North Derbyshire community steps up opposition to National Trust sale of treasured building
A community in north Derbyshire has stepped up its opposition to a ‘fire sale’ of nearby historic buildings by the National Trust.
The trust has already sold the Mission Chapel at Hardstoft and will now auction off the old Stainsby School to ‘the highest bidder’ next week.
Both buildings are on the estate of Elizabethan Hardwick Hall, with the school considered the last possible location for a community hub serving the rural area.
This weekend, residents staged a demonstration in a last-ditch bid to stop the auction and save the building for community use.
Councillor Ann Syrett, chair of the parish council, said the trust had offered ‘one excuse after another’.
“It’s been impossible to hold constructive discussions despite our very best efforts to engage with them.”
The parish council says it has put together a consortium of local groups – including two other charities, community groups, some small business enterprise, arts projects and the local CVS – and offered to lease the building on a peppercorn rent while it raises enough funding to restore it.
Councillor Tony Trafford, chair of Stainsby Festival, said: “This is the last remaining property for a community hub and its outbuildings have been a vital operational space for us since the trust ejected us from the school itself some years ago.
"We are at our wits end how to proceed.”
Dr Hugh Ellis, a trustee of the festival, which is a music and arts event held on fields overlooking Hardwick Hall, said the move amounted to a ‘fire sale’.
Former pupil at the school Linda Turton, 77, who now lives at North Wingfield, says she was one of the few girls to attend the school.
"I was one of only five girls,” she said. “Although it was a boys’ school the headmaster would allow girls in the area to attend.
"I have many happy memories and it’s sad to hear the building will be sold to the highest bidder.
"It should remain in the community.”
The National Trust has defended its decision, which it says ‘will enable us to continue to protect and preserve’ Hardwick Hall for ‘generations to come’.
A trust spokesperson said: “As a charity, and in line with the Charity Act, it is our responsibility to ensure we achieve the best possible outcome from the sale.”