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Centuries of Change at Chesterton House

If you've passed by our offices during the last few weeks you may have noticed that our building has grown a little! Chesterton House currently has a temporary covering whilst we repair its ancient roof. We thought you might like to know a little more about this well-known Loughborough landmark.

From being the first girl's Grammar School in England in 1850 to becoming home to Chesterton House Financial Planning, one of our office buildings, Chesterton House, has led an illustrious life.

If you've ever been to our offices, you will have walked by our namesake, Chesterton House. It's a tall building spanning over three floors, with white shuttered windows appearing in stark contrast against red bricks. Above the red door hangs a nameplate, declaring the building as Chesterton House. Not far from its name is a token of Loughborough history, a placard naming the building as the site of the first girls' Grammar School in England in 1850.

In 1990 we acquired Chesterton House as an ideal home for our expanding financial services business. Today, over 30 years on, the building is happily home to the Chesterton House companies and houses our Financial Planning teams. Since then, we've also acquired the adjacent building, No 3 Rectory Place, and entered into a lease on No 29 opposite which is where our legal arm, Woolley Beardsleys & Bosworth, and accountancy practice, Chesterton House Accounting Services, are located.

The grade II listed Chesterton House building has come a long way and is currently under renovation again. Here's how it has adapted over the years and continues to be a landmark in its area.

1725 | Chesterton House is believed to have been built

When we bought Chesterton House, our original information was that the house was built in 1802, but a few years ago this changed when Andy’s brother-in-law, an expert in old buildings, suggested that it was much older. Mike duly arrived with a telephone directory-sized copy of his guide to historic building features, and studied the door hinges, the stair banister mouldings, the window features, and other parts of the house. These all pointed to a period of construction around 1725.

We don't have much information about the early owners of the property, but it was clearly used as a private house for many years.

Early 1800's | Chesterton House was owned by a prominent person

We understand that in the early 1800’s Chesterton House was owned by Major Robert Burnaby, a prominent local merchant who went off to Canada and has a town named after him. He is now buried in Emmanuel Churchyard, which is just a few minutes walk away.

1850 | Chesterton House became the first English Girl's Grammar School

During the 1840’s the Burton Charity, through which Loughborough’s Grammar School for Boys was established, decided to set up a girl’s school in the town and began a search for suitable premises. This house – which was then known as Darby’s Buildings - suited their needs perfectly, and a lease was obtained for it from the trustees of the Oliver estate who then owned it.

The school, headed by Miss Charnock, was opened in 1850, with an initial intake of 30 pupils. They each paid one shilling and sixpence each week for their education (7 ½ p). At that time a workman’s weekly wage would have been around 10-15 shillings.

A former Loughburian, Arthur Tyler, recounted to Andy before his passing that his aunt had led the procession of girls on their move from Chesterton House to their new home on Burton Walks in 1879, adjacent to the Boy's Grammar School, where the girl's Loughborough High School continues to thrive to this day.

1919 | Chesterton House became home to the Warner family

Later the house passed through several owners, and was bought by the Warner family in 1919. They had a prominent hosiery factory in the town (old Loughburians may remember ‘Warners Corner’, their shop), and they owned it until 1963, with several generations of the family having lived there. The big room at the rear of the building (once a classroom) was used at one time as a hosiery store, and later as a billiard room. During our research we spoke to family members who recounted their time there. One of the Warner's who had grown up in the house in the 1960's recalled that his parents held jazz parties in the basement (which extends under the whole of the house), and passers-by were regaled with the sound of music coming up through the gratings.

Earlier, the basement had been used for children's birthday parties (they could throw jelly and ice cream around with abandon!), and it has been a useful area for us, although with a much less exciting role as a file store.

1990 | Chesterton House was acquired by the present owners

In 1989, Andy Jervis was invited to the opening party for Edward Hands’ & Lewis new offices in the adjacent building,. No 3, and whilst there he spoke to Sidney Freckelton, the well-known Loughborough estate agent, who was selling Chesterton House for a client. The building was in a poor state of repair, having been used as bedsits since the 1960’s. It was also subject to a potential legal claim in relation to the garden at the rear.

Andy & Sue’s insurance business was doing well so they decided to go for it, and in June 1991 the business moved into its new home after a thorough refurbishment. Chesterton House became home to the Chesterton House companies and has been here ever since.

Andy and Sue have always cared about keeping the history of the building alive and in 2000 when the Girls High School celebrated its sesquicentenary (150 years), they hosted an event for them at Chesterton House, opening up for a day and entertaining many staff and old girls in the former schoolroom in the evening. If you happen along on a school day (lockdowns notwithstanding) it's quite possible that you could find a gaggle of High Street Girls studying the front of the building as part of their history lessons.

2020 | Roof Repairs

This last year has seen much less traffic in all of our buildings as our Teams disappeared out into the ether to conduct business online. Nevertheless there have been a few of our staff on site throughout the lockdowns, and we have kept all of the buildings operational.

A persistent leak from the roof was causing problems on the top floor, so we called in specialist surveyors with experience of old buildings to inspect the roof area and suggest a remedy. This has led to the work now taking place, with the existing tiles carefully being removed and stored, the roof timbers inspected and repaired as necessary, laths replaced and then the tiles being restored to maintain the integrity of the original structure. Whilst the scaffolding is in place we are also taking the opportunity to repaint the upper floors, with the rest of the building being repainted in the spring.

This has been a major operation which is still going on at the time of writing, and should enable the building to happily continue as it is for many years to come. Our Teams are looking forward to getting back to the office as restrictions ease this year, and although we expect there to be some changes in working patterns as people continue to enjoy some of the benefits of working from home, nevertheless these fine and ancient buildings will continue to serve us for many years to come.

If you have any questions about Chesterton House and its history, just ask. We'll be delighted to share what we know, and if you have any information that can add to our knowledge of any of our buildings we'd love to hear from you.

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