Devon

Cheriton Fitzpaine thatched long house school replaced

The old Cheriton Fitzpaine thatched school
Image caption Some villagers say they have been fighting to have the old school replaced for about 70 years

Primary school pupils have moved from a building which has housed their village school for nearly 150 years.

The thatched Devon long house at Cheriton Fitzpaine, near Crediton, was one of the last thatched schools in England.

Parents, staff and governors of the school have campaigned for several years to have the building replaced.

The new purpose-built school will have 87 primary and pre-school children aged from three to 11.

The old 17th Century building, which dates back to 1642, is believed to have been a church house until 1875 when a school board was formed.

As the school register grew, an additional classroom was located in a converted house nearby and for several years the children had to negotiate the village high street, which has no pavement, as they went between sites.

Image caption The facilities at the school will be used by about 80 children aged between three and 11

Head teacher Wendy Harris said everyone connected to the school was pleased the long wait was finally over.

"If you talk to some of the older residents in our community, they'll tell you that they've been waiting for a new primary school in Cheriton Fitzpaine for about 70 years," she told BBC News.

"We've been trying to get a primary school for 15 years and today we're absolutely thrilled with the wonderful new building we've got and the facility for our children and the village."

She said children, parents, families and friends had met staff at the old thatched building at 0900 GMT, before walking together to the new school where the bell rang out to welcome everyone.

Mixed emotions

They were then given a tour of the 21st Century building.

"It was fantastic - it's the first time the children have seen the school and everyone was blown away by the facilities," Ms Harris said.

The head teacher said after nearly 25 years at the school, for her the move was a mixture of "sadness and regret" at leaving such a historic building and "relief and complete delight" at the new facilities.

"It's a huge change to come to such a modern building, but I'm so grateful that the architect has reflected some of the old features in the new school and a lot of traditional oak has been used," she said.

The Grade II listed thatched long house, which is owned by Devon County Council, has been put up for sale.

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