The history of Norwich's college

It has helped shape the lives of tens of thousands of people in Norwich and Norfolk. As part of our week highlighting City College's contribution to the city, Sarah Brealey looks back at its history.

It has helped shape the lives of tens of thousands of people in Norwich and Norfolk. As part of our week highlighting City College's contribution to the city, Sarah Brealey looks back at its history.

The roots of city college go back nearly 120 years - to the opening of a technical school in Norwich in 1891, founded by the city's civic leaders.

It started as a 'recreative technical evening class' in St George's Bridge Street, soon moved to Bethel Street and then back to a purpose-built building in St George's Bridge Street, later to become the home of Norwich Art School. The college grew and acquired more departments, and other educational institutions were absorbed into it.

In the 1930s new buildings were needed to accommodate the growing student numbers, and so plans were made for new buildings on Ipswich Road. There was discussion of the name The Norwich College, and even King George VI College, but it became Norwich City College and Art School.

In 1939 Alderman F C Jex, the chairman of the governing body, had written in the Norwich Labour Monthly: 'I look upon this college as providing the university of the working classes, and there can be no doubt that whether on the science or art side, provision will be made for our boys and girls to reach a standard of in educational attainment never previously possible in Norwich.'

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His comments came at a time when Norwich had no university, and thoughts were of turning the college into a University College, but the outbreak of war meant that the issue was put off.

During the second world war the college played a key role, providing short courses to teach skills to an emergency workforce, which included many women.

On October 8 1953, the college's new Ipswich Road buildings were officially opened by the Lord Lieutenant of the county, Sir Edmund Bacon. It was officially known as Norwich City College and Art School, but was widely known as 'The Tech'. A newspaper editorial of the time said: 'Serving 250,000 people over a radius of 25 miles, Norwich City College gives invaluable aid not only to industry, but also to the person who wishes to study the arts or sciences for the fuller enjoyment of life.'

In 1954, the Evening News wrote: 'Norwich must consider itself fortunate in possessing at this early stage in the redeployment of education a fine new technological institute like that on Ipswich Road. As more like it are built up and down the country, so will the fortunes of the nation rise, for they are the very foundation stones of our future prosperity.'

In the 1960s the college had a Department of Footwear Manufacture, reflecting the importance of that industry to the city at the time.

There were many more additions to the college through the 1960s and 1970s, including what is now called the Hotel School, in the early 1970s.

In 1974 the college was transferred from city to county council control. In the 1980s it became responsible for prison education, first at Norwich and then Wayland.

In the 1980s the college began to offer degree courses. Over the past 20 years there has been an expansion in numbers and types of courses. In 1993 the college became an incorporated body responsible for its own finances and destiny.

Several of Norwich's secondary schools have their roots in the college - for example the Hewett School, which started life as a junior technical school at the college on St George's Street. The college still has close ties with schools, working collaboratively to provide education and training opportunities that meet the needs of all of our young people, and has a partnership with five local high schools to give 14-19-year-olds extra learning opportunities. One of the five schools is City Academy Norwich, the former Earlham High School which became an academy last year. City College is the lead sponsor of the academy. A thousand 14-16-year-olds who are still at school attend the college one or two days a week.

t Do you have memories of the college in decades past? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, or email

t Tomorrow: how students help to run the college, and the student union president who is going places.

College expansion

The need for bigger and better facilities on the Ipswich Road site is nothing new.

In 1974 the famous EDP essayist Eric Fowler, who wrote as Jonathan Mardle, wrote in the EDP, sister paper to the Evening News: 'Perhaps, if we had known just after the war how big the City College would grow we would have put it on the outskirts, and on a site as large as the University's. It is still growing and it is highly probably that ten years hence it will need to be twice as large as it is now. For this is, in many respects, everyman's university.'

Jack Lewis, principal, wrote in 1991: 'The last decade and a half has seen the city college contained and cramped because of limitations set by national and local government. Perhaps the beginning of the next century of the college's history will bring opportunities to enable Jonathan Mardle's vision to become a reality, and provide facilities which will match the quality of the staff and the needs of the students.'


13 Nov 1891 New technical school for the city opened in a temporary home in St George's Bridge Street

Deputy Mayor Mr Wild said: 'It must be thoroughly understood that technical education was not in existence for the purpose of teaching trades…The object of technical education was to stimulate the student to understand the reason for all the simple problems of work.'

1900 1,039 students

1901 Technical school becomes the Municipal Technical Institute and takes over the Norwich School of Art.

1930 Technical Institute renamed Norwich Technical College

1938 Renamed the Technical College and School of Art, Norwich

1939 Plans for the new college in Ipswich Road approved - to be known as 'The Norwich College' - building work halted by outbreak of war

1941 Workshop block and canteen opened at Ipswich Road for junior technical school, building depertment and part of engineering department. Renamed Norwich City College and Art School

1949 Dedication stone of new main building unveiled

1951 Teaching moves into south wing of Ipswich Road building

1953 Teaching moves into north wing, new building officially opened

1964 Norwich School of Art separated from City College under its own governing body

1971 College reaches 10,000 students. David Tudor, a graduate trainee with Norwich Union, became the 10,000th student.

1972 Students' residence at Southwell Lodge opened

1977 Becomes Norwich City College of Further and Higher Education

1984 College approved to offer new degree courses

1988 Renamed City College Norwich

1991 College designated an associate college of Anglia Polytechnic for planning and funding of its higher education courses.

1998 Princess Royal opens the Norfolk building, with new construction and engineering workshops, drama and sport facilities and a student restaurant. The new building allows other areas to be redeveloped.

2000 College becomes an associate college of the University of East Anglia

2007 College opens the National Skills Academy in Financial Services on St Andrew's Street

2008 Plans put forward for new buildings and facilities on the Ipswich Road site, arousing opposition from some local residents.

2009 Redevelopment plans suspended after government funding disappears