Take a peak behind the doors of Blue House on heritage open day
ONE of the oldest buildings in Frome will be opened to the public as part of Heritage Open Days on Sunday, September 15.
The first building on what is now the Blue House site on The Bridge was as an almshouse built for the homeless people of the town by Lord of the Manor, William Leversedge, in the 15th century.
Little is recorded of the early history of the building but, by the 16th century, it was receiving donations from Frome people.
In 1538, William Kyppinge, of Buckland Dinham, left six cows for the relief of the "poure people" in the almshouse.
However, despite these generous bequests, by the early 18th century the building was in decay.
Its saviour was public-spirited solicitor James Wickham, who came up with a daring plan for completely rebuilding the structure and, at the same time, incorporating a charity school to cope with the educational needs of a growing population.
The new building, probably the third on the site and the one that stands today, was built between 1720 and 1728 at a cost of £1,401.8s.9d.
In the 1720s a new almshouse rose from the ashes of the old, known now as the Blue School, or the Blue House, because of the knee-length blue coats with brass buttons worn by the school boys.
The building now had a dual purpose. The school was entered through the main central door while on each side were separate entrances, one to a wing occupied by 14 women and one to the north wing, home to 17 pauper women.
The Blue School closed in 1921 and the pupils were transferred to the new grammar school at Northcote House, now Frome Community College.
In 1866 the building was in need of repair and was at that stage restored by the trustees.
People who remember the Blue House after the Second World War remember it as grim and bleak.
In the early 1960s the threat of demolition loomed large but Frome people, always having a soft spot for the Blue House, rallied once again and raised £4,000 to restore and refit it.
The Blue House was brought up to date and 18 flats created for the town's elderly people.
Since then, a further appeal was launched in 1993, masterminded by then chairwoman Vyvyenne Fitzmaurice, pictured inset.
Today it still provides homes for elderly people and is a completely independent foundation run entirely on the income from its ancient endowments, rent charged to its residents and the proceeds of special events.
On September 15 the house will be open to the public from 2pm until 5pm. Entry is free and there will be a display of archive material, guided tours of the house, cream teas and refreshments.