Records show adult education centre was opposed before opening

This Is Wiltshire: Gareth Slater, David Feather, Lady Fiona Hannon and Nicholas Hunloke, of Wiltshire Gardens Trust, at the entrance to Urchfont Manor Gareth Slater, David Feather, Lady Fiona Hannon and Nicholas Hunloke, of Wiltshire Gardens Trust, at the entrance to Urchfont Manor

Urchfont Manor has closed as an adult education college, to the disappointment of its users.

But records have revealed the Grade II* listed building also faced a public outcry when it first opened.

As the property is sold to its new owner, who intends to convert it to a private residence, Gareth Slater and his team from the Wiltshire Gardens Trust has been carrying out a survey of the garden at the manor and they have also submitted an account of the history of the manor to the county archives.

They have discovered that when Wiltshire County Council bought the property from the family of Hamilton Rivers Pollock in 1946, there was enormous local opposition to the creation of an adult college.

Mr Slater said: “The county’s original motives in acquiring the property in 1946 reflected the idealism that followed the end of the Second World War.

“The intention was to run two-week courses for men on release from industry to help them acquire a philosophy of life. There was something of a public outcry at what was seen as a waste of money that would be better spent on the village school.

“In 1949-50, county councillors joined in a value-for-money debate and almost succeeded in getting the manor closed down.”

The manor ran classes in a wide range of disciplines, from Egyptology to lace making, from 1946 to last year when Wiltshire Council decided to close the college down and sell off the estate as part of its “transformation” exercise in saving money.

Despite a chorus of disapproval from staff, students and residents, the closure went ahead in September and the property was put on the market at a guide price of £2.7m.

It was revealed just before Christmas that the estate had been sold to a private buyer subject to the exchange of contracts. Oakfrith Wood is not included in the sale and it is likely to be transferred to the ownership of Urchfont Parish Council.

The futures of the village cricket field and school recreation field have also been secured for the local community.

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