Tree problems hold up celebrations for oldest school in town

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Plans to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the opening of a Dunstable school are being disrupted by a dispute over trees.

Chew’s Charity School in High Street South opened in 1715, so next year will be its tercentenary.

The Chew’s Foundation governors are planning celebrations, some of them in conjunction with Dunstable Town Council.

“We are looking forward to this very much indeed and are getting Chew’s House into a good condition, but we have a problem,” foundation chairman Hugh Garrod told the Gazette.

“At the back of Chew’s House, in an area owned by property development company Hearne Holmes, there are some trees which are a danger to our property.

“One tree has branches so close to our building that they would pose a danger to the roof in a violent storm.

“The other’s trunk is so close to the original boundary wall that it is beginning to bow the wall out of shape.

“The ancient wall is in danger of collapse at some point in the future if nothing is done about it.”

Mr Garrod added: “Our secretary has written on numerous occasions to Hearne Holmes, but he has been told by them that there is nothing to worry about.

“I wrote a month ago and, as yet, have received no reply. Photos we have taken of the trees illustrate our concerns.

“We would not wish to have next year’s celebrations marred by our building being damaged by circumstances beyond our control.

Chew’s House, recently used as church offices, was originally a charity school. An additional school building next to it became the town library before being converted into a theatre by Dunstable Repertory Company.

William Chew, who died in 1712, intended to provide a school for 40 poor boys of Dunstable, but died before doing so.

He left money to his two surviving sisters, Jane Cart and Frances Ashton, and to Thomas Aynscombe, the eldest son of another sister.

They saw that his wishes were carried out and the school was built in 1715.

The Gazette contacted Milton Keynes-based Hearne Holmes on Thursday to ask for their comments about the trees. None had been provided at the time of going to press.