An Architectural History of Morley

Morley at the Old Vic

Morley’s history dates back to the early 1880s, when the social reformer Emma Cons decided to improve the moral and material standards of the Waterloo district in London. Emma Cons and her supporters took a lease of the Royal Victoria Hall, (the ‘Old Vic’) a boozy, rowdy home of melodrama, and turned it into the Royal Victoria Coffee and Music Hall to provide a ‘cheap and decent place of amusement’ run ‘on strict temperance lines’ ‘purged of innuendo in word and ac􏰀on’ at rock‐bo􏰁om prices. She supplemented the music‐hall turns with opera recitals, temperance mee􏰀ngs, and, from 1882, lectures every Tuesday by eminent scien􏰀sts. The ’Penny lectures’ had dis􏰀nguished figures from science addressing audiences of working people on a diverse range of subjects. The lectures were a huge success and developed into evening classes which, in 1889, led to the establishment of Morley Memorial College for Working Men and Women. The name of the College not only recognised the generous support from Samuel Morley, an eminent tex􏰀le manufacturer, temperance worker and Member of Parliament but also proclaimed the College’s commitment to gender and class equality.

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1924: The College moves to the present site at 61 Westminster Bridge Road

Morley College moved to the former Yorkshire Society’s School for Boys,
which had closed in 1917. It was then taken over by the War Office, and
became the Britannia Club for Soldiers and Sailors. It stood empty for some
years and was ‘terribly dirty and dilapidated’ un􏰀l Morley purchased it.
The core of the building was an elegant 18th‐century town house, erected on ground leased in 1783 from an old‐ established ins􏰀tu􏰀on near by—the
Magdalene Hospital for the Recep􏰀on of Penitent Pros􏰀tutes. A􏰂er serving as a private house for over forty years, it was taken over by the Yorkshire Society as a school for boys of Yorkshire descent. The Society added two wings not unlike Nonconformist chapels. It also added an extra storey with a steep pitched roof and dormer windows.

The building provided the much‐needed extra space for the growing College, but it was a rambling structure far from ideal. A new block was added housing a large hall, a gymnasium and Refreshment Room. A laboratory was also added. The architects were Lanchester, Lucas & Lodge. We s􏰀ll have the original plans for the remodelling.

1937: Extension designed by Edward Brantwood Maufe

In 1937 an extension of eight classrooms, a small concert hall (dedicated to Gustav Holst, Morley’s first director of Music) and a library was opened by Queen Mary. The money for this work came partly from the L.C.C. and from a very vigorous fund‐raising campaign by the Principal Eva Hubback. The Holst Room had double windows to cut out the noise from the traffic, and new double‐glazing has been installed recently so that concerts are almost noise‐free. The Library had unusual uplighters in the tops of the bookcases, with individual lamps on each table. Sadly the uplighters were disconnected some years ago, but they remain in situ. The room also had three circular domed skylights to increase the light. The library remains the least altered of the rooms in this wing, although not all the bookshelves date back to 1937, more having been added over the years to accommodate the increasing stock. The original library chairs came from Heals.

In October 1940, the College was hit by a large bomb and the original building Yorkshire Society’s building was completely destroyed. The new extension survived almost unscathed.

1958: New building designed by John BrandonJones

The business of ge􏰃ng a new building took many years, a􏰂er a considerable amount of work by the Principal Denis Richards (1950‐65). The new main building was opened in 1958 by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

A feature of this building was the new art works, which were
commissioned by Denis Richards, and partly paid
for out of War Compensa􏰀on funds. The murals in the Emma Cons Hall were the subject of a compe􏰀􏰀on, which a􏰁racted a􏰁en􏰀on from many ar􏰀sts of the period. The winning entry was by Mar􏰀n Froy. Murals were painted by Edward Bawden and his student Jus􏰀n Todd for the Refectory on the subject of The Canterbury Tales. John Piper also painted a large picture for the Recep􏰀on area, which is now in the Holst Room. An extra storey was added to the original 1937 extension, providing an addi􏰀onal four classrooms.

