US woman with Richmondshire connections to sponsor Old Grammar School bell

Carolyn Wands with her daughter Corina in front of Kiplin Hall. Photo: Guy Carpenter.

A woman from Illinois has offered to sponsor the bell at the Old Grammar School in Richmond.

Carolyn Wands is the tenth great-grand-daughter of George Calvert, who was born at Kiplin near Richmond in 1579 and later commissioned the building of Kiplin Hall.

He rose to become the Secretary of State to James I, was created the first Lord Baltimore and founded the Colony of Maryland.

Sadly, George died shortly before Charles I put his seal to the patent for the land that was to be called Terra Mariae in honour of his Queen Henrietta Maria, leaving George’s son Cecil, 2nd Lord Baltimore to become the first proprietor of Maryland in 1632.

Carolyn learned of her connection to George Calvert and Kiplin Hall when she came upon the family tree online, which has been researched over many years by Kiplin volunteer, Tom Banfield.

Since her discovery she has been a regular visitor to the Hall with her late husband Gene and other members of her family.

In 2017 she and Gene generously funded the re-creation of the old Apple Orchard at Kiplin and planted the final tree. Carolyn continues to take a keen interest in the home built by her ancestor and tries to visit at least once a year.

During her visits to Kiplin, Carolyn has become familiar with Richmond and when she learned of the project to restore the Old Grammar School she felt she would like to help with the renovation.

The idea of enabling the old school bell to ring out once again attracted her and she was moved to come forward with the offer of sponsorship. Carolyn is enthusiastic about the restoration of old buildings and she and her husband have restored several buildings in their home town of Danville.

She said: “The bell project appealed to me because of fond memories of school and church bells that rang out in my community as a child drawing people to come. Perhaps this bell will draw people to the preservation of this wonderful place that has helped to shape so many lives”.

Coincidentally, another local Swaledale boy was also to become one of Maryland’s Governors.

Francis Nicholson was born in the hamlet of Downholme in 1655 and educated at the old Grammar School when the institution was housed in a building in St Mary’s Churchyard.

Francis joined the army in 1679 and served abroad from the age of twenty-four. He was Governor of Maryland from 1694 until 1698, when he moved on to govern Virginia, his second rule over that colony.

Leader of the project to restore The Old Grammar School, James Gravenor said: “ We are immensely grateful to Carolyn for her support of this project.

“It is a neat coincidence that the tenth great-granddaughter of Maryland’s founder should be helping to keep alive the name of the school which educated one of Calvert’s successors.”

A neat coincidence indeed, two boys born within the sound and sight of the River Swale who both had lasting influences on Maryland, a state that lies more than 3,500 miles away from the Yorkshire Dales.

Anyone who is interested in helping with the restoration and repurposing of the Old Grammar School building is asked to email to discuss the options that are available.