HURST HOUSE AND THE CHESTERFIELD SCHOOLS FOUNDATION
During 2017 the committee of the Chesterfield & District Civic Society became concerned that Hurst House, a large early Victorian property used since 1928 first as an annexe to Chesterfield grammar school and later as an adult education centre, had been standing empty for about three years. Hurst House is a listed building in a conservation area.
Our enquiries soon established that Hurst House belongs to the Chesterfield Schools Foundation, a charity established in 2002 to administer the endowment of the former Chesterfield grammar school and smaller sums from Chesterfield St Helena school. The sole trustee of this charity is Derbyshire County Council.
The objects of the charity, as set out in the scheme issued by the Charity Commission in 2002, are very similar to those of the Webster Whittington Charity, i.e. to provide financial assistance to young people aged between 11 and 25, especially when leaving school and entering further or higher education, and also to assist schools within a specified area. The six schools eligible for grants from the Chesterfield Schools Foundation are Brookfield, Hasland Hall, Outwood (in Newbold), Parkside (in Boythorpe), Whittington Green and St Mary’s.
Since 2002 the county council, as trustee of the Chesterfield Schools Foundation, appears to have made no grants to any of these schools, or to their pupils or former pupils. The county council has, however, as trustee, awarded a total of £187,300 from the Foundation’s funds to the county council as an education authority. The Foundation had cash resources of about £425,000 before these awards were made and an income (chiefly in rent from Hurst House) of about £26,000 a year. It currently has about £250,000 in cash and an income of about £1,300 a year.
In July 2017 the Civic Society, concerned both that Hurst House was standing empty and that the county council, as trustee, had awarded a substantial sum from the Foundation’s funds to the county council as an education authority, submitted a memorandum to the Charity Commission. This rehearsed the history of the Chesterfield Schools Foundation since 2002 and asked the Commission to investigate the county council’s conduct as sole trustee of the Foundation.
We consider that this is a matter of serious concern to anyone interested in the education and welfare of young people in Chesterfield, or in the built environment of the town, which is not improved by leaving a prominent listed building empty for several years. For this reason we are making available on the Civic Society website (1) the memorandum submitted to the Charity Commission, (2) subsequent correspondence with the Commission, and (3) relevant county council reports.