Downton Abbey ‘cottage hospital’ restored after a decade of fundraising

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A dilapidated historic building which featured in Downton Abbey has been restored after 10 years of fundraising.

Viewers of the ITV hit and films will know the Old Grammar School in Chuch View in Bampton as the surgery and Cottage Hospital run by Dr Richard Clarkson, played by actor David Robb.

With the top floor condemned as unsafe the staircase was removed in the early 1960s, leaving the upper storey empty and inaccessible for 60 years.

Now after a decade of fundraising and nearly a year of works, the 17th century building has been restored to its former glory.

Bampton Community Archive (BCA) joined with the landlords, the Bampton Exhibition Foundation, (BEF) in a gigantic effort to raise over £400,000 for the works.

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Their prospects were boosted by the arrival of the Downton Abbey film crew in Bampton, which greatly increased the tourist trade.

Hugh Bonneville, who plays Lord Grantham in the period drama, also called for help in preserving the volunteer-run building, which was home to the village library and village archive.

Mr Bonneville asked the viewers of Downton Abbey to help raise the money needed to bring the upstairs back into public use.

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He said: “For many generations this building has been an important part in the life of Bampton just as it is in the fictional life of Downton.”

The huge project was realised with the help of West Oxfordshire District Council, Oxfordshire County Council and the tens of thousands of Downton fans who have visited Church Close over the last eight years, along with a volunteer workforce of over 50 local people.

The building will continue to house the library but with state-of-the-art facilities. The other half of the ground floor is taken up with a completely modernised shop and exhibition space to provide a much-improved tourism offering to those Downton fans still to come.

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On the upper floor, at the top of a new oak staircase, a space has been named the Lewington Room after Jo Lewington, the Bampton resident whose idea this project was.

The building is now the base for the Bampton Community Hub.

Jenny Chaundy, the driving force behind the completion of this enormous project, said: “Bampton Community Archive, working in partnership with Bampton Library and West Ox Arts want the hub to serve the whole community as well as visitors to the village and enable people to benefit from this wonderful building.

“We hope to inspire them to try something new by joining in with our programme of talks, workshops, events and exhibitions. It’s an incredibly exciting moment in the history of this village and a brilliant new facility to benefit all who live here or visit.”

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