The Holford Centre began life as a school, set up by Lady Elizabeth Holford, widow of Sir William Holford, in 1720. She was the daughter of a coachman of Stanton St John, and the memory of her humble childhood origins resulted in the endowment of a Charity School for “teaching of the poor children”.
Situated on the south western edge of the village, at the end of School Lane, off the B4027, and opposite The Talkhouse Public House and Restaurant, the Centre is home to the Jan Weller Pre-school, The Aunties Old School Nursery, and the Research Centre of the Oxfordshire Family History Society.
The Charity originates from a bequest by Dame Elizabeth Holford. She died in 1720 and left £500 for a school to be built for the poor children of Stanton St. John and Forest Hill. It opened in the Vicarage in 1764, and moved to this site in 1767 when the School House and an attached schoolroom were built on land given by New College. To comply with the requirements of the 1870 Education Bill the schoolroom was demolished and replaced by two classrooms. These and the other extensions built in 1892, 1897 and 1905 were all financed by the Trust.
After the Education Act of 1902 the school came under the control of Oxfordshire County Council, although the maintenance of the building remained the responsibility of the Trustees. In the 1930’s secondary children from Horton-cum-Studley and Beckley, and towards the end of the 1930’s, primary and secondary children from the new estates at Sandhills and Risinghurst, came here. During the war years children from the Bow area of London were billeted locally and attended the school.
Following the 1950 secondary school re-organisation the senior pupils moved to The Shotover School in Wheatley, and these premises became Stanton St. John C.E Primary School, taking children from the original two villages. Numbers increased after the building in 1960 of Mickle Way in Forest Hill, but lack of regeneration led to falling rolls and the school was closed in 1984 after a three-year federation with Beckley. While waiting for a new Trust Deed, The Trustees let out areas of the building until1989 when this was granted and the name changed to The Holford Centre.
The premises have become a vital educational facility in this area providing a unique environment for pre-school children from the surrounding villages, and the urban fringes of Oxford. The pre-school groups provide full-time employment for 11 adults and part-time for 7. Some 45 children attend each day, a number dictated by the space available, but as not all children attend every day, some 70 families benefit each week.
The use of The Research Centre of the Oxfordshire Family History Society’s facilities is free to members, and available to others for £1 a session. The Society has sole use of an inner room , but the outer room is used by the Chiltern Cartophilic Society and others when not in use by the OFHS.
During the late August Bank Holiday Weekend when the premises are closed; the building is the venue for the Art and Craft section of the Stanton St. John Festival. This event provides an opportunity for local artists and craftspeople to exhibit and sell their work. Organised by the Village Hall Festival Committee the occasion involves most Stanton St. John residents. The profits are shared between the Village Hall, the Church, and the Holford Centre.
The Trustees also offer bursaries to assist in the costs of extra-curricular activities of students resident in Stanton St. John and Forest Hill
2009 has been a special year for a number of reasons. We have had the opportunity to say thank you in person to the organisations that have enabled the Trustees to carry out essential work without which the Centre could not have continued, (re-roofing and insulating the old school buildings and installing gas fired central heating), The Heritage Lottery Fund, Stanton St. John and Forest Hill Parish Councils, The Trust for Oxfordshire Environment and Waste Re-cycling Group through the Landfill Communities Fund, South Oxfordshire District Council, The Oxford Community Foundation (Grassroots), The Helen Robson Memorial Fund, The Gresswell Trust, The Doris Field Trust, and Christ Church College Trust.
At the end of July it was 25 years since the Trustees became responsible for the premises, and started letting space for the benefit of the local communities. In November, 20 years since the grant of the new Trust Deed and the new name The Holford Centre. It is 25 years since Jan Weller, who retired at the end of July, brought her Playgroup here, and 20 years since Sandy Enjily, who lived in Stanton St. John, with her mother and sister started The Aunties Old School Nursery.
The Jan Weller Pre-School is a charity catering for children aged 2-4 and operates on weekdays in school term-time from 9 –12.30. Lunch clubs are held to 13.30 on three days a week. The Per-School is registered with Social Services and OFSTED.
The Aunties Old School Nursery is a family run business. They cater for families that require up to whole day care, taking children from 6 months to 4 years old. They are open from 0800 hrs to1800hrs weekdays for 49 weeks a year. They have recently had an OFSTED inspection in which they obtained Excellent in all categories.
The Oxfordshire Family History Society Research Centre has a worldwide membership. It is open to the general public, and members of their volunteer staff are very willing to advise and help anyone starting their own investigation. Opening times are shown on their website.
In 2008 thanks to the generosity of Mr. Peter Gresswell the Trust built a fireproof cupboard in the Family History Room to house village archives. This accepts items not important enough to be in the County Archives, but of special interest to Stanton St. John and which otherwise might be thrown away, photographs etc. of the Feasts, Festivals, Coronation events, the school and sports clubs….. The present Trustee Archivist is David Costar whose e-mail address is ICRATSOC@aol.com
Small and large rooms are available for use by other organisations for educational purposes. when they not being used by the resident groups. For further information contact the Trust at the address below.
A history of the School is available in a set of six booklets, Fulfilling A Trust, issued by the Trustees, cost £6 including postage, from The Holford Trust, The Holford Centre, School Lane, Stanton St. John, Oxford OX33 1ET. Cheques payable to The Holford Trust.