Dover’s Art and Technical Schools – Colleges

In the upper room of the Drill Hall, Northampton Street was the first permanent home of Dover School of Science and Art. Dover Museum

In the upper room of the Drill Hall, Northampton Street was the first permanent home of Dover School of Science and Art. Dover Museum

It was in 1868 that Dover’s School of Science and Art opened. It was founded by Sir Henry Cole (1808-1882) in connection with South Kensington School of Art. Looked upon as a pauper’s school, it was first located in Cambridge House that had formerly been an annexe to the famous Ship Inn on Custom House Quay. The place was so named as the Prince George the 2nd Duke of Cambridge (1819-1904) frequently stayed there in a special suite.

The school soon after moved to another temporary home at Marine House, Liverpool Street, on the then corner of Woolcomber Street, where it remained until 1873. It was then transferred to a temporary building in Eastbrook Place but on 3 November 1877, the school was moved into its first permanent home in Dover Harbour Board owned property on Northampton Street. This was in a large upper room above the Drill Hall (now part of De Bradelei Wharf car park) that had previously served as a racquet court.

Students awarded prizes 1876

Students awarded prizes 1876

As anticipated, the students came from poor households with many holding down full time jobs – 60 hours a week – but determined to better themselves. Further, they paid their own fees. That year the school had 171 students but the total income was only £263 and had long since broken its connection with South Kensington. Due to lack of facilities and relying on heavily stretched volunteers, the results were poor. 112 students submitted 2,433 pieces of work for public examination but only 24 pieces passed. Albeit, at the prize giving, so as not to discourage, prizes were given to other students as well.

Although not ideal, the site was permanent and with the move, the governors changed the name to the Municipal School of Science and Art. In 1878 they appointed William East (d 1926), originally from Yorkshire, as a paid Headmaster. The then Lord Warden (1866-1891) and Chairman of the Dover Harbour Board, the Earl of Granville, officially opened the ‘new’ school. One of the guests of honour was Edward John Poynter (1836–1919), whose father, Ambrose, had designed the refurbished Maison Dieu. Edward Poynter designed the stain glass windows in the Stone Hall following which he was knighted and appointed the Director of the National Gallery and President of the Royal Academy. The great artist gave an encouraging speech.

William East was a recognised artist having exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts but it was as a teacher that he was inspirational. East arranged for the school to be reconnected with the Government Department in South Kensington thus ensuring that the school was well supplied with casts and models. The number of students and the exam results, year on year, increased.

In January 1888, the school held an exhibition of the students’ work and Lady Rice a daughter of Edward Royd Rice former Dover Member of Parliament (1835-1847), presented the prizes. It was announced that the 236 students all had passed had presented 2,528 pieces of art and most had received honours. The students who had been entered for public examinations in chemistry, magnetism, electricity, building construction, animal physiology and machine construction, all passed!

William East c 1890s

William East c 1890s

On 21 March 1888 there was a debate on the possibility of technical education being provided at the Working Men’s Institute in Biggin Street for older persons. When this was eventually introduced it was in connection with East‘s school. At the beginning of October 1888, the purpose built Dover High School for Girls was opened in the Paddock off the Maison Dieu Road. By 1892, the Dover Municipal School of Science and Art was considered one of the best of its type outside of London and the Corporation agreed to fund it. William lost no time in persuading them to invest in a purpose built combined Science and Art School.

On Ladywell, between the River Dour and the Maison Dieu, was the premises of the well-known builder and Mayor in 1885 and 1890, William Adcock (1840-1907). Connaught Hall, the then new part of the Town Hall (now Maison Dieu), had been opened in 1883 and in 1889 Adcock agreed to sell the yard to the council for £3000 in order for the area to become a municipal garden. In 1893, East’s school was recognised by the Royal College of Surgeons as a place of instruction for chemistry, physics and practical biology. On 27 June that year the council resolved to erect a new school on the Adcock land. Alderman Adcock had been appointed Lord Lieutenant of a Kent and a County magistrate in gratitude.

