Restoration work on town’s icon under way

Jim Jacobs beside the Old Grammar School where restoration work has begun.
Jim Jacobs beside the Old Grammar School where restoration work has begun.

A giant plastic bag will cover Harborough’s Old Grammar School while restoration work is carried out on the iconic 400-year-old building.

The Market Harborough and the Bowdens Charity, which looks after the historic landmark, has contracted town firm WW Brown and Sons to undertake the delicate work to its roof covering, windows and external plaster work.

The small bell turret at the top of the building will also be restored to working condition as part of the project, which it is hoped will be completed by September to mark the 400th anniversary of its construction.

It is the biggest refurbishment to the listed building since it underwent a major restoration in 1977.

Fencing and scaffolding was put up around it on Monday as preparatory work got underway this week.

Jim Jacobs, steward of the charity, said the building will be covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from the elements while the sensitive work is carried out.

He said: “We hope there will be a good two to three months at the end of the year when we can show it off looking its best.

“We have a number of promotional events planned to celebrate the 400th anniversary. The lower level will be covered with timber boards but we are planning to keep people up to date on the progress of the work with display boards and photographs.”

Funded by town man Robert Smyth, the building was built on stilts to allow the butter market to be held underneath and, according to a plaque on the building, “to keepe the markett people drye in tyme of foule wether”.

It was extended in 1868 and a £32,000 restoration in 1977/78 saw the rotting Jacobean stilts replaced following a public appeal. Closed as a school in 1908, it is still in use for functions today.

As the town’s symbol, it has appeared on paintings, postcards, road signs, plates, thimbles, mugs and even a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Plans to carry out the refurbishment were revealed in the Mail last April.

The work being carried out on the building includes repairs to its slate roofing, render walling, oak cladding, windows and structural timber frame, overseen by English Heritage.