The Old School, Simpson Street is a Grade II listed, former Victorian school building, in Deptford, Sunderland. BDN acted as architects and engineers in the conversion and restoration of this much-loved building into a mixed-use development of contemporary office space and eight loft apartments.
Simpson Street School, designed by Architect J W Rounthwaite, first opened in 1867 as Deptford Yard Church of England School, consisting of boys and infant departments. It was known as The Laing Church of England, later becoming Simpson Street Boys Board School. Over the years, it had various guises as a school.
A separate Simpson Street Girls Board School was created in 1884 after Sunderland School Board took control of the building. In 1904, responsibility passed from School Boards to Local Education Authorities and the schools became Simpson Street Boys and Girls Council Schools. The school then re-opened in 1905 as Deptford Terrace Council School, Junior Department, later Deptford Terrace Junior Mixed School. It closed in March 1929 and a new school opened on the same site, on 1st April 1929 – Simpson Street Council School, Junior Boys Department.
In January 1943, the school amalgamated with the Girls Department to form Simpson Street Council School, Junior Mixed Department, which was later redesignated a County Primary School. On 1st January 1958, this school merged with the Infants Department.
The school bell rang for the final time in July 1961, to make way for an industrial development. In 1994, the Victorian building was protected with a Grade II listed status. It subsequently fell into disrepair whilst in use as artist studios, suffering from vandalism and arson attacks.
The process of restoring and repurposing the building began with removing years of rubbish and poor adaptations and alterations, which had been carried out as part of the buildings use as art studios. When the original structure and spaces had been revealed, the building was carefully restored and adapted, with the former teaching spaces being well suited to modern open-plan office space.
Historic features of the original design were revealed and celebrated, including restoration of the slate roof, stonework, timber roof trusses, timber sash windows, and internal glazed brickwork.
A third of the building is used as the BDN headquarters, with the rest of the building making up the eight luxury apartments, which are available to book for short-term stays. The development of Simpson Street has not only transformed the working environment for BDN but has also given a new lease of life to an important piece of Sunderland’s heritage.
The project won the 2021 North East Insider Property Award for Fit Out / Refurbishment of the Year.