The new Art and Science school at the end of Connaught Hall , Ladywell . Alan Sencicle

The new Art and Science school at the end of Connaught Hall , Ladywell . Alan Sencicle

Under the Technical Instruction Act 1889, the council had the power to provide technical instruction for any one year as long as the cost did not exceed the amount they collected in rates. By virtue of this, they were able to borrow £11,000 repayable over 30-years and John Starling Chapple (d1922), the architect who had worked with William Burges (1827-1881), the designer of Connaught Hall was consulted. He presented plans at a full council meeting on 23 October. The design was in the style of the English ‘Arts & Craft’ movement and the council was proud of its distinctive features both inside and out – these subsequently ensured the building’s Listing. With the assurance that East would remain the Principal, Kent County Council (KCC) gave a grant of £12,000 towards furnishings, fittings and equipment. The contract for the building was given to local builder William Bromley.

In June 1894, the wife of Sir William Crundall – Mayor of Dover, opened the new Art and Science school. That year East introduced evening classes in commercial subjects and in 1896-97, he was elected Chairman of the Society of Art Masters. While the Education Bill, which was ratified in 1902, was going through Parliament East put forward the case of providing secondary education for the more academic boys of the town. If passed, Dover College governors had made it clear that they would opt out and remain in the private sector.

Fred Whitehouse Headmaster of what became Dover Boys' County School

Fred Whitehouse Headmaster of what became Dover Boys’ County School

East wanted an equivalent school that would be subsidised by the state. In anticipation, East opened a Municipal School in the basement of the Ladywell premises and when the Education Act came into force, KCC were given a grant of £25,000 a year from central government for the county’s secondary education. However, they declined to give authority for the Municipal school to become a County school even though accredited academic Fred Whitehouse (1874-1939) had been appointed head.

In 1903, five students from the Art and Science school were successful in obtaining scholarships to the Royal College of Art and many others exhibited at national acclaimed salons in both London and Paris. One of the scholarship students was Reginald Goulden (1877–1932) – designer of the Dover’s War Memorial. The Assistants at that time were listed as J Millard, G B West, Miss E Adkins, A Chaplin BA, C J Duthoit, J D Thomas B.Sc., G Pine and Miss G Chapman. The latter went on to become the first headmistress of Dover Grammar School for Girls’.

New legislation in 1907 set a standard curriculum for both sexes attending County schools and required 25% of pupils to be given free places (scholarships) and should come from local elementary schools. East and Whitehouse, with a delegation of local councillors, sort County status for the Municipal school from KCC but were again refused. This led to a tome of acrimonious legal arguments and on 9 February 1909, Dover Corporation purchased the Girls’ High School in the Paddock together with adjacent lands having obtained a loan of £3000. Pressure continued and in 1910, KCC capitulated and County school status was given. That year also saw the opening of an engineering department at Ladywell.

William East was replaced as the principal of the school in 1912 but remained the head of the Art department. The new principal was Herbert Schofield (1883-1963) who had graduated from the Royal College of Science, London, in mechanics and physics. The earliest surviving prospectus dates from this time and cites the ‘Principles of Coalmining’ among the courses offered. In 1915 Herbert Schofield was appointed principal of Loughborough College, a position he held until 1949 during which time he became renowned as a pioneer in technical education. The position of principal of Dover’s Art and Science school was again offered to William East, which he accepted on a temporary basis.

Former Dover Boys' County School now Dover Girls' Grammar School, Frith Road. LS 2013

Former Dover Boys’ County School now Dover Girls’ Grammar School, Frith Road. LS 2013

In October 1916, during World War I (1914-1918), the Boys’ County School moved out of the basement at Ladywell to purpose built premises on Frith Road. In 1926, Herbert Hollings Jacques (1885-1966) was appointed the Assistant Principal of the renamed Dover Technical Institute and the following year he took charge of Further Education for Dover and Deal. The combination was given the title of the Municipal Science Art and Technical Institute and the first part-time day courses were started under the City and Guilds curriculum and included engineering and mining.

