Washington_Old_School-0038 REDUCED

Old School Washington

This project saved a unique local school building with a very close relationship to its community and an interesting historical link in its old headmaster. The headmaster, Fred Hill, was the man who recognised the importance of Washington Old Hall in 1930s and gathered a team of volunteers to save it and promote links between Washington and the USA based on the Old Hall being the ancestral home of George Washington, the country’s first President. As the headmaster of the school Fred was enthusiastic and persistent in championing the school and area, even starting the first local newspaper, and helping to establish Washingtons first ever swimming pool opposite the school.

The school was built in 1893 and closed 100 years later in 1993. It was left vacant for 20 years before being developed by Sunderland City Council’s Housing and Communities team. The existing red brick school building offered enough space for conversion to 10 units and JDDK added 3 modern extensions in white brick to the wings to increase this to the required 15 apartments. The internal height of the existing building and it’s tall 2 storey windows leant itself to mezzanine apartments with ‘loft style’ bedrooms that displayed the original scissor trusses internally. The courtyard created by the new wings created the perfect space to add a beautiful landscaped garden for the enjoyment of staff and residents alike. The 20 years of vacancy had not been kind to the school and the level of dilapidation meant that there was extensive repair work carried out to the façade stonework, brickwork, slated roof and roof features to ensure it survived for another 100 years.

Interestingly, some of the children who attended the original school have now come full circle and currently work as support workers for the residents of this new facility. The building displays a new Blue Plaque in recognition of the its connection to Fred Hill.