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Goldsmiths History Timeline 1930s

The 1930s: Navigating the Depression and the Prelude to War

Goldsmiths’ College students 1932-33. Images: Goldsmiths Archives.

National Events 

1929-30 The decade opened with the President of the Board of Education Lord Charles Trevelyan (appointed 1929) optimistically looking to a future of a rising school leaving age, increased state funded education, and an expanding secondary school sector. He was a member of Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour cabinets as President of the Board of Education between January and November 1924 and between 1929 and 1931. He resigned when his Education Bill was rejected by the Lords a few months before the Labour government collapsed into a national coalition that re-introduced austerity and cutbacks.

In 1929 the Irish Republican and nationalist Eamon de Valera was arrested at the Northern Ireland border on his way to attend a function in Belfast. After being tried for contravening an exclusion order he was jailed for one month. Poor Law Guardians- regarded as an oppressive system of giving bare subsistence level welfare to starving and destitute people- were abolished in law. A statutory commission on the future of India rejected nationalist demands for independence.

In 1930 unemployment reached two million. The R101 airship crashed over French fields killing Britain’s secretary of state for air Lord Thomson who was a passenger. Press Baron Lord Beaverbrook founded the United Empire Party whose candidate won the Parliamentary by-election in South Paddington. The Youth Hostel Association was created. 26 year-old Amy Johnson became the first woman to fly solo across the world. Sir Oswald Mosley resigned as a Labour Party cabinet minister when his proposals to tackle unemployment were rejected and he was replaced by future Prime Minister Clement Atlee.

Pathé News report 1930. “Sawston, Nr. Cambridge. Our first Village College – where country girls and boys will have opportunities equal to City dwellers – opened by the Prince of Wales.”

Goldsmiths’ College

1930 In contrast to the ‘musical chair’ changes in Presidents to the Board of Education, Goldsmiths’ College had one Warden throughout the 1930s. Arthur Edis Dean had been appointed in 1927.

At the beginning of the decade the College responded to the publicly declared anticipation of Lord Trevelyan that the school leaving age would be raised in 1931. 35 additional students were admitted in 1929 and a further 20 in 1930 bringing the student roll up to a peak number of 576 Training Department students (241 men and 335 women).

A similar continuity was also achieved with Clive Gardiner serving as Headmaster of the Art School from 1929 throughout the 1930s to 1958.

Clive Gardiner is credited with moving the Art School in the direction of ‘higher education in art’. He inaugurated formal teaching and respect for the impressionists and the Modern Movement.

In addition to being an inspirational and devoted teacher, he was a considerable artist of importance himself. He was recognised for the murals he painted for the Wembley Exhibition of 1924 and the unique designs he created for London Transport.

Graham Sutherland said of him: ‘Everything worthwhile I learnt, I learnt from him.’

It would be his reforms and innovations that laid the foundations for the recognition by the Board of Education in 1938 of Goldsmiths’ College’s Art Teacher’s Certificate- thus giving artists the option of secure, qualified and respected teaching in schools.

He deserves considerable credit for giving art educational and academic legitimacy in the state school system.



1930 Former Board of Education President Eustace Percy published Education at the Crossroads which argued for better technical education and expressed the belief that the Technical Colleges could be institutions of paramount importance. The universities could do more to teach students to think, avoid over-specialization, with the Technical Colleges taking on a more independent and enhanced status.

British Pathé. The King’s Microphone to be installed in the House of Lords for broadcasting around the world.

1930-32 The high figure of enrolled students was maintained for two years and the extra income in fees and grants was channelled into a reserve fund for future capital developments. Despite the insecurity of global and national economic depression, the College avoided deficit and by making additional savings was able to invest in a large new hall of residence and playing grounds just before the outbreak of World War Two.
March 1931 Hastings Lees-Smith takes over as President of the Board of Education after Trevelyan’s resignation. He was also a Liberal politician, but he had only a brief time in office before the government fell, and he refused to follow Ramsay MacDonald into the National Government. 1929-30 The College failed to obtain a large capital grant from Carnegie Trustees for a ‘National Physical Training College for Men.’ In the competitive tendering the grant was allocated to a specialist college in Leeds. The Labour government had been optimistic about education funding and expansion of schools.
1931 Hadow Report: The Primary School: Consultative Committee made 70 recommendations setting out its vision of primary education.

Pathé News. Time To Remember – A New Era 1931 – Reel 1

1931 The National Economy Crisis hit the College hard with a reduced capitation grant of £3 per student and a reduction of the College’s trainee teacher complement of 580 to 525.
1931 R.H. Tawney in the book Equality noted that more than three-quarters of the holders of high office in church, state and industry about whom there was information had been educated at public (i.e. independent) schools. He said men had ‘idealized money and power; they can “choose” equality.’

