The last time Goldsmiths was evacuated- 1939. Part One: Get Thee to Nottingham!

M. McCullick’s watercolour ‘Barrage Balloon backfield’ dated 1942 but still including the former Chapel tower which had been largely knocked down by a balloon removed from its moorings by a storm in October 1939.

M. McCullick’s ‘Barrage Balloon backfield’ dated 1942 but still including the former Chapel tower which had been largely knocked down by a balloon removed from its moorings by a storm in October 1939.

This country and most of the world is at war with an invisible (to the eye) virus.

And most of the academics and students have been evacuated to their homes to work- apart from a skeleton group of staff providing basic services and looking after the buildings.

These are unprecedented times. We have to wind back the clock of history to September 1939 and the outbreak of World War Two for a comparison.

Goldsmiths had to carry out a complex, stressful and devastatingly disruptive exile to Nottingham University which lasted for seven years.

A sketch of fashion recommendations for Goldsmiths’ College students in The Smith magazine for Easter 1939. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

Many of the fashion conscious students soon had to surrender their individuality for the drab constancy of uniforms and make do and mend.

Not everyone left. A small group of Art School tutors and their students worked and lived through the Blitz and ravages of World War.

The College was never the same again.

Sights, sounds, culture and life familiar in 1939 would be lost and when there was a return in 1946, Goldsmiths, and indeed British Society, would be so different.

This three part series tells the story of evacuation, exile and return.

We begin with the crisis of a war of arms and not pestilence being declared Sunday 3rd September 1939.

Prime-Minister Neveille Chamberlain and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax outside Downing Street after the declaration of war 3rd September 1930. Image: Daily Sketch

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax outside Downing Street after the declaration of war 3rd September 1939. Image: Daily Sketch

To Nottingham and the pantechnicon evacuation
When Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcast his regretful and sad declaration of war by radio on Sunday 3rd September 1939, Goldsmiths’ College had already planned to evacuate most of its staff, students and equipment to University College Nottingham.

It was anticipated that most of the students would be women and a large proportion of the men would be called up through conscription into the armed services.

The mood of the student writing in The Smith June edition for the summer of 1939 was sombre:

Editorial: ‘The male section of this community, and this concerns future members- up to the next war, will soon be tasting of conscription, a source of controversy and a savoury topic for the “politicians.” Military training and training received at College are poles apart. Whether or no the student character will change as a result remains to be seen’ (The Smith Summer 1939:6).

A poem by a student described as ‘Tex’ was ‘Written on the horrors of the Spanish Civil War’ which had ended in defeat for the Republicans and the pathetic scenes of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing over the border to France:

She plodded through the filth and slime,
The refs of the gutter,
In the footsteps of her Master.
Please (God?) she died, forgot her shame,
She was my love, my Spain !’ (ibid 10)

This cartoon in Goldsmiths College student magazine The Smith for Spring 1938 pokes gentle fun at a recent publication by staff of their book ‘Actuality in Education’ and references the ritual of compulsory morning assembly with the enjoyment some women students said they derived from observing men students doing physical education classes in the quadrangle in their distinctive track-suits with ‘G’ sewn onto their backs.

This cartoon in Goldsmiths’ College student magazine The Smith for Spring 1938 pokes gentle fun at a recent publication by staff of their book ‘Actuality in Education’ and references the ritual of compulsory morning assembly with the enjoyment some women students said they derived from observing men students doing physical education classes in the quadrangle in their distinctive tracksuits with ‘G’ sewn onto their backs.

There were more recruits and interest in the College’s Officer Training Corps or ‘OTC’.

Corporal A. Aldred reported on the ambition, later fully realised, to fire the British Army’s formidable Bren machine gun:

Parades this term have been devoted to general drill and instruction and competition shoots. The former, carried out under the auspices of Sgt. Oldknow of the Grenadiers, have been very well attended, owing to the fact that a former rumour of our having a Bren gun has at last taken shape […] Musketry Camp this year was well attended, and the shooting results were on the whole, good. The most outstanding feature of the more serious side of the Camps was that several members were able to fire a Bren gun. But the most impressive feature for the majority was the spectacle of trooping the colours (the Sgt’s pyjamas) before our more respectable and autocratic rivals, the lads of Battersea Polytechnic (ibid 33).

Advanced History group in front of the Blomfield building in 1938. Two women students in the front row playfully mock their supposed ‘Advanced’ status by chalking on a blackboard the deliberately misspelt ‘Are they intrested in us? Who did the werk? What ave they tawt us? We don’t know. We are DULL & BACKWARD’

Advanced History group in front of the Blomfield building just before the Munich crisis in 1938. Two women students in the front row playfully mock their supposed ‘Advanced’ status by chalking on a blackboard the deliberately misspelt ‘Are they intrested in us? Who did the werk? What ave they tawt us? We don’t know. We are DULL & BACKWARD’

The Borough Council that wanted to take over and asset strip the College

Even though the negotiations for the Nottingham transfer had been completed during the Spring term of 1939 when the German Nazi regime’s full invasion of Czechoslovakia and march into Prague trampled over and rendered invalid everything agreed at Munich, the practical challenge of such an operation was utterly daunting.

The rather predatory Deptford Borough Council had designs on the facilities and spaces that the College offered for War-time civil defence.

What was being left behind in 1939. Goldsmiths’ College before Deptford Council and the RAF moved in. The back field would be ploughed up. The upper field wrecked with building projects. The Great Hall became a temporary warehouse for ‘stuff’ that needed to go to Nottingham- books, cutlery, crockery, bedding and equipment.

What was being left behind in 1939. Goldsmiths’ College before Deptford Council and the RAF moved in. The back field would be ploughed up. The upper field wrecked with building projects. The Great Hall became a temporary warehouse for ‘stuff’ that needed to go to Nottingham- books, cutlery, crockery, bedding and equipment.

The College thought it had made an agreement for the Council’s use of the building and grounds to be temporary- a short let all over with by the end of the war.

By the time Warden Arthur Dean and 29 of his staff met in the College on the 13th of September, Goldsmiths had been transformed from a place for peace-time teaching and learning into what could only be described as part military camp and an emergency centre ready for heavy rescue and disaster relief.

The upper field was a building site.

The council was constructing a first aid centre and an air raid control centre for a large area of South East London- much of it underground.

Borough Council Air Raid Precautions and local canteen workers had moved in.

The intrusion, albeit for patriotic purposes, was clumsy and rather heavy-booted.

College furniture was effectively requisitioned and, in some instances, damaged.

Nothing had been finalised about rent and liability for the Council rates.

Another art student’s caricature of life in the College in New Cross in 1939: ‘In fact one wonders why they patronised Goldsmiths.’

Over the next two years, solicitors would be consulted, counsel’s opinion sought, legal letters exchanged, and litigation threatened.

Relations would deteriorate further during the War when it became apparent that the council had ambitions to take over the whole college site permanently.

The Royal Air Force had also made themselves at home.

They ploughed up the main playing field with the installation of a Barrage balloon unit and billeted themselves in the Sports Pavilion and five rooms in the main building.

Volunteers turning up to fill sandbags, 4th September 1939. Image: Daily Sketch

Volunteers turning up to fill sandbags, 4th September 1939. Image: Daily Sketch

Balloons were intended to defend against dive bombers flying at heights up to 5,000 feet, forcing them to fly higher and into the range of concentrated anti-aircraft fire.

Anti-aircraft guns could not traverse fast enough to attack aircraft flying at low altitude and high speed.

By the middle of 1940 there were about 500 balloons operating over the London area.

The first air raid of the Second World War 3rd September 1939. Later air raids and the real thing would soon wipe the smiles from the faces of these Londoners. Image: Daily Sketch

The first air raid warning of the Second World War 3rd September 1939. Later air raid warnings and the real thing would soon wipe the smiles from the faces of these Londoners. The boxes they’re holding up are personal gas masks which government hoped would be made and distributed for every person in the population. Image: Daily Sketch

Even the College Dining Room belonged to somebody else day and night as the main canteen for all of the Borough’s A.R.P. workers.

During the summer vacation, the School of Art in the Blomfield building had been shut and bolted less anymore troops of war were tempted to find a use for it.

The headmaster, Clive Gardiner, intended to stay in New Cross and meet the expected terror of aerial bombing and fire from the sky with paintbrush and pencil.

Goldsmiths’ College School of Art taught illustration, portraiture, and encouraged their students to do caricatures of staff and students. The ‘’ists’ of 1939 could be said to be very much around in 2020. The cartoons by ’Sloo’ apparently resembled recognisable students and staff in 1939.

To borrow some of the humour of the 1970s BBC comedy series Dad’s Army, the wonderful neo-Wren main building, designed by John Shaw, had become Air Raid Warden Hodges headquarters ringing to the cry after dusk of “Put that light out!”

As the Goldsmiths’ Warden Arthur Dean and his senior management team pondered all of the indignities of their home being so invaded, they must have wondered when and how Captain Mainwaring and the New Cross equivalent of the Warmington-on-sea Home Guard platoon would turn up.

Early casualties- the old Chapel tower and jobs

To make matters worse on a stormy morning 4th October 1939, the Barrage balloon unit lost control of one of their balloons.

Untethered, the large volume of hydrogen filled cloth became a battering ram in the sky and the first object to meet its destructive force in the high wind was the pretty tower of the old Royal Naval School chapel.

It smashed into the tower, swept away the ornamental dome, and a fair part of the roof of the building, for long used as an important lecture hall, was badly damaged.

The outbreak of war meant the end of University soccer. Goldsmiths student Eustace Burn (seated far left) had been selected for the University of London’s football team for the 1938-9 season.

This means Goldsmiths College was first a casualty of ‘friendly’ or RAF ‘balloon fire’ during World War Two and not the Luftwaffe.

War meant the end of student rag weeks when they would dress up and carnivalesque style raise money for charity

War ended student rag weeks when the students would dress up, and carnivalesque style, raise money for charity on the streets of Lewisham.

When the College wrote to the Air Ministry asking for compensation it was met with obfuscation and the kind of bureaucratic gobbledygook that civil servants are most likely to indulge in if they are not sure of surviving a world war:

The Air Ministry is not in a position to authorise payment against your claim, pending the promulgation of decisions to be operated by public departments generally, upon war losses procedure (College Delegacy 1939:5).

Job cuts- all visiting lecturers, the Associate Lecturers, of today dismissed

The Monday edition of the Daily Sketch after the declaration of war quoted the King’s message ‘Stand calm, firm and united!’

The King’s Message carried in the Daily Sketch 4th September 1939 ‘Stand calm, firm and united! Meet the challenge!'

The King’s Message carried in the Daily Sketch 4th September 1939 ‘Stand calm, firm and united! Meet the challenge!’

But the need for Goldsmiths’ College to leave New Cross was divisive and devastating for a substantial number of people who depended on teaching there as their main source of income.

This was particularly so for most of the Art School’s part-time teachers.

They were all made redundant.

A total of 60 visiting lecturers were sent letters on 4th September telling them that their ‘sessional appointments’ were being terminated.

F.J. Halnon was the encouraging teacher of sculpture and modelling who mentored the Greenwich fireman, George France, to enter his work into the Royal Academy exhibition in 1931.

Halnon had been at the Art School since 1898. He had modelled the bust of the College’s first Warden William Loring.

He was the equivalent of half-time and had been so for 41 years.

This was how most artists in Britain could afford to pay the rent and put food on the table.

On the radio he heard King George VI say: ‘The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield.’

Goldsmiths’ College Warden Arthur Edis Dean

Goldsmiths’ College Warden Arthur Edis Dean

A few days later he received a letter from the London County Council saying his battle would now be unemployment and destitution.

Warden Arthur Dean later told the College Delegacy:

The demand for Mr Halnon’s particular type of work has in recent years very much fallen off, and when the School of Art was partially re-opened the Headmaster was unable to include Mr Halnon in the very small teaching staff required. Mr Halnon’s domestic circumstances were distressing because of family illness, his income had almost entirely ceased, and he had been unable to obtain other work. He had applied to the Board of Education for a pension but, as he had never contributed to any pension scheme, the application has been refused. Moreover, he was still under 60 years of age (Delegacy 11 April 1940:7).

Arthur Dean had written to the Goldsmiths’ Company and the London County Council asking them to help, but by the time of the Delegacy meeting on 11th April 1940, there had been no reply or result.

Courses closed down and new appointments frozen

The War also meant the shutting down of the Special One-Year Course for the Training of Art Teachers and the Special Third Year Course of Physical Training for Men.

Thirty-two students had to be told that they had no courses to attend and they would have to find something else to do. All third-year courses for Certificated Teachers were having their funding withdrawn by the Board of Education (Delegacy 11 November 1939:2).

Anxiety and confusion near Downing Street. The outbreak of war meant disruption, insecurity and fear. Image: Daily Sketch.

Anxiety and confusion near Downing Street. The outbreak of war meant disruption, insecurity and fear. Image: Daily Sketch.

Goldsmiths’ had pioneered and specialised the concept and provision of training and educating teachers over three years rather than two; something that would be recognised in the 1960s and further transformation of the Teacher’s Certificate into a Bachelor of Education degree.

Two recent appointments for the posts of lecturer in Geography and Mathematics had to be told their jobs were unlikely to materialise.

Two long-standing lecturers in Latin and Physics were informed that they were now surplus to requirements.

The Daily Sketch would have a centre spread setting out the geography of war and the strength of the Allied Powers. But there would be no replacement geography lecturer to teach it.

The Daily Sketch would have a centre spread setting out the geography of war and the strength of the Allied Powers. But there would be no replacement geography lecturer at Goldsmiths’ College to teach it. Image: Daily Sketch 4th September 1939.

Support staff not going to Nottingham discovered that they had to find some other kind of war-time service.

The librarians were laid off.

While the College’s Chief Accountant, John Mansfield, stayed on in his office in the main building, his brother Alfred had to go part-time and make up his earnings doing national A.R.P service with Deptford Council.

The council had, however, agreed to continue the employment of all of ‘the house staff – porters, cleaners, stokers, kitchen workers, college workmen and electricians, and some laboratory assistants.

The Goldsmiths’ College Art Nouveau swimming pool in the summer of 1939. The summer sun streaming through the distinctive naval portal window. This is the last time it would ever be seen like this. By the autumn the water had been drained and turned off and the building prepared as an emergency mortuary for those expected to be killed in air raids.

The Artesian well to the College’s lovely Art Nouveau swimming pool was turned off and the empty pool converted into an emergency mortuary to accommodate the anticipated carnage of multiple casualties from Guernica style bombing raids.

Time to go, organising the evacuation, and infants first to Lady Norah’s

When Germany invaded Poland on the 1st September 1939, the College’s Nursery School was the first to be evacuated on that very day.

An original party of 15 children, Superintendent Miss Silcock and her assistant Audrey Burton, and seven voluntary helpers, six of them being mothers of the children, travelled to Lady Norah Howard’s House, Wappingthorn Manor, near Steyning in Sussex.

Wappingthorn Manor in 2020. Image: Google satellite

Wappingthorn Manor in the Sussex countryside in 2020. Image: Google satellite

The beautiful house and grounds were an enormous contrast to living in urban Deptford.

Two mothers and their children preferred to return to South East London by the end of November.

The remaining children were in the care of the Froebel trained Certificated teacher Miss E.M. Taylor on a salary of one pound ten shillings a week (Delegacy 11 November 1939:6).

The safety of younger children from expected heavy bombing of the cities was a national obsession.

Even though the wailing of the sirens on that sunny Sunday following the Prime Minister’s broadcast from Downing Street turned out to be a false alarm, millions of Londoners did take shelter.

Another air raid warning had sounded at 2.a.m. with the all clear signalled an hour later.

On the following day nerves were frayed and people were beginning to discover what it was like to have a daily existence with not enough sleep.

Stop press news. Sinking of the passenger liner SS Athenia- the day after War broke out. The United States also made it clear it would remain neutral.

