Group hopes to find a new use for old school buildings

The Oxford Times: Steering group members Dave Stanley, Howard Thornton and Lesley Williams at the old school Steering group members Dave Stanley, Howard Thornton and Lesley Williams at the old school

IT WAS William Morris’ school for three years between 1890 to 1893, but now it stands in ruins.

But a group of people are hoping to bring the building back to life with a £1m renovation project.

The St James School building in Beauchamp Lane, Cowley, has been unused for the past 10 years and is riddled with wet and dry rot.

A group, headed by former Keble College warden Sir Christopher Ball, is planning to revive the school which is next to St James Church and opened in 1834.

Lesley Williams, a member of the church-linked group, said under the conditions of the school buildings trust, the site had to be used for educational or community use.

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She said one of the options could be for it to be turned into a free school. If so, it would be the second in the area, after Tyndale Community School, on the site of the former Lord Nuffield Club in Barracks Lane, opened its doors in September.

She said: “It is sad to see it left like this. The Government is obviously wanting new schools to be either an academy or free school so we could go down that line.

“No decisions have been made, but it is something we would look at.

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“It would be good to use the building for community use in the evening.

“We are in such early stages, but we think at the moment we could need about £1m for all the work.”

The group is looking for people who have an interest in the site, including ex-pupils, to come forward to help with ideas and who can contribute time and/or money to the project.

Mrs Williams added: “We want to get the local community involved. As a church we want to be more open with the community and we think this will be one way of doing that.”

Cowley St James closed at the end of the summer term in 1975, with remaining pupils transferring to the then Church Cowley School in Bartholomew Road, now called Church Cowley St James.

The Beauchamp Lane buildings were used for a few weeks as overspill accommodation for the Oxford Youth Hostel, then in Jack Straw’s Lane, Headington.

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