Victorian values - at a price

16th July 2004 at 01:00
A Welsh museum that recreates the 19th-century classroom for today's pupils is being sold. Adi Bloom reports

For sale: small primary with traditional values, complete with schoolmaster in mortarboard, rows of desks, and slates neatly stacked along the wall.

Canes no extra charge.

Prospective buyers visiting the Victorian School will find no interactive whiteboards or high-speed internet connections. Instead, pupils sit silently in neat rows, their backs poker-straight. During break-times, they march purposefully around the playground, breathing deeply. And when they learn, it is strictly by rote and recitation.

The one-room Denbighshire school is an interactive museum, designed to recreate the experience of life at a Victorian primary.

The museum was founded by Dilys Lloyd, a local history buff, in an abandoned school building in Llangollen.

"All my life, I'd collected things," Mrs Lloyd said. "I had display cases full of Victorian toys and Victorian school registers. I had school desks.

So I thought maybe I could give a lesson."

Pupils are drawn from schools on educational visits. They are given pinafores or shorts to wear and are marched behind neat rows of flip-top desks for a three-hour lesson.

There, one of a staff of four trained teachers, retired from contemporary classrooms, sternly instructs them in the history of "our dear Queen Victoria" and the British empire.

Christina Evans, teacher at nearby Llantysilio primary, spent the lesson in uniform, sitting alongside her pupils. "It was quite daunting," she said.

"The kids just clammed up. They were too worried they were going to be told off to answer questions. I think they appreciated me more afterwards."

But now, after 16 years, Mrs Lloyd has decided to sell the museum, complete with classroom equipment and staff. And she has chosen to market her resolutely old-fashioned business via an unexpectedly new-fangled means: the internet.

"I'm getting a bit too old to run the business now," she said. "But it would definitely suit someone with an interest in history and old things.

Someone who knows that discipline is top of the list."

Despite her eagerness to sell, Mrs Lloyd refuses to give a price until prospective buyers have visited the premises and seen lessons in operation.

Armchair shoppers will have to content themselves with a picture of the late actor and Goon Show comedian Harry Secombe sitting in on a Victorian class.

James Cragg, 10, from Llantysilio primary, hopes that a buyer is found eventually. "It definitely beats normal school," he said.

"All we had to do was copy work from the blackboard. We didn't have to think at all. I think an old person should buy it, because it will bring back fond memories for them. They might have forgotten the bad memories by now.

"Or a teacher might want it. It would be a chance to be mean to pupils in a way you can't nowadays."

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