And anyone reading their copy of the Daily Sketch would have read in the ‘Stop Press News’ that a passenger liner sailing to Canada with evacuees on board had been torpedoed.

The capital letters printed at right angles to the back-page text revealed: ‘Ministry of Information state S.S. Athenia with 1,400 passengers on board, has reported to Admiralty she had been torpedoed’ (Sketch 4 September 1939:24).

98 passengers and 19 crew had been killed in the sinking of this unarmed civilian vessel in the icy waters of the Atlantic, North West of Ireland.

Many of the victims were American and Canadian, including a ten-year-old-girl from Hamilton, Ontario.

It was the Second World War’s first war crime.

Diverting the students from New Cross to Nottingham

After the infants had gone, the College next had to contact all of its incoming and returning students to find out who was prepared to go to Nottingham.

Letters were sent out on 22nd of September.

369 out of 443 replied saying they were happy to do so.

There was not the expected fall-off in men as it had been decided not to call up 18 and 19-year-olds for service in the armed forces at this time.

Students had to make their own way there and were expected to arrive by early afternoon Tuesday 3rd of October using train services from St. Pancras and Marylebone.

It was proposed that all the women students could be accommodated at Hugh Stewart Hall in University College, Nottingham.

The men would have to be found lodgings.

All the students were advised to keep down the total amount of their personal belongings, but to bring with them a pocket torch showing a blue light.

Parting and saying goodbye September 1939. Image: Daily Sketch

Parting and saying goodbye September 1939. Image: Daily Sketch

As men were living out of lodgings, they were advised to bring their bicycles.

As there was a shortage of laundry, women students staying at Hugh Stewart Hall were told they must provide for themselves four sheets, three pillow slips, three face and bath towels, three table napkins with a ring and their regulation gas mask and box.

In these days before the National Health Service, students were advised that the cost of medical attendance in excess of four visits would have to be paid for and any students who had been in contact with infectious illness during the vacation must bring a medical certificate to show that they were free from infection’ (Delegacy 12 September 1939:3).

The contingency of war meant that men who had reached the age of 20 risked rude interruption of their studies and the conscripting despatch to the boot camp:

Men students who have already attained the age of 20 must realise that the earlier concessions about postponement of military training for students no longer apply. The Government have not yet made any clear pronouncement about this, but it is possible that such men may be called up before the end of the session or even before Christmas. The College is obviously unable to give any guarantee in this respect and cannot offer any further guidance as to individual decisions: but if men are not able to complete the 1939/40 session some refund of fees will be made (ibid).

As Goldsmiths’ College students made their way to Nottingham, the King and Queen stayed at Buckingham Palace and went out to meet Londoners on the streets.

As Goldsmiths’ College students made their way to Nottingham, the King and Queen stayed at Buckingham Palace and went out to meet Londoners on the streets. Image: Daily Sketch

Pantechnicons for the books, bedding and crockery

More than twelve pantechnicons were booked to transport the massive amounts of equipment of all kinds, including books being mustered in Deptford.

One thousand volumes were selected from the library and packed up in the Great Hall.

Around one thousand Goldsmiths’ College library books were piled up in the Great Hall for packing in boxes to go to University College, Nottingham where they were used in teaching for seven years. Given the Luftwaffe’s destruction of the library by incendiaries in 1940, their selection was an effective reprieve from becoming the collateral damage of war.

Around one thousand Goldsmiths’ College library books were piled up in the Great Hall for packing in boxes to go to University College, Nottingham where they were used in teaching for seven years. Given the Luftwaffe’s destruction of the library by incendiaries in 1940, their selection was an effective reprieve from becoming the collateral damage of war.

200 beds with bedding, followed by crockery and kitchen equipment from the Hostels filled the convoy of lorries assembling in Lewisham Way.

Goldsmiths’ lecturers travelling in advance of the students to manage the arrival of the transport lorries were pleasantly surprised at how quiet it was in Nottingham, where cleaner air and the very fine Hall of Residence in Hugh Stewart Hall were in stark contrast to the heavy and throbbing traffic on Lewisham Way, the myopic and suffocating London smogs, and the threadbare and gloomy main building first built in 1844.

No sooner had most of the staff arrived than two of them had to leave following mobilisation. The Physical Education lecturer and England Hockey international player, Percy Thomas (P.T.) Rothwell, had a commission as second lieutenant in the Tank Corps and the French lecturer Dr. Arnould was called up into the French Army.

The uncertain future

Warden Arthur Dean said September was:

…a strenuous month […] with much hurrying to and fro, vast correspondence with scattered staff and students and a great deal of physical labour over the transport of gear whenever we could lay hold of a pantechnicon’ (GCOSA Yearbook 1939-40:1-4).

In a letter to alumni he warned them that should they visit their old College in New Cross:

Warden Arthur Edis Dean- the head of Goldsmiths from 1927 to 1952

Warden Arthur Edis Dean- the head of Goldsmiths from 1927 to 1952

…you would hardly find the College exhilarating in its sandbagged and blacked-out condition. The R.A.F. occupy several rooms at the South Eastern corner and have a balloon in the grounds, and their burrowings and lorry-runnings have played havoc with the Lower Field. The Upper Field has been devastated to make a large underground A.R.P. Control Centre and large parts of the buildings are in occupation by the Deptford Borough Council for First Aid Post, and A.R.P. purposes. A day-and-night canteen for auxiliary workers in the Borough is in operation in the College Dining Hall and kitchen, where the lights have never been out since the war began’ (ibid). Arthur Dean ended his long letter with the rumination that ‘The future – particularly the immediate future – is obscure, but there will be a world to rebuild after the earthquake, and Goldsmiths’ craftsmen will have their share in that. Meanwhile, I hope we shall keep together in spirit – new Smiths’ and Old Smiths’ – and that all of you will make some effort to keep in touch (ibid).

Arthur Dean and his colleagues, the students and the alumni could be forgiven for fearing whether the College would ever be able to return to its home in New Cross.

And the horrors of a Second World War would inevitably mean that some Old Smiths’ would never be able to keep in touch when they became casualties of the conflict and new names to be carved on the College’s memorial.

Lives and futures were to be interrupted and terminated.

Future developments in British education were also paused abruptly.

The 1st September 1939 was supposed to have been the day when the school leaving age was raised to 15.

In December 1938, the findings on Secondary Education with special reference to Grammar and Technical High Schools, generally known as the Spens Report, set out a new policy of a clean break between primary and secondary education at the age of 11 and a half.

It reiterated that secondary schooling should be free to all, but also sufficiently diverse to serve a wide range of abilities.

It retrieved and hailed the late 19th Century recommendations of the Bryce Commission that there should be three types of secondary school, Grammar, Modern and Technical High.

The ideas and hopes were there, but there was no time.

And as Kenneth Richmond observed:

So far as education in this country was concerned, Hitler’s infernal genius could scarcely have chosen Der Tag with more devastating precision. The plans of Bryce and Spens went all agley. Chaos descended long before the bombs (Richmond 1945:122).

Then and now. What was different in 1939 and what was rather familiar now?

The distance in time is 81 years.

In 1939 Britain was the capital of an imperialist European power and sociologically it was class-ridden, sexist and racist.

Students hoping to be language teachers in 1939 and packing their suitcases for Nottingham would have probably bought the Daily Sketch as their newspaper of choice because it always had a page providing the news in French, English and German.

Page of the Daily Sketch 4th September 1939. The news in three languages daily.

Page of the Daily Sketch 4th September 1939. The news in three languages daily. The theme on this momentous day was ‘How we declared war on Germany.’

The Daily Sketch’s most popular strip cartoon was called Blondie and its representation of women would now be regarded as stereotypical and offensive.

Blondie strip cartoon by Chic Young. Image: Daily Sketch

Blondie by Chic Young. Image: Daily Sketch

When women joined in the civic emergency task of urgently building air raid defences, their filling of sandbags would be noticed.

‘Women have just taken up a new war-time fatigue’- presumably written by a male headline writer and sub-editor on the Daily Sketch.

‘Women have just taken up a new war-time fatigue’- Image: The Daily Sketch.

The threat and fear in September 1939 was the idea and reality of total war.

At the beginning, the British population expected terrible air-raids, mass casualties and the use by the Germans of gas and chemical warfare.

In 2020, the threat and the fear is caused by a pandemic virus and perhaps something historically last experienced during the Great Plague of 1665.

Image: Daily Sketch


In 1939 the outbreak of war would mean the closure of shops, business and services.


People would also try to leave London in addition to the large-scale evacuation of children to the countryside.

Many Londoners with second homes would skedaddle.

Large numbers of the aristocracy would depart for their mansions and country estates.

Many middle-class people with private incomes would become long-term residents in hotels in country villages, towns and seaside resorts.

Image: Daily Sketch

In 1939 the government introduced national identity cards and the developing impact of U-boat attacks on merchant shipping resulted in the introduction of rationing.

Image: Daily Sketch

Petrol was the first commodity to be controlled in 1939.

On 8th January 1940, bacon, butter and sugar were rationed.

This was followed by successive ration schemes for meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, lard, milk and canned and dried fruit.

There was recognition that farming and food yields needed to be substantially expanded.

There were plans to form a land army open to women to ensure the increase in food crops could be harvested.

On 4th September panic-buying was not so much for toilet-rolls, hand sanitiser and dried pasta, but sand for sandbags.

In 2020 there is a need for personal protection equipment on the part of health workers.

The presence of decontamination suits was not an unusual sight in 1939 since civil defence was preparing for First World War style gas attacks.

Image: Daily Sketch 4th September 1939.

One clear similarity between then and now is that police had to be deployed to enforce emergency powers.

In 1939, the police even had to deal with the welfare of the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop’s dog that he had left behind when he returned to Berlin after his time as the German Ambassador to Britain.

The closure of London schools meant children would be at home unless being part of the evacuation scheme.

How to amuse your children when at home was certainly a theme of newspaper feature writing.

Image: Daily Sketch 4th September 1939

What was different? Apart from newspapers that substantially slimmed down to two or three folded sheets, there was only one radio station- the BBC.

The very limited schedule of hourly news bulletins, records and an excess of Sandy McPherson playing the electric theatre organ generated so much boredom, exasperation, and protest that both the BBC and the government would realise the general public needed entertainment and culture in these difficult times.

Daily Sketch 4th September 1939.

There was no television, since its early years of broadcasting from Alexandra Palace was shut down.

Cinema and newsreels would prove popular, but there were no internet services, online platforms and smartphones.

No digital video-conferencing.

Telephones yes.

A majority of the population smoked.

Aspro was the painkiller of choice; not paracetamol.

And there were many advertisements for remedies for flatulence, indigestion, and irregular bowel movements.

‘CICFA for sixpence’ did not last, but the product name was an acronym for ‘Conquers indigestion, constipation, flatulence and acidity.

‘Chilprufe’ or pure wool underwear for children would not win any marketing awards.

In 1939, scratchy, woolly underwear seemed all the rage.

Goldsmiths emptied to be re-constituted through the generous hosting of University College Nottingham.

The teaching largely remained the same. Life continued to be face to face and social.

In 2020, the retreat and dispersal physically is into the home and the digital realm.

The controls and rules of the emergency are counter-social and anti-social in the physical sphere.

In 2020 we are connected to work in multimedia cyberspace.

The switch from operating in a physical location to an online one had to be achieved in seven days.

In 1939, the College’s senior management had six months, April to September, to plan the move to the refuge of a provincial university college in Nottinghamshire.

The Second World War would fundamentally change British society after its outbreak in 1939.

The fascinating question in 2020 is whether the COVID-19 pandemic will fundamentally transform the very nature of social existence, the distance between work and home space, and the culture of Higher Educational teaching and learning.

This is the first draft of another chapter in the history of Goldsmiths, University of London.

Coming next- Part Two: Exile


Daily Sketch newspaper, 4th September 1939.

Goldsmiths’ College Old Student Association (GCOSA) Yearbook 1939-40.

Goldsmiths’ College Delegacy minutes for 1939

Goldsmiths’ College Delegacy minutes for 1940

Richmond, Kenneth W., (1945) Education In England, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books

The Smith Magazine, Goldsmiths’ College, Summer 1939.

A Letter To My English Friends- the political dignity of an Indian student at Goldsmiths in 1933

Shiba Chatterjee seated front row fifth from the right- the only non-white and overseas student at Goldsmiths’ College in 1932-33. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

Shiba Prasad Chatterjee was the only non-white- what we would now describe as BAME- student at Goldsmiths’ College in 1933.

As the only Indian student in the college, he was studying for a one year teaching certificate in a society that was deeply racist and in a country that was Imperialist and refusing to grant his own people either home rule or independence.

The cover of the first edition of Katherine Mayo’s ‘Mother India’ first published in USA in 1927 and Great Britain in 1928 and which purported to reveal  ‘for the first time […] the truth about the sex life, child marriages, hygiene, cruelty, religious customs, of one-sixth of the world’s population: India’s 350,000,000 people.’

Equally pernicious at the time for Shiba Chatterjee, was the popularity and wide discussion of a book by the American historian, Katherine Mayo, called Mother India which insulted, denigrated, patronised and humiliated Indian society, culture and religion.

It was a best seller, widely quoted and the authority and talisman for all those British Imperialists who believed that Indians were not capable and fit to run their own affairs.

That was the majority of the Great British population, the position of most of the British press and leading and influential politicians such as Winston Churchill.

There had even been a United Empire Party spawned and sponsored by the most powerful newspaper barons, Lords Beaverbook and Rothermere, that sought to break into British mainstream politics.

It had been defeated in 1931 when the Prime Minister of the National Government, Stanley Baldwin, condemned the press barons for wanting: ‘power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages,’ using their newspapers as ‘engines of propaganda for the constantly changing policies, desires, personal wishes, personal likes and dislikes,’ and distorting the fortunes of national leaders ‘without being willing to bear their burdens.’

At the same time the leader of the Indian Congress movement seeking self-determination for 350 million Indians, Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi, had been jailed for the eighth time.

The official student record for Mr. Chatterjee contains very limited though impressive information about his background.

He was born in March 1903 and came to Goldsmiths with a Master of Science degree in Geology from the University of Benares in India.

At the age of 29, he was therefore much older than the other British students attending the college.

While studying at the College he lodged with a Mrs Fenlon at 37 Breakspears Road in Brockley, SE4.

Shiba Chatterjee’s student record. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

Houses in this conservation area are currently valued at nearly £1 million with two bedroom flats often selling for around £500,000.

He was sponsored during his stay in London by a Mrs Riccobena of 5 Oakley Square N.W.1.

He gained his teaching certificate recognised by the British Board of Education in July 1933.

Nothing more is known about him. In the only other College archive document his presence on the one year teaching certificate is indicated not in type-written script, but by pencilled handwriting.

It is as though the recording of his presence was something of an afterthought.

The traces of Shiba Chatterjee’s existence in the College records may be very slight, but the power and presence of his political and cultural identity is on a giant scale with an article he wrote for the Goldsmiths’ magazine Smiths in the year of his graduation.

The article titled ‘To My English Friends’ represents one of the most heartfelt and dignified appeals for political and cultural understanding it would be possible to find throughout all the archives held at Goldsmiths.

It has the compassion, courtesy, and imperative of Mahatma Gandhi, of whom he was undoubtedly a follower and admirer.

