The Old School House and St Joan’s

The Old School House, at the lower end of West Street on the corner of the Dean, is the original home of Perin’s Free Grammar School (later to become Perins Community School). One of the pupils there was Robert Boyes, who became the schoolmaster there from 1723 to 1782, and who wrote most of the early history texts that describe Alresford. In 1774, Boyes wrote that “The school was founded in 1698 by Christopher Perin ‘for educating 19 poor men’s sons in the Latin tongue, writing accounts etc. Every scholar was to pay one shilling a year for his admission and one shilling a year towards providing rods and brooms to be used in the school.” [So it was not quite free! – Ed]

The School House is described as a plain, strong building standing at the bottom of West Street. But the actual school room, and some of the accommodation for the pupils, was at numbers 56 and 58 West Street. These two current buildings at that time were joined together to provide one large and very lofty school-room, adjoining the School master’s house. This school continued in operation until 1932, when the school moved to the current site at the top of Pound Hill.

In 1971 the corner building was recorded as being Mr Howarth’s cafe, in a town survey conducted by Sun Hill Junior School students. In 1985 it was the home of the chef-proprietors of the Old School House Restaurant, the catering business run there by Terry and Sara McTurk. In 2013 it is now an Indian restaurant, known as the Shapla.

The shops created out of the school room have had many uses. Number 56, now Oakleaf Stationers, in 1971 was Wilstead’s, a chemist in a 1971 Sun Hill Junior School Survey: this then became Mr Goode, the chemist, in a 1985 survey. Next door at 58 there was a newsagents known as Perins in 1971, and was still a newsagent in 1985: in 2013 this is a hairdresser.

Diagonally across the cross roads outside the Old School House, and next to the Fire Station, is the house known as St Joan’s. Many years ago St Joan’s was a convent, and also later functioned as a boarding house for the Old Perin’s school. At an earlier time apparently a Quaker Meeting House stood next to it. But in 1985, when the Oxfam book “A Taste of Alresford” was published, this house had been renamed Ferndale House, by the owners Julia and Brian Champion. Brian Champion ran a photographic studio from there: originally the business had been established in Shepperton, but they visited Alresford one day and decided it was the place they wanted to live. They started in a shop in West Street, but later moved down the road to St Joan’s, which at that time was rather derelict. It took two years to rebuild the house how they wanted. Brian Champion was also involved both in international power boat racing, and pheasant shooting, but not at the same time.

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