There were also safety classes for miners of all ages that were held on Saturday afternoons. The number of pupils increased dramatically and in October 1934 the Drill Hall, owned by Dover Harbour Board and where the school opened under the leadership of William East, was convert for Technical Education. The courses offered ranged from technical drawing to electrical engineering while the facilities available for students included a gymnasium.

The increase in the number of students was due to the introduction of day release of trainees – usually boys – from local businesses. The participating businesses accepted the notion that they would send a ‘batch’ of apprentices each day over a five-day week for academic and theoretical education even though they had to engage one-fifth more apprentices in order to cover the business work. However, the employers complained that the Institute was only open 40 weeks a year, which meant that they had to retain and pay a surfeit of apprentices for the remaining 12 weeks. This galvanised some employers to set up their own training establishments and led to a fall in the number of students attending the Institute.

Art School opened June 1939, Maison Dieu Road. Dover Library

Art School opened June 1939, Maison Dieu Road. Dover Library

For girls, working in an office had became an attractive alternative to the previous careers open to them and a Commercial Department opened in Hillesden House, Godwyne Road. This was under the direction of John Lees Robinson, who was also the headmaster of the Arts and Crafts department. On 29 February 1936 the Girls’ County School moved from the Paddock to what had been the Boys’ County school on Frith Road. The Paddock premises were refurbished and on 23 June 1939, the Lord Warden, Marquess of Willingdon, opened the Dover Art School, which retained its connection with the Technical school in Ladywell.

Ladywell Technical College following shelling. Kent Messenger.

Ladywell Technical College following shelling. Kent Messenger.

On 3 September, World War II (1939-1945) was declared and the Art school was requisitioned as a training centre, the departments at Ladywell and Hillesden House remained. In 1940, all Dover schoolchildren were evacuated to Wales but many returned. The Ladywell premises included classes for older children but on Sunday 3 October 1943 a shell damaged part of the building. The courses were transferred to Canterbury with the mining section staying there permanently. The principal, Herbert Jacques was transferred to head north-west Kent’s technical training.

Following the War, until the Boys Grammar School on Astor Avenue was ready for occupation, the boys were taught at the Paddock site, the bomb damaged school in Ladywell and Hillesden House in Godwyn Road. Under the 1944 Education Act, secondary schools were to be of three types, grammar, technical and secondary modern and there was considerable discussion on various methods of reorganising both primary and secondary schooling to comply with this. However, shortages of building labour, materials and financial difficulties plus the raising of school leaving age to 15 in 1947 meant that Kent County Council’s stance was pragmatic. £750,000 was earmarked for the building and refurbishment of schools in Dover, which was greeted with delight but due to the post-war ‘baby-boom’, many of the strategies had to be rethought to consider this.

 Jack Woolford's Workers Educational Association course advert 19.04.1945

Jack Woolford’s Workers Educational Association course advert 19.04.1945

The Workers Educational Association offered evening courses and in April 1945, a six-week course on International Affairs was available on Wednesday evenings. The tutor was Jack Woolford MA (Oxford) – well known these days as one of the founders and the long-time chairman of the Dover Society! Herbert Jacques returned to Dover and there was talk of a new Technical School but this was put on hold, instead, in 1948, the Ladywell and Paddock sites were reclassified as Colleges of Further Education for boys and named Dover Technical College. A large percentage of the students were ex-servicemen returning to civilian life and courses included electrical installation, plumbing, building and welding.

For girls, Westmount, on Folkestone Road was adapted at a cost of £2,000 in 1950. This great house had been designed by Rowland Rees junior and built by Philip Stiff in 1865 for Joseph Ellis, a Leicestershire colliery owner. Initially called Mount Ellis, a record of the foundation proceedings, written in Hebrew, was placed in a cavity of the foundation stone. In 1870, Westmount was taken over by Robert Chignell for a private boys’ school but unhappy with its layout, he had Castlemount built – since demolished. In the post War era, the courses provided at Westmount were in commercial and domestic subjects.

