Founder of school to be honoured

Founder of school to be honoured

A GROUP of friends from Thornhill are hoping to build a memorial to the founder of the village’s first free school.

Farmer and landowner Richard Walker paid for the Walker Welfare Free School to be built in 1813 because he wanted to give children from poor families the chance of an education.

The former school on Edge Lane was used over the years as a polling station, for dances and social gatherings and most recently by the village’s senior citizens group.

Kirklees took the decision to close the building in 2007 due to it being ‘unsafe’, and in 2013 it was demolished – despite desperate attempts by campaigners.

While no plans to replace the building have come to fruition, the land it was built on can only be used for educational purposes and can’t be sold.

In 2014, friends Alan Butcher, Carole Driver, Christine Idle and Pauline Friend made enquiries about reconstructing a building on the site via the council’s asset acquirement scheme but it proved to be too expensive.

Now they plan to erect a memorial to Mr Walker on a small piece of the land they have obtained.

After five years of hard work, they have been granted a licence by Kirklees to build the memorial, which will incorporate some of the stone from the original building, along with plaques that were part of it.

The 200-year-old stones were being held at a storage facility in Heckmondwike and were recovered with the help of Coun Masood Ahmed (Lab, Dewsbury South) and Faisal Ahmad at the council’s civic centre. Alan Butcher said: “We were disappointed the building was pulled down but hopefully we can bring our plans for the memorial to life.

“I can’t thank Coun Masood and Faisal enough for all they have done.”

The stone memorial will be built on a three-metre square footing and will stand 2.5m high on part of the site near to the current school.

All the group needs now is a builder who can bring their plans to life and ensure all the health and safety checks are completed before they seek official planning permission from the council.

Alan says the project will only be possible through fundraising and donations, so they have placed collection boxes at places like the Co-op and Scarborough Fisheries for people to donate.

Anybody who wants to help with the project and is a registered builder can contact The Press on 01924 470296.

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