Pathé News. Time To Remember – A New Era 1931 – Reel 2

1931 Salaries of teaching staff were cut at first by 5 per cent instead of the national 10 per cent demanded by the Board of Education. Goldsmiths’ participated in a protesting delegation to Whitehall including the University of London Vice-Chancellor. But the Board still imposed the full cut in 1932.


25 August 1931 Sir Donald Maclean appointed President of the Board of Education in Ramsay MacDonald’s Conservative dominated National Government. He was a solicitor, Liberal Party politician and leader of the official Opposition 1918-20. He worked closely with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He died suddenly on 15 June 1932 at the age of sixty-eight while in ministerial charge of education.

Pathé News. Time To Remember – A New Era 1931 – Reel 3

1931 The Engineering and Building Department left the College after 25 years to occupy the new South-East London Technical Institute. This meant the loss of 850 students. This was an example of the focus on technical education advocated by the report Education at the Crossroads being realised. Technical teaching at Goldsmiths’ hailed from its origin as the Goldsmiths Company’s Technical and Recreative Institute between 1891 and 1904.
1931 The National Expenditure Committee wielded its axe on education. The emergency budget in September initially reduced teachers’ salaries by 15 per cent, but modified the cut to 10 per cent after considerable opposition. The move was met with a deluge of protests. Newly qualified teachers soon found it difficult to obtain posts.

In March 1931 Dr Harold Moody helped found and became the first President of the influential League of Coloured Peoples which campaigned for racial equality and civil rights.

Dr Moody’s home and practice at 164 Queen’s Road, Peckham, was a short bus ride from Goldsmiths’ College. The LCP would publish its own journal The Keys and its editors included the Jamaican poet, playwright and broadcaster Una Marson.

Pathé News. ‘Time To Remember – A New Era 1931 – Reel 4.’

1931 Goldsmiths’ College failed to persuade the University of London to agree to the re-establishment of Evening Degree courses.

It did, however, succeed in persuading the University of London Senate, London County Council, and the Board of Education to give permission for the establishment of an Evening Literary Department.

Goldsmiths alumni Gladys Mitchell (1918-20) was establishing her reputation as a thriller writer with publication, good reviews and sales of  Speedy Death, The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop and The Longer Bodies all featuring her fictional psychologist detective Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley later played in a tv series by the late Dame Diana Rigg.

Mitchell wrote prolifically from her first published novel, Speedy Death, in 1929, until her death in 1983.


1932 Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance: recommended that ‘Attendance at a Junior Instruction Centre or at a Course of Instruction should everywhere be regarded and enforced as a normal condition in respect of unemployment, whether through the Insurance Scheme or in the form of Unemployment Assistance’. 1931 to 1936 The Literary Department incorporated and developed the merger of the Lewisham and Peckham Literary Institutes.  This became a ‘Department of non-vocational Adult Education for men and women who wished to widen their knowledge and to enrich their leisure time through the cultivation of taste and skill.’
15 June 1932 The former Viceroy of British India, Edward Wood as Lord Irwin, was appointed President of the Board of Education. The Conservative Party politician would become better known as Viscount Halifax for his later tensions with Winston Churchill in the war-time governments of 1940. He was the fourth President in less than two years, and probably the most reluctant one.  His views on education were rather old-fashioned; particularly when referring to non-Public School educated children he declared: “We want a school to train them up to be servants and butlers.” 1932 Drama and music were established in evening courses. Reginald Jevons introduced a special method of group piano tuition and Frederick Haggis established The Goldsmiths’ Symphony Orchestra, and Choral Union. The Orchestra engaged enthusiastically with the local community by organising ‘plebiscites’ whereby audience members filling the Great Hall for Saturday night concerts could also fill out questionnaires and vote for their wish for the classical music to be played at the next concert. Kitty Kennedy was the principal violin in a 60 strong Orchestra that was funded by local sponsorship and donors.
16 June 1932 Universities (Scotland) Act extended the powers of the Courts of Scottish universities. 1932-3 Psychology was introduced as an evening course offered by lecturer in education Dr. F.J. Schonell
15 September 1932 Board of Education Circular 1421. Set out the requirement for means-tested fees to be charged in all grant-aided secondary schools. 1932 In May the College hosted a conference on Geography teaching and the influential text authored by two College lecturers A Handbook for Geography Teachers was launched.
1932 Birmingham opened the first Local Education Authority (LEA) child guidance clinic. There were 22 by 1939, and 79 by 1945. This uneven pattern of provision was a common feature of educational provision during the 1930s where access for teachers and pupils to progressive services was the equivalent of a postcode lottery. 1932 The Goldsmithian student magazine changed its name to The Smith. Content began to reflect the political tensions of the time with students reporting their encounters with Mahatma Gandhi, and the appearance of a student describing himself as ‘The Fascist’. A woman student challenged misogyny with an article signed off as ‘The Suffragette.’
December 1932. 1,100 newly qualified teachers were unemployed and unemployment among teachers persisted through the rest of the 1930s. School-building schemes were deferred with a reduction in capital expenditure in England & Wales from £9.2 million in 1930-1 to £2.7 million in 1933-4.

