James Dyson donates £35m for Gresham’s prep school

  • 20th November 2023

Entrepreneur James Dyson has donated £35 million to his alma mater Gresham’s School in Norfolk to build a state-of-the-art prep school with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) facilities for pupils aged seven to 13, set to open in September 2026.

The funds from the James Dyson Foundation will be used to purchase and restore the Grade II listed Holt Hall, set in 85 acres,

Dyson has now donated more than £50 million to Gresham’s School, which provided him with a full bursary after the death of his father, a teacher there, in 1956.

The Dyson STEAM Building at Gresham’s opened last year, following a previous £18.75 million donation.

Dyson boarded at Gresham’s from the age of nine, attending the school from 1956 to 1965. He has always acknowledged his deep gratitude to the school and its then headmaster, the late Logie Bruce-Lockhart. The school gave Dyson’s family support so that he and his brother could continue their education for free at Gresham’s after the untimely death of their father, Alec Dyson, aged 43, who taught classics there.

Dyson said: “Holt Hall is a magnificent setting and when it came up for sale we had the extraordinary opportunity to rescue this Victorian hall, to provide a new setting for a cutting-edge prep school for Gresham’s pupils. As the son of a Gresham’s teacher, I had the free run of Gresham’s grounds and playing fields in the school holidays, but the arcadian park of Holt Hall was out of bounds.

“The architecture and design of the new wing, with a mirrored external surface, will reflect the ancient woodland, allowing it to blend into its stunning setting. We will also restore the Victorian building and protect the surrounding ancient woodland for Gresham’s pupils to discover and learn in, adding state-of-the-art facilities.

“It is so important to inspire young people through problem-solving and discovery. I’m forever grateful for the generosity Gresham’s showed me when my father – who was head of classics at the school – died when I was nine. Logie Bruce-Lockhart, the headmaster, allowed my brother and me to continue our studies with a bursary, when it would otherwise have been impossible. I’m so pleased to be able to support the school and to see it shaping incredible young people who go on and flourish.”

“The £35 million donation will enable a much-needed restoration of the adjoining Holt Hall and the surrounding 85 acres of grounds which are in an area of outstanding natural beauty, increasing the area of the school grounds by a third.

Douglas Robb, Gresham’s headmaster, said: “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rescue Holt Hall and breathe new life into its grounds. We are enormously grateful for the generous donation of Sir James Dyson and the James Dyson Foundation. The natural setting of Holt Hall and its ancient woodland will be the new home for Gresham’s Prep School – currently a superb school limited by its cramped location at a crossroads. No land will be sold off during this development and we will repurpose the prep school’s existing site to expand the senior school facilities. I am particularly grateful that Sir James has chosen to further enhance the school’s facilities and build on the tremendous success of the Dyson STEAM Building.”

On average Gresham’s provides £2.5 million worth of bursaries and financial support a year, benefitting 200 pupils. A thousand children from local schools have made use of the school’s existing Dyson STEAM Building, which opened last year, in workshops provided by the school and there are plans for local children to use the new prep school campus.

The new prep school and restoration of Holt Hall will be designed by architects WilkinsonEyre.

From left: Michael Goff (chairman), James Dyson, Douglas Robb (headmaster)

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