About The Schoolhouse
The Schoolhouse Today
The Building and Grounds
The Friends of the Schoolhouse keep a close eye on the condition of The Old Britannia Schoolhouse. In 2004 the building had extensive renovations including rebuilt chimneys, brick pointing and replacement of the stone step at the front door. As a result the building is in good condition despite its more than 150 years of coping with hundreds of lively students. With continued good care it should survive for many more years.
The original brick part of The Old Britannia Schoolhouse looks much as it did when it was first built. The additional classroom that was added in the late 1940's was removed in the 1970's. A new section was built onto the back of the original building when the schoolhouse was restored and now provides work space for the schoolmistress/master and a small kitchen. Walking through the door from the classroom to the back room is quite literally like moving from one century to another - from slates and nibbed pens to computers.
Inside the classroom rows of desks remind us of a time when teaching was very structured. The variety in desk size is evidence that this was a schoolroom that had students in all grades up to Senior Fourth (Grade 8). There is one row of double desks. At the front of the room is a platform where the teacher's desk is located as well as a piano. Here too are the "disciplinary tools", the dunce chair, the hair puller and the logs. The strap hangs on a hook by the blackboard. Today's students seem to enjoy these "punishments" given in a much gentler way than they would have been in earlier times. Around the classroom are many artifacts that would have been in the classroom from the 1850's to the 1950's. Maps from various eras hang on the walls along with pictures of plants and animals for the students to identify. At the back of the room are photos of classes that attended S.S. #12. With a nod to modern hygiene, the old cloakrooms by the front door are now indoor washrooms although two "outhouses" are placed at the rear of the school yard to remind students of the cold winter walk to the "necessary". These outhouses are currently used for storage but the Friends hope to convert one to a simulated non-functional outhouse so students can get a sense of what one might have been like.
As students enter the school yard from the parking lot, they pass by plantings of native meadow perennials such as day lilies, tansy, sunflowers, Joe Pye weed, and Solomon’s seal. An arbour at the end of the walkway supports wild climbing roses. Lilacs screen the outhouses as they would have done in earlier times. Just to the north is a large outdoor gathering place, called Ben's Corner, with large rocks for seating, and many native shrubs around three sides. A commemorative plaque recognizes Ben Madill's many contributions to the Schoolhouse. On the north side of the schoolyard is a Victorian Cottage garden. At the corner of the schoolhouse by the rain barrel is a small butterfly garden. However, the entire garden is a welcoming spot for birds, butterflies and other wildlife.
A Teachers' Arbour commemorates all the former men and women who taught at The Old Britannia Schoolhouse. It is covered in spring and summer with clematis and morning glories. A second arbour was added in 2012 dedicated to Joan Reid who established and maintained the gardens. A sun dial, typical of Victorian gardens, is dedicated to Eva Ardiel who has done much to preserve the schoolhouse and its programmes. Until a few years ago, along the west side of the school yard, were several old maples planted by students long ago. These had to be taken down and a count of the rings revealed that they were planted in the 1880's. New maples have replaced the old trees, hopefully to last another hundred years. Swings, a horseshoe pitch and a baseball diamond are part of the school yard.
Though a major highway has replaced the dirt road at the front of the school and planes fly overhead, The Old Britannia Schoolhouse still manages to preserve a feeling of those long ago days.