Outdoor Education Centres: how Wiltshire Council acquired OxenwoodTomorrow (Tuesday, May 22) the petition started by Lucy Gomes calling on Wiltshire Council not to close the outdoor education centres at Oxenwood (near Marlborough) and Braeside (in Devizes), is to be presented at a meeting of the full Council.
As her petition against the closures has attracted so much support (nearly 16,000 signatures), Wiltshire Council's decision to close the centres will be debated during the meeting, which starts at 10.30am. The proceedings will be streamed live and can be watched online here.
A demonstration protesting against the closures is planned to start outside County Hall at 10.00am.
A freedom of information request to Wiltshire Council has thrown a little light on how Wiltshire came to acquire Oxenwood. But the two conveyance documents provided also raise a number of questions.
Following the Education Act 1902 which gave local authorities responsibility for running schools and the rules that came into force in 1904, the villages around Oxenwood needed a school - and had to buy a piece of land on which to build it.
As the conveyance document (dated 3 October 1904) states it: "...whereas the County County acting as the Local Education Authority for the County of Wilts are about to erect a public elementary school for the Parish of Tidcombe and Fosbury and the Vendor has agreed to sell them the hereditaments hereinafter described at the price of fifteen pounds..."
The sale was complicated by the fact that the local family who had owned the Fosbury estate, which stretched across several parishes and crossed county boundaries, the Bevans, had recently sold out to Alfred Huth of Biddesden near Andover. But the land was covered by a £20,000 mortgage - and Wiltshire County Council had to be cleared from any demands the mortgage debt might involve.
The plot of land - measuring 726 square yards with a frontage along the road of '99 feet or thereabouts'- the County Council bought for the school is marked in the document on an outline plan. Whether the County Council or its inheritor, Wiltshire Council, ever registered that land was being held by them for anything except educational use, is unclear.
If it has never been registered as being held for other than educational purposes, the sale of that part of the current Oxenwood Outdoor Education Centre may, marlborough.news understands, have to be cleared with the Department for Education.
The second conveyance document concerns the purchase by Wiltshire County Council of the 'Teacher's House, Oxenwood' from stockbroker Christopher Garnett in March 1959 for £1,500: "The Council acting under the powers and provisions of the Education Act 1944 and the Local Government Act 1933..."
This house was owned by the Huth family up to 1934 and was sold again in 1956. It is unclear from the document quite how it came into the possession of Christopher Garnett.
It also remains unclear how Oxenwood expanded - taking in the land across the road. This land is now considered part of the Centre and is where they have built their 'Iron Age round house' and their 'Viking boat'.
NOTE: taking the change in values through crude inflation: £15 in 1904 equtes to about £1,736 today. The £20,000 mortgage equates to £2,315,576. And the £1,500 purchase price for the 'Teacher's House' in 1959 equates to about £33,000 today.