The Thatcham (Old Bluecoat School) Charity is a UK Registered Charity. Its Charity Number is 1106343.
It is also a Registered Company Limited by Guarantee. The company registration number is 06229774. The members of the charity are:
- Barbara Wootton – Patron
- Christopher Turner – Life President
- Clive Williams OBE – Chairman of Trustees
- Mark Thomas – Vice Chairman / Trustee
- Colin Heslop – Company Secretary
- Bob Dewey – Trustee
- Sheila Ellison – Trustee
- Malcolm Langford – Trustee
- Nathan Gregory – Trustee
- Jeremy Cottam – Council Representative
- Simon Witcomb – Honorary Treasurer
The Trust meets five times a year in the building, or at a local venue.
Dates of 2019 meetings: 20th February, 16th April AGM, June 25th, September 10th and November (tba).
Chairman’s Report to Trust AGM – 16thApril 2019
- The Thatcham (Old Blue Coat School) Charity is a charitable company limited by guarantee, which was incorporated on 13thSeptember 2004.
- The building, known as the Old Blue Coat school (OBS) is Grade 1 listed and is owned by Thatcham Town Council, who acquired it from West Berkshire Council on 28thJune 2004 for community use. The building is subject to restrictive covenants.
- On 1stJune 2005, the Town Council leased the building, subject to restrictive covenants, to the Trust for a term of 99 years at a rent of £25 a year.
- The building is insured with Zurich Municipal by Thatcham Town Council.
- In 2008 Mr Paul Dick, the first Trust Chairman resigned and was succeeded by Mr Peter Allen on 19th November 2008. But sadly, Mr Allen died on 27thMay 2009 and I was elected as the Trust’s third Chairman on 25thJune 2009.
- The building was in a very poor state of repair in 2009. The A4 lies only a few feet form the building and salt gritting over many years has resulted in the south wall becoming impregnated with salt that works its way through the wall and eats away at the plaster. West Berkshire realigned the A4 where it passes OBS at a cost of £70K and this has helped to reduce the amount of salt being sprayed onto the building. But even so it is necessary to decorate the south wall at least twice a year. This work is undertaken by Bob Dewey to whom our thanks are due.
- With the aid of 50% matched funding from the Greenham Common Trust, the building was then carpeted, seating was purchased, and Bob Dewey and Malcolm Langford installed heating and improved the lighting.
- The Trust then had the problem as how to attract hirers. With just one toilet and no kitchen, the building was not suitable for many groups. However. Simon Witcomb, who has his accountancy business in Thatcham, and was hiring the building for rehearsing his Beenham Wind Band, suggested that the building would be suitable for concerts. We all know of people who come up with bright ideas but then decline the opportunity to put them into practice. But Simon was not like that. Having put forward the idea and had it accepted he took it on himself to set about arranging a series of concerts. They were commenced in 2012 and have run on a regular basis every year since. The favourable publicity they attracted has resulted in many groups coming forward to hire the building.
- Those attending the concerts were treated to tea and a splendid assortment of cakes, so much so that the concerts are known as the tea and cakes concerts.
