The Old Grammar School is to be saved after years of neglect as a result of agreement being reached for the building to be taken over by Bourne Preservation Trust and ambitious plans have now been drawn up to turn it into a centre for heritage excellence for the benefit of townspeople and of visitors.
The school dates back to the 17th century when William Trollope, a local landowner, left a bequest which provided for an endowment of £30 a year to maintain “an honest, learned, and godly schoolmaster” in a free grammar school incorporated by royal charter and built by himself.
It was sited next to the Abbey Church where it still stands although the premises have been considerably rebuilt since his day.
His will, dated 16th November 1636, stipulated that it should be called “The Free Grammar School of King Charles in the town of Bourne and County of Lincoln, of the foundation of William Trollope, gentleman”.
The present building, erected in 1678, has a brick superstructure over a solid stone foundation but it is not certain whether this stonework is from Trollope’s original school or whether it dates even further back to the days when the monastery existed.
The school closed in 1904 because of a decline in the number of pupils and has since had a chequered history as an ambulance station and meeting place for boy scouts and girl guides.
Today, it is Grade II listed within the Bourne conservation area and is currently administered by the Bourne Educational Foundation but has been badly neglected in recent years and in April 2003, it was condemned as unsafe and all entry forbidden.
The Bourne Preservation Trust has now reached agreement with the foundation to take over the building once the legal formalities have been completed and it is hoped to carry out repairs and restoration to use it as an educational centre complete with a working Victorian classroom with desks for up to 30 pupils.
A survey has already been carried out which has revealed that although the base structure is still sound, extensive repairs are required.
There are holes in the roof, which must also be strengthened, sections of brickwork will have to be replaced, the main stone door frame needs restoration and repair and an outside utilities block with a kitchen and lavatory will be added together with ground source heating to keep the interior at a constant temperature all year round.
The total cost has been estimated at £300,000 but the trust is confident that the money can be found through various grants, and applications are now underway.
Once restoration is complete, the interior will be divided to provide an authentic Victorian schoolroom overlooking the nearby Abbey Church with adjoining information and display centre to attract visitors, either in organised groups or individually, and special events will also be held regularly.
“We are calling this project Bourne Heritage Experience”, said trust chairman Jack Slater, “because once established we will create a new awareness of what Bourne has to offer with the involvement of other historic buildings in the vicinity such as the Abbey Church, the Red Hall and Baldock’s Mill.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring this old school back into use and at the same time fulfil the function for which it was originally intended.”
“The trust is confident that the scheme will be going ahead within a few months and is currently developing a detailed project plan which could be implemented as early as the New Year once initial funding has been secured.
“The Old Grammar School will centralise our historical heritage, create a focal point for the town’s history and together with our partner organisations, give people the opportunity to experience what has gone before”, said Mr Slater.
“We are committed to obtaining the necessary funding and confident that the project will come to fruition.”
Bourne Preservation Trust was formed by a group of conservationists in 2008 with the intention of saving the Victorian chapel in the town cemetery and preserving it for future use after attempts by the town council to pull it down were thwarted by a Grade II listing issued by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, but despite six years of negotiation, members have still not been given the key of the door and as a result, they have now halted negotiations with the council to concentrate on other projects such as the Old Grammar School.
A statement issued to members says: “The town council has placed further demands on the trust and continues to raise old issues despite these having been discussed over the past six years.
“After more than six years of delays, stalling and road blocks, future contact with the town council over the project would be fruitless and we have therefore decided on this course of action.
“We have left the door open to them should they decide to take a more enthusiastic and professional approach towards the situation.
“The cost of this restoration will now have to be paid by the council tax payers of Bourne, a situation that the council could easily have avoided.”