Osbournby Primary School has recently forged an international link with Bass Valley Primary School in Victoria, Australia. Both schools are located in rural areas and they share a common interest that will now be explored further thanks to funding made possible by National Lottery players.

Osbournby Primary has been involved in one of the villages in its catchment area, Aswarby, which has been exploring the life of George Bass as part of its Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant which has also helped fund repairs to the village church of St Denys’.

George Bass was born in nearby Aswarby in 1771, became a naval surgeon and travelled with the Royal Navy to Australia at the age of 24. While in Australia he explored and mapped some of the coastline, and on one journey with another Lincolnshire sailor, Matthew Flinders, proved that Tasmania was an island. The stretch of water between mainland Australia and Tasmania was named ‘Bass Strait’ in his honour. 

A two-hour drive along the mainland coast from Melbourne is the area called Bass, again named after George Bass from one of his exploration trips. Last year pupils from Osbournby Primary walked to Aswarby and learnt about the life of George Bass. This year, with the help of Aswarby’s HLF committee, and through their links and support from the Bass Valley Historical Society, a link-up between Osbournby Primary and Bass Valley Primary has been achieved.

On 11th June 2018, Bridgette Burn, Headteacher of Osbournby Primary School, played host to Leanne Edwards, Principal of Bass Valley Primary School, who was over in the UK for a holiday with her husband. Mr and Mrs Edwards also visited Aswarby to see St Denys’ Church where George Bass was baptised and to meet the representatives of the village’s HLF committee.

Bridgette Burn said: “This is a marvellous opportunity for pupils and teachers in both schools to learn about each other’s country, customs, history, traditions and ways of life – and what it’s like living on the other side of the world.” 

Leanne Edwards said: “This is an exciting opportunity for Bass Valley Primary School which will not only benefit students with knowledge of a different country and culture, but will also provide opportunities for staff to share best practice in literacy and numeracy.”

The Anglican church of St Denys’ is a Grade I-listed building, and parts of the church date back to the 12th, 14th and 15th centuries. The font and south entrance are 12th century, and the chancel, designed by H.E. Kendall, was built in 1849. The last major restoration took place in 1850 by Edward Blore, and there is a memorial to George Bass in the church.

In 2017, St Denys’ Church secured a grant of £219,087 from the HLF towards urgently needed repairs to its spire, tower and drainage. This is in addition to the £22,900 development grant awarded in April 2016. The money has been awarded through HLF’s Grants for Places for Worship programme. The grant was made possible by National Lottery players and is supporting urgently needed repairs after the building was forced to close three years ago. A structural survey revealed a number of major problems with the tower and spire, the chancel and nave roofs, the south porch and drainage. Part of the grant was to explore the life of George Bass. The repair work is on-going and the aim is for this to be finished later this year. In the meantime, fundraising continues to help restore other areas of the church. Donations may be offered via St Denys’ Justgiving page.

Aswarby is part of the Parish of South Lafford.

Osbournby Primary pupils showing their new friends in Australia where they live.

Some of the pupils at Bass Valley Primary School in Australia, pointing to where they live.

Headteachers share greetings with one another: Leanne Edwards (left), Principal of Bass Valley Primary School, and Bridgette Burn, Headteacher of Osbournby Primary School.