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Former Vogue and GQ model buys historic landmark

Former Vogue and GQ model buys historic landmark

Sun 09 Jan 2022


A former international model, Jesse Burgess, whose parents worked in St Ives and still live nearby, has bought the Old Grammar School site.

Mr Burgess, 30, left Cambridgeshire aged 18, going to London instead of university where, like something out of a movie, he was scouted on the King’s Road and became a top model.

While dabbling in property by buying flats in London, doing them up, and selling them, he was modelling for brands and magazines including Italian Vogue, Lacoste, GQ and French Connection, as well as doing catwalk shows for Moschino, E Tautz and Diesel in Milan. He is also the presenter half of the filmmaker duo TOPJAW specialising in creating travel and food related content - with over 230,000 subscribers on YouTube.

However, Mr Burgess’ heart is set on ‘bringing Henley-on-Thames to St Ives’ with big plans to transform the Old Grammar School site, Ramsey Road which he purchased through Brown&Co, into a boutique-style, high-spec development of just seven homes.

In fact, it was due to Mr Burgess’ parents – his father was an accountant in St Ives – that he bought the site. They saw Brown & Co was selling the historic riverside buildings and sent him the property details. 

“I’m based in London, “said Mr Burgess. “My mum sent me the details and I came to have a look and thought, it could be a goer. I knew the Old Grammar School site, which is unique, its relationship with the river is very special. It had been used as offices for a pharmaceutical company and the majority of its period features inside have unfortunately been stripped out.

“But I just love it and plan to create one four-bedroom property from the Angler’s Rest, two, two-bedroom and four-three bedroom homes. There will be a focus on interior design and lighting - these houses will be of superior quality, all with their own individual names, but will not be for sale for ridiculous prices.”

Simon Harvey, Development Surveyor and a Divisional Partner, St Neots, who sold the Old Grammar School to Mr Burgess, said: “I am delighted that this heritage building, that means so much to so many people locally, has been purchased with a vision to create something beautiful for the town.

“It’s going to be very exciting for St Ives to see the site, subject to planning permission, transformed into homes for local people which not only enhances the environment but drives investment into the local economy - all while retaining for the future one of the town’s most important landmark buildings.”

The impressive three-storey, Grade II listed former school building, sold for more than £1million.

It was originally called Manchester House and built in the 18th century. It was used as the town’s grammar school from 1858-1939 and was where St Ives’ historian Herbert Norris attended. Mr Norris, on his death in 1931, left his local collection and money for the founding of the Norris Museum.

Mr Burgess said: “I am going to make the surroundings, which are currently a little overgrown, much prettier and transform the main building from looking like offices to something that’s got more of a design appeal to it. I aim to enhance the building.

“St Ives offers so many good opportunities, it’s a beautiful riverside town with good transport links to Cambridge and London. Covid has shown people they don’t need to be in London all week – they can work one or two days and commute and St Ives is a perfect location to do that from.

“We are not going to be asking silly money. I think the Old Grammar School site will have appeal for downsizers whose children have left home and who want somewhere without a huge garden to maintain but who still want the space to entertain friends and family.

“I also think it will appeal to people who don’t want to buy something they need to redecorate or work on, who can literally move in, drop their bags and enjoy. I don’t think this will be for investors, due to the level of finish.”

For more information contact Simon Harvey in St Neots on 01480 479087.

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