Some notes on the development of campus

Original Build, 1935: Dinnington Senior School

 • Lower School

In the beginning there was Dinnington Senior School (the old Lower School). It was a wooden building with quadrangles, and was laid out in the then common sex-segregated style (so one half for boys and an identical half for girls).

The wooden walls were built on a solid brick foundation. There were glass-roofed corridors, and one side of each classroom was composed of glass casements facing "the sunniest aspect"[Rotherham Advertiser, 21/09/35].

The governors had wanted a brick school, but according to Sir Percy Jackson, the Chair of the West Riding LEA, "Dinnington would never have had a new school building at all if it had not been a wooden one"[Rotherham Advertiser, 21/09/35]. The Rotherham Advertiser explains that the question of the school was raised "at the height of the economy stunt". There was recognition, by both the governers and the Board of Education, that the maintenance required by wood would mean that brick was likely to prove cheaper in the long term[Seaborne and Lowe: The English School Vol 2, p118], but "at the time the Board of Education would hardly permit the building of schools at all, and even then they only allowed it under exceptional circumstances". Building in timber was reckoned to provide a saving of 30-40% over brick, and this had allowed the West Riding to continue building schools.  Wood was felt to have certain benefits beyond its cheapness: it was considered healthier and easier on the voice than a more solid brick structure. But as we all know, wood rots if not looked after, and burns easily. Low pressure hot-water heating supposedly meant that "the possibility of fire is reduced to an absolute minimum". It also meant there was hot running water in the sinks. Despite this, the governors were still vocally disappointed that the school was made of wood and not brick.[Rotherham Advertiser, 21/09/35]

Ironically, in 1936, as a drive to reduce unemployment, school building came back into favour, and the Board of Education returned their new-build grant to the pre-1931 proportion of 50% of building costs rather than the 20% it would've been when Dinnington was put up.[Seaborne and Lowe: The English School Vol 2, p118]

Based on the designed intake (640), and including the halls, the school averaged a floorspace of 23 square foot per pupil; without the halls it was 17½ square foot per pupil. This appears to be pretty-much average for schools at that time.[Seaborne and Lowe: The English School Vol 2, p117]

Layout wise, Dinnington is a fairly typical school for its time (1935) but I've so far been unable to find a directly comparable structure in the local area; not least because as already outlined, school building in the early '30s was something of a minority pursuit. That said, the primary schools in Kiveton, despite being brick-built, have near-identical gables and windows to Dinnington, and so may well share a common ancestry. The Fred Milner School in Retford, also in brick, has a similar quadrangle arrangement, and a near-identical arrangement of offices in the Entrance Hall.

1938 Extensions: The Gym and Art Rooms

 • Old Gym
 • Art Rooms

When opened, the school lacked a library or gymnasium, and it was hoped that they would arrive in the future.[Rotherham Advertiser, 21/09/35] As it was, the library had to be improvised. But a shared Gym and an Art Room for each department was provided in 1938. The Gym was sited behind the school, while the Art Rooms were genuine extensions to the main school building, closing off the once open quadrangles.

In 1942, another addition to the campus came in the form of a pig sty, built between June and October to house 11 pigs for the war effort. The railings round the school were taken away for the same reason. The pig sty was converted into a garden shed in 1950.[Dinnington Senior Boys' Log Book]

1950s Extensions: West Riding Classrooms & The Annexe

 • West Riding Classrooms
 • Annexe

The baby-boom, an extension to the catchment area, and the raising of the school leaving age produced an increased intake at the school in the 1950s. This led to a scrabble for extra accomodation. Throapham Manor was commandeered, along with parts of the Nursery and Junior Mixed schools, and a small handful of prefabs were put up.[School Governors' Minutes] West Riding Classrooms are prefab erections made from the West Riding LEA's in-house building system. The foundations were layed towards the end of 1952, and the buildings were up by the start of 1954.[Dinnington Senior Boys' Log Book]

The six-roomed Annexe to the east of the school was begun in late 1958, and opened on 6th April 1959. Its arrival allowed the school to operate as a single campus for the first time in several years, rather than having to borrow rooms from the Junior and Nursery schools.[Dinnington Mixed Modern Log Book]

There is mention in the governors' minutes of an intention to acquire some temporary HENGIST classrooms around this time, which seem to have been less-popular spin-offs of the HORSA (Hutting Operation for the Raising of the School Leaving Age) classrooms of the previous decade. Alas, the internet is very guarded on the subject, so I've no idea what these classrooms might've been, if indeed they ever made an appearance. The date ties in with the arrival of the Annexe, but the Annexe seems to have been regarded as a permanent building, and HORSA was very much a temporary class of accomodation. The split-level nature of the Annexe also suggests against the HENGIST notion, but I mention it in interest of completism.

