The school was established in 1732 by Quakers Robert, Samuel and Anne Baylies for "teaching, instructing, and clothing 50 boys, to be elected and chosen out of the parishes of town and foreign of Dudley from such whose parents would not be able to give them learning". The current Regency building opened in 1824.
Astons have already completed much work to make this down-at-heel site habitable (it had been disused for many years before its purchase five years ago), but this summer part one of a major refurbishment plan is going ahead - a £250,000 project funded partly by the English Heritage Lottery Fund to repair and restore all of the original features of the building.
The restoration, in keeping with regeneration plans for Dudley town centre, will include the reinstatement of exact copies of the original iron railings (scrapped during the Second World War) and the restoration of statues of uniformed schoolboys supplied by Coade of Lambeth for the facade in 1823.
The second phase of the project (at a later date) will involve the demolition of a post-War extension to the rear of the building and the erection of a two- or three-storey purpose-built saleroom.
When phase one begins in April, the auctioneers will be short of space for 14 to 16 weeks: they will not be holding antiques sales during this period but the monthly toy sales continue as normal.
By Roland Arkell