Future Wolverton's enterprising plans for the Old School have taken a major step forward. A ground breaking ceremony was held on 16 March to celebrate the start of their project to restore the Grade II listed building.
The Old School was built by the Radcliffe Trust in 1856-7 to benefit the children of their Wolverton Estate tenants and farm labourers. It served the community for over a century, more recently being leased by the local Parochial Church Council, but when this came to an end, the future of the Old School became in doubt. Future Wolverton stepped in, developing a partnership with adjoining Slated Row School, a community special school for children and young people with moderate to complex special educational needs. With help from an AHF Project Viability grant of £3,000, together with local funding, an emerging concept was tested aimed at reinventing the School's community and educational role.
The two storey School House will be converted to provide a B&B guesthouse, run in term time by the students. An extension will house a café space, run by the students as a social enterprise and serving the adjoining School Hall which will be available for hire to businesses and the community. This enterprising model will enable the students to gain valuable life skills as well as BTEC qualifications. An AHF Project Development grant of £5,000 helped with finalising the plans. The first phase of the project, now underway, will see the Guesthouse open for business and the external new build elements completed.
As a Community Benefit Society, Future Wolverton was able to raise over £122,000 in capital through a successful Community Share offer, boosted by a contribution from Power to Change, which has also provided substantial grant funding. Our Project Development grant has been converted to an investment in the Shares. An AHF loan of £110,000 is providing working capital.
Matthew McKeague, CEO of the Architectural Heritage Fund said:
“Future Wolverton is a fabulous organisation, forward looking but also interested in how heritage assets can be repurposed for modern use and be an active part of 21st century communities. Their enterprising approach to the Old School is a perfect example of this and we are very pleased to be supporting the project through our investment. We can’t wait for the opening.”
Marie Osborne, CEO of Future Wolverton said:
“We are very excited to have finally got to the point of work beginning on site at the Old School, and along with the wider community, can’t wait to watch this fantastic listed building come back to life. The loan AHF have been able to offer us is the final piece of a funding jigsaw, which has seen us raise over £800,000 to bring this wonderful building back into community and education use. AHF have been a continual source of financial support, advice and guidance since we began this project in 2012, and we are delighted to be joined by them at the sod-cutting ceremony on the 2nd March.”
The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976, to promote the conservation and sustainable reuse of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in areas of deprivation. It is the leading social investor and the only specialist heritage lender operating in the UK.
Future Wolverton is a Community Benefit Society established in 2013 to support the sustainable regeneration of the town of Wolverton and the surrounding area. The organisation has over 200 local members, and 125 shareholders in the Old School Project.