Giggleswick School will use a £500,000 bequest from its famous son Richard Whiteley to create a theatre.

Mr Whiteley, who lived in Burley Woodhead, near Ilkley, was a former pupil of the school.

The famous presenter of Channel 4’s Countdown, who died in June 2005, aged 61, also acted as a governor for 25 years.

The £500,000 he has bequeathed the school will form the basis of the fundraising for the total of £2 million to build the Richard Whiteley Theatre.

As a pupil, Mr Whiteley worked with his English teacher, the late chat show host Russell Harty, to produce plays such as The Merchant of Venice.

In the 1980s, as a friend of the school, he took time out of his TV schedule to “carry the bags” with touring performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Boyfriend. Headmaster Geoffrey Boult said: “As a governor, Richard believed we should have purpose-built facilities which would reflect the importance of drama at Giggleswick and which could showcase the quality and sophistication of our productions.”

The completion of a new sports hall in October last year has enabled the £2 million project to get under way as the old sports hall will be converted into a permanent 300-seat theatre.

“As a governor, Richard watched over the pupils as if they were part of his family,” said his partner, Kathryn Apanowicz.

“Giggleswick has always been brilliant at putting on musicals and I look forward to some grand nights out in the new theatre.”

Richard’s Countdown colleague and friend Carol Vorderman said: “Whiters would have been quietly proud of being remembered like this.

“He always wanted to see the creation of a theatre at Giggleswick School and this is a fitting tribute to a man whose life-long passions included performance, the Dales, and his school.”

Patrons of the fundraising campaign include: Kathryn Apanowicz, Jona-than Broadbent, Warwick Brookes, Michael Day, David Fox, Sarah Fox, William Gaunt, John Helliwell, Anthony Millard, Geoffrey Moore, Alan Shallcross, Lord Shuttle-worth, Zoë Wanamaker, Sir Tim Rice, Dame Judi Dench, Nicholas Hytner and Carol Vorderman.