Herbert Jacques retired in 1951 and George H Tweddell was appointed the principal. For the summer term in 1955, the first full-time course at College was introduced. It was a commercial course for young people about to go into business. At about this time Kent Education Committee (KEC) said that they were considering building a new technical college in Dover estimated to cost £220,000. Nothing happened so Dover Corporation started legal action claiming ownership of the Ladywell and Paddock premises. In court, the judgement ruled in favour of KEC and the proposed new build was put on indefinite hold.

Three years later KEC announced the closure of the college’s building department and transferring the students to Canterbury, Folkestone or Thanet. They also stated that even if a new college were built neither building nor motor engineering would be taught in Dover. In 1960, the Principal, George Tweddell left and KEC took the opportunity to amalgamate the Dover and Folkestone colleges under the principal of Folkestone Technical College, H A Wheeler. In 1966 the college at Dover in amalgamation with Seeboard, started an apprenticeship scheme whereby the students took the City and Guilds examination. In 18 years, 200 students took the course and only one failed the exam. He retook it and passed.

A new college was again proposed but at a reduced cost of £200,000 (especially counting inflation). This, however, was to be in Folkestone in order to attract students from Ashford. Dover Corporation announced that they would fight such a plan ‘tooth and nail.’ They made the point that a 4-acre plot of land, previously a wood yard, had been owned by KCC since 1955 on the premise that it was where the new college would be located. They added that the move to Folkestone would ‘alienate youngsters from Deal and Sandwich.’

John Ullman’s Dover Demolition and Erection Company occupied the site and in 1965, it became the subject of a County Court case and the company was ordered to move. In the interim, KEC rethought their Folkestone proposal and decided that both the Dover and Folkestone colleges would stay where they were. Instead, the colleges were to be reduced to ‘outstations’ of a new build at Ashford. The students from the Art school in the Paddock were to be transferred to Canterbury and it was to be closed.

At the time, there were 1,500 students attending the college and in consequence there was outrage in Dover. The newly formed New Dover Group, the predecessors to the Dover Society, made their voices heard at Maidstone along with councillors led by Robert Newman of Folkestone Road, parents and other interested parties. In September 1963 the cross-Channel ferry – Isle of Thanet ceased operating and was laid up in Dover awaiting a buyer. It was suggested that she should be commandeered as Dover’s technical college. In the event, the ship was sold the following year to Hughes-Bocklow Ltd of Blyth and broken up. Nonetheless, the protest made its mark and it was announced that Dover was to amalgamate with Folkestone and Ashford colleges to form the new South Kent College of Technology (SKC).

SEK College, Paddock, built 1970

SEK College, Paddock, built 1970

Kent County Council promised that the amalgamation would put each college on an equal footing and provision was made for the expenditure of £100,000 on engineering and communal facilities at Dover. The colleges were co-educational and Westmount was given over to Adult Education until this department moved to the Dover Discovery Centre in 2003. Sadly, Westmount was destroyed by fire in September 2007. Finally, in 1968 it was announced that Dover was to have a new build college  in the former wood yard off the Paddock. They said that they would set aside £300,000.

Work started in 1970 and two years later, the new £250,000 technical college building designed to replicate the Keep at Dover Castle opened. Initially it provided facilities for 460 full time students and was mainly used by the engineering department. By the 1980s there were about 900 students attending the college on either a part-time or full-time courses. These ranged from engineering to freight forwarding, business studies to general education ‘O’ levels. The ages of the students ranged from teenagers to the retired with many of the mature students were on day release from their place of work.

There was talk, in 1983, of an Information and Technology Centre to be based at Dover to provide training in electronics, computing, word processing and related skills as part of the government’s Youth Training Scheme (YTS). In 1987, the proposed YTS training scheme was launched with 45 students enrolling. That same year saw a four-storey teaching block and a single storey workshop block built along with car parks for over 100 vehicles, costing £1,100,000.