British Pathé. Gaumont News ‘Review of the Year 1932. (No sound)’

1929-1932 Gender demarcation faded with the foundation of a Joint Students’ Union. Of the 26 Presidents up until 1954, eight were women.  Men’s and Women’s Social Service Clubs were also amalgamated. In the College main building students could choose to have conversation, play and recreation in Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Common rooms.


1933 Hadow Report on ‘Infant and Nursery Schools: Consultative Committee’ made 105 wide-ranging recommendations.

British Pathé. ‘Time To Remember – The Time Of The Monster 1933 – Reel 1.’

1933 Cutbacks in grants from the Board of Education meant the roll of students dropped by 100 from 1932. Indian student Shiba Prasad Chatterjee wrote ‘A Letter To My English Friends’ in his defence of Mahatma Gandhi, Indian culture and the right to self-determination in The Smith.
1933 Children and Young Persons Act for England and Wales giving anonymity in juvenile proceedings and putting the welfare of juveniles/children first in sentencing decisions.

British Pathé. ‘Time To Remember – The Time Of The Monster 1933 – Reel 2.’

1932-33  In this academic year Goldsmiths Art school had a day enrolment of 77 students with 196 taking evening classes.  These figures would remain roughly consistent throughout the 1930s.
1932-35 The Educational Officer for London County Council, Professor Cyril Burt, broadcast a series of talks on BBC Radio which were published in a BBC pamphlet ‘How the Mind Works.’ Burt and fellow eugenicists followed this up with an edited volume with the same name published by George Allen & Unwin that propounded a theory of fixed intelligence, that was later fully challenged and discredited.

British Pathé. ‘Time To Remember – The Time Of The Monster 1933 – Reel 3’ & ‘Time To Remember – The Time Of The Monster 1933 – Reel 4.’

1933 College organized a Specialist Third Year course for intending Senior School Teachers in Arts, Crafts, Music, Mathematics, Biology, English and Geography for an Academic Diploma. This prevented 2-year certificate students entering a jobs market blighted by unemployment. This raised the status of teacher training in the context of higher education nudging it towards degree level.
1934 Board of Education Committee of Inquiry into Problems relating to Partially Sighted Children. Recommended that where possible such children should be educated in mainstream classes. 1934 The Board of Education approved Goldsmiths’ College development of a course of teacher training for 20 Post-Diploma Students of the Royal College of Art and this paved the way for the expansion of teaching art in state schools.
1934 Labour won control of London County Council (LCC) for the first time. A sub-committee recommended the creation of ‘multi-bias’ (i.e. comprehensive) schools, but the LCC’s Director of Education E.M. Rich was not in favour. Local and regional authority democracy meant political opposition parties could spend more money on education. 1934-38 The success of the Royal College of Art teacher training course led to Goldsmiths’ being recognised under Rule 109 to be one of 16 Institutions permitted to run specialist professional training courses for qualified students from any Art School. This led to the establishment of the Art Teacher’s Diploma or Certificate.
1934 School Age Council established the campaign for the raising of the leaving age. Great Britain was substantially behind other European countries and the USA in the proportion of its children in secondary, further and higher education. Its school leaving age along with its age of criminal responsibility was among the lowest. 1934 Women’s Vice Principal Caroline Graveson retired after a career of 19 years at the College. She was a founding member of the British Psychological Society and a key pioneering figure and role model for women in Higher Education. She had even been ‘Acting Warden’ for a few weeks when Thomas Raymont needed convalescence.
1934  Lord Irwin/Halifax was opposed to compulsory education beyond the age of 14 and believed there should be no outright raising of the age, but only a permissive measure, with exemptions allowing children to continue leaving at 14 for employment if they wanted to.

British Pathé. ‘Review of 1934.’

January 1935 onwards An evening students’ Magazine The Anvil was founded and an annual evening student ‘Rally’ inaugurated. It was a platform for short stories and poetry. An evening students’ union was also established. Spike Milligan was among the evening students seeking to improve his musical education.
1935- 7th June Stanley Baldwin (Conservative) takes over as Prime Minister of the National Coalition following the resignation of Ramsay MacDonald. Oliver Stanley, a Conservative politician and second son of the 17th Earl of Derby, appointed the fifth President of the Board of Education in the 1930s- practically one for each year. He was always more well-known as the transport minister who introduced the 30 mile an hour speed limit on the roads and the compulsory driving test.