To My English Friends

The only known picture of Shiba Chatterjee, bespectacled, studious, and older than his contemporaries (He was 29) wearing the Oxford bags fashionable at that time, but not the striped College blazer so sportingly worn by the European students around him. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

India has many problems to-day touching every phase of life, and her best brains are actively engaged in solving them. India is fully conscious that her contribution in the modern age to humanity is long overdue, and is directing her whole energy and resources to enable her children to stand as equals alongside other nations of the world with a view to making original contribution befitting her past traditions. India had a glorious past. Indian civilisation and culture are not to be unearthed as prehistoric fossils. They are still throbbing with life. India gave birth to two world religions- Hinduism and Buddhism, and it is claimed Muhammed, the prophet, founder of the Islamic religion had his inspiration from the Indian savants of that age. India is essentially a religious country, religion is her life blood. Millions of souls belonging to different countries such as China and Japan, Burma and Siam, Tibet and Ceylon look to India as their spiritual home. Without deprecating in the least the wonderful work done by the Christian missionaries in my country, the Indian takes it to be an irony of fate when he sees a Christian missionary engaged in proselytising work in India showing “light to the heathens.”

Workshop strikers preventing people from entering and leaving their place of work in support of  The Indian National Congress movement led by Mahatma Gandhi that sought independence from British rule in 1930. Public Domain.

Gandhi at Dandi, South Gujarat, picking salt on the beach at the end of the Salt March, 5 April 1930. Behind him is his second son Manilal Gandhi and Mithuben Petit. Image: Public domain.

An unsympathetic critic may find fault everywhere in India. If he is an important personage he will rush down to Calcutta, the commercial capital, from Bombay, the main gateway by the imperial mail train, thereby covering a distance of more than one thousand miles in about twenty-four hours time, his quick brain all the time analysing and storing up with what glimpses of the Indian life through a carriage-window of the moving train his powerful eyes catch; he will stay for about a week at Calcutta in a palace as the guest of the Governor of the Province of Bengal, attend a dance and race course; then he will proceed to Delhi, the political capital of India by the fastest train, through the densest part of India, will stay another week at Delhi in the viceregal palace and will keep himself engaged in the same sort of activities. He will, of course, not forget to visit some Indian states where he will be entertained by Rajas and Maharajas, Nawabs and Chiefs, and will take part in shooting the wild animals, tigers and elephants, bears and lions and hordes of others.

He need not stay in India for more than a month, as by this time he will gain sufficient knowledge of a country inhabited by 350,000,000 souls, and in size as big as Europe minus Russia; and then, when he reaches home he invariably comes out with a book indicting the whole Indian people and justifying their perpetual subjections. What a tremendous wave of indignation swept over the length and breadth of our country on the recent publication of a sensational book about India !

Gandhi, front row, far right with the stretcher-bearers of the Indian Ambulance Corps during the Boer War. During the same conflict the first Warden of Goldsmiths’ College, William Loring was a decorated soldier with The Scottish Horse Regiment. Image Public Domain.


Mahatma Gandhi characterised it as a “drain inspector’s report.” When a powerful writer abuses his power the result is disastrous for the whole of mankind; his writings have a tremendous effect on the minds of the intelligentsia of his country, and it is how one nation begins to hate another, establishing the truth of the statement, “The nation we hate is the nation we know not.” To illuminate my point I may be pardoned if I refer to an incident which may be shocking to my friends here, to know. The English men and women at one time were made to believe that the French were no better than apes, and when the French prisoners from the Napoleonic wars were taken in the streets of London, some of the onlookers had seriously lifted the greatcoats of the French soldiers from behind to discover their tails. No further comment is necessary.


The world is changing. The interdependence of nations is increasing rapidly and the international co-operation is the need of the day. The progressive thinkers have realised that the national freedom is the indispensable pre-requisite of international co-operation. India is struggling to win her birth-right and paradoxical as it may sound, the oppressed do not bear any ill-feeling towards the oppressor due to the religious mentality of the masses, which is awakened after ageing stupor by the magical wand of Mahatma Gandhi, the politico-religious leader of India. India needs sympathy from other nations politically advanced, and entreats them, specially English women and men of the present generation, to keep an open mind and not to be influenced by the writings and speeches of the unsympathetic critics.


Shiba Chatterjee’s brilliant denunciation of Katherine Mayo’s book exposed the shallowness of an alleged expert presuming to write with authority on the basis of holiday or vacation knowledge of India that she had experienced through the lens of the rich and powerful.

In reality, it seems probable she was fed large amounts of slanted data and information by British Indian propagandists.

Gandhi had actually said of her book that:

… it is the report of a drain inspector sent out with the one purpose of opening and examining the drains of the country to be reported upon, or to give a graphic description of the stench exuded by the opened drains. If Miss Mayo had confessed that she had come to India merely to open out and examine the drains of India, there would perhaps be little to complain about her compilation. But she declared her abominable and patently wrong conclusion with a certain amount of triumph: “the drains are India.”

In 1933 the British media distorted and suppressed the true picture of the growing independence movement in India.

In the news-reel cinemas, people in Britain would be told of the first telephone connected service between London and India in patrician terms. It was not the world that had gotten smaller, but the British Empire in the short Pathé report “Hello India!” All European voices and faces are present, and not an Indian individual in sight or sound.

In reality India was a country of protest, resistance and agitation.

There had been extensive prosecutions of Communists for treason.

Choudhary Rahmat Ali published his pamphlet in 1933 advocating a state of ‘Pakistan’ in the Indus Valley, with other names given to Muslim-majority areas elsewhere in India.

This would be taken up by Muhammad Ali Jinha’s All-India Muslim League and become a foundation for the future establishment of the Muslim state of Pakistan.

The British colonial authorities had used the police to shut down an Indian National Congress meeting in Calcutta.

On the 8th May 1933, Mahatma Gandhi had begun a three week hunger strike because of the mistreatment of the lower castes.

On the 1st August, just days after Mr Chatterjee’s graduation, Gandhi had been re-arrested again.

But wherever Shiba Chatterjee and his Indian compatriots in London looked, there would be the ever-present distortion of mainstream media for the purposes of imperialist propaganda.

Pathé short filmic representation of ‘The Country That Is India’ in 1933 was simply another manifestation of the pro-imperialist, Indophobic and racist prejudices contained in Mayo’s ‘drain-inspector’s’ colonialist tract:

86 years later, the integrity and grace of Shiba Chatterjee’s generous address to his English friends at Goldsmiths’ College deserves amplification, recognition and respect.

He may have had sympathetic and supportive friends among his fellow students.

An edition of the College magazine 1931 contains an account from three trainee teachers who decided to accompany Ghandi on his early morning walks in the East End when he was in Britain for talks on home-rule.

But the historical truth about University of London, Goldsmiths’ College during the 1930s is that it was a higher educational institution that perpetuated and served the racist and colonial purposes of the British Empire.

Many students were trained to pursue teaching careers in colonies that subjugated, exploited and denigrated the human rights of people throughout the world.

It also needs to be acknowledged that recent historical investigation has highlighted evidence that during the twenty one years of Gandhi’s time in South Africa in the midst of British imperialism and colonialism he was corrupted by and contaminated with hierarchical racism in his recorded attitudes to Africans.

The South African academics Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed in the award-winning 2015 study The South African Gandhi Stretcher-Bearer of Empire, published by Stanford University Press, argued that Gandhi ‘throughout his stay on African soil, stayed true to Empire while showing a disdain for Africans. For Gandhi, whites and Indians were bonded by an Aryan bloodline that had no place for the African. Gandhi’s racism was matched by his class prejudice towards the Indian indentured.’

Shiba Prasad Chatterjee was a highly educated Indian scholar, writer and independent thinker who, on his own expense, travelled thousands of miles from his home in India to study in New Cross and acquire a British professional teaching qualification.

Perhaps he gave back to the College and British society much more than he was ever given. He left a message for future generations that is as valid and enduring now as it was in 1933:

The world is changing. The interdependence of nations is increasing rapidly and the international co-operation is the need of the day.


Forthcoming ‘That’s So Goldsmiths’- an investigative history of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.

Postcards from Goldsmiths- the equivalent of emails or instagrams in early 20th century Britain

A composite of 13 images of Goldsmiths’ College on one postcard in November 1914

It’s the first autumn going into the winter of the Great War in 1914.

A first year 18-year-old student at Goldsmiths’ College called Wilfrid sends a composite postcard with 13 different images to a Mrs Hinchliff in South Yorkshire.

We know not whether she was a guardian, family friend, or somebody more intimate.

She may have been Wilfrid’s mentor and former teacher who helped him believe in himself and encouraged him to pursue Higher Education and a career in teaching.

The tone begins formally “Dear Mrs Hinchliff […] This card gives you some idea of the College.’

Wilfrid’s postcard ends with ‘with best wishes, and kindest regards’ (and) ‘yours very sincerely.’

What is there to read in this early twentieth century equivalent of an email or instagram sent to a married woman with the address of a small colliery worked by about 30 miners, near Sheffield, which is then diverted by the Post Office to a hotel?

What would become of Wilfrid in the ghastly carnage of the First World War that gobbled up young volunteers and conscripts like him in what became industrialised slaughter?

A contemporary satellite image of Hoylandswaine in Yorkshire where ‘Mrs Hinchliff’ lived. But the colliery ‘Guider Bottom’ no longer exists.

When he arrived in 1914 this group of Seniors was celebrating the completion of their two year teaching certificate courses in the Quad, which at that time was a popular meeting place for all students during lunch-time and breaks between lectures.

This photograph is so evocative because it is still possible to look out into the corner of the quadrangle and imagine them at that exact spot 105 years ago.

In shifting attention from one smiling and grinning countenance to the next the connection with past lives, personalities and all that constitutes a human being becomes so resonant.

How many of these happy young men would survive their service and experiences between 1914 to 1918?

How many would insist on becoming Conscientious Objectors and face prejudice, derision, and the punishment of military tribunals refusing to recognise and respect their pacifist beliefs?

“Jolly Good Fellows As You May See” the class of 1912-14 graduating and celebrating in the Summer of that year- only to have their teaching careers interrupted by the outbreak of global war a few weeks later. Just how many of these smiling and happy faces did not live to see the end of the First World War?

If Wilfrid was beginning his first term in 1914, the mobilising of the College’s officer training corps (OTC) would have been ever-present as is evident in this cartoon in the College’s magazine Goldsmithian.

“Smiths as Tommies”- Cartoon of increasing encroachment of army life to new students to Goldsmiths like Wilfrid in the autumn of 1914.

In the editorial for the college magazine published only a few weeks after Wilfrid sent his postcard to Mrs Hinchliff, he would have read this sobering editorial:

Smiths! We are at the end of the first term of yet another year- possibly the most momentous in our Island story. We are anticipating the vacation which should usher in a season of Peace and Goodwill. Alas! our ears are deafened by the booming of cannon, the clash of steel, and the lamentation of war-stricken nations. Many old familiar faces have left us to answer their country’s call:- we think with pride of the Warden who heads our list.

The Warden, Captain William Loring,  who welcomed Wilfrid and all the other first year students that autumn, would never return to the College.

He died after being shot by a Turkish sniper at Gallipoli one year later.

Another leading member of staff named above the editorial, William Thomas Young, a popular Lecturer in English, would be killed in artillery fire on the Western Front in 1917.

The pictorial side of Wilfrid’s postcard provides an evocative composite slideshow of what Goldsmiths looked like before the First World War. The sequence of 13 photographs in columns of four, three, three and three (left to right) can also be seen as the equivalent of an instant online Youtube video.

First Column

There are four photographs.

Beginning with a view of the outside of the College main building before 1914 from where Costa Coffee is now situated.

Then the college green looking at the back of the current Richard Hoggart main building with male and female students in Edwardian dress. The viewpoint position is from the current path just before it gets to the tennis courts.

The tennis courts pre 1914 were situated in the quadrangle currently between the main refectory and lecture-rooms off Kingsway corridor.

The fourth image is the Great Hall with the magnificent organ in its original Art Nouveau design and the dais dressed in flowers for some ceremonial occasion and the floor crammed with chairs.

The viewpoint is from the doors entering from what is now reception.

Second Column

The college library in those days was situated on the second and third floor of the main building, mainly to the north eastern side parallel to what is now Dixon Road.

The photograph depicts a woman student seated poring over books and a man standing somewhat furtively behind watching her.

Is he a librarian about to tell her of a book he’s found for her, or an admirer who wants to invite her to tea?

What is described as the Dining Room, wonderfully laid out with white table cloths on the trestle tables, carafes of water, vases of flowers and cutlery is the current Cafe 35 and the viewpoint is from where Chartwells staff would see you ordering your cappuccino and croissant.

The far wall seen there would now extend beyond the walls of one or two rooms partitioned in the current structure, and what you see as a huge carved coat of arms has been replaced in 2019 with Josh Drewe’s mural on the history of Goldsmiths and its surrounding community.

The outline of the carving looks like Goldsmiths’ College coat of arms with the Latin motto Justitia Virtutum Regina– ‘Justice Is Queen of Virtues’ seen below.

Recollecting the Goldsmiths’ motto of all those years ago seems so relevant in 2019 when the University has inaugurated its first law degree.

Goldsmiths’ College coat of arms with the motto ‘Justitia Virtutum Regina- Justice Is Queen Of Virtues.

The third bottom image in this column is a picture of ‘an art room’ and looks like one of the current ground floor lecture-rooms at the back of the current main building perhaps with windows looking out onto the back field (now called the Green).

Third Column

At the top we begin with ‘The Nature Study Room’- now likely to be another current lecture-room probably on the ground floor with tall windows looking out onto the back field.

No signs of wild-life in the picture, or fauna and flora exhibits.  Perhaps nature was more of a theoretical consideration.

The following images in this column are quaintly described as the Women’s Common Room and the Men’s Common Room.

It is possible to detect how they have been gender-valued in interior design and furniture.

In the men’s room there is a huge snooker/billiard table, and there are pictures on the wall seemingly of sports teams etc. The chairs are solid and hard-backed.

There are rugs on the floor perhaps ready to accommodate an impromptu wrestling match to settle old scores.

In contrast the women’s room is full of soft furnishing, table covers, cut flowers in vases, and the pictures on the walls seemingly portraits of high women achievers in staff and student faculty from the past.

Some of the chairs are soft cane-backed.

Fourth Column

We start with the gymnasium then situated where the current main College refectory is.

It’s full of large gymnastic and exercise contraptions built to stretch the human frame to breaking point and there’s a burly ‘tough guy’ with moustache apparently dressed in fencing regalia.

Next something labelled as ‘The Museum’- full of models and objets-d’art.

As a historian one wonders what treasures lay on the tables and shelves here and regret the fact that Goldsmiths no longer has any museum.

Though it could be argued that Special Collections in the Library is certainly its equivalent with its regularly held exhibitions from the archives and unique holdings such as the Women’s Art Library, Goldsmiths Textile Collection and Constance Howard Gallery, and the Daphne Oram Archive.

The last image in Column Four is of the College’s beautiful Art Nouveau swimming pool largely constructed out of wood and fine carpentry.

It was created for the Recreative and Technical Institute from 1891 and sadly was burned down during World War Two and never reconstructed.

Its location was behind the George Wood theatre and Drama and Performance suite of buildings.

It was situated at right angles to the main building and would have been accessed via the main corridor.

What’s so lovely about the photograph is the sun streaming through the huge naval style port-hole window, and the spectators leaning over the balconies.

The changing cubicles can be seen running on either side of the pool.

Jim Bartlett’s postcard sent to his father in 1928 is a picture of the College most probably from 1905.

In November 1928, trainee teacher Jim Bartlett is just settling in to his studies and life at Goldsmiths’ College.

He’s full of joie-de-vivre and writes to his father Henry, a successful builder with an impressive family home at 1 East End Villas, Birchington, in Kent:

Bravo bravissimo! The age of miracles has not passed! Have you found a place for it yet? Or will some ancient piece of furniture have to be shifted to make room? I think this view is a bit antique. What price the road sweeper! Yours Jim.

Jim has clearly found and sent something to his Dad- a birthday present perhaps. It sounds like a modern piece of furniture. What a charming term of affection for his father ‘bravissimo!’ which in Italian is the highest form of praise.

It is what one might say to a singer who has just completed a fantastic performance in an opera.

The picture of Goldsmiths’ College certainly belongs to how it looked more than 20 years previously- most likely 1905 or 1906.

