About The Schoolhouse
An important consideration in designating The Old Britannia Schoolhouse a heritage building is its architecture which represents a typical nineteenth century Ontario schoolhouse.
The schoolhouse is a rectangular brick structure 28 feet (8.5 metres) by 42 feet (12.8 metres).
The north and south walls consist of three symmetrical bays. There are three six-pane double windows on each side. Originally the windows could be lowered from the top using a long pole as well as raised from the bottom, thus providing both light and cross ventilation.
The front facade is also divided into three bays with two windows and one entrance. Many schoolhouses had two entrances, one for boys and one for girls. This gender designation can been seen on some old schools, especially in the cities.
Over the door is a blind or false rose window. This was a common 19th century decorative detail.
The chimney treatment, as well as the yellow brick arches over the windows and doors, illustrate the 19th century use of polychrome brick work.
Under the eaves is a decorative pattern of raised brick called imbrication.
The decorative cupola (belfry) on the roof top houses the school bell which still summons pupils to class. Male pupils from the past can tell stories of mischief related to the school bell - also related to the strap.
A junior classroom was added in the 1940's.
Originally a woodshed was at the back of the school. Boys fetched the wood for the stove which heated the classroom.
"Privy", "outhouse", "closet" were some of the euphemisms for this necessary structure. There was one for boys and one for girls. (Usually "two-holers"). A privacy wall and lilac bushes try to disguise it. At one time a fence stretched from the back of the woodshed to the school yard fence to separate the boys' play area from the girls'. In rural schools, however, boys and girls usually played together - young and old, brothers and sisters.
Water was available from a well on the property. A pupil would bring in a pail of water each day. A dipper, drinking cup and wash basin were at the back of the classroom.
Inside the front door was a small vestibule with an unheated cloak room on each side, one for boys and one for girls. Former pupils tell of how in the winter dinner (lunches) might be frozen, and of how wet mittens would be hung to dry near the stove in the classroom.
The classroom has a raised platform at the front. This gave the teacher an added attitude of authority and a better view of the pupils. It also meant the blackboards were higher for the students to see, especially when the teacher had a group of pupils up to the front. It also provided a platform for recitation and Christmas concerts. The door at the front of the classroom was installed when the additional classroom was built in the late 1940's.
There are blackboards across the front and on the front sides of the room. Probably there were fewer blackboards in the early years. Most of the blackboards are slate. However, two of the side boards are plaster which has been sanded smooth and painted. This was commonly done when slate could not be afforded. Sometimes painted oilcloth was used. Blackboard paint can still be purchased today.