New beginning for Belfry School building

An historic school building which has stood empty for the past two years is set to get a new lease of life as a community arts centre.The Belfry School in Overstrand, near Cromer, was built by the Gurney family in 1830 to educate 40 of the village's children.

A historic school building which has stood empty for the past two years is set to get a new lease of life as a community arts centre.

The Belfry School in Overstrand, near Cromer, was built by the Gurney family in 1830 to educate 40 of the village's children.

But the beautiful, stone-clad building has sat idle since 2007 when the school - which, with the number of students at nearly 140, had considerably outgrown its home - moved into a new �1.8m building.

Now, after spending two years deciding what to do with it, the trustees of the Belfry Foundation have teamed up with the Poppyland Partnership, Voluntary Norfolk and some of the area's artist to create an arts centre.


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Geff Reason, one of three trustees, said the school's founders had made sure the building would be maintained for the community.

He said: 'We were bound by the terms of the trust deed which said it was for the education of the Overstrand parishioners.'

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The revamped centre, which will provide studios for artists, hold exhibitions and stage performances, will also host workshops for adults and children - in keeping with the Gurneys' wishes.

Nora Gaston, artistic director for the project, said the building's good looks made it an inspiring location for artists. 'Everybody who walks in just goes 'wow'. It's not often you find such a fantastic space,' she said.

'It's the height of the ceilings, the big windows, the light and the airiness. It's somewhere where your spirit can rise - it's a really uplifting space.'

The first stage of building started last week, partitioning off a room at the front of the building to create the four studios.

Catherine Plewman, from the Poppyland Partnership, said the initial renovation was part of a pilot project to find out what the community would like to see in the centre.

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