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Turning old school into a home

They say your school days are the best days of your life and here is one way to make sure they never end.

25 July 2017
By Mark Hayes

As France follows the pattern across the western world away from rurality and village life and towards more urban populations, it has left a slew of old village school buildings lying idle.

But while these old buildings no longer have the sound of children echoing through the halls, they can offer excellent possibilities for prospective property owners prepared to use their imaginations.

If lucky, renovation work may already have been done and that is the case with the old school and presbytery on sale in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne in Normandy.

The spectacular stone and granite property, dating from 1853 and comprising the old school with a house connected by a courtyard, has been renovated at a cost of €200,000 between 2014 and 2016.

Its use as a school came to an end 15 years ago, but it keeps its old world charm – all the work has been done in traditional style both inside and out, with the old paved walkways and landscaped gardens, while the préau, or shelter, where the school children used to play on rainy days now offers sheltered parking.

Another great opportunity lies in the former school of Saint-Robert, a small village in Corrèze, which has been labelled one of the most beautiful villages in France.

Located between the prime tourist sites of Hautefort in Dordogne, Brive and Pompa­dour, the two-storey property could be converted into a family home, restaurant or guesthouse – or the old classrooms could be used as a workshop for a trade in the village which is popular with tourists.

Built at the end of the 19th century, the school closed in 1993 and the 163m² six-room building needs to be renovated, but the old classrooms and offices are easily recognisable.

It has been on sale for a year and is being auctioned on the internet site of an agency specialising in notarial sales, with a starting price of €128,500.

A third old religious school is for sale in the village of Gigny, between Auxerre and Dijon in rural Burgundy.

Many signs of the building’s old life are still visible, from a Christian cross on the metal gate to the period doors marked SV, for Sainte-Vierge.

You can even make out the names of children scratched on to the walls of the préau and dated as far back as 1887. The owners have left them intact.

The downstairs classroom has been converted into a living room with lounge, dining room and open kitchen.

Upstairs, the second classroom is now a large bedroom, bathroom and dressing room, while the attic works as a bedroom for children or guests. The old playground includes a large covered terrace.

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