The small children are in early Edwardian clothes- young children were dressed in the fashion of adults at that time.

There was no such thing as children’s fashion.

And the ‘road sweeper’ identified by Jim is the legendary Goldsmiths’ College ‘beggar’ nick-named ‘Cripps’ by students in 1910 because his moustache reminded them of the notorious wife-killer Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen put on trial for murder at the Central Criminal Court, found guilty and executed.

‘Cripps’ had a road sweeping pitch there for decades stretching way back to the Victorian times of the Goldsmiths’ Company’s Recreative and Technical Institute, and the Royal Naval School before that.

It may be a short postcard, but the writing is full of ebullient character, zest and charm: ‘Please thank Mum for cake and shoes. Both very acceptable. Hope you enjoyed Whist drive.’

What more can a new student arriving at Goldsmiths ever want, even in 2019, but cake and shoes from his mum!

In 1928, all women would be given the equal franchise in the General Election to follow.

With private motoring booming, deaths on the road through traffic accidents are soaring.

Well over 5,000 people have been killed in just one year. The Austin Seven is the car most people can afford at £225.

The Oxford Morris Minor car has been launched in August 1928.

The Highway Code would not be published until 1931, and driving tests not introduced until 1935.

Everton’s centre forward Dixie Dean has scored a record 60 goals in the football season ending, and artists Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth stage their first London exhibitions.

It would be the year that Professor Alexander Fleming at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington would discover the potential antibiotic properties of the blue mould penicillium notatum.

This is what Goldsmiths’ College looked like from the air in 1928. There are no buildings around the back field, nor indeed the upper field which is the site of the present Professor Stuart Hall and Lockwood buildings. The wonderful Art Nouveau swimming pool can be seen behind the George Wood Theatre, which in the 1920s still had the original Chapel tower and parallel with the bend in Dixon Road.

Goldsmiths trainee teacher Jim Bartlett was born in 1910. The 1911 census reveals that he had four older sisters.

In 1928 his father was 63 years old, most likely retired- hence his enjoyment of card games such as Whist Drive,  and his mother Christiana 58 years old.

Whist is not as popular as it was in the 1920s.

An alternative to Bridge, three of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories feature the card game.

In The Adventure of the Empty House, Ronald Adair plays whist at one of his clubs shortly before he is murdered.

In The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot, Brenda Tregennis plays whist with her brothers George, Mortimer, and Owen shortly before she is murdered.

In The Red-Headed League, the banker Mr. Merryweather complains that he is missing his regular rubber of whist in order to help Holmes catch a bank robber.

There is no evidence Henry had any involvement in any Sherlock Holmes style mystery murder, or that he was a round the world traveller such as Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg, a frequent winner at Whist when not quietly reading newspapers.

1911 census showing the Bartlett family living in Birchington. Jim is the youngest at 11 months old.

By the time of the Second World War, Jim was working as an elementary school teacher living in lodgings in Margate.

The 1939 national register taken in September after the outbreak of the Second World War. Jim Bartlett is well into his teaching career with a post at an Elementary School in Margate where he is living in lodgings in the seaside town.

Jim would die in Brighton in 1986. It would appear he was single and had no children.

The house in the Kent village of Birchington, where he was brought up with sisters Joyce (3 years older), Bessie (12 years older), Lily (14 years older), and Christiana (same forename as his mother and 15 years older), no longer exists.

This postcard sent to Miss Sally D. Hart by her grandmother in 1949 is clearly a picture of Goldsmiths’ College in the 1930s.

It’s June 1949 and a grandmother with shaky handwriting, presumably because of her age, writes to 18 year old Sally D. Hart who we can also assume has just been awarded a place at Goldsmiths’ College.

Grandma has been checking out the place.

The postcard is definitely a picture of the front of the College between the wars and doesn’t show how the Luftwaffe and flying bombs smashed and battered the Victorian buildings that have been repaired using emergency funds and building materials.

By now the swimming pool is no more. The tall chimney stacks have gone. The front gate columns are scarred with shrapnel, but the trams are still running down Lewisham Way.

Dear Sally, What a beautiful place. Make the most of it. Mum and Dad are doing alright.  Lovely weather and I am O.K. Love Grandma X X X

The chain-smoking King George VI is still on the throne.

Some war-time rationing is still in place though in 1949 it was ending for chocolate, sweets and clothing, and unlike her predecessors, Jim in 1928 and Wilfrid in 1914, Sally won’t have to worry about having to pay medical bills.

The National Health Service has been operational for a year.

The education system divides state educated children by the eleven-plus examination giving a minority the privilege of going to grammar school and getting middle-class professional jobs, and the rest going to secondary modern and technical schools where their futures would be mainly in trade, factories and industry.

The first launderette has opened in Bayswater.

Sally is presumably having a holiday at the Robin Hill Hotel in Torquay, which still exists to this day.

The Robin Hill Hotel in Torquay in 2019- just as it most probably looked in 1949 where Sally D. Hart was either staying on vacation or working at a summer job.

It’s also possible that her family owned it, or it was where she was working at a summer job before beginning her studies at Goldsmiths in September.

Sally would be joining Britain’s largest teacher training college with an art school that would shortly be nurturing the talents of the great art faker Tom Keating, and the brilliant designer Mary Quant.

In 1949 the Art students had been busy caricaturing their lecturers.

An art student called ‘Joyce’ caricatured College lecturers for the Magazine ‘Smiths in 1949.

The Warden, Arthur Edis Dean has been running the College since 1927.

He led the war-time evacuation to Nottingham between 1939 and 1946 and it is has only been three years since Goldsmiths has literally risen from the ashes and revived teaching and learning in New Cross.

When Warden Dean was Sally’s age he had already graduated from Durham University. He was an intellectual child prodigy.

Arthur Edis Dean, Warden of Goldsmiths’ College 1927 to 1950.

And so we have three postcard snapshots of the lives of three students from the past and the charming connections with their family and friends.

Sally Hart’s grandmother in 1949 having a look round the College, and clearly bursting with pride over the fact that her granddaughter has won a place to study there.

Jim Bartlett sending thanks for the cake and shoes from his mother in 1928, and hoping his ‘Bravissimo’ Dad, Henry, has had an enjoyable Whist Drive.

And an apprehensive and very polite Wilfrid in November 1914 sending Mrs Hinchliff a composite postcard giving thirteen pictures of Goldsmiths College just as the Great War is brewing up into a furnace of destruction, grief and despair.

Nowadays these messages, in all likelihood, would be by Instagram, Twitter, email, Facebook and LinkedIn.

But the sentiments, love and care by and for students at Goldsmiths, in all the twists and turmoils of an often troubling world, are more than likely to be the same.


Forthcoming ‘That’s So Goldsmiths’- an investigative history of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.

Goldsmiths and MI5- Trying to access the archives

The headquarters of the current Security Service, MI5 at Thames House on the north side of the River Thames. Image: MI5 Thames House Image Gallery, (OGL v1.0).

The Goldsmiths’ History Project becomes the subject of a freedom of information battle this week.

The Information Tribunal First Tier in London is hearing an appeal by Goldsmiths’ historian Professor Tim Crook on his application for MI5/Security Service files kept on staff and students before 1989.

This will take place in Court 7 Field House, 15-25 Breams Buildings
London, EC4A 1DZ starting on Wednesday 10th July at 10 a.m.

The Tribunal has allocated two days to the case.

There are significant events in the history of the staff and students where the perception of political extremism and actions may well have attracted the engagement and interest of the Security Service otherwise known as MI5.

The Communist cell forcing a Warden’s resignation

Cover of “Golden Sunrise’- Sir Ross Chesterman’s memoirs.

In his candid memoir ‘Golden Sunrise: The Story of Goldsmiths’ College 1953-1974’, the fifth Warden (or Chief Executive), Sir Ross Chesterman, wrote that on his appointment in 1953 he learned that:

…the Communist Party had succeeded in establishing a cell in the College – a collection of about half a dozen men and women dedicated to the communist cause, and prepared to further their way by all kinds of obstructive actions. […] The communists were so well organized that they had managed to dislodge the previous Warden who, realizing that he was defeated, had resigned his post, taken Holy Orders and had gone to run a small North of English Church College.

He reported that Metropolitan Police Special Branch were visitors to the College ‘collecting information about left-wing activities.’

It is a fact that the previous Warden, Mr. Aubrey Price, did resign one year before the completion of his first four-year term.

His resignation was received with great regret by the University of London Goldsmiths’ College Delegacy.

Although submitted to the agenda and identified as part of the minutes of the relevant Delegacy meeting, his resignation letter has been removed from the College archives.

The student union President who went to Moscow

Sir Ross Chesterman, Warden of Goldsmiths’ College 1953 to 1974. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

Sir Ross Chesterman further writes about a President of the Goldsmiths’ College Student Union in 1952-3 ‘with very pronounced left-wing views’ who embezzled several hundred pounds from student union funds to finance his expensive trips to Moscow, Russia and other Soviet controlled Warsaw Pact countries.

In a remarkable account Sir Ross describes choosing not to prosecute the Student Union President in return for his paying off the debt over many years.

The individual given the pseudonym ‘Fred Soames’ was in all probability the late Clifford Peter Faith whose visits to Russia and Moscow led to regular cultural and educational delegations visiting the College during the height of the Cold War and being awarded the special Soviet emblem of ‘the best college in English Universities.’

Clifford Peter Faith’s report on a violent incident he witnessed behind the Iron Curtain for Goldsmiths’ College magazine in 1953.

Extremist students supporting fascism and terrorism

The College archives disclose texts and articles that caused distress and consternation at the time of their publication.

Virulently anti-Semitic and misogynistic propaganda was signed off as ‘The Fascist’ during the early 1930s.

Another student gave himself the moniker ‘Nationalist’ when justifying the deadly terrorist bombing of Coventry and other places in Britain in 1939 and early 1940.

CND, Vietnam and the 1960s

College students and staff played key roles during the 1960s in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the violent protests against the Vietnam War in London in 1968.

Bertrand Russell (centre), alongside his wife Edith and Ralph Schoenman with Michael Randle (second left), leading an anti-nuclear march in London, 18 February 1961. Image: Tony French CC BY-SA 3.0

The Student weekly newspaper Smith News ran the story in 1969 that Metropolitan Police Special Branch had been given access to student files. The decision and debate arising were highly controversial matters for both students and staff.

Government agents posing as students

The current Mitting Inquiry into undercover policing has received evidence from a Goldsmiths trainee teacher student at the College between 1972 and 1975 in which she sets out her experience of being deceived into an intimate relationship by a police officer posing as a student activist.

While the connection here is with the activities of the police ‘Special Demonstration Squad’ the statement of the anonymized ‘Mary’ raises the acute public interest issue of disproportionate methods being deployed by the state to gather information on activities which are on the borderline of political activism and political subversion and a threat to national security.

What are the connections with MI5 and files collected and kept on Goldsmiths student and staff activists?

A further statement to the inquiry by Tamsin Allen of Bindmans LLP contains multiple references to another political activist student at the College during this time, Richard Chessum, making allegations about the same undercover police officer with the cover name Rick Gibson having intimate relationships with other Goldsmiths’ College students while investigating political activism.

Goldsmiths- the happy home of the Communist Party of Great Britain?

University of London, Goldsmiths’ College seems to have been the spiritual and ideological home of the London District of the Communist Party of Great Britain- the largest and most influential part of the CPGB.

The annual congresses of the London District were regularly held at Goldsmiths by the invitation of the student union throughout the twentieth century up until at least 1982.

Karl Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetery. Image: Paasikivi. CC BY-SA 4.0

This was at a time when the Communist Party of Great Britain had always been the subject of surveillance by the Security Service.

The CPGB was a political organisation committed to supporting revolutionary action to achieve its political objectives and the recipient of financial support from the Soviet Union.

The College archives reveal that in 1953, the College had the distinction of hosting both a left-wing Socialist Society and a separate Communist Society run by the students and supported by members of staff.

The legal issues

Professor Crook’s appeal is being opposed by both the Office of the Information Commissioner and the Home Office.

They argue that the Security Service/MI5 is not subject to FOI law and any information relating to security bodies has absolute exemption status on a neither confirm/nor deny basis.

They also say the Home Office has never been responsible for MI5 archives and information.

In short as they did not hold the information requested, the appeal must fail.

Professor Crook’s position is that MI5 was the responsibility of the Home Office before the Security Service Act 1989.

He submits that a ruling by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg, Magyar Helsinki v Hungary 2016, gives him a standing right to public interest information for historical research purposes.

The Home Office is going to be represented by counsel to oppose his appeal.

The hearing is open to the public.

The appeal is a test case challenging the absolute exemption blocking historical researchers from requests for files and information held by the intelligence agencies relating to people and events more than 30 years ago.

If Professor Crook is successful in persuading the Tribunal that MI5 was the constitutional and legal responsibility of the Home Office before 1989, this could open a gateway for FOI applications for historians in this area.

The appeal is supported by the Chartered Institute of Journalists, which has campaigned for FOI access to the historical files of the intelligence agencies where there is no risk to the interests of national security.

Update 23rd July 2019

Judge Alexandra Marks CBE ruled Friday 19th July that the Home Office did not hold the information at the time Professor Crook made his FOI request and dismissed his appeal.

In her ruling Judge Marks observed that Professor Crook submitted at the hearing:

  1. The Security Service Act did not reform MI5 but transformed it (from an executive function of the Home Office (HO) to a separate statutory body). Though MI5 was not ‘part of’ the HO, it was ‘of’ the HO.
  2. HO is the responsible state government body that should provide access to the information requested.
  3. Because of the public interest of his academic historical research project, the ‘standing information right’ determined by Magyar fits this case ‘like a glove’.
  4. The Tribunal has the opportunity – for the first time – to decide that Article 10 rights apply to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). The ‘parallel’ route – namely seeking information from a public body under the common law and, if access to such information is denied, applying for judicial review – is neither preferable nor necessary. It is also a burdensomely expensive course for an academic historian;
  5. HO’s position of ‘closing the gate’ to FOIA by saying it does not hold the information is not sustainable after Magyar. That case changed the jurisprudential environment by recognising a standing right to state information, thus serving democratic accountability and academic research.

The Tribunal rejected all of Professor Crook’s grounds of appeal. It decided that as the Home Office did not legally hold the information at the time the request was made, the Article 10 issues did not arise.

Professor Crook says: ‘Journalists and academic researchers in Britain should have been given freedom of information access rights to state information as a result of the ECtHR Grand Chamber ruling in 2016.

Yet, the UK Freedom of Information legal regime has very little to do with providing actual freedom to information.

I’m wanting access to historical information that is more than 30 years’ old and is not likely to pose any threat to national security.’

The decision of the Information Tribunal is downloadable on the link below:

016 190719 DECISION

Update 21st August 2019

An application for leave to appeal to the Upper Tribunal was made to Judge Alexandra Marks.

Professor Tim Crook argued:

1. The decision on 19th July in EA/2019/0073 means that the current UK legal FOI regime does not provide the applicant with Article 10 freedom of expression rights to access state archives for the purposes of public interest/watchdog historical research when no other human rights are being breached.

This is a denial of remedy under Article 13 of the Human Rights Act and European Convention of Human Rights particularly as the Grand Chamber Ruling in Magyar Helsinki v Hungary 2016 establishes this qualified standing right for the applicant as a matter of jurisprudential principle.

The FOIA is therefore incompatible with Articles 10 and 13 in respect of ECtHR jurisprudence.

The applicant believes the historical information being sought is being physically and/or virtually held by the UK’s Security Service; otherwise known as MI5 which according to section 1 of the Security Service Act 1989 operates ‘under the authority of the Secretary of State’ for the Home Office.

Section 23(3)(a) of FOIA prevents the applicant making any application directly to the present manifestation of the Security Service as constituted by the SSA. As the Security Service operates under the authority of the Home Secretary whose government department is the Home Office, the applicant believed the Home Office was the relevant authority to apply for the information.

