Winthorpe's Moving Staircase

In the spring of 1947 as the mountains of snow around us in The Peak District melted and poured down the hillsides we began the task of moving The Dolphin School to Langford Hall; driving through the floods as we approached Farndon. This, the third move in eight years was caused by the exigencies of war and the armed forces need and liking for large houses and was a common experience for rural boarding schools. However moving a boarding school in a five-week holiday so that domestic, scholastic and outdoor facilities are ready and in place was always hectic. So we settled in and got on with our business and of course there was still much to do outside the daily routines; foremost of these was the conversion of a large and very handsome stable block into classrooms. Two years later these were in use and were most successful though we were in no way happy with the staircase which was steep, very worn and in no way beautiful, but it served its purpose.

Langford Hall.Every Sunday in term time 65 to 80 boys and staff walked down through the village of Winthorpe to attend morning service at the church. Winthorpe was only very small at that time but marked by the number of large and very large houses; so as we approached the Lord Nelson Public House and the Green on our left was Winthorpe House, shortly after The Hall was on our right, then on the left was The Grange and only a little further on The Grove. Surely there must have been an outburst of "Executive Housing" in the mid nineteenth century! Sadly in the early 1950's Mrs. Higgs, owner of The Grange, a large three story country House set in extensive gardens which now house The Spinney, died and the property was eventually sold for development. Sunday by Sunday as we passed by on the way to church we saw the building demolished and finally there was a notice for an auction of architectural seconds; doors, windows, stonework etc, including the disassembled staircase, which I knew well from social visits.

Stringers and banister in Langford Hall.I arrived late for the sale to find that the rises (stairs) had already been sold and bidding for the stringers, banisters and posts was about to begin; these I secured for £1-10 and I went in search of the buyer of the rises which had been sold for firewood. After some gentle haggling I acquired these too for £3. Making a total of £4-10 for a superb red pine staircase 5 feet wide. That summer it was fitted most successfully into the classroom block and we congratulated ourselves on our cleverness. Later in the year we had our first staircase accident; fortunately not serious.

On the demise of the School in 1967 Mr. Patrick Radford who moved in after extensive alterations to the main building and the classrooms acquired the property. Years later one of Mr. Radford's sons and his partner started what became "Project Telecom" and the stable block was revamped and the staircase, now carpeted, rejoiced to the feel of busy feet. Now, still in prime condition, it awaits fresh challenges.

Peter Roach. February 2004

Staircase in Langford Hall.Staircase in Langford Hall.

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