The Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College was built on the site of the old Deanery in Wulfruna Street, which was acquired from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1912, at a cost of £6,000. There had been a lot of opposition to the proposed development because of the Deanery's historical significance. But the building of the technical college became a priority due to the lack of technical education for the large number of people who worked in many of the local industries.

In 1914 an agreement was made between Wolverhampton Council and Staffordshire County Council regarding the cost of the new college. Two thirds of the cost would be borne by Wolverhampton and one third by Staffordshire. The new college would then be open to students from both areas. A joint technical school sub-committee was set up with ten representatives from Wolverhampton and five from Staffordshire. It was decided that commerce and science departments were to be included and that there would be places for 1,100 students.

On the 5th December, 1919, Dr. W. E. Fisher was appointed as principal of the new college. He had previously been Head of Engineering at Wednesbury Technical College. He took up his new position, early in 1920 and served as principal for thirty one and a half years, initially helping to push-through the plans for the new buildings. Development of the one and a half acre site began when the First World War had ended. In July 1922, J. March obtained a tender to demolish the old deanery. A year later Henry Willcock & Company Limited accepted a tender to build the new Engineering and Technical Block at a cost of £40,000. The final cost of the building and equipment came to £38,900. Local engineering firms generously provided around £3,000 worth of equipment.

The building was opened on the 21st May, 1926 by Princess Mary Viscountess Lascelles, daughter of King George V. It had laboratory and workshop facilities for 665 students. In 1930 / 1931 around 1,600 people enrolled for courses in the three departments housed in the new building. They were Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Chemistry and Metallurgy, and Engineering Production.


The first part of the new college, as seen from Wulfruna Street.

The entry in the 1930 Wolverhampton Red Book and Directory:

After the initial success of the new college, thoughts turned to expansion. In 1930, several adjacent sites were acquired at a cost of £5,000, and work began on what was then described as the final portion of the college, to be built in Wulfruna Street at a cost of £120,000.

On the 7th October, 1931, Prince George laid the foundation stone for the new main building that was designed by Colonel G. C. Lowbridge, architect of the Staffordshire Education Committee. It was built by Wolverhampton builder, Fleeming & Sons and consisted of a steel framework encased in concrete with a floor area of 33,350 square feet.

The new building opened in 1932, and was later officially opened by the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava on 30th June, 1933.


The building during construction. Courtesy of David Parsons.

The college could now accommodate between 1,750 and 1,900 students and for the first time there was room for technical, commercial and domestic science classes under one roof. In 1932 / 1933 there were 1,507 enrolments, which increased to 2,013 in the following year.

The entrance, known as ‘The Marble’ is named after its Botticino marble facing, 7ft. 6 inches high. It has a fine staircase with a wrought iron balustrade, brass handrails, a stained glass window and a glass half dome at the top. Much of the panelling from the ‘Oak Room’ in the old Deanery was saved, and installed in the ‘Board Room’ off ‘The Marble’.


The top of the stairs from 'The Marble', as seen in the early 1970s. Off to the right was the library, which later became the 'Council Chamber'.

Cross ventilation was provided in all teaching rooms and the main staircases and upper floor corridors had glass roofs for adequate lighting. Vacuum points were included on all floors for cleaning purposes. The sweepings were drawn into a receptacle in the basement. The was also an electrically operated goods and services lift to all floors.

In 1933, the Wolverhampton Local Authority annual report stated that:

"The college makes ample provision for the general education of young men and women not privileged to obtain their higher education by residence at a University. Particularly it is the local home of higher scientific and industrial studies."

The buildings included a library, an assembly hall, a gymnasium, a students' common room, a refectory, a wide range of laboratories, teaching rooms, staff rooms and administrative offices.

There were departments of chemistry and metallurgy, mechanical and electrical engineering, engineering production, building, commerce and a women’s department with courses including physical culture, elocution, and languages.

By 1939 there were 2,921 students, 58 full time, the others part time. One third of the students were women.


An early photo of the frontage in Wulfruna Street.

The entry in the 1936 Wolverhampton Red Book and Directory:


Casting in the college foundry.

By the late 1930s the governors were greatly concerned about the lack of accommodation, as student numbers rapidly grew. On the 25th January, 1938 proposals were made for a new development in Stafford Street with a floor area of 8,375 square feet, but nothing would be done for some years, largely because of the onset of war.

In the 1930s around ten students each year were obtaining engineering degrees at London University and so plans were made to have a graduate students association at the college, where research work could be carried out.

At the beginning of the war, classes were cancelled until air raid shelters could be provided. When the college reopened there was an expected fall in the number of students, but it was not as bad as expected. Student numbers fell to just over 1,700 which included a rise in the number of engineering students to 653.

An agreement was made between the college and the Chief Inspector of Armaments for around a dozen engineering students to help the war effort by making a number of items including gauges for aircraft construction. John Ellson, lecturer in Electronic Engineering and an ex-marine engineer, oversaw the project, which continued until the end of 1943.

Some members of staff were actively involved in the war effort. Mr. M. Schofield, a lecturer in the chemistry department was a gas identification officer for Sedgley. He had to identify any gas used in air raids. Other staff members were air raid wardens who were not expected to attend the college when on duty.

Service classes were run to assist the war effort. They included: food education, the training of army tradesmen, training of women supervisors, instruction of tool room trainees, wireless mechanics' courses (Wolverhampton was one of three provincial centres selected), Ministry of Labour courses for foremen and forewomen, ATS clerical instruction, WAAF cook-butchers' courses, intensive engineering courses for RAF non-commissioned officers, fuel economy, statistical control and quality. Also a course for REME engineering cadets, a personal management course and a course covering modern production techniques. In June 1944 there were 50 air crew trainees. War work accounted for roughly half of the work in the college.

1945 saw the formation of the Music Department, which was unique among technical colleges. The governors took advice from Sir Malcom Sargent and appointed Dr. Percy Young as head of department. At the beginning there were 135 students. A string orchestra was quickly formed, followed by other orchestras and choirs. There was a comprehensive library of music, a wide range of courses and the opportunity to take the examinations of the Royal School of Music.

In 1946 a successful compulsory purchase order enabled the future development of the site alongside Stafford Street.

The drama section was becoming very popular after a weekend drama course in November 1948 that led to the drama  group taking part in local festivals and producing plays. The domestic classes were also proving popular. In 1948 there were classes in cookery, soft furnishings and dressmaking. Other women's classes included hygiene, gymnastics, dancing, tailoring and operatic training.

In 1948 / 1949 there were 4,650 students and a new refreshment room was built. In 1951, Dr. W. E. Fisher who had been College Principal since 1920 retired. He was replaced by Mr. Charles Leslie-Old.


   
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