Manning's School launches fund-raiser to restore historic building
The Thomas Manning Building

THE Manning's School in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, is aiming to raise $100 million to restore the historic Thomas Manning Building, one of Jamaica's national treasures, which was declared a heritage site in 1999 by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.

The Thomas Manning Building, erected in 1915, is located on the compound of The Manning's School and houses the school's library. According to Archibald Campbell, chairman of the fund-raising committee, “We aim to raise approximately $100 million to restore the entire structure, including the interior and exterior walls, and to modernise what used to be a resource centre and library to become a state-of-the-art facility and a mini museum which will be used to showcase a number of artefacts found in the parish, which has a rich history dating back to the sugar cane plantation era.”

He added: “The restoration of the Thomas Manning Building is intended to benefit not just Manning's School, but the people of Westmoreland and Jamaicans in general, as we preserve a significant portion of Jamaica's rich heritage.” He said the fund-raising efforts are intended to engage past students, the business community, public sector, and civil society.

Named after a Westmoreland planter, Thomas Manning, who, in 1710 bequeathed a plot of land for the setting up of a free school in the parish, The Thomas Manning Building represents one of the oldest buildings of its kind in the western hemisphere. Though the Will was left idle for some time, in 1738, an Act, Eleventh George 11 Chapter 9 was passed by the Jamaica Assembly constituting the Manning's Trust and allowing for the erection of the building. Of Georgian architecture, the building represents the oldest existing part of the school and is primarily made of timber with the rest on a masonry plinth. The building had fallen into disrepair and deemed unsafe due to termite infestation and has been closed for the last two years.

In a special appeal to donors, Moses Chybar, chairman of the board of management of the school, stated: “We believe it is important to preserve our legacy so future generations can appreciate the history that is so intricately wrapped within the building. With its restoration, we will continue to educate and enlighten our students, the residents of Westmoreland and Jamaicans at large so they can unearth that deep, untold portion of their history and experience this important symbol of history that is intertwined in its architecture; an art that we don't see very often anymore. More and more we replace these structures with modern buildings, but buildings such as the Thomas Manning Building help us to contextualise our collective and individual identities which is key to demystifying our future.”

The fund-raising campaign, which is intended to last for seven months — June to December 2021 — will be launched via a special virtual event today at 11:00 am. People are encouraged to participate via the Manning's School official Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube accounts (@Manning'sSchool) or on Zoom using meeting ID: 833 617 0545.

Individuals and institutions that are based locally and overseas can donate to the restoration fund through several methods. These are via direct deposit to Thomas Manning Trust Fund current account# 5500507798 at Sagicor Bank, Savanna-la-Mar Branch, and the Restoration of the Thomas Manning Building gofundme account ( Past students of Manning's School may also make donations through their local chapters of the Manning's School Past Students' Association.

“The Manning's School community is appealing to all friends of Manning's School everywhere to work with us to restore the Thomas Manning Building to its former glory so that it can regain its rightful position as a symbol and beacon of hope in Jamaica's education system,” Chybar said.

The Manning's School says it prides itself as being among the oldest high schools in Jamaica and boasts an outstanding record of sporting and academic performances. Among the most renowned Jamaicans whom the school has produced are Jamaica's first political ombudsman, a former director of public prosecutions, and a former judge of the Supreme Court, the late Justice James Sewell Kerr; Jamaica's current Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte; the first Jamaican woman to win a global title in a field event, Trecia-Kaye Smith, gold medallist at the 2005 World Championships in triple jump; and Marlene Smith, one of Jamaica's first female airline pilots.

Funds raised will be managed by a fund-raising committee headed by Campbell, chairman of JMMB and former bursar/chief financial officer, The University of the West Indies and Manning's School past student. The restoration committee is chaired by Cosmond Jackson, CEO of Time Value Finance Limited and Manning's School past student.

A close-up shot showing deterioration of the Thomas ManningBuilding.
A section of the interior of the Thomas Manning Building.

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