The applicant argued that on the balance of probabilities there was evidence in law that prior to the Security Service Act 1989, the Security Service was a covert executive body operating as part of the Home Office and this position further justified the relevance of making the FOI application to the Home Office; particularly as all the information sought related to matters and people occurring before 1989.

By ruling against the applicant’s contention that he had the gateway sought via Section 3(2)(b) of FOIA, he has no remedy available to him to achieve a proper consideration of his Article 10 right to state information for public interest/watchdog historical research purposes.

He argues that the interference with the applicant’s freedom of expression rights was not “necessary in a democratic society,” and there was no “pressing social need” for such abrogation.

In conclusion, the applicant therefore submits that under Human Rights Law, he is entitled to proper consideration of his request for access to the historical information being held.

2. The applicant argues that there is a point of law of general importance about whether on the balance of probabilities he should be denied the engagement of Article 10 rights because the State government body applied to ‘did not hold’ the information sought when it was applied for.

3. The applicant argues that on the balance of probabilities he did demonstrate in law that the information requested was held by a security service under the legal constitutional and executive control of the Home Office and the Secretary of State for that government department e.g the Home Secretary.

On 20th August 2019 Judge Marks CBE refused leave to appeal and her decision is downloadable on the link below.

019 200819 PTA Ruling

Forthcoming ‘That’s So Goldsmiths’- an investigative history of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.


Remembering Marjorie Fielden James- Goldsmiths student teacher 1944-46

Marjorie James on her degree presentation day December 2018 at the age of 93. Image: David RJ Young.

At ninety three years of age, Marjorie James was the oldest certificated student teacher who was awarded an honorary degree at a special ceremony at Goldsmiths in December last year.

She stood tall and proud in the Marquee reception afterwards, surrounded by her family and explaining to the Warden and other senior University figures how thrilled she was to visit Goldsmiths, University of London New Cross for the first time in her life.

This is because despite studying hard for the intensive two year teacher-training course between 1944 and 1946, she had never set foot in the main college building or its campus and grounds in Deptford.

In 1939, Goldsmiths’ College was evacuated to Nottingham and several hundred New Cross students joined University College Nottingham’s undergraduates and just over one hundred other teacher trainees from the Institute of Education in Bloomsbury.

In the first history of the College published in 1955, titled The Forge, the Warden at the time, Arthur Edis Dean wrote:

In the as yet unrevealed conditions of possible aerial attack some doubt had been expressed about the choice of Nottingham as a war-time refuge but it was evident from the first that the choice was a happy one.

The reception at Nottingham was very friendly, and Goldsmiths’ was generously treated in the matter of accommodation in the excellent buildings of the University College, particularly on the residential side.

A Goldsmiths graphic artist turned the College’s exile to Nottingham into a light-hearted cartoon with lots of wit. Goldsmiths’ College ‘modes and manners’ were said to have caused ‘comment in high places’ and there is a cheeky picture of a male student wearing a Goldsmiths’ College jacket with his arm around a female student above the caption ‘and we lost no time in settling in !’ beneath the sign for the mixed Common Room. The reference to LDV in the last sketch is ‘Local Defence Volunteers’ which became the Home Guard. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

A fine hall of residence (Hugh Stewart Hall) was placed entirely at the disposal of Goldsmiths’ College and housed 220 women students, together with half-a-dozen members of staff and the Warden and Mrs Dean, who lived there throughout the war […] circumstances in the shape of bomb damage in London kept Goldsmiths’ at Nottingham throughout seven sessions, during which well over a thousand students passed through the College.

Hugh Stewart Hall- the home for Marjorie James and her fellow students at University College Nottingham during World War Two. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

Marjorie started teacher training after D-Day 6th June, and the battle of Normandy and during the ill-fated Operation Market Garden in the early autumn of 1944.

She had completed her schooling in Blackpool over a period of nearly five years of war-time conditions since September 1939:

When the time came I applied for a place at Manchester University and also at Goldsmiths. Both applications were successful. I chose Goldsmiths. One of my teachers had been to Goldsmiths and told me about the successful and happy time she had had as a student there.

Marjorie remembered being interviewed by a very charming woman who was easy to talk to and was responsible for the English curriculum. It is these first impressions that persuaded Marjorie that two years in Nottingham would be preferable to Manchester: ’She was fairly young, good-looking and very organised.’

Over the two years on the certificate course she studied English Language and Literature to an advanced level, History, Geography, Handwork, Principles and Practice of Education, Physical Education and Health.

Marjorie James née Hollis with her student group in 1944. She is number 17 in the middle row standing on the far left. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

She did her teaching practice at a junior school in the centre of Nottingham and was supported by ‘a very kind headmaster’ who was a ‘very good disciplinarian’ and would come and sit in her classes from time to time and offer mentoring and feedback.

Marjorie says life:

…did not seem to be too affected during time of rationing and shortages. I lived in College in Hugh Stewart Hall- a grand building within the gardens of the College. No male student was allowed to visit us in the Hall. Students had all their meals in Hall. We were issued with our one pound of marmalade which had to last a month. In college we could get a cup of coffee.

This sketch in the College magazine hints at illicit liaison between men and women after dark and patrolling members of staff with torches more interested in finding their cat called ‘Timothy’. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

We still had our weekly dance in the College which I believe was in the lower Hall. The students had their own student band. This entertainment was the highlight of the week on Saturday evening.

The ‘Dick’s Question Page’ cartoon from a Goldsmiths WWII Nottingham student magazine hints at some of the in-jokes of the time: “Are college friendships ‘purely platonic’” and “Who are the Dicks?’. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

It was a long walk from College to the local bus stop to travel to Nottingham. The bus came infrequently due to petrol rationing and students hadn’t the money to spend in Nottingham.  A weekly wage could then be £5.

The copper-plate immaculate handwriting of 93 year old Marjorie James in her contribution to the Goldsmiths History project. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

Marjorie James enthusiastically contributed to the Goldsmiths History project with an elegantly hand-written account of her time training to be a teacher during the last years of the war.

On April 1st 2019 she wrote:

I am now 93 years of age. I grew up through the war years. It didn’t seem to me an unhappy time. People were very kind to each other and everything was rationed. No-one seemed more fortunate than anyone else.

I very much enjoyed my years as a Goldsmiths student. It is hard to believe that I had never seen Goldsmiths College in London until I came first before Christmas to be awarded my degree in Education.

December 2018 honorary Batchelor of Education ceremony for past student teachers at Goldsmiths, University of London. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

I have always been in touch over the years and had the magazine and had my book on Blackpool placed in your library.

Marjorie James in her official degree photograph December 2018. Image: Estate of Marjorie James.

After I was married I taught for a while and had my two children. Life was very involved, but how wonderful to have been able to visit Goldsmiths just before Christmas and to have been awarded my degree- even at my age. There was a great welcome. It was a very happy time and I feel very privileged to have been a student at Goldsmiths.

The College magazines published during Marjorie’s time with Goldsmiths in Nottingham present a very lively student culture.

They enthusiastically caricatured their lecturers:

Student artists also amused themselves sketching the sporting pursuits of women students playing tennis and rounders.










As far as she could remember, Marjorie says:

…the different cultures of Goldsmiths’ College, Institute of Education and Nottingham University College mixed very well. There were two main rooms. One for Nottingham men students and the other for female Goldsmiths, and a third called ‘a mixed Common Room’. All three rooms were used for leisure time.

The art-work produced by students hints at their preoccupations with war-time food:

the challenges of living away from home:

and the pressures of studying and taking exams:


Marjorie recalls:

Here I met my future husband Boyd James. He had been interviewed by the War Office, but could not be accepted due to his inability to see certain colours. He was taking a degree in engineering. He went on to become Senior Partner in an engineering and architectural practice which became the largest outside London.

We were married a year after our student years ended and were married for seventy years. He died last May. A very happy marriage with lots of memories.

The Second World War occupied all of Marjorie’s teenage years:

I was an only child. Goldsmiths taught me to be independent. The wonderful private boarding and day school I had attended in Blackpool encouraged me to work hard and have responsibilities.

My father, who was a captain during the war, was away from home, except for his army leave. I lived in Blackpool with my grandmother who was 85 years old. We had a very quiet life with ‘blackout’ in the evenings, except when there was an air-raid by enemy planes.

We had air-raid wardens who patrolled the streets to check that we had no lights showing. I can remember reading my home-work by torchlight.

When I travelled from home to Nottingham by train I remember that all stations had had their names removed so that a spy during the war would not know where he was.

At the age of 84 Marjorie completed her illustrated history of Blackpool: Progress with Pleasure. 

She described the great impact of the war years with ‘thousands of troops … mainly training and marching on the promenade.

Sometimes from school we played hockey on the beach between rolls of barbed wire.

Evacuees poured into the town and the landladies had a busy time.’

Marjorie had vivid and evocative memories of the student celebrations for Victory in Europe and Victory over Japan (V-J) days during 1945:

I was still a student when the end of the war with Japan was announced. Goldsmiths’ students celebrated by joining all the people thronged into Nottingham to watch the fireworks, and as I learned afterwards, to paint the stone lions in Nottingham’s Old Market Square. I shall never forget it. There was so much noise and people were dancing and singing.

Marjorie James passed away on Friday 31st May 2019. Her son-in-law wrote:

She was at the hairdressers having just had a colour and set, put on her lipstick and dropped like a stone. If we all had a choice as to how to go, I cannot think of a better one!
She did so enjoy picking up her degree last December, albeit 73 years late.

Marjorie was one of the most enchanting Goldsmiths’ College alumni collecting her degree at Christmas 2018.

Her poise, concentration and precision of conversation left a deep impression on all people in the current Goldsmiths world who had the privilege of meeting her.

Goldsmiths is proud to have her wonderful book on Blackpool in its library and her memories of life as a student between 1944 and 1946 in its archives.


Coming soon: That’s So Goldsmiths: A History of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.


Golddream- the music culture at Goldsmiths in the late 1960s

The top of the psychedelic poster design for Golddream at Goldsmiths’ College between June 26th and July 1st 1969. Image: Poster donated to Goldsmiths Archives by Greg Conway.

In 1969 Goldsmiths’ College student union organised a third Golddream summer festival of music and arts.

This festival was going to last an entire week and one of the organisers, the late manager of the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren (then known as Malcolm Edwards) wanted it to be free and open to everyone.

Some of the world’s leading performers filled the campus performing rock music, folk music, poetry and readings.

The poetry readings included a performance by the respected film actor of the period, David Hemmings, who starred in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup in 1966 in which Goldsmiths’ College students took part as extras; particularly in the scenes filmed in Maryon Park, Charlton.

There was also a political speech from the black revolutionary and civil rights activist of the 1960s Michael X who was under surveillance by Britain’s intelligence services.

The first poster announcing the Goldsmiths’ College Arts Festival of 1969 being ‘Absolutely Free’. Image: Dave Riddle

He was born with the name Michael de Freitas and also known as Michael Abdul Malik and Abdul Malik.

His controversial life ended with his execution in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, in 1975 after being convicted of murdering a member of his political commune.

Many thousands of mainly young people played, partied, danced, and ‘rock’n rolled’ for seven days and seven nights.

The sound of the performance of the progressive rock group  King Crimson could be heard many miles away with massive mega-watt speakers facing out from the College main building onto the back field.

One of the organisers, the then Student union social secretary Dave Riddle, has loaned his unique collection of event posters and memories from the period for a special exhibition in the Kingsway corridor running from early March to April 13th 2019.

Dave recalls:

King Crimson’s performance was spectacular at dusk with Pete Sinfield’s light show and strobe lighting effects creating the illusion of the disintegration of the rear wall of the building.

The legendary folk musician Gordon Giltrap was an active member of the College’s Folk Club and took part in the festival- an experience he has never forgotten:

Those Goldsmiths days hold very fond memories as I was slowly making a name for myself on the London folk/blues scene. I well remember being a part of the college Arts Festival and even being featured in the local paper (I still have the clipping) and witnessing a spellbinding performance by an amazing new band called King Crimson. Another band playing at the festival was Ambrose Slade later to become Slade. Magical Days indeed! A few close friendships were made during that time, and one in particular remains to this day (page 9 The Way We Were).

Ambrose Slade publicity photograph sent to Goldsmiths’ College Student union social secretary Dave Riddle. Image: Dave Riddle.

The exhibition is combined with the documentary photography of a Goldsmiths’ student from the late 1960s, Dr. David Bracher.

In 2011 he authored and published a remarkable photographic and documentary testament to the culture and social life of this period in the book The Way We Were which is being republished to coincide with the Golddream exhibition and 50 year celebrations of 1969.

In the book Gordon Giltrap remembers David Bracher as ‘a hip, good looking student who took me under his particular wing of friendship and would chauffeur me to various gigs and rehearsals in and around London in his old Austin Seven with my guitar poking out through the roof!

Cover of ‘The Way We Were’ being republished in 2019. Image: David Bracher

Other College alumni who were there and part of the unique music, artistic and student culture from this decade have contributed their memories and memorabilia.

In particular, Goldsmiths Student Union President in 1969-70, Russell Profitt, who remembers Cream (Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker) and John Cleese and the Cambridge Footlights performing in the Great Hall in the early hours of the morning during a May Summer Ball in 1967.

The drummer/percussionist was the very striking red-headed and charismatic Ginger Baker, who was Lewisham born and bred, and has always had a reputation for a temperament that could be described in the politest terms as ’emphatic’.

The cover for the double album Heavy Cream released in 1968.

When he was setting up the instruments on the stage of the Great Hall he would meet the equally formidable College Superintendent, Len Lusted, who had served with distinction during the Second World War and reached the rank of Captain in the British Army.

A remarkable feature of the Goldsmiths music days and performances would be the fact that they were often all evening and through the night events with breakfast being provided in the morning in the College refectory.

One of the exhibits in the Goldsmiths exhibition is a programme of the 1967 May Ball showing that Cream performed their two hour set between 2.15 and 4.15 a.m. The programme is personally autographed by the comedian John Cleese (later of Monty Python fame).

He performed for The Cream’s half hour interval at 3 a.m, who were then followed at 4.30 a.m. by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.

A highly regarded reggae band of the period, The Coloured Raisins and steel band Trinidad Tropicanoes also performed.

‘Alvari and his Gypsy Ensemble’ were booked to perform during the midnight buffet in the refectory.

These events occupied multiple sites on the College campus including the Quadrangle outside the Refectory and the Small Hall (which is currently the site of the Curzon Cinema).

The Small Hall was the venue between midnight and 3.30 a.m. for suitably Sixties sounding groups ‘Monty Sunshine’ and ‘Dave Gelly Art Themen Quintet.’

The Goldsmiths Student Union’s handbook for the following year included three photographs from the Summer Ball of 1967 featuring Cyril Stapleton and his band, Monty Sunshine and his band, and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.

From top to bottom: Cyril Stapleton, Monty Sunshine and their bands, and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

It was reported:

The major idea behind the Summer Ball, the highlight of the year’s social events, was to offer as diverse a choice of entertainment as was possible between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Apart from three bars open till 4 a.m. and a buffet supper and breakfast, the entertainment ranged from a gypsy ensemble in the refectory, through a steel band and a Greek band in the open air quadrangle. Monty Sunshine’s and Art Themen’s Jazz Bands in the Small Hall, to the centre of the Ball in the Great Hall, where during the night could be heard Cyril Stapleton and his band, The Cream, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Coloured Raisins as well as a cabaret in the form of John Cleese and the Cambridge Footlights. Altogether a fantastic night.

Dave Riddle, when student union social secretary, was responsible for booking the super group, LOVE, for a concert in the Great Hall in 1970.

Standing in the same place about half a century later, he shared his memories of some of the great performances he had been responsible for bringing to the College.

Goldsmiths alumna, Ann Grigsby, has vivid emotions about the night Arthur Lee and LOVE performed at Goldsmiths.

