Richmondshire Community & Voluntary Action (RCVA) has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its Lower School project, it was announced today.

The project aims to transform the empty building into a community hub offering a diverse range of activities ranging from office space for voluntary sector organisations to childcare, alongside rooms for community use and private hire. 

Thanks to National Lottery players development funding of £155,500 has been awarded to help the RCVA progress plans to apply for a full grant at a later date.

The Grade II listed former Grammar School, built in 1850 and designed by the renowned architect G T Andrews in the Gothic Revival style, is located on the banks of the River Swale overlooking The Station designed by the same architect.  The building is close to many people’s hearts – and local historians, the civic society, local guilds, existing and former pupils have already contributed to research about the school.  Its historical significance dates back to the 14th century with a legacy that includes an illustrious alumni including Earl Charles Grey Prime Minister and Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson).   

Keith Hall, Chairperson of RCVA said: “We are committed to bringing this empty building back into use for the benefit of the voluntary sector and the wider community.  As a small local charity we have invested significant time and resources into the project and we are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support to move the project to the next stage.”

And Councillor Yvonne Peacock, Leader of Richmondshire District Council echoed his words: “We are delighted that this cash award has been made which will kick start a very ambitious project for the district.   We have been working on this scheme with the RCVA for the past four years and will continue to support them as they look to bring this historic building back into use.”

Rishi Sunak MP for Richmond wrote in support of the Richmondshire Community Voluntary Action group’s HLF application. He said: “I was delighted to receive the news about this very important success in securing the funds for the first stage in the application process. 

“The project for the Lower School is very exciting and, if ultimately successful, will prove to be a major asset for the town. It is an ambitious scheme to find a modern and relevant use for a lovely old building. I wish the project well as it moves into the next phase to secure the lion’s share of the funds required to make it a reality.”

Fiona Spiers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Yorkshire and the Humber, added: “The Heritage Enterprise programme is designed to help communities repair derelict historic places, giving them productive new uses and helping to boost the local area. The Old Grammar School occupies an important place in the social history of Richmond, and this project offers a fantastic opportunity to breathe new life into the building.”