School axes controversial blue plaques plan

The Old School House in Holt, the building is currently used by Gresham's Nursery and Pre-Prep

The Old School House in Holt, the building is currently used by Gresham's Nursery and Pre-Prep. The school has withdrawn its application to put 25 blue plaques commemorating former pupils on building. - Credit: Google Maps

A Norfolk boarding school has withdrawn its application to put up 25 blue plaques celebrating some of its famous former pupils after it discovered the bid would be turned down.

In January, Gresham's School, in Holt, lodged an application to put up 25 blue plaques on the Old School House in the market place.

The project aimed to "commemorate prominent Old Greshamian’s by linking them to the original building of Gresham’s School".

If approved, the blue plaques would have been "evenly spaced along the length of the Grade II listed facade", with 10 plaques placed on the north face of the building, eight plaques on the south side of the building and seven plaques on the west side.

Holt's Gresham's School wants to put up 25 blue plaques commemorating a number of its former pupils, including, from...

Holt's Gresham's School had wanted to put up 25 blue plaques commemorating a number of its former pupils, including, from left, Olivia Colman, James Dyson and WH Auden but has withdrawn its application - Credit: PA/Central Press Photos

But, the scheme attracted criticism for including just one woman, Olivia Colman, and for also including Donald Maclean, one of the Cambridge Five spy ring who leaked British secrets to the Soviet Union during the Second World War and Cold War.

Holt Town Council and the Holt Society both formally objected to the proposal, with the council stating it felt "the quantity and height of the signs [was] out of character for the area."

The Holt Society expressed concern about the impact the plaques would have on the "vulnerable historic fabric and appearance" of the town's buildings, adding that the plaques would be "detrimental" to the grade II listed Old School House.

It said while it accepted Gresham's School "undertakes a considerable number of activities that both help the school and the town in general" it was "somewhat at a loss to understand the point of these plaques".

The Society said: "If these plaques are for public / potential parents then we consider one blue plaque is a tribute to an old Greshamian but 25 blue plaques is simply advertising.

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"Twenty-five will be aesthetically out of place and would detract from the splendour of this unique building."

Douglas Robb, the headmaster of Gresham's, said: "The school was informed by officers in the planning department that the application would be turned down because of the visual impact of the plaques on the building.

"We therefore decided to withdraw the application rather than waste the officers’ time."




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