History of the building

Until the 1880s, most of what we now see in the centre of Heanor did not exist. There was the church, the King of Prussia and a few other buildings to the north of what is now the Market Place, and there was Heanor Hall, the home of John Ray. Mr Ray died in 1867, and in 1881 Heanor Hall and its grounds were purchased by Alfred Miller Mundy of Shipley Hall; the grounds were broken up into smaller plots for building what is now the town centre, and one part of the estate was established as a market place.

In 1893, Town Board rented the hall itself to house the new Heanor Technical School. One-third of the costs were provided by the County Council and the school provided a technical secondary education for pupils from as far afield as Clay Cross and Sawley. The school opened in September 1893 under the headmaster Ralph Stoddard.

In 1909, responsibility for the school passed totally to the County Council and it was renamed the Heanor Secondary School.

When the school was inspected in 1904 it was described as "crowded", with 134 pupils (the second largest school in the county). Three years later the school had 331 pupils! Accordingly, plans were made for a new school.

George H Widdows joined Derbyshire County Council as a surveyor in 1904, becoming the authority’s Chief Architect in 1910. He was responsible for the design of around 80 schools in the county, and he is known for his ideas of improving child health through school design, with large classrooms, an emphasis on natural light and good ventilation; even the wide corridors in the building were designed to allow exercise in bad weather. The new school at Heanor was built between 1910 and 1912, and, perhaps uniquely, it was constructed without affecting the original Heanor Hall which continued in use throughout the building process. When the new school was finished, the old hall was demolished.

Following the First World War, Frederick Cayley Robinson was commissioned to create a painting as a War Memorial for the students of Heanor Grammar School (the Triptych). Due to the school architecture and war memorial, the building received Grade II listed status in 1988.

The school went through many changes. It became the Heanor Grammar School in 1945, and various additions were made to the buildings, including the Science Block in 1960 and a new School Hall in 1961. The 1960s also saw a change in the provision of education locally. Selective education (using the 11-Plus system) was abolished, and the Grammer took pupils from Aldercar and Heanor Gate school from the age of 13. Further reorganisation in the 1970s saw the school close and instead become part of the South East Derbyshire College.

The college closed in 2013, and the building was taken into private ownership. Plans to change the use of the site were not approved and the site fell into a state of disrepair. Amber Valley Borough Council applied for a Future High Streets Fund Grant which enabled the purchase of the site.

Robert Mee from the Heanor and District Local History Society has created a very comprehensive history of the site in his book "Follow the Master". More information about the society and the book can be found at www.heanorhistory.org.uk.

We would like to thank Heanor and District Local History Society for providing us with the above content and photos.