BECKETT AND SARGEANT'S SCHOOL, NORTHAMPTON

Just off Gold Street, in the centre of Northampton, the narrow, one-way Kingswell Street runs beside the Grand Hotel and on the left is one of the town's old gems.

With gold letters on a background of deep wine coloured tiles is its title Beckett and Sargeant's School Endowed Anno Domini 1735. It is a narrow building from front to back built of red and black bricks with an elaborate combination of pale coloured stone and ironstone decoration around its windows. The design is repeated around the front door, above which, within a sharp point, is the charming stone figure of a young girl. This presumably represents a pupil of the school during the 18th century, as she wears a tall crowned cap tied under the chin, her skirt is clear of her ankles and she appears to be carrying a piece of needlework.

Mrs Beckett, the widow of a surgeon, took up residence in Northampton with her unmarried sister Miss Sargeant. The two ladies were very comfortably off and owned a great deal of property in the town. In the autumn of 1735 they drew up a Trust Deed to enable them to use the rents from some of their properties to finance a school for 30 poor girls. It is not clear if the school used the same site continuously throughout the following generations. It is clear, however, that religious education, needlework and house craft formed the backbone of the syllabus taught at the school.

During more recent years this eye catching old building has become the home of a youth advice centre.