Former Technical College - from Brook House Car Park - LS 2011

Former Technical College – from Brook House Car Park – LS 2011

The listed former Technical College on Ladywell was offered for sale and one of the bidders was the Dover Operatic and Dramatic Society (DODS). They wanted to buy the building for their new headquarters. However, they were outbid and in 2000, a charitable trust, Superior (Dover) Ltd, sort planning permission to convert the building into six flats and offices. It was reported that John Huggins of the Chunnel Group, Lydden, and Alex Buitron of the Moonflower restaurant ran the trust. With the involvement of the Town Centre Manager, Mike Webb the intention was to help to regenerate Dover. In 2003, the building was sold to property developers Raylion in 2003. They planned to create 15 dockland style flats plus conference facilities, a cafe and a fitness centre on the ground floor. Part of this has eventually been realised.

A new campus, costing £25million in Dover was proposed in 2006 through the government’s Learning and Skills Council (LSC). The publicity stated that it would offer courses ranging from GCSE to degree level, as an outpost of Greenwich University, with part time options for those who work. The proposal included a marine engineering course and followed the formation of the Dover, Deal and Sandwich Collegiate, that co-ordinated all education and training providers in the area. A concept that was introduced at the time was the use of iPod Nanos. Costing £100 each they were given to each student as they enrolled in order for students to listen to lectures in their own time.

SKC, at the time, covered three-campus Dover, Folkestone and Ashford and had 15,000 students. In 2007, ‘superhead‘ Alan Harrison was brought in to turn SKC round following financial crises, staff cutbacks and poor inspection reports. He was the fifth principal in six years and was given one year to do the job. LSC also brought in consultants KPMG and by the time Mr Harrison’s time was up it was decided that SKC would join forces with either West Kent College in Tonbridge or Portsmouth’s South Downs College – then the largest college in Hampshire with an ‘A’ level pass rate of 99%. Kent County Councillor Brian Cope of Dover, the then chairman of the board of governors, was reported as saying that ‘The Board retains the fall-back position that if neither of the two colleges is found to satisfy the needs of the stakeholders then other partnerships will be considered.’

K-College advert on Dover Priory Station 2014

K-College advert on Dover Priory Station 2014

Monica Box was appointed interim Principal and the governors agreed that the college would pursue a merger with West Kent College at Tonbridge, subject to approval from the Secretary of State. At the time, Dover had 464 full-time students and 353 part-time with an age range from 14 to 89. The two colleges merged in April 2010 and were re-launched as K College in November under the former head of the Tonbridge College, Bill Fearon. Following the launch there was talk of maritime courses at Dover being included on the curriculum.


Former Art School renamed Cambia House K College - Paddock - LS 2014

Former Art School renamed Cambia House K College – Paddock – LS 2014

The number of students enrolling for courses significantly increased and the former School of Art in the Paddock was refurbished and renamed Cambia House. It had stood empty for more a long time and had been allowed to fall into disrepair. The total cost of refurbishment was £500,000 with the funding largely coming from the government’s Invest to Save Money scheme. Much of the remainder of the Dover campus was revamped with a nautical theme and approximately £364,000 was spent on technology and communication facilities. It therefore came as a shock when the college was put under special measures by LSC due to a financial deficit of £6.4m. This was blamed on the merger and the fall in the number of students attending the Folkestone campus due to a rival college opening there.

The College from Pencester Road. Alan Sencicle 2009

The College from Pencester Road. Alan Sencicle 2009

In August 2014, the college became part of the Thanet based East Kent College, the principal of which is Graham Razey. This, it is hoped, will remove the uncertainty over the provision of further education for Dover and district students.

  • Presented: 9 May 2014

About Lorraine

I am a local historian, whose love of Dover has lead to decades of research into some of the lesser known tales that this famous and beautiful town has to tell.
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