School’s fresh start

SCHOOLROOMS BUTCHERY-DELI-CAFE  John Woodhouse and Rachel Hague at the converted schoolroom that they are turning into a farm shop and cafe at Low Bradfield.     21 April 2011
SCHOOLROOMS BUTCHERY-DELI-CAFE John Woodhouse and Rachel Hague at the converted schoolroom that they are turning into a farm shop and cafe at Low Bradfield. 21 April 2011
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IT is more than a quarter of a century since the last class left Low Bradfield School but the old building was ringing with voices once again this week.

The schoolrooms, which closed in 1985, are being given a new lease of life as a butchery, deli and café.

Behind the project are local farmer John Woodhouse and his partner Rachel Hague, who have spent the last few months restoring the building and preparing to launch their new business, called The Schoolrooms, last Tuesday.

“It’s a totally new industry for us; we’re learning a lot,” says Rachel, aged 27, who previously worked for the family haulage company. “Luckily we’ve had a lot of help from our chef and our butcher.”

The schoolrooms were built in 1867 to replace an original building swept away in the Great Sheffield Flood of 1864.

When the school finally closed it was bought by Rachel’s parents, Martin and Jean, who planned to convert it into a house or tearoom.

Then Rachel and John came up with the idea of a farm shop but their plans were delayed first by the grant funding process and then by the arrival of daughter Scarlett two years ago.

By that time the building was virtually derelict and, fed up with waiting, they decided to borrow the money and press ahead.

First they put on a new roof, then added an extension at one end and installed a first floor – the perfect place for a café.

Victorian wooden floorboards were salvaged and restored, along with original features including the weather vane. Other fittings, such as the shop counters, were specially designed and made.

The shop will sell John’s lamb and beef, plus local poultry and eggs, organic bread and more than a dozen different cheeses.

Chef Tom Bartle will make pies and café food as well as cook-chill meals and home-roasted meats and hams for the deli. Home-baked cakes will be supplied by John’s mum.

Barnsley farm shop veteran Graeme Raynes will be in charge of the butchery, with John serving as apprentice while he learns the skills.

“This is the first time we’ve had our own business, so it’s all fairly nerve-wracking,” says Rachel.

“I’m up at 2am writing labels at the moment because I want everything to be perfect.”

The café is open six days a week (closed Mondays) for breakfast, lunch and tea, closing at 6pm. Fully licensed, it serve wines and locally-brewed Bradfield ales as well as coffee, cakes and snacks.

In addition to 40 covers inside the building, there will be room for as many again in the gardens on a sunny day.

The venture was launched with a party for villagers on bank holiday Monday.

lThe Schoolrooms, Mill Lee Road, Low Bradfield (wwwtheschoolrooms.co.uk).