Arthur Lee has been described as the artist who inspired Jimi Hendrix.

Publicity for LOVE playing at Goldsmiths in 1970. Image: Greg Conway Archive.

It was during the rather appropriately called Goldsmiths’ Valentine’s Ball:

The West Coast, Rock Band led by Arthur Lee was the main attraction that long ago night and why we went to the event in the first place. They didn’t perform until three in the morning and by then everyone was mellow.

However two impressions of that evening remain – the dimmed lights in the Great Hall packed with students, seated on the floor in groups, most holding lighted candles – magical!

And then the beat of the music reverberating through the wooden floor of the balcony where we were seated; the intensity of it passing through my body so that I thought I would collapse under the force. But of course it took over our senses and emotions and we remained wrapped up in the music until 6.00a.m., when sadly LOVE had to pack up and we wandered off to breakfast.

The 1960s College circuit played a key role in the development of the music business at this time.

It was an investment in grants for students being given a much wider social access to higher education that funded the national touring of the developing bands and musical artists as well as increasing the demand for albums.

Images of tickets to Goldsmiths’ College gigs donated by Greg Conway. The bottom row, middle ticket is for the first Gold-Dream event held in 1967. Gold-Dream ran over three years with the celebrated seven day ’69 event being the last. 

This demand in the UK for qualitative jazz, blues and rock music meant that significant black artists from America such as Muddy Waters, Otis Span and Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup found that they could earn more performing at British universities and colleges and experience bigger audiences than in their own country.

Late 1960s alumni David Mason (an editor of the student union’s weekly newspaper Smith News) and Peter Skinner say their experiences of seeing this music live has always been inspirational:

The first Gold Dream Festival took place in the summer of 1967 and was intended to be ‘a vehicle for displaying the many and varied talents of students in the College, an opportunity for experimentation in certain art forms and an occasion for students and the public to enjoy together certain types of entertainment.’

Manfred Mann’s Chapter III in the Great Hall in 1970. Image by Dave Bracher.

In other words ‘Gold Dream’ was supposed to be the College community and the local community partying and celebrating art together. In that first summer the campus rang out to ‘a balloon debate which kicked off to Donizetti’s opera “The Elixir of Love”, a freak-out with the St Louis Union and a poetry reading by Kemble Williams, a Norfolk poet. Drama students found many opportunities for displaying their talents in a review, an experimental improvisation and a workshop production to the theme “Stand Up and Shout No!”  A College group put on a music and lights show, there was a Bert Jansch folk concert and and a film showing of ‘Les Carabiniers’ by Jean-Luc Godard.

The idea of turning the Summer Ball into a kind of mini-rock and arts festival was conceived in 1966 under the Student Presidency of John Lauwerys.

After graduating with a B.Ed in 1970, he went on to become Secretary and Registrar of the University of Southampton.

In an interview with alumni magazine Goldlink he said:

The whole idea seemed so improbable but also so exciting. Why should all night Summer Balls be exclusive to Oxbridge colleges? Why shouldn’t we have such an event at Goldsmiths in New Cross despite not having a river to punt down? That was the proposition put to a General Union Meeting early in 1966 by a wonderfully eccentric student called Hugh Walwyn-James, himself a pure ‘Brideshead’ character. The meeting gave overwhelming support to the proposal without worrying about the possible financial risk to the Students’ Union.

Poster for 1966 Goldsmiths’ College Summer Ball. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

As can be seen the first Summer Ball negotiated performances from the Kinks, The Bonzo Dog Do-Dah Band (actually formed at New Cross with former Goldsmiths’ art student Neil Innes in the line up) and Humphrey Lyttleton and ‘A Strict Tempo Band.’

This is when the tradition of a gypsy ensemble playing with a snake dancer during the buffet originated.

This was all about ambition and a sense of cultural and artistic optimism.

John wrote:

The plan was for there to be music playing in parallel throughout the three locations, the Great Hall, the Small Hall, and in the Quadrangle outside the Refectory. In addition there would be a continuous film show of 1920/30s classic comedy films for those in need of a rest! The buffet was to be served at Midnight in the main Refectory with a light breakfast available at 5 am for those who hadn’t flagged out earlier.

The Summer term at Goldsmiths thus proceeded through the late 1960s with the over-ambitious Summer Ball in May followed by the equally over-ambitious Summer Arts Festival in late June and early July.

Goldsmiths’ College students in 1967 raising money for charities in ‘Rag’ events. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

Where does this extraordinary spirit of adventure and hope for a better future come from?

Many of Goldsmiths women student alumni offer important explanations.

In a poetic contribution to ‘The Way We Were’ Judy Fawcett asked the question ‘Did the sun always shine?’ and answered with the lines:

Music, friendship and endless fun.

Every day full of optimism – no money but, … we knew how to dance,

how to laugh, how to love and how to be together.

Biba and Bus Stop gave us style,

Julie Driscoll, Arthur Brown and Bonzo Dogs gave us joy.


We had dreams, we had ideals,

Life was about caring, principles and passion.

The world was going to be different with our generation – we had discovered – ‘All you need is love.’

We lived ‘Love and Peace’ and we believed education would change the world!

Julie Driscoll performed ‘Season of the Witch’ in the Great Hall of Goldsmiths in 1968

Maggie Law explained:

I journeyed from Lancashire to the throbbing, swinging heart of a country in the midst of a huge political, musical and fashionable upheaval to Goldsmiths’ College, which proved an excellent place to be in order to get the best of all that was on offer in this – the best of times.  […]

In ’66 it was a group of drama students, staying behind at the end of term, who were co-opted into Antonioni’s “Blow Up”. They can be seen, rather self-consciously cavorting in Maryon Park around the tennis courts, one of them being the famed Anne Webb- What a powerful woman she was.

Anne Webb, President of the Goldsmiths Student Union- the first woman in this role in the 1960s leading an executive in 1966-7 consisting of all men in a College where there were more women students. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

Lizzie Mapson said:

We knew that there was an energy that permeated everything we did…that nothing seemed impossible…that we were going to change everything because the rule book had been abandoned as we alighted from the New Cross train. […]

But more than all of this, we believed… in each other, ourselves, the power of democracy, the right to protest and be heard, the freedom to love in any way we wanted and in the fact that the world of our parents had endured two world wars and that we would make sure it never happened again.

Dr Dave Bracher was recording the faces of the people immersed in this social and cultural revolution through documentary photography.

It would not be an exaggeration to say he was a genuine Henri Cartier-Bresson of Goldsmiths’ College.

Marsupilami playing the Quadrangle during the Summer Festival of 1969. Image: Dave Bracher

He had been encouraged in the art of photography by his mother who gave him a box camera when a child, and mixing with Goldsmiths’ College Art students gave him an opportunity to find out more about technique and technology.

Russell Profitt became the UK’s first ever Black President of a university student union.

During his year in 1969-70, Goldsmiths’ College students, being in the biggest teacher training institution in the country, led the protests against poor teachers’ pay.

Here is the iconic photograph taken by Dave Bracher of Russell mediating between the students and the police on a day of protest and action starting in New Cross.

Goldsmiths Student Union President Russell Profitt at the entrance to the College during a student strike against the freezing of teachers’ pay. Image: Dave Bracher.

The late sixties were certainly turbulent in terms of student politics.
Goldsmiths Student Union President Anne Webb wrote at the beginning of the academic year 1967-68:

There has been a change in the climate of student opinion, probably beginning long before last Easter, but only clearly visible since last October. An increasing demand for student militancy, caused primarily by frustration due to lack of consultation, information and recognition by the University authorities and H.M Government involving in particular the instance at L.S.E. has caught the attention of the press and television. I feel that the lesson to be learned from this is that no group of college administrators or Union officials should become self-satisfied, but should strive to discover the needs of the student body and consult them on major issues.

In 1967-68 many Goldsmiths students took part in major demonstrations against the Vietnam War; one of them turned into a riot and battle with the police outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square.

This page from the Goldsmiths Student Union Handbook for 1969-70 depicts Dave Riddle at the 1969 Arts Festival (bottom image) and the Honorary Treasurer reports a student population of 2,379. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

College Warden Sir Ross Chesterman had to ring up the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Robert Mark, to assure him that his students were law-abiding young people who simply wanted to make the world a better place.

The student union had a Peace Group, as well as a Labour Club, Liberal Society, and Conservative Association.

There was still a tradition of debating with a thriving Debating Society run by Janet Dawson and Lynne Schofield.

Janet observed that Goldsmiths College debating had ‘achieved over the past few years a considerable amount of fame tinged with notoriety amongst other colleges in London and also elsewhere.’

In other words you debated with Goldsmiths’ students at your peril. You had to be good to win your argument.

The academic year in 1967 began with left wing trade union leader Jack Dash addressing about 300 students on a disruptive and controversial Dock dispute.

The Society ran an Inter-Hall debating competition on the proposition ‘American political friendship is the kiss of death.’

Malcolm Edwards (later known as McLaren) led a Maoist and Situationist approach to politics from the College’s Art School which had its own ‘School of Art Union.’

This decried debating and advocated ‘direct action’-  something Russell Profitt was to experience during his presidency in 1969-70.

The issue of food is something of a perennial one in the history of Goldsmiths.

There were food strikes before the First World War.

Student union handbooks through the 1960s allocated a page to advise those new students not particularly enamoured of ‘the prospect of living in New Cross for three years or maybe more.’

Student Philip Hotton observed:

New Cross has an abundant supply of pubs: The New Cross House offers friendly service and extremely good sandwiches and rolls; this is situated about one hundred yards from College. One hundred yards in the other direction is the Rosemary Branch which also offers snacks.

Not a lot on offer for a palate that wants more from life than English sandwiches and rolls and a few 1960s pub snacks, or indeed Blackburn’s Fish Bar, or Burrough’s Eel & Pie Shop.

John Lauwerys offered a guide for ‘The Gourmet On A Shoe String’ in 1966-67.
He also warned the new student that in his opinion there was only ‘one restaurant in South East London that can measure up to the high standards of the average Soho ones.’

Not a lot was recommended on offer at the Roma Grill- described as ‘Italian, pleasant decor’ and only good for a steak.

Goldsmiths alumni David Swarbrick had a distinguished career in teaching spanning more than three decades after graduating from Goldsmiths with a degree in 1972.

The College food and militant politics were not particularly his thing, but the music, entertainment and culture certainly were.

It was student union social secretaries in the years 1967 to 1970 who bore the main brunt and responsibility for booking the big acts that put Goldsmiths’ College on the map in regard to the university musical circuit.

They were Greg Conway, John Glockler, and Dave Riddle. Sadly John Glockler passed away in 2016.

His friend and fellow band player, Dave Mason (yes, Goldsmiths students from this time formed their own bands and performed as support acts to the famous groups playing at the College) paid tribute to the significance of John Glockler’s contribution:

He was the second of three brilliant and imaginative Goldsmiths Student Union Social Secretaries who covered the period 1967-1970, the others being Greg Conway (1967-68) and Dave Riddle (1969-70). In 1967 the music industry, led by Chris Wright and Terry Ellis (who later founded Chrysalis Records), turned towards the university and college circuit as a more lucrative market for their performers. Greg, John and Dave seized this opportunity to provide Goldsmiths students with the biggest and the best of bands. In total they booked more than 150 acts, giving us a musical legacy it is difficult to forget and Goldsmiths College a reputation as a place to hear the best in music.

Here is a small selection from the acts that John, Greg and Dave booked – 1967 to 1970
• Cream, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Moody Blues, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Hawkwind, King Crimson, Love.

Original ticket invitation. Image: Greg Conway.

• Pentangle, Bert Jansch, John Martyn, Gordon Giltrap, John Renbourne
• Judy Collins, Julie Driscoll with Brian Auger & The Trinity, Christine McVie with Chicken Shack.
• Georgie Fame, Yardbirds, Chris Farlow, Pretty Things, Joe Cocker and the Grease Band

Original ticket invitation. Image: Greg Conway.

• Ambrose Slade (renamed later as Slade), Atomic Rooster, East of Eden
• The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Liverpool Scene, Scaffold

Original ticket invitation. Image: Greg Conway.

• Muddy Waters, Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup.

John Glockler (1944-2016), Goldsmiths College Student Union Social Secretary 1968-69.

Dave Mason speculates that it may well have been the intersection of John Glockler’s musical talent and originality and Malcom Edwards/McLaren’s presence at Goldsmiths that was the spark that catalysed Punk:

In 1969 John formed a rock’n’roll group, aptly named Johnny Rock and the Prowlers. John as Johnny Rock on vocals, Julian Bailey on lead guitar, Alan Hales on bass, David Mason on piano and Frank Kelly on drums. When John Glockler took on the Johnny Rock persona, it was a Jekyll and Hyde transformation. This quiet and modest man delivered every number with a unique style of a-tonal screaming aggression, spitting out each word at the audience in an anarcho-punk style that predated Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols by almost a decade. Johnny Rock and the Prowlers performed at the Goldsmiths Arts Festival in 1969. One of the Festival organisers was Malcolm Edwards, later known as Malcolm McLaren. He must have seen John perform. Is it too much to claim a causal link between Johnny Rock and Johnny Rotten?

In 1967-68, Social Secretary Greg Conway was organising a ‘Gold Freak Out Dance’ before the Gold Dream Festival.

He and his father installed a Vox 50 Watt amplifier, two 15 Watt Fane speakers, and two Gerrard SRP 22 record decks for the discotheque infrastructure in the Small Hall.

He had donated his copy of Student Union minutes from December 1967 in which he reported that:

It was obvious at the Flower Inferno that large numbers of people were entering College without tickets, particularly via the windows of the Small Hall and T.V. Room.

The Social Secretaries had to run a complicated business where large-scale events needed to break even, and if possible make a profit through ticket sales.

Greg remembers that the allure of the riches on offer from the Summer Balls and Arts Festivals was a significant attraction to prospective students visiting the College when deciding on their choices for University and teacher training.

In 1968, those looking around the College were given the following notice:

This is the first time we have ever given you, a prospective Goldsmiths’ student, the chance to attend the major function of our social calendar- The Summer Ball.

You will see Goldsmiths’ and meet your fellow students and have the experience of a lifetime.

Come to Summer Ball and Hear:




At last the 1958 Rock’n’Roll Show, Honneybus: Episide Six; Chicken Shack; Trevor Hall Band; The Cherry Pickers; Mexican Troupo; Limbo


Greg recalled that the Goldsmiths’ College creative and inspirational environment encouraged him to do things he does not think he would ever have done at another university.

He designed three covers for the Student Union weekly newspaper Smith News.


The Goldsmiths Golddream Exhibition has been curated by Dr. John Price (Head of History Department) Public Engagement executive Will Cenci, Director of Estates & Facilities Vivienne Rose, former Goldsmiths student and member of staff Dave Riddle, Dr David Bracher, and Goldsmiths Historian Professor Tim Crook.

There is an end of exhibition event for Golddream: 50 Years On being held at the College Saturday 13th April 2019.

Click on the link above to book your place or click through on the image below.

Goldsmiths, University of London thanks everyone who has given their time, memories, and memorabilia to make the exhibition and this historical online feature possible.

Lower section of iconic Golddream poster for the Goldsmiths’ College Free Arts Festival donated to the university archive by Greg Conway.

That’s So Goldsmiths– a forthcoming history of the university is being researched and written by Professor Tim Crook.

The Goldsmiths Cicero whose political career has served the college for nearly 60 years

David Rogers at the entrance to Goldsmiths, University of London Richard Hoggart Main Building- named after a Warden he knew, liked and worked for. Image: Tim Crook.

It cannot be said that David Rogers has everything in common with Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher who lived from 106 BC to 43 BC, and was a consul of the Roman Republic.

But it certainly can be said he has something in common.

He has not been a lawyer. He may not have been a statesman in the foreground. But such people equally depend on their shadow researchers, speech-writers and political advisors- in other words statesmen in the background.

