Hugh Bonneville Launches Campaign to Save 400 year-old Historic Downton Abbey Building

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Hugh Bonneville who plays the Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey has lent his support to a Bampton Community Archive campaign to save the building that serves as Downton Cottage Hospital in the hugely popular PBS hit show enjoyed by millions in the USA. The 400-year-old building is one of the drama’s main filming locations in Bampton, Oxfordshire, England, and is home to the village library and museum.

Villagers have managed to keep the Old Grammar School going for over four hundred years but it’s now in desperate need of repair. By restoring the building to its former glory we can make the most of the interest in the village.

Downton’s Cottage Hospital has been the setting for the medical assistance of characters Isobel Crawley and Sybil Branson as well as treating soldiers after the war and a backdrop for many of the village scenes.

The 400-year-old building is one of the drama’s main filming locations in Bampton, Oxfordshire, England, and is home to the village library and museum. However, the second floor has been left to rot since being declared unsafe more than thirty years ago and the roof hasn’t been repaired in a hundred years.

Villagers have launched a £250,000 fundraising campaign to help preserve the building which was given to the community by a wealthy benefactor as its first school almost four hundred years ago. It is hoped that by restoring the historic building a dedicated Downton Abbey museum could be established providing the village with a sustainable tourist attraction. The museum also contains a wealth of local historical artefacts including thousands of photographs, films made by local people, documents and much more.

Since Downton Abbey first screened in 2010 Bampton has become a major tourist destination with coaches regularly bringing visitors to tour the filming locations.

Spokesperson, Robin Shuckburgh, said: “Bampton is incredibly popular with visitors because fans of Downton Abbey can recognize so many landmarks from the series. However, people want to visit the building and spend far more time here than we can accommodate which is a shame for them and a missed opportunity for the village.”

To help raise the £250,000 a series of Downton-related prizes is available to supporters of the campaign, a hamper including an A3 poster signed by the cast, limited edition Emma Bridgewater Bampton mugs, Downton Abbey books, wine, cards and puzzles.

Robin Shuckburgh: “Villagers have managed to keep the Old Grammar School going for over four hundred years but it’s now in desperate need of repair. By restoring the building to its former glory we can make the most of the interest in the village, and provide a wonderful archive for local people and those with ancestors here. The building was given to the village by a very kind and far-sighted man and it just cannot be allowed to crumble.”

To see Hugh Bonneville’s appeal, to donate or to find more, please visit: http://www.bamptonarchive.co.uk and follow on Facebook.com/SaveBOGS and Twitter @SaveBOGS.

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Further information

Photographs available here http://www.jameswildman.co.uk/p827503322

About the renovation

The main costs of the renovation will be the replacement of the staircase which was removed in the 1960s to stop access to the top floor, the complete renovation of the roof, which will be carefully restored using its original stone tiles and the strengthening of the first floor so that it meets modern requirements for public use. This will all be done under the careful eye of the heritage department of the local authority.

Once the structure is completed, at an estimated cost of approximately £200,000, the resulting space on the first floor, a stunning room with 17th century fireplaces and beautiful gothic stone windows will be entirely renovated to provide a permanent home for the Archive as well as an exhibition space dedicated to Downton Abbey for as long as interest in the series continues.

History

Money to build the Old Grammar School was left to the village in the will of rich wool merchant, Robert Vesey, in 1635. His family fought to keep the cash for themselves but the building was eventually completed eighteen years later. Vesey’s generosity also left money to provide for a teacher at the school and coal for the fires to keep the children warm. During its long lifetime the building has housed countless village events including Scout and Guide meetings and more recently the cramped downstairs has hosted local exhibitions about the two world wars, local history, common trades etc. The upstairs was declared unsafe in the 1960s and the wooden seventeenth century staircase ripped out to prevent people from being put at risk. Today what remains is in a perilous state and quarter of a million pounds is needed to preserve the Old Grammar School for future generations. The building is regularly seen in “Downton Abbey” posing as the surgery and Cottage Hospital of Dr Richard Clarkson. It also served as a makeshift military hospital in the drama for First World War soldiers wounded on the Western Front.

Press and Media Enquiries:

info(at)bamptonarchive(dot)co(dot)uk
Robin Shuckburgh on +44 7910 671892

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Robin Shuckburgh
@SaveBogs
since: 12/2014
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