Upper-School, 1963: Dinnington High School, Phase I

Style A (prefab), 1963:
 • House Bases & Admin Block

Style B (semi-prefab):
 • Main Hall (1963)
 • New Gym (1964)

Also Phase I (1963):
 • Boiler House

In January 1957, the agreement went through to buy 31.166 acres from Mr Fisher, a local land-owner. Most of the land would be seeded as playing fields, and a new school complex would be built between the Secondary Modern and the Technical College. The Secondary aspect of the Tech would merge with the Modern to create Dinnington High School.[School Governors' Minutes]

The new school was designed by J. Hardie Glover of Sir Basil Spence, Glover & Fergusson, Edinburgh; the company, who had been commissioned for the build c.1954[Sir Basil Spence Archive], had since risen to some renown through such works as Sussex University and the celebrated Coventry Cathedral rebuild. In March 1958, by way of research, Hardie Glover visited schools in Coventry designed on the house principle[Sir Basil Spence Archive], while the potential problem of subsidence was also a considered factor in the design. The finished plan saw the school divided into 60'x60' blocks, including five House Base blocks linked by "bridges".  It would be built in three phases, to include "admin rooms, classrooms, workshops and three gymnasia linked to a playing field area". The construction would be prefabricated, consisting of a steel frame and wooden slides, with concrete floors and roofs. Black timber and external "padding" would be highlighted by the grey-painted steelwork and a "large expanse of windows".[Rotherham Advertiser, 16/04/60] 

The contract for the build went to Wade Construction Co. of Sandygate, Wath on Dearne, in 1961, and the completion date for Phase I was set as June 1963. Phase I would consist of accomodation for 1600 pupils, with 300 pupils per house (that leaves 100 to be spread round the rest of campus, and perhaps suggests the intended loss of the old school building), plus a new gym and school hall. An initial budget of £249,000 had inflated to £300,000 by the time it opened, with £50,000 set aside for building costs.[School Governors' Minutes]

Phases II & III would follow later, including a third floor to most of the campus, and two more gyms (revised, by popular demand and much wrangling, to one more gym and a swimming pool[Rotherham Advertiser, 16/04/60] (costed at around £13,000[School Governors' Minutes])).

Work began in June 1961, with the levelling of the land, including part of the old playing fields.[Dinnington Mixed Modern Log Book] The build failed to finish on time, and the new school opened about a fortnight late on 23rd September 1963, with the Main Hall and New Gym still unbuilt. There were 1633 pupils to cater for, which is 33 more than Phase I alone could take.[1963/4 Year Book]

The Sir Basil Spence Archive describes Dinnington School as being "of a steel frame construction with brick infill. The buildings are externally clad in Oregon pine boarding with Oregon pine windows." A photograph from the [[RCAHMS]]'s "Canmore" database, shows [[the school as it looked in May 1967]], with most of the vertical paneling unpainted (and the trees still saplings). The archive likens Dinnington to Thurso High School in Caithness, though the similarity is tenuous. It also describes it as "stylistically reminiscent of the buildings designed as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain", which again requires a certain vividness of imagination. A number of schools designed by the partnership at the same time, including the Colley and Yew Lane secondary schools in Ecclesfield, likewise bare little resemblance to Dinnington.

The Main Hall was completed around Christmas, and the New Gym wasn't ready until after Easter. Both are of a noticeably different building style to the rest of Phase I. The House Bases and Admin Block share a common prefab style which is analysed in detail here. The Reception, Main Hall, and New Gym are built from a different system to the rest of Upper School. They share the same sort of girder frame-work as other Upper School buildings, but the actual structure of the Main Hall and New Gym is clearly different to that of the house-bases; most obviously the brickwork and the different style of windows. The bricks are "New World" facing bricks from Maltby Metallic Brick Co. Ltd.[Rotherham Advertiser, 05/12/64]

Between the Main Hall and the New Gym is what appears to be an aborted flyover. This notion is supported by the rush to finish the buildings around it. If it was to be a flyover, then the plans for the New Gym and Main Hall were definitely changed, because not only does the Main Hall not have a second floor there, but also the flyover structure does not come flush to the wall of either building (in contrast to the other flyovers).

Another possibility though is that it is a covered walkway. A contemporary build to DHS is the University of York, whose campus is joined together by covered footpaths. The canopies there look similar to the structure at Dinnington, and double as conduits for various cabling and suchlike. A comment in the governors' minutes says something along the lines of 'moving about outside will still be necessary until phases 2 and 3 are complete'. Assuming Lower School was to be kept, the suggestion is that it would be joined to Upper-School by some enclosed structure or other. Of course, more likely is that Lower School was intended to be replaced, so we probably can't draw as much from this statement as we'd like. But it's certainly the case that the structure provides cover between entrances of the Gym and the Hall, and either way, the intention is to create a weather-proof route through a cohesive campus.

