Rallying cry to save one of Sheffield's oldest school buildings

The former Heeley National School building today
The former Heeley National School building today
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A rallying cry has been made to save one of Sheffield's oldest school buildings, which faces an uncertain future.

The former Heeley National School building, opposite Heeley Green Surgery on Gleadless Road, dates from 1801 and was built on the site of an earlier 18th-century establishment providing education long before it was available to the masses.

The former Heeley National School building as it looked in 1986

The former Heeley National School building as it looked in 1986

A report by the South Yorkshire Archaeology Service previously said only a former school on School Green Lane, in Ecclesfield, was 'demonstrably older'.

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The two-storey stone building fell into dereliction after its last tenants, the Jehovah's Witnesses, left many years ago and it looked set to be lost when plans were approved in 2009 to demolish it and replace it with homes for adults with learning disabilities.

But it was spared the wrecking ball as leaseholder CareTech Community Services said the demand was not there and, with planning permission having since expired, the owner now has no proposals in place for the building's future as its condition continues to deteriorate.

Andy Jackson, manager of Heeley Trust, which works to restore disused buildings like the nearby Anns Grove School for community use, said: "We would like to see the building preserved, if possible, because it's one of the oldest surviving school buildings and part of the story of how we developed as a city.

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"But seeing a future for the building is challenging. There's a lesson for us all here that the sale of public buildings to the private sector is flawed and doesn't secure the future of those buildings."

A spokesman for CareTech said: "At the moment there are no plans for the site, other than to maintain the safety of the building as it is."

Vincent Malone, who lives near the building, said: "I pass it every day and it's a crying shame what's happened to that building. They shouldn't demolish it. They should do something with it for the community, like making it into a little nursery."

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The school closed in the 1930s and was used as an air raid precautions base during the Second World War, before becoming an annex for Carfield Primary School and later being used as a meeting place for Jehovah's Witnesses.

Howard Greaves, of Hallamshire Historic Buildings, said an attempt a few years ago to secure listed status for the building had failed since it had been altered internally.

"It really should be preserved because it's an important part of Heeley's history," he added.

David Smith, chairman of Heeley's History Workshop, attended the building as a pupil in the 1950s.

He said: "The front looks quite sturdy but the roof's caved in and the building as a whole is in a quite a bad state. I wouldn't mind it being turned into housing but whatever they do they should keep the facade."