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1969: The Art Block and Morley Gallery

The former King’s Arms public house, which had laid empty and semi‐derelict since the end of the Second World War, was converted into an Arts Centre in the late 1960s, providing three studios for pain􏰀ng and printmaking. The ground floor became Morley Gallery and the former beer cellar housed sculpture classes and then the Electronic Music Studio un􏰀l these were housed elsewhere. The building was opened by the Minister for the Arts, Jenny Lee. Morley Gallery is the College’s main exhibi􏰀on space, and hosts a busy programme of public exhibi􏰀ons each year, showcasing a wide range of art forms, including pain􏰀ng & drawing, printmaking, sculpture, photography, ceramics, tex􏰀les, installa􏰀on and sound art. The majority of the exhibi􏰀ons celebrate the crea􏰀ve talents of staff and students at Morley, in addi􏰀on to special exhibi􏰀ons by independent ar􏰀sts and members of the local community. All of the exhibi􏰀ons are free and open to the public.

1973: The ‘Wrap’ designed by John Winter

Principal Barry Till (1965‐86) ini􏰀ated the most ambi􏰀ous scheme so far which almost doubled the size of the College. The extension was designed to ‘wrap‐round’ the exis􏰀ng buildings and provided a studio theatre, two art studios, eight music rooms, twelve classrooms, a TV studio, language library, resource centre, library extension, tutors’ common room, offices and a bar. This innova􏰀ve extension was completed in 1973. The Queen opened this building and named the side exit the QEII entrance.

1977: Pelham Hall becomes sculpture studio

The College also owns Pelham Hall (The Henry Moore Sculpture Studio) in nearby Lambeth Walk, which is used for sculpture classes. It was a mission chapel and has an unusual outside pulpit. Henry Moore gave a piece of work to the College which was sold to raise money for the conversion. Much work has been undertaken to improve this unique space in the last few years, including the crea􏰀on of a mezzanine floor.

1982: Community Building designed by John Winter

The Community Building, now known as The Nancy Seear building a􏰂er Baroness Nancy Seear (former Chair of Governors) was constructed on the site of some old prefabs in King Edward Walk. The building’s construction was quite unusual as it used Cor‐Ten steel cladding which at this 􏰀me had not been widely used. Cor‐Ten is designed to rust, giving the building its characteristic look.

Located between the Visual Arts Centre (the former King’s Arms), and a terrace of Victorian houses, the site of the building was also controversial. This building originally housed the College’s crèche and playgroup and had facilities for community activities􏰀. The design of the large texti􏰀les room on the top floor was influenced by the need for natural light and much consultati􏰀on took place with the visual arts tutors.

Notes on Architects

Sir Edward Brantwood Maufe (18831974)

Maufe’s first commission was Kelling Hall in Norfolk (1912). Other works include the Fes􏰀val Theatre in Cambridge, the Air Forces Memorial overlooking Runnymede, the Oxford Playhouse, St Columba’s Church (Pont Street, London SW1) and he won the compe􏰀􏰀on to design Guildford Cathedral (1932). He was the architect chiefly responsible, in the 1950s for the rebuilding of much of Gray’s Inn and the Inner Temple which had been heavily damaged in bombing during World War II. He worked for the Imperial War Graves Commission (1943‐1969) as principal architect (UK), then chief architect and ar􏰀s􏰀c advisor; he was knighted for his work with the Commission in 1954.

John BrandonJones (19081999)

Brandon‐Jones was the last link to the soul of the English Arts and Cra􏰂s Movement. John was christened by the Rev. Charles Voysey, father of the architect. He studied with Oswald Milne, and then at the Architectural Associa􏰀on in. He joined Cowles‐ Voysey in 1933, a firm which had developed a line in municipal buildings. He designed a good deal of Wa􏰄ord and Worthing town halls as well as the eleva􏰀ons of the Cambridge Guildhall. When Voysey re􏰀red, Brandon‐Jones took on the prac􏰀ce with Robert Ashton. He taught briefly in Liverpool before the war and at the Architectural Associa􏰀on a􏰂er.

John Winter (19302012)

John Winter studied at the Architectural Associa􏰀on School of Architecture in London. One of his first jobs was on the Camden School for Girls in London. This was followed by military service in Cyprus. From 1956‐7 he was an instructor in Design at Yale University, and then worked as an architect in San Francisco for two further years. On his return to the UK, he was a Master at the Architectural Associa􏰀on School of Architecture in London for four years before founding his own prac􏰀ce, John Winter and Associates in 1964.

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