David made his mark at Goldsmiths’ College between 1958 and 1960 leading the College’s debating team to win the University of London debating cup for the first time in ten years and beating la crème de la crème of the top notch University of London colleges.

It was the underdog beating the favourites.  A Football League Division Two side from South London- the University of London federation’s then only satellite College South of the River, beating the Champions of the Premiership.

So Cicero has gone down as Antiquity’s Orator supreme, celebrated and heralded through the Renaissance and Enlightenment and a centre of gravity for the academic discipline of rhetoric.

And David Rogers can truly be accorded the title of Goldsmiths’ Cicero.

The debating champion

His Goldsmiths team included Roger Mackay, Malcolm Laycock and Anne Castledine, and they beat in order the mighty UCL of Bloomsbury, Westfield, Royal Holloway, and then Westminster Medical School in the final.

The debating propositions won and fought over were on nuclear disarmament and hunting. Malcolm Laycock went on to become one of this country’s cherished and respected radio broadcasters.

Press cutting from 1960 of David Rogers being presented the trophy for the University of London Inter-Collegiate Debating Tournament.

In the 1959 General Election David was Chair of the College’s Conservative Association and he shared a flat with his debating team-mate Roger Mackay, who happened to be Chair of the College’s Labour Society.

David asks: ‘Would that happen today with the fashion for vitriol and not wanting to find and share what we have most in common rather than what divides us?’

Roger would be elected a Labour Councillor for the old Deptford Borough Council serving on the committee responsible for bathhouses and swimming pools.

David remembered that the Goldsmiths victory in the debating cup made big waves in the university world:

At the time I had no idea of the impact this victory would have. The then Warden, Ross Chesterman, later told me that the effect on staff morale was electric – Here was our College struggling to become a full part of the University and looked down upon by the major Colleges, gaining accolades in the education press for the debating achievement, which in those days was considered an essential part of the prestigious activities of universities.

The cultural importance of debating was such that through the 1940s and 1950s, BBC Radio’s Third Programme (the precursor to BBC Radio Three) would often broadcast the final live.

The headline on Goldsmiths’ victory in 1960 was ‘Machine-gun’ Smiths lay Westminster Medics low in the talk-battle.’

Westminster Medical School had to speak to the motion that ‘Blood Sports are good, clean fun.’

The press reported:

Opposing the motion was the Goldsmiths’ team, who ruthlessly dissected each word of the motion. Their leader, Dave Rogers, was nominated as the outstanding speaker of the evening for the perfection of his “machine-gun” technique, and their second speaker, Malcolm Laycock, also earned special praise. Together with Anne Castledine and Roger Mackay, the whole team spoke as a cohesive unit.

In fact it was a thrashing. The motion was defeated by 163 votes to 48, and the judges declared a unanimous win for the College in New Cross, South of the River.

After completing the two year teaching certificate course, the last before it became a three year qualification, David Rogers began a distinguished career in politics.

Political researcher, advisor and writer

He helped the four minute mile pace-maker and Olympic athlete Chris Chataway gain election as MP for North Lewisham,  and he became an advisor and researcher for leading Conservative politician Iain Macleod.

David’s allegiance to Conservative politics contradicts the myth that progressive ideas and activism is the preserve only of the left.

When working for another Tory MP Humphrey Berkeley, he helped draft a private members’ bill  that inspired others eventually leading  to the decriminalisation of homosexuality from 1967.

Berkeley’s 1965 bill sought to legalise male homosexual relations along the lines of the Wolfenden report.

His Bill was given a second reading by 164 to 107 on 11th February 1966, but fell when Parliament was dissolved soon after.

Unexpectedly, Berkeley lost his seat in the 1966 general election, and blamed his defeat on homophobia.

He believed the unpopularity and deep-seated prejudice directed against the purpose of his bill lost him thousands of voters in what should have been a safe Tory constituency.

History of the Privy Council

Another reason why David Rogers merits the comparison with Cicero is that he has written two significant books on politics and constitution that are influential and important.

David Rogers’ highly regarded history and analysis of the Privy Council, published by Biteback in 2016.

His most recent By Royal Appointment: Tales from the Privy Council – the Unknown Arm of Government published by Biteback in 2016 drew plaudits from politicians, journalists and academics.

Professor of Government, Anthony King at Essex University explained:

‘Once the highway of the British state, the Privy Council is now one of its byways. David Rogers explores its exalted past and humble present with enthusiasm, charm and more than a faint whiff of nostalgia.’

David became the media’s ‘go to’ expert on the history and operation of the Privy Council; particularly when the newly elected Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was embroiled in the controversy of whether he would have to kneel and/or kiss the hand of the Monarch on his appointment as a member of the Privy Council.

My own view is that By Royal Appointment is one of the best books I have ever read on politics and constitution. David writes with the economy and window pane precision of George Orwell and the wit of Oscar Wilde.

One of the biggest challenges of understanding and analysing British politics is grasping the nature of the writ and cultural phenomenon of the UK’s unwritten constitution.

The next is understanding and appreciating the differences between democratically elected and executively appointed politicians and the Civil Service.

Another vital contextualisation is history, class and culture.

The book will continue to be a major talking point in the history of British politics; something former Home Secretary The Right Honourable Jacqui Smith fully appreciated in her review:

The overriding theme of this book is the way in which the privy council has evolved and adapted over the years. It is a fascinating read. However, what it has not done is to convince me that the privy council should not and could not evolve itself out of existence in the future.

David Rogers returning to Goldsmiths for a Goldsmiths History project interview. Image: Tim Crook.

Between 1968 and 1982 David returned to Goldsmiths’ College as a Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer on the Art Teachers Certificate Course.

Goldsmiths sponsored his enrolment in 1974 for a Masters degree at Essex University in Political Behaviour for which he gained a distinction for his thesis on parliamentary secretaries.  This unique intertwining of politics, art and culture most likely informs his perspective.

He can even make an appendix exquisite reading.

Such is the case with Appendix C: Order of Precedence where he explains that when looking back from the second decade of the 21st century it is:

…amazing to realise how important the question of social status and precedence was only a short time ago. In living memory, young girls from the upper classes “came out” – a phrase meaning something quite different now.

They were presented at court, curtsied to the Queen, and officially became debutantes, being warned by their mothers about young men who were NSIT (not safe in taxis).

He observes mischievously that ‘Presenters and interviewees on Start the Week or Question Time disdain with a shrug their membership of the House of Lords but are only too happy to embrace their titles when they go into the bars at the Palace of Westminster or use their position to vote on future legislation.’

Warden Sir Ross Chesterman 1953-1974

Sir Ross Chesterman was a more than coincidental figure in the life of David Rogers.

Sir Ross had taught at the same school in Gloucester as David’s mother.  So he explains, rather self-effacingly, that after ‘messing up my A levels’ the connection was rather helpful when he applied for the two year teacher training course at Goldsmiths to start in 1958- five years after Sir Ross had been appointed Warden.

He was still Warden, when David was appointed lecturer in 1968.

He has a vivid recollection of Sir Ross Chesterman’s style and character. He remembered that on retirement ‘he was asked what was the greatest change he’d seen and replied: “When I came to the college in 1953, I had almost unlimited power. Now I am leaving, the Warden’s role has been reduced to that of limited influence!”‘

Ross Chesterman was popular with his students and they even gave him prime editorial space in the Goldsmiths Student Union Handbook for 1969-70. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London archives.

He remembered how Sir Ross provided leadership that was caring and tolerant of the huge social, political and cultural changes in education and society across the 1950s, 60s, and early 70s.

He had wit, charm and a guile that sought solutions to problems that generated the least pain, suffering, embarrassment and consternation.

The development of a youth culture market in entertainment and social recreation meant that it would be safer for students to drink and party on the campus. So he organised the first licensing of a student bar in a British University.

He regaled David Rogers with the story:

When I come into College each day by the front entrance a monument to a previous Warden Arthur Edis Dean declares how he took the College to Nottingham in 1939, and brought it back to New Cross and shepherded its resurrection like a Phoenix from the ashes after seven years of destruction through the Blitz and the terrors of the Second World War. And then I reach the entrance and find my name on a sign above the entrance…’Ross Chesterman, licensed purveyor of wines, beers, spirits and liquors…’

Sir Ross was a distinguished academic with a doctorate in science and certainly a respecter of the research dimension of academic culture. But as David wrote in his first very well received book Politics, Prayer and Parliament published by Continuum in 2000:

Many years ago, when universities were somewhat different in character, the late Warden of Goldsmiths, Sir Ross Chesterman, used gently to tease the College Research Committee with Danny Kaye’s remark, “Pinch one person’s piece of work and it’s called plagiarism; pinch a hundred and it’s called research.

The affectionate cheekiness extended to making a play on principles and principals when attending a meeting of university Vice-Chancellors and Chief Executives.

The deployment of laterally minded solutions to seemingly awkward and intractable challenges depended on a close relationship between Sir Ross and the College Superintendent, Len Lusted, who had had a distinguished Second World War record as an army officer.

In a letter from Sir Ross to David in 1998, he said of Mr Lusted: ‘He is a wonderful man and I doubt whether I could have survived at Goldsmiths without his help.’

The front of Goldsmiths’ College during the 1960s. It was an open car park and more first come first served than the present day of restrictions and permits. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London archives.

David recalled one situation in the 1960s when the College Superintendent came to the rescue of the Warden with some strategic sprinkling:

When the College delegacy came to hold their meetings in the Whitehead building, they would meet in a room overlooking what used to be called the Back Field (now the College Green) and in the height of summer Ross would be very worried because they would see the students indulging in what used to be described in the gentle turn of phrase ‘canoodling.’

He asked Len Lusted “What can we do about it?’ And Len said ‘Don’t worry. I’ll make sure it’s being watered from 12 o’clock to 2 o’clock. And so the concentration of the delegacy was on the business of the day instead of being diverted by the summer passions of our students.

Journalist, Fellow and Friend of the College

In 1983, David resumed his career as an advisor in the world of politics. He provided invaluable consultative work for Goldsmiths and ‘watched its back’ during the long periods of Conservative governments.

He has been an education columnist for the Spectator and Sunday Times.

This liaison role ensured that there was always a channel of communication and understanding between the unique and complex culture of Goldsmiths, the ambitions and activism of its staff and students, and the centre of political and administrative government.

As a political advisor to Lord Whitelaw it was to the College’s advantage when such a leading Cabinet minister and politician visited New Cross to meet staff and students including those protesting loudly and disruptively against Conservative education policy.

David has always had a keen sense of the paradoxes in everyday politics when ideological mythologies simply do not square with reality:

It was Margaret Thatcher (a Conservative Prime Minister elected into power in three General Elections) who was responsible for shutting down most of the country’s Grammar Schools and it was Harold Wilson (a Labour Prime Minister elected into power in two General Elections) who was responsible for shutting down most of the coal mines.

David Rogers was responsible for Goldsmiths’ alumna, Mary Quant, receiving her Honorary Fellowship.

Politics, Prayer and Parliament- a new meaning for PPP? The book on religion and politics by David Rogers published by Continuum in 2000.

He was formally appointed a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Politics. Politics, Prayer and Parliament was the key research output of his Fellowship period and offers a lively and personal view by an insider both to Parliament and the Church of England about the ways religion and politics are linked and politicians and priests function through communication.

The former Prime Minister Sir John Major said it was ‘a compelling analysis of the inter-relationship of Church and State, and a shrewd guide for anyone concerned with public policy- especially if their advocacy requires speaking in public…’

David took great delight in recommending Matthew Parris’s Great Parliamentary Scandals as very high up in anyone’s reading list. Anyone harbouring ambitions for the clergy or politics should have it by their bedside so that should they ‘wake up worried in the dark watches of the night’ they could read the first paragraph:

Many of the people in this book went to Oxford, and a large number of them were hanged. Nearly all were ordained priests or ministers, many were bishops, some were Archbishops, and one may have been the Pope. Some were formally unfrocked by Church authorities, others less ceremoniously disgraced. Most died ignominiously, or in the Rev. Harold Davidson’s case, savaged by a lion in Skegness.

David remains an honorary Visiting Fellow of Goldsmiths and over the last three years has provided invaluable advice and assistance to the History research project.

His reserves of memory and experience have informed the research into the experience of Goldsmiths’ College students and artists who became POWs of the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in February 1942:

When I was a lecturer on the Art Teachers Certificate course two of the longstanding art tutors Derek Cooper and Rob Brazil had been prisoners of war with the Japanese during World War Two. They would sometimes describe how they would conceal their art materials in buried tins and hide their drawings and paintings rolled up into the inside of bamboo sticks. Another former Japanese POW artist Jack Chalker was an external examiner. He had been an art student at Goldsmiths in the 1930s.

David remains active in politics. More recently he has been working with Sir John Major to help build and catalyse the political consensus that remaining in the European Union is in the British national interest.

College bookshop during 1960s. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London archives.

David remains forever grateful for what Goldsmiths did for him as a student and lecturer:

For the record I would really like to say that I really enjoyed my time at Goldsmiths. I got so much out of it. I made so many friends both staff and students, and in the Marquess of Granby, and I count myself extremely fortunate. Goldsmiths, I think, has a better record than most Colleges, in looking after and nurturing their former students. I know people come back and seek advice and it’s always generously given and gratefully received.

That’s So Goldsmiths– a forthcoming history of the university is being researched and written by Professor Tim Crook.

Find out about Goldsmiths’ College student culture in the late 1960s by visiting the Golddream Exhibition in the Kingsway corridor of the Richard Hoggart Building 4th March to 14th April 2019.



‘it wont rain roses’- 1963 and the pursuit for justice in education

Tug of war on the Goldsmiths’ College back field in 1961 for Rag Day. ‘it wont rain roses’ editor and author David Elliott is in the woolly jumper centre and looking backwards. But the pamphlet was looking forwards to building a better education system.

A common theme of the history of Goldsmiths is the recurrence of students and staff politically campaigning to make the world a better place.

It’s possible to select any decade of the 20th century and find evidence of lobbying and what could be described as political activism, or  ‘political education.’

It does not mean all or even most of the students and staff were involved at any one time.

Or indeed that there was necessarily consensus and agreement.

Award winning and leading UK publisher, David Elliott, was an undergraduate student between 1961 and 1964 and he believes there was a ‘progressive atmosphere’  and ‘radical spirit’ at the college when he was there.

The then Warden of the College, Ross Chesterman, later knighted for services to higher education, had a reputation for being tolerant of protest and student activism while at the same time encouraging constructive and reasoned debate.

This may account for Goldsmiths’ College winning the University of London debating cup two times in the early 1960s and David Elliott was in one of victorious teams knocking the big London Colleges off their perch.

Around thirty years earlier in 1932, a delegation of students had marched on Parliament and lobbied their MPs against massive cuts in funding for schools and teachers. The school leaving age then was only 14.

This was a time when no more than 12 per cent of children received a secondary education and half of those had to pay for it.

When one of the Goldsmiths’ students asked an MP why so much more money was being spent on arms instead of educating the poor he was accused of being a Bolshevik and directed to go and stand on the other side of the lobby hall as though he had been a naughty boy deserving of detention.

In 1962 a later post Second World War generation of Goldsmiths students were taking their message to Parliament again to continue the struggle- this time to raise the school-leaving age to 16, achieve more participation in higher education and expand equality of opportunity.

The Goldsmiths’ student union newspaper Smith News, which sold weekly for three old pence, reported on June 1st 1962 that in a grand lobby of Parliament over 50 MPs had been briefed by a delegation of 450 students.

David Elliott recalls: ‘the mass picket on Westminster was organised as almost a military operation with hired buses shuttling students every hour to the House of Commons- with Marshals and stewards controlling the flow. I wore an armband with CHIEF STEWARD which, alas, got lost.’

The paper was asking the questions ‘What did we achieve?’  and ‘Where do we go from here?

