Planning and Design

Sheffield's board schools, like those built in other parts of the country, had separate access and playgrounds for girls, boys and infants. Most of Innocent's schools share identical forms of planning, based around the German hall plan in which each department had classrooms grouped around a central schoolroom. This allowed efficient circulation and, in recognition of the shortage of trained schoolteachers, allowed the headmaster to supervise pupil-teachers through the glazed partitions. Infants were on the ground floor, older children above in the multi-storeyGlossary Term schools. Lighting was evenly diffused through large windows with as little shadow as possible. Innovations included covered play sheds for wet weather which were placed on the ground floor to avoid steps, leaving "abundant space for marching".

While all were in what the architects called " English Domestic GothicGlossary Term", constructed in rock faced stone and similar in plan, great care was taken to vary the elevations which varied from single to three storeys, the majority being of two. Innocent stated that he "attempted to obtain effect by the picturesqueGlossary Term grouping of parts rather than by a redundance of ornament or enrichmentsGlossary Term and to give all these buildings such distinctive external features as should express the purposes and the means of their erection". Elevations were broken up by the end bays being brought forward and the central bays given large gables, internal arrangements were sometimes expressed externally e.g. the rounded staircase turrets at Netherthorpe and boldly modelled buttresses e.g. at Pye Bank provided a strong vertical emphasis. Bellcotes, disguised as flèches, gave Innocent much scope for inventiveness. The schools were widely publicised, perspectives and plans appearing in the architectural press.

The lavishness of their provision and the quality of construction was not always appreciated. When invited to open Park School in 1875, the Liberal MP David Chadwick remarked "How in the name of fortune the School Board have persuaded the ratepayers of Sheffield to tolerate their extravagance in spending £100,000 in the building of 14 or 15 schools as substantial as so many castles!".

Innocent, who had a thriving general architectural practice, continued to design board schools for many years. His later schools were Fulwood (1878), Langsett Road (1879), Woodside, Rutland Road (1880), Burgoyne Road (1881), Duchess Road (1883), Huntsmans Gardens (1884), Sharrow Lane (1887), Abbeydale (1890), Gleadless Road, Heeley (1892) and Hunters Bar, Sharrow Vale Road (1893). Other local architects also carried out work for the School Board including Holmes & Watson, Hemsoll & Paterson and W. J. Hale (click here to see schools by Hale) and also, through his personal friendship with J. F. Moss, Secretary to the Board, E. R. Robson, the best-known school architect in the country, responsible for many of the London board schools and author of "School Architecture" (1874).



The carved decoration of certain classical mouldings.


The style of the Middle Ages from the later 12th century to the Renaissance, with which it co-existed in certain forms into the 17th century. Characterized in its full development by the pointed arch, the rib-vault and an often skeletal masonry structure for churches, combined with large glazed windows. The term was originally associated with the concept of the barbarian Goths as assailants of classical civilization.


Of five or more storeys.


An approach to architecture and landscape design first defined by English theorists in the later 18th century. Characterized in architecture by irregular forms and textures, sometimes with the implication of gradual growth or decay, and in planning by a preference for asymmetrical layouts that composed into attractive views. Its influence continued into the 20th century, for instance in the arrangement of some post-war New Towns.