A VILLAGE’S quest to refurbish an aged building that featured in Downton Abbey could be about to take a giant leap forward.

Community groups in Bampton, near Witney, have spent years fundraising to upgrade the Old Grammar School, used as the Cottage Hospital in the hit TV series.

The 17th Century building already houses the village library and archive, plus a small shop, with renovation work scheduled to start next month.

Tomorrow, West Oxfordshire District Council’s cabinet decides whether to approve a £48,750 grant for Bampton Community Archive (BCA), which could see it open in the spring.

Read also: Oxfordshire farm crowned best farm attraction

Chairman Robin Shuckburgh said: “It would mean we could do everything we want to.

“It’s crucial if we want to get this finished for when the country opens up again.

“We’re very excited and slightly biting our fingernails.

“It’s not a game-breaker, but will make a huge difference to how the whole thing can launch itself.

“Without the grant funding we would have to restrict the job we’re doing and hive off some of it into phase three.”

Witney Gazette:

Jenny Chaundy and Robin Shuckburgh of Bampton Community Archive in the building's upper floor Picture: Ed Nix

Vital roof repairs were carried out in phase one of the project and reinstalling the building’s upper floor is part of phase two.

The new space is set to include a ‘smarter, high-quality’ shop and a community are where talks and workshops could be held in the archive and library.

Read also: The latest planning applications for Oxford

The building is owned by the Bampton Exhibition Foundation, who themselves have made a ‘substantial contribution’ to the project.

But the BCA has raised more than £50,000 plus grants, including almost £38,000 in £1 donations through the Bampton Mile appeal.

This aims to collect one mile of £1 coins, which laid flat around the Downton Abbey Location Tour would raise £71,527.

Witney Gazette:

Filming for Downton Abbey in Bampton Picture: Denis Kennedy

While tourists have flocked to Bampton in recent years as a result of the show, Mr Shuckburgh wants the space to be accessible for villagers too.

He said: “We aren’t naive about the possibility that Downton Abbey tourism may have disappeared by the time this happens so it should appeal to all people.”

BCA member Jenny Chaundy added: “It’s going to be such a nice place for the community.

“The influx of visitors over the last seven years is both a good and bad thing.

“The people living here are overwhelmed at times.

“While most tourists respect their privacy, a few are unsavoury, so for some people lockdown has been a relief.”

Ms Chaundy does not expect Bampton Library, run by Oxfordshire County Council, to welcome visitors again until the renovation is complete.

The facility is one of ten across the county still without a reopening date after closing in March.