It acknowledged: ‘We have given a lead to other Training Colleges, and already seven colleges have sent petitions to the Ministry.  Others are asking our advice; letters from Goldsmiths’ students are appearing in local newspapers, questions are to be asked in the Commons, and MPs are busy writing replies or fixing appointments.’

Many students and staff were committed to a national ‘Campaign for Education’ which drew support from all the political parties.

In 1963 one of the major contributions of the Goldsmiths dimension was a research pamphlet titled: ‘it wont rain roses.’ The lack of an apostrophe in ‘wont’ was a deliberate design and campaigning decision.

David Elliott remembers that students and Smith News ‘mostly contributed sections and my job was to curate and edit the pamphlet as it developed. I ended up writing most of it.’

David Elliott, pamphlet editor, writer and undergraduate on the right. ‘It was a Goldsmiths/University of London ball event as Barbara Spencer (my ‘date’) was women’s Vice-President so I had to hire a Dinner Jacket and borrow a bow tie. It was in the Great Hall and I was in my second year in 1962.’

He was given ‘amazing support’ from an education lecturer, Charity James, who was ‘in effect the main copy editor and supplied the title. We printed 1,000 copies I think, which the National Union of Teachers distributed. All I can remember was it was quoted in Parliament and The Times called it ‘shrill but necessary.’

David has held onto one of the few surviving copies.

Only Warwick University’s library appears to have a copy available for researchers.

The title ‘it wont rain roses’ was inspired by the George Elliot quotation: ‘It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.’

The original cover of ‘it won’t rain roses’ ‘A booklet written and published by Goldsmiths’ College, Campaign for Education.’

Charity James would become a legend in education. She would be a founder and Director of the Goldsmiths’ ‘Curriculum Laboratory’ and authored the seminal publication in 1968 ‘Young Lives at Stake: A Reappraisal of Secondary Schools’.

In his 1996 memoir ‘Golden Sunrise: The Story of Goldsmiths’ College 1953-1974′ Sir Ross Chesterman wrote: ‘There were, on the staff of the College, many really distinguished people, some with original ideas and the enthusiasm and energy to bring them to action and fruition. Mrs Charity James was a very good example of what I mean […] She had a group of some twenty comprehensive Heads and senior teachers seconded to work on her course. Her vigour, her imagination and her confidence quite won the hearts of the London Heads and their staffs and, as I could see, literally made them new people […] The Curriculum Laboratory greatly increased its impact and its influence by regularly producing a publication called Ideas, published by the College.’

“it wont rain roses’ began by saying that the pamphlet was committed:

…it is written by people who are intimately concerned with education in this country, by people who are training to become teachers. In a year’s time most of us will be dealing with children – perhaps your children. We shall be attempting to give them an education. Therefore we are committed. We believe that the education many children receive today is shoddy and a disgrace; an insult to the word Education. And this we hope to show you in the pamphlet.

Its theme is a simple one. At the present time Education is not being given the priority that it deserves. In 1963 more money is spent on Advertising and expense accounts than on Education.

The Government is not prepared to provide enough money for expansion and development; the teachers do not possess a professional attitude to their role in Society; and many parents tend to regard the Eleven Plus as the be all and end all of the system.  [The Eleven Plus was an exam children took at primary school when 11 years old. A minority would be selected for grammar schools with many remaining in secondary education until 18 when they would take A’levels and were encouraged to go to university. The majority would go to what were generally regarded as less academic secondary and technical schools with most leaving school at 15.]

We live in an age of great industrial wealth, yet 55% of Primary Schools still in use today were built in an age of gaslight. If this is the legacy offered to so many young children today then we believe that something is drastically wrong.

Front cover of the weekly student newspaper ‘Smith News’. David Elliott writes: ‘The three students in the photo are (left to right) Malcolm Laycock (Goldsmiths’ Student Union President) John Harvey, Editor of Smith News, and a first year student I believe was called Chris Prior. The photograph was taken outside the St Stephen’s Hall entrance to the Palace of Westminster. The caption is a ‘joke’ which you might have gotten- it was an advertising slogan for a tablet which dealt with bad breath and used with images of people up close…’ John Harvey would go on to become a leading award winning scriptwriter and crime novelist. Malcolm Laycock became an award-winning national broadcaster for the BBC.

In its concluding section the pamphlet said:

Education is not a luxury that only rich countries can afford. It is a vital necessity. Because of our persistent apathy, thousands of young minds are being wasted, and we risk national decline. Our suicidal values must change. It is not a question of can we afford it. It is a question of can we afford not to do it. And the answer is that we cannot.

It can certainly be argued that Parliament did, eventually, answer the call in ‘it wont rain roses.’

By the late 1960s there was massive public investment in education.

University education expanded exponentially.

Comprehensive education was introduced and most grammar schools phased out.

The Eleven Plus examination was officially abolished, though many local education authorities continued to organise similar examination and testing at eleven which resulted in secondary school selection.

David’s generation of student teachers undoubtedly made a contribution to the national Education debate.

And although he and his fellow campaigning activists were a minority of the students at Goldsmiths, it can certainly be argued that their impact and contribution have been memorable and significant.

A photograph taken by David Elliott of Christmas Dinner at Aberdeen Hall in 1961. The Hall of Residence no longer exists. Goldsmiths’ College students usually spent their first year in one of a number of Halls of Residence scattered around South East London and Kent. In the second and third year, students became known as ‘Homers and Diggers’ meaning they either lived at home or in rented ‘Digs’.


Find out about Goldsmiths’ College student culture in the late 1960s by visiting the Golddream Exhibition in the Kingsway corridor of the Richard Hoggart Building 4th March to 14th April 2019.

For more on the history of Goldsmiths sign up for Professor Tim Crook’s inaugural lecture Monday 11th March 2019 6 p.m. Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Goldsmiths, University of London.

That’s So Goldsmiths– a forthcoming history of the university is being researched and written by Professor Tim Crook.

Goldsmiths satire on a Victory Dinner- 1924 and the League of Nations

Christmas postcard designed by Goldsmiths Art School student Eric Fraser celebrating the purpose of the League of Nations in circa 1924. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London Archives.

When Goldsmiths’ College decided to host a Victory Dinner in 1924 as an act of remembrance for the Great War of 1914-18, those who had lived through it embraced the occasion with gentle satire.

The Victory Menu for 15th November, four days after Armistice Day, was designed to mock the forms and documents that had been turning education in the post war period into a bureaucracy.

It became ‘Circular 1311’, and ‘Form 99 Pen T.’

Victory Menu for dinner at Goldsmiths 15th November 1921. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London Archives.

There was choice of the main dish: ‘Pensioned Dover Soles, Fried- according to Form 60, Act 1918,’ or ‘Super Saddle of Annuation Mutton with Board of Education Jelly.’

For a side order, the following was on offer and something of a limited choice: ‘Dished – Whitehall Potatoes and Caulage Flower with Raymont sauce.’

The reference to ‘Raymont’ was the name of the second Warden of the college Professor Tommy Raymont.

For dessert, another choice on the menu:

‘Tart of Apples, From the Tree of Knowledge with cream that Nestlés bonny babies

Fruits of the Warden’s Victory

Gorgonzola with Odour of Sanctity

Coffee, Black, White or Red-Tape’

The menu is tailed off with ‘Dainty Drinks and Glorious Gargles as served to the law officers of the Treasury. Each teacher’s pink form should be filled with the above before Superannuation.’

It is the signatures on the other side of the menu that makes this event rather resonant and poignant.

The autographs are by ‘lost to history’ figures in the story of Goldsmiths: F H Cecil Brock, Harry E. J. Curzon, Frederick Marriott, Arthur H R Huggett, Edwin S F Ridout, Joseph Kay, and Graham T. White.

Is it possible that this is a group of Goldsmiths’ College staff tutors who were sitting on the same table and one of them decided their menu card should be signed by their companions?

So who were these people dining in a somewhat ironic celebration of post Great War bureaucracy?

F H Cecil Brock was the Vice-Principal for men in the ‘Training Department’- the largest body within the college teaching teachers to teach. He left to take up the principalship of Crewe College in December 1929, having been a Goldsmiths’ Vice-Principal for nine years.

Harry Edward James Curzon was head of Mathematics from September 1906 to his tragic death from suicide in 1935. He gave nearly thirty years of his life to the College, gained a PhD while lecturing in New Cross in 1920 and was one of the country’s leading educational text book authors on Maths.

At the time of this dinner he was on a salary of £600 a year and, on the basis of his multiple degrees, a BA and MA from the University of Cambridge, a BSc, MA and DSc from the University of London, he was probably the most academically qualified of all the lecturers at Goldsmiths College during this time.

£600 a year in 1924 is the equivalent of £34,500 in 2019.

Frederick Marriott was the oldest of the group at the age of 64 and only a year away from retirement having been the headmaster of the Art School since 1891.

In his time at New Cross he bridged the Victorian age, the Edwardian epoch, Art Nouveau, the First World War, and the beginning of Art Deco.

Like all of the Art lecturers throughout most of the 20th century, his salary was substantially less than his Training Department colleagues.

And for some bizarre reason of hierarchy, the Art School tutors also had to sit in the College refectory on benches that were lower than those of the other members of staff.

Perhaps on the occasion of the Victory Dinner, his seniority and the fact he was a year away from his own superannuation, meant he may have been permitted to dine ‘at the same level.’

He was one of two people at the table who had been working in the New Cross Building when it was the Goldsmiths’ Company’s Technical and Recreative Institute. He had devoted 34 years of his working life to teaching art at Goldsmiths.

Arthur Henry Richard Huggett joined Goldsmiths in the summer of 1906 having just gained his BSc degree from King’s College, University of London. He was appointed lecturer in Nature Study and Drawing and had been trained as a teacher at the famous St Mark’s College in Chelsea.

Two more autographs were supplied by another couple of  ‘old timers.’

Graham T.White had been teaching engineering as far back as 1893 in the days of the Goldsmiths’ Institute. He was made head of the Mechanical, Electrical and Constructional Engineering Department in 1919.

Joseph Kay, a lecturer in Teaching and specialising in Manual Instruction and Mathematics, joined at the beginning of the University of London, Goldsmiths’ College reincarnation in September 1905.

Mr Kay would remember looking around the old Royal Naval School chapel that had been utilised as the College’s largest lecture hall when he arrived in September 1905 to prepare for the first term of teaching:

The Tower of this building housed a staircase, out of bounds in my time. On the plaster ceiling at its head were the naval boys’ inscriptions of earlier Naval students, one of whom I remember, was Lord Charles Beresford.

He actually earned £25 a year more than Dr. Curzon in 1924, perhaps because he assisted the Vice-Principal for men in organising subjects and leading the teaching of theory and practice and what was described as ‘men’s manual work.’

Plumbing class at Goldsmiths’ College 1926-27. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London Archives.

Graham T. White headed an engineering department that started optimistically each year with an enrolment of about 850 students; some of whom studied plumbing. By Christmas drop-outs usually reduced the figure by three hundred.

Mr White specialised in running evening instruction in Mathematics and Physics up to University of London B.Sc standard during Institute days and afterwards.

In 1931 he would take his department away from the College main building in New Cross to become part of the new South-East London Technical Institute half a mile down the road in Lewisham.

Mr J. Kay would retire at the end of August 1931 and A.H.R. Huggett in 1930. Lecturer in History, Edwin Stanley Forsyth Ridout was ‘a new boy’- starting in September 1921. Before taking up his lectureship he had gained degrees in Dublin, Cambridge, London and Lille in France. After 29 years at Goldsmiths, he took retirement in the summer of 1950.

The first college history, The Forge, published in 1955, observed that ‘…the accession of Dr. Ridout to the staff in 1921 greatly helped in levelling up the teams and in establishing the college in University sports during the 1920’s.’

The spirit of the Victory Dinner was not to gloat and glorify the victorious vanquishing of Germany.

At Goldsmiths’ College there was enthusiasm for the first international experiment in creating a global policing body with the purpose of ending all wars.

In the inter-war years between 1918 and 1939, the League of Nations based in Geneva would try to do just that, though historians and people experiencing the agonies of the Second World War argue that it failed to achieve this laudable aim.

Opening of the first session of the League of Nations in 1920. Image: National Library of Norway Public Domain.

And the staff and students at Goldsmiths were so committed to the values of ‘Peace and goodwill towards all men’ and ‘Within the four seas all men are brothers’ that during the 1920s and 1930s the College’s League of Nations Union would enthusiastically organise talks and lectures exploring the tensions surrounding conflict resolution or the lack of it all over the world.

During the session 1934-35, the College’s League of Nations Union played an active part in College life, in spite of a small actual membership of 40.

In that year the Society secured ‘first class speakers’ for its meetings including Dr. Gooch and Dr. Nikolas Hans Ex-Minister of Education for the Kerensky and Bolshevik Governments.

The League of Nations Christmas card for 1924 shown at the top of this article was designed by Goldsmiths School of Art student Eric Fraser who would go on to become one of the country’s leading illustrators of his time.

Perhaps it was exchanged by the men eating their ‘gorgonzola with the odour of sanctity’ in November of that year?

Frederick Marriott, as head of Art, may well have been the person distributing it.

He may well have been sipping his ‘red-tape’ coffee with pride and enthusiasm for his young scholarship winning student whose impressive artwork exhorted the global defence of liberty and depicted children of all races as being the worthy recipients of such freedom and privilege.

For many decades henceforth Eric Fraser would define and characterise much of the design and symbolic representation of sound programmes in the BBC’s Radio Times magazine.

In the years ahead the League of Nations would be a forum for hope rather than an effective resort to justice; where reality would defeat idealism time after time.

In the summer of 1938 students at Goldsmiths’ College concerned about international affairs would have been horrified by the invasion of Abyssinia by Fascist Italy, the invasion of Manchuria and China by a militarised Japan.

Their studies would be pursued against the backdrop of the escalating civil war in Spain, the absorption of Austria into a Greater Germany and increasing tension that would later on that year produce the ambiguity of the Munich agreement.

The independence and security of Czechoslovakia would be violated for the false hope of avoiding war with Germany.

A student signed only by the initials I.M.R. wrote this ‘call to participate in the League of Nations Union’ in the summer edition of the student magazine Smiths:

Of the three types of person at present inhabiting Goldsmiths’ College, the Communist is noisy, the Pacifist has too little to say, and the Person of no particular opinion seems to offer the only hope of progress. People of the latter sort are so buffeted and bewildered that at the moment they dare not attempt to think for themselves. Yet they can be “mind shakers, moulders of a new world,” since having so far held aloof from any set political belief, they are capable of critical, unbiased judgment.
Yet I would say to them, “Beware of waiting too long.”

Much would be achieved if we could only persuade people to think international before it is too late. The League of Nations, which was formed in this hope, has failed through the lack of faith and goodwill of its members. But that is no reason for deserting it. Rather by joining the Union we should show our desire for better understanding, and help to remedy the League’s weaknesses. It seems a pity that from this College only four students should be sufficiently enthusiastic to attend the exchanging ideas with students from the British colonies and from the United States. Here, at any rate is one chance of showing interest in the world as a whole, and of broadening knowledge.

Image: By Martin Grandjean – Strictly based on a flag kept by the League of Nations Archives (United Nations Geneva)., CC BY-SA 4.0

For all of the disillusioning disappointments of international affairs during the 1920s and 30s, the League of Nations did at least provide an experience of what was lacking in a worldwide body set up to prevent conflict.

After the horrors of the Second World War, The United Nations was established in 1945 to learn and benefit from the League’s failures.

A key difference would be direct participation, support and involvement of the United States.

And it could be argued that the words of the student ‘I.M.R.’ in 1938 to aim to be among the ‘mind shakers’ and ‘moulders of a new world’ have endured and persisted as an abiding spirit of humanitarian aspiration at Goldsmiths’ College.

That’s So Goldsmiths– a forthcoming history of the university is being researched and written by Professor Tim Crook.