This intention was soon scuppered...

Phase I Extensions, 1960s: Terrapins and ROSLAs

At the end of 1963, the decision was taken to shed the eleven commandeered teaching spaces at Throapham Manor, the Tech, the Nursery and the Junior Mixed School, and replace them with 12 Terrapin classrooms (6 units of two classrooms) erected in 1964 on a short-term hire basis.[School Governors' Minutes] As many of you will know, the short-term hire ended up being about 35 years.

The longer Terrapins at the back may have been built in 1961 for the Secondary Tech to use as Agricultural Science classrooms. Or these may have been other Terrapins on the College campus.

Meanwhile, another spanner in the works had arrived in the form of the embryonic Rother Valley South school scheme. The LEA planned to open a new school in Wales by 1967/8, intended to alleviate the overcrowding at DHS. The plan essentially put paid to Phases II & III of the DHS campus, and everything from this point on took even more fighting for than usual.

Wales High School finally arrived in 1970, three years later than anticipated, but even in 1966 (a year before Wales was supposed to arrive), DHS was so desperate as to be reconsidering a return to Throapham Manor. The place had never been much good as classrooms, but could at least be put to use as a Remedial retreat.[School Governors' Minutes]

By this point there were twenty temporary classrooms on campus: the 12 Terrapin rooms, the 4 West Riding rooms, and, presumably, the two longer Terrapins at the back of the Terrapin Plateau.

This still was insufficient, and so the hire of two more double classroom units was requested for 1967. It seems that these eventually arrived for the start of 1969, in the form of two West Riding blocks; one from Todwick C of E Primary, and the other from Garforth Old Secondary School.[School Governors' Minutes] These are presumably what became known as the Tennis Court Buildings. Though similar to the previous WR blocks, they are of a different design, though by no means a million miles away in style. But then the same could be said of the Phase I buildings. That's '50s and '60s school pre-fabs for you.

Meanwhile, a more permanent fixture was also in the pipeline: a ROSLA (Rising Of School Leaving Age) Unit of four classrooms, to cater for 180 pupils and to also arrive in September 1968. This building was the Turret, and would rehouse the 6th Formers. The Turret became the New Sixth Form Base. The money for this seems to have been a standard grant to coincide with a change in school leaving age policy, but the school also managed to get £15,000 out of the LEA to build two Technology workshops, to allow the school to stop borrowing the workshops at the Tech. This plan was expanded to three workshops and the Technology Block was born. The Tech Block and the Turret were built by Pace Construction at a cost of £45,564.[School Governors' Minutes]

There was also a moveable Housecraft room on campus at this time. This seems not to have lasted into the 1990s.

Despite a seeming surfeit of halls and gyms, there was such a high roll call of exam students that the Lyric Theatre had to be borrowed as an exam venue in the late '60s.[School Governors' Minutes]

Continued Expansion, '70s & '80s: Swimming Pool & Sports Hall

Through the next fifteen years, the area to the north of campus was further developed. In April 1969, with Wales High School about to open its doors, a Swimming Pool became a real prospect once more, along with a Youth Centre.

The Youth Centre was built by Bramall & Ogden Ltd of Wath at a cost of £25,246, and was open by the end of June 1971. The Swimming Pool followed soon after, and at much the same time the Art Block seems to have been built.

With the Wales project fully off the ground, the powers that be were comparitively responsive to the needs of the school, to the point that they actually asked what it felt was needed in coming development. The school responded in 1971 with the following: A decent 6th Form study, a laundrette, a Sports Hall, a third library (after the Lower School and Admin Block libraries), increased office space, a bigger staff-room, under-cover accomodation between at least two main blocks (not sure what they're after there, to be brutally honest), and improved changing rooms. In February 1972, the money was released for a Sports Hall, and J A B Short Ltd of Chesterfield were given the job of building it for £76,477.[School Governors' Minutes]

The demolition of Throapham Manor and surrounding buildings took place in the late '70s.

The 1980s saw little change to the campus, with the Library being the only addition after the Sports Hall. A laundrette seems not to have arrived, and the 6th Form study was to effectively steal the Admin block library when the new library arrived.

1990s: Arson and its Implications

The mid '90s saw some minor construction work, with a mini-bus garage and the revamped Tech Block, but for the most part the '90s was about destruction of one kind or another. The western Tennis Court Building was burnt down c.1994, and Lower School followed two years later. In its wake, a shanty-town of Porta-Kabins was hastily erected until the new Lower School Building was up for the start of year 1997/8. Since then, the Maths Annexe, West Riding Classrooms and the remaining Tennis Court Building have been demolished, as have the Terrapins.

See also: Big Campus Map; Campus Menu; Misc. Menu.