We are newcomers to Alnwick. We moved here a couple of years ago after careers in education and early retirement in France.
We have not yet fully found our feet in the town, but we have slowly become aware of the importance of education in its development.
Relationships between the castle and town have not always been smooth, but the vision of the Percy family has been a crucial part of the making of today’s Alnwick.
The second Duke knew that education was vital to social mobility and social cohesion, a rare understanding in the early 19th century, and provided schooling for the town’s poor.
His work was given further substance by the endowment of the Duke’s School by the sixth and seventh Dukes in the 20th century.
The 12th Duke and Duchess have continued that work with support for the Duchess’s Community High School.
Imagine our surprise, and disappointment then, when we discovered the current plans to develop the Duke’s School.
Is the site to become all but lost to the townsfolk of Alnwick, to be dominated by private apartments and a retirement living block?
Is there not an alternative future, which will keep James Douglas’ historic building, with its memorial to the seventh Duke’s wife and to the citizens of Alnwick who gave their lives in two world wars, open to all?
Must its parkland setting be destroyed?
We believe the school could have an alternative future, one which celebrates the past of this iconic building, and which unites castle and town in leading Alnwick into the new millennium.
We foresee the development of the school, and its park, as an arts, crafts and technology hub for the town.
It would provide studios for Northumberland’s artists, workshops and galleries for the plastic arts, space for new technology start-up units, and short course and training facilities for Alnwick’s budding entrepreneurs.
It would encourage new enterprises, especially those based on new technology, to establish themselves in the town.
It would complement The Playhouse, with its emphasis on performing arts, and Bailiffgate Museum’s celebration of the past.
It would take the educational vision of the Percy family, and the unity of castle and town, into the 21st century.
Are we naïve?
Will the future of Alnwick be defined simply by consumerism, not creativity?
We have been invited to attend a meeting on Monday, September 17, at 6.30pm, in The Mechanic’s Institute, Percy Street. We will be there to put forward our ideas.
We hope that as many residents of Alnwick as possible will join us to express their ideas and concerns.
Alan and Jill Waton,
Swansfield Park Road,