- Running the concerts did however place a heavy burden on two of the Trustees – Angela Bates and Bob Dewey. In view of this in 2016 the Trust accepted a proposal from Simon to take over the running of the concerts from the Trust. Simon formed the Thatcham Performing Arts Society to bring this about. The concerts still take place but Simon hires OBS from the Trust and is responsible for selling tickets and meeting the costs of performers.In 2013 and 2014 the Trust undertook a major fund-raising campaign to refurbish the building. In total £180K was raised, mainly from charitable trusts, particularly the Greenham Common Trust, who contributed £60K and the Veolia Environment Foundation, who gave a grant of £40K.An Honours Board has been erected at OBS to say thank you. It lists all those who contributed £5K or more.As a result of this successful campaign, the Thatcham Town Council let a contract on behalf of the Trust (thereby saving the Trust 20%) to Ellis & Co of Shepton Mallet, whose tender of £129K was low enough to enable all the work in Andrew Townsend’s Condition of Survey to be undertaken. Although coming in well below other tenderers, Messrs Ellis cut no corners and did a superb job on the contract. Work on site started in August 2014 and the contract was completed in Spring 2015.A thank you concert was held on 25thJanuary 2015, attended by the High Sheriff of the Royal County, Mr Christopher Khoo and no less than three Deputy Lieutenants – Mr Paul Dick, Mrs Caroline Boulter and Dr Christina Hill Williams. Mr Willie Hartley Russell, a direct descendant of Lady Winchcombe, who founded the Blue Coat School charity, was also present as was Mr Alan House, a great nephew of William House VC, probably the most famous Old Blue Coat school boy. Many Trustees and members of Thatcham Town Council and their partners were also present to hear the Manon Quartet.
- Sadly, our Patron Mrs Bobbie Wootton was indisposed on this occasion and the Honours Board was unveiled by Dr Christina Hill Williams, the Chairman’s wife.
- The refurbishment was enthusiastically welcomed in Thatcham and the Trust received many plaudits.
- As was anticipated the refurbishment led to a surge in bookings and OBS is now hired regularly for 40 hours a week, year-round.
- As part of the refurbishment project, the Trust had envisaged erecting a separate building to provide, toilets, kitchen, storage and possibly a meeting room. Howard Waters of Mathewson and Waters was engaged and prepared a sketch plan, which was discussed with the planners. But both West Berkshire Council and Historic England advised that the proposed building should be sited at least 7metres from the existing building so as not to impact on its appearance. The Trust took the view that to build the new building so far away from the existing building would negate its usefulness. So that scheme was abandoned and the current intention is to re-model the interior of the building. The toilet will be replaced by one which a disabled person cause and there will be an improved kitchen area. The damp problem has been found to be manageable and the south wall panelling, that has now been removed will be replaced. As a result of the damp investigation it was found that the concrete floor would not have to be replaced, thereby avoiding anarchaeological investigation, which although interesting in its own right, wouldhave resulted in the building being closed for use for a considerable perio
- Sadly, vandalism is a recurrent problem in Thatcham and since spring 2015, four times the north facing windows in the building have been deliberately smashed. The last and most serious attack took place over the 2017/18 New Year. The windows have been repaired but are currently boarded up, but permission has now been obtained to install metal grilles to protect them. Consent has also been obtained to install CCTV, though the Trustees have decided to defer such installation in the hope that the grilles will serve their purpose and ensure there are no further attacks.
- A social for ‘The Friends of OBS; was held on 22ndFebruary 2019 and the building was filled to capacity. New Trustee Keith Benjamin kindly secured the services of his daughter Victoria, who is professional musician to play for the assembled company and she was joined by her mother and two friends to form a quartet. It was a treat to hear them.
- At the Friends meeting the Chairman announced the retirement of Trustee Angela Bates and made a presentation to her on behalf of the Trust. Since becoming a Trustee in 2010 Angela had taken on more and more of the duties of running the Trust viz, acting as Secretary, liaison with hirers and writing cheques and banking monies, to name but a few.
- Angela was always going to be a very hard act to follow and not surprisingly no Trustee was prepared to step into her shoes. So, we advertised for someone to work for the Trust for a modest remuneration and your Chairman is pleased to say that we have struck gold in finding Ali Watkinson, who is now the Trust’s administrator. I cannot speak too highly of her.
- My thanks are also due to all my colleague Trustees. It is invidious to single out individuals but my Vice-Chairman s taking the lead on the re-modelling project and is having to navigate what is an extremely tortuous process, enough to try the patience of saint. Bob takes the lead on all practical maintenance problems. Nothing is too much trouble. Sheila and Nathan have been very helpful as regards liaison with the Town Council and Colin is helping us to navigate a change of bank to Metro.