WARRINGTON’S Academy building has reopened as flats with the first resident moving in.

Guarded by the imposing figure of Oliver Cromwell (well, his statue anyway) on Bridge Street, the red-brick property is one of our town’s most famous landmarks.

But what is its history?

Most famously, Warrington Academy was a dissenting academy for more than 25 years between 1756 and 1782.

Many people in the town will still recall the Academy being moved 20 metres to its present position in 1981.

The original plan had been to do so with the building intact. The structure was in such bad shape it had to be rebuilt on its new site.

So, let’s look at the Academy’s distinguished history, shall we?

Warrington Academy was a hotbed of defiant thought and teaching in the mid to late 18th century.

It was a dissenting academy, run by a notable collection of Dissenters, whose beliefs did not conform to those of the Church of England.

The academy was first established in the mid-1750s at the Cairo Street Chapel. Within a few years it had moved to a large redbrick house – the original of the modern building.

In those early years students were taught divinity, natural philosophy and classics.

Soon, however, the curriculum was expanded and the ranks of tutors began to swell in number.

The most famous person to teach at Warrington Academy, of course, was Joseph Priestley, who is credited with the discovery of oxygen and lent his name to the fine six-form college in our town.

Priestley was at Warrington Academy from 1761 to 1767. He was appointed tutor of modern languages and rhetoric, although apparently maths and natural philosophy were more his thing. Even the giants of history experience wobbles on the career ladder.

He was very productive during his spell in our town.

He met and wed his wife, Mary Wilkinson, and wrote a number of books about the history of science and Christianity.

Interestingly, given the Academy’s future use as the home of a newspaper, Priestley only got his gig in Warrington thanks to a book he wrote about grammar.

The Rudiments of English Grammar was inspired by Priestley’s frustration at the lack of such decent educational books for his students.

Its new life as apartments started this week and hopefully it remains just as successful.