocked garden, says agent Barbara Pentecost.

Currently comprising two bedrooms, two reception rooms plus conservatory, the property could easily convert into three bedrooms says Pentecost adding that, unlike some school conversions, this design is sympathetic. "When I see some, my heart sinks. They tend to chop windows in half with nasty mezzanine levels. I suppose it's about trying to squeeze in as many bedrooms as possible."

Smiths Gore are also selling a two-bedroomed apartment carved from a large Victorian school, also called The Old School House, overlooking the Tweed and on at £160,000. Now owned by an artist, its high walls are the perfect backdrop for the owner's art collection.

Pentecost admits that, despite a wealth of period features, school conversions can be harder to market than traditional properties: "They tend to appeal to a younger market but attract a premium so are a bit more expensive than traditional properties. Personally I love them and get very excited but unrenovated examples are increasingly hard to find."

In County Durham, agents George F White have two former school properties for sale. A former Sunday school in Cowgarth Hill, Stanhope comes unrenovated but with planning permission for anyone with vision looking to create a large three-storey family home. With offers requested at around £135,000, the property has sumptuous views across the Wear Valley. But buyers considering school conversions should note that often these buildings are short on views, with windows typically placed higher than normal to avoid distracting daydreaming pupils from their studies.

Another former Sunday school in Witton-le-Wear has been imaginatively converted into a spacious three-bedroom property with large open-plan living and dining area, smart kitchen and three bedrooms and is on the market for £199,950 through George F White.

Yorkshire-based Dacre Son and Hartley have several examples of former schools, including two-bedroomed Swinton Terrace in the popular market town of Masham. The Victorian building teems with features rarely found in traditional houses – such as quarry-stone floors and arched mullion windows. On at £395,000, the agent says that schools make great family homes. "This one has a walled garden so is perfect for families but it would also make a great holiday home as it's close to the Dales."

Roedean, in Hawkhurst, Kent, is a prime example of how a Grade-II listed building can be given a stylish, contemporary interior. On at £599,000 with Jackson-Stops & Staff, the property has vaulted ceilings and gothic windows.

It was the same winning combination of period detail and contemporary interiors which led Nicky Jackson, 33, to buy her three bedroomed duplex apartment in the Gilbert Scott Building, a former teacher training college in Putney SW15: "It's a beautiful place to live and our apartment has huge windows and a vaulted ceiling. We weren't specifically looking for a school property when we bought it but we liked the idea of a period property that also had a contemporary feel."

Nicky's children enjoy playing in the safe walled courtyard below, and she's learned some fascinating history – mostly from taxi drivers – on her home's former pupils: "We've got some amazing black and white photos of students who wheeled their beds out onto the balcony to sunbathe." Now planning a third child, Nicky says it's time to move on and her apartment is on the market for £699,950 through Foxtons.

In the West Midlands, Morris Homes have renovated the Grade II listed former Bilston Girls' High School, turning it into smart apartments. A launch event attracted over 100 former pupils keen to see their old school's transformation. Grandparents Vincent and Sandra Hancox downsized from their four-bedroom house into a ground floor, two- bedroom apartment at Claremont. Vincent explains: "I was born and raised in Bilston, and attended the boys' school there. Every year we would go to the Christmas dance at the girls' school. Who'd have thought that, all these years later, I'd be living in the very same building?" Homebuy direct is available at Claremont with prices from £106,750.

A former public school founded by the Masons, Royal Connaught Park in Bushey, Hertfordshire, has certainly had a colourful history since its closure. At one time an American university visited by John F Kennedy, it then became a film set for productions including the original St Trinian's, Harry Potter and Little Britain. Now converted into luxurious flats and houses, "no two properties are the same" says Comer Homes' marketing director Caroline Comer. Prices range from £399,000 up to £2.1 million.

In Camberwell, south London, developer St George has refurbished the former Mary Datchelor School, creating a range of apartments from £399,950. Set in a conservation area, the restoration proved a challenge but MD Mark Griffiths says that it's been a great success: "The guiding principle throughout the design process for Camberwell Grove has been to retain the distinctive character of the original buildings and respect the conservation area in which it stands. The development will blend in with and enhance the existing street scene to provide a very appealing place to live. There are hardly any houses of this nature currently being built in London."

  • By Ginetta Vedrickas
    15 March 2010
I was born and raised in Bilston, and attended the boys' school there. Every year we would go to the Christmas dance at the girls' school. Who'd have thought that, all these years later, I'd be living in the very same building?