After many years of fighting to save a little bit of local history, the old Swanage Grammar School’s copper weathervane has been restored and handed over to Swanage Town Council for safekeeping.
The demolition of the semi-derelict grammar school building on Northbrook Road started over summer 2022 to make way for new housing. Many residents and past pupils pleaded for the attractive bell tower and weathervane to be saved and not end up in a skip.
Swanage Town Mayor Tina Foster is delighted to receive the newly-restored grammar school weathervane from Brian Melrose, site manager for Barratt Homes
Many feared that the weathervane would not survive, perched on the top off the bell tower as demolition progressed
The weathervane precariously clung on
As the demolition progressed, the tower and weathervane precariously clung on. Sadly, the bell tower was too fragile to save but fortunately the weathervane could be repaired.
Swanage Town Mayor Tina Foster was happy to receive the gleaming, newly-restored weathervane at a handover ceremony on Monday 12th December 2022, along with members of the old Swanage Grammar School Association.
The weathervane before restoration
The weathervane in the workshop undergoing restoration
“Pleased that part of its history has been preserved”
Swanage Town Mayor Tina Foster said:
“I am more than happy to accept this lovely weathervane on behalf of the town council. As a former pupil of Swanage Grammar I have lots of memories of the place and am pleased that part of its history has been preserved.
“I was never head girl but I was considered for the role. I was later told by a teacher that I was ruled out for not being ‘reliable’ enough. I do hope, now that I’m mayor, their opinion may have changed!”
Barratt Homes site manager Brian Melrose (centre) with the mayor Tina Foster (right) and former Swanage Grammar School pupils (left)
“We listened to the local community”
In charge of handing over the weathervane was Barratt Homes Site Manager, Brian Melrose. He said:
“We have listened to the local community and are pleased to share that the legacy of Swanage Grammar School will live on through this piece of local history.
“Barratts paid for the demolition company HES to restore the weathervane and they’ve done a really good job!”
Making it happen (left to right): David Slingo and Gillie Humphries from the Swanage Grammar School Association, Barrat Homes site manager Brian Melrose, Swanage Town Mayor Tina Foster and councillr Bill Trite who fought to keep secondary education in Swanage
Could the weathervane be a symbol of secondary education continuity and be displayed at The Swanage School?
Now the question is where should it be displayed? The location needs to be where it can be seen by the community and one popular suggestion is The Swanage School.
Dorset Council and Swanage Town councillor Bill Trite was central to the campaign to build a new secondary school in the town, culminating in the opening of The Swanage School in 2013. He said:
“I’d like to see it displayed at The Swanage School as a symbol of the continuity of secondary education in Swanage. We fought so hard to get the new school built – Swanage is the biggest settlement in Purbeck – and it seems to me the most appropriate prominent position in the town.
Swanage Grammar School in happier times
Swanage Grammar School starts to be be demolished in summer 2022
December 2022 – Swanage Grammar School has gone!
Swanage Grammar School closed in 1974
Swanage Grammar School (SGS) was constructed in the 1920s and opened by the Earl of Shaftesbury in 1929. The school was closed down in 1974 and was then used as an outdoor education centre for a while. However in recent times it had been left empty and the fabric of the building rapidly decayed.
A number of planning proposals were floated over the years including restoring the old school building and in 2012 an application was made to build the new Swanage School on the site but that was withdrawn after a dispute with the landowner at the time.
Following the successful completion of the Compass Point housing estate on the other side of Northbrook Road by Barratt Homes, the developer took over the grammar school site and is currently building 90 homes on the plot – 30 of which are designated as affordable housing.
The first occupants have just moved in although the site isn’t expected to be completely finished until June 2024.
All gathered at the memorial stone to the grammar school in Days Park (left to right) Shelagh Ball, Nigel Humphries, Brian Melrose, Gillie Humphries, Chris Adams, Bill Trite, Tina Foster, David Slingo Steve Matthews and Julia Slingo
Swanage Grammar School Association helped to ensure the weathervane’s survival
Instrumental in the bid to save the weathervane from demolition were members of the Swanage Grammar School Association (SGSA).
A final reunion of former pupils and teachers took place in May 2022 as it was decided that 48 years after the school closed it was probably best to call time on the school association.
This meant that when the chance came to intervene and help restore the weathervane, it was a poignant moment.
Former treasurer of the SGSA David Slingo and committee member Gillie Humphries combined forces to ensure the weathervane’s survival.
They were also invited by Barratt Homes to suggest names for the new roads on the development.
Gillie Humphries and David Slingo from SGSA admire the highly polished copper
“It’s the end of an era”
Gillie Humphries, who lives in Corfe Castle, said:
“Although it has been many years since the school closed, the impact of education and life at SGS has continued to be celebrated, with more than 170 former pupils and staff attending the most recent reunion in 2022.
“To be able to keep the school’s weathervane in Swanage and have roads at Compass Point named after former teachers, is incredible.”
Also attending the handover of the weathervane were former grammar school pupils and SGSA supporters, Shelagh Ball, Nigel Humphries, Chris Adams, Steve Matthews and Julia Slingo.
David Slingo added:
“We’re all very grateful to the mayor and Swanage Town Council for taking ownership of the weathervane and storing it while it’s decided where it should go next.
“We also appreciate all that Barratts and in particular the site manager, Brian Melrose, have done to get the weathervane, that graced the grammar school for many years, restored. It’s the end of an era but we still have the memories.”
The weathervane restored to its full glory