In July the teacher’s pay cut of 10 per cent imposed in 1931 was finally reversed.

British Pathé archive/Gaumont. ‘A look back at 1935.’

1935 Death of Dr. Harry Curzon who took his own life while in a first-class compartment of a train arriving at London Bridge station. At first train staff thought he was asleep. The Warden and College presented a progressive understanding of his mental illness at his public inquest. He had had a distinguished 29-year career at the College, and set the standard in teaching Mathematics throughout secondary education.  He was a very popular figure who totally committed himself to the life of the College, refereeing soccer matches, and supporting the old students’ association.
1935 Marion Richardson establishes an influential textbook series Writing and Writing Patterns (Books I-V Plus Teacher’s Book). Her toolkit on handwriting was widely taught in primary schools until the 1980s. The idea of standardising handwriting style matched the 1930s striving for BBC Received Pronunciation. 1935 Goldsmiths’ College pioneered the use of broadcasting and film in the teaching of geography in schools. The BBC had fitted up a miniature studio in the College so that lecturers might devise programmes, broadcast them to classes of children in another room and test their success.
January 1936 Board of Education Circular 1444 offered some prospect of better funding for schools. Governments deliberately shifted the burden of funding from the central Board of Education budget to local authorities who only had the option to consider raising the rates.

British Pathé. ‘Time To Remember – The Time Of The Three Kings 1936 Reel 1’ & ‘Time To Remember – The Time Of The Three Kings 1936 – Reel 2 .’


1935-36 Visiting lecturer Ann Driver originated radio broadcasts and classroom teaching of ‘Music and Movement’ engaging Goldsmiths’ College students and children at the Childeric Road School and resulting in a book of the same title being published by Oxford University Press.
31 July 1936 Education Act 1936 provided for the leaving age to be raised to 15 in September 1939 (postponed because of the outbreak of war) and encouraged the churches to provide secondary schools by offering building grants of up to 75 per cent for new ‘Special Agreement’ schools. In return for the increased financial aid church school managers had to give up some of their rights over appointment.

British Pathé. ‘Time To Remember – The Time Of The Three Kings 1936 – Reel 3’  &  ‘Time To Remember – The Time Of The Three Kings 1936 – Reel 4.’

1936-7 The London County Council agreed to continue their maintenance grant for evening education with a renaming of this side of the College’s post 5 p.m. teaching provision ‘The Evening Department of Adult Education.’  It had the remit to develop more advanced work and study, and expand to dramatic work, scientific hobbies, appreciation of art, and forms of physical education and dancing.
29 April 1937 Education (Deaf Children) Act 1937 lowered the school starting age for deaf children.

British Pathé. ‘Time To Remember – Sense Of Values 1937 – Reel 1.’

1937 Paul Drury was appointed lecturer in art- one year after Betty Stanwick and Carel Weight- part of a new generation of teachers.
28 May 1937 Neville Chamberlain (Conservative) takes over as Prime Minister of the Conservative dominated National Coalition government.  13th Earl of Chesterfield and 7th Earl Stanhope, James Stanhope appointed the sixth President of the Board of Education in the 1930s. He was a Conservative hereditary aristocrat and politician and veteran of the Boer War.

British Pathé. ‘Time To Remember – Sense Of Values 1937 – Reel 2.’

1934-38 Art School headmaster Clive Gardiner mounted three memorable integrated exhibitions of students’ work having special reference to industrial and commercial design. ‘The Trojan Toy Company’ in 1934, ‘Country Stores Ltd’ in 1936 and ‘We Launch a Ship’ in 1938.  Gardiner himself was a substantially commissioned public artist for lithograph posters and murals.
1937 G.A.N. ‘Norman’ Lowndes published ‘The Silent Social Revolution’- an account of the expansion of public education in England and Wales between 1895 and 1935. He argued that ‘In the creation of an educated democracy complacent satisfaction with the degree of progress so far achieved can find no place. The millennium is still a long way off.’ He concluded: ‘…when the social historian of the future comes to write of the development of public education in England in the first 60 years of its existence as a compulsory force, he may feel that, considering how much had to be accomplished the task was worthily begun.’ The essence of his thesis was that public education was fundamental to national life. 1937 Former College Warden Thomas Raymont published A History of the Education of Young Children, as a follow-up to his 1935 new edition of Modern Education: Its Aims and Methods. Along with the special Methuen Goldsmiths educational Handbooks and the seminal textbooks on teaching art in schools by Goldsmiths’ Art School lecturers Evelyn Gibbs and Rosalind and Arthur Eccott, theorists and practitioners from the College made a significant impact in research and standards of education throughout the country. Another very influential volume in the educational field, Modern Education of Young Children published in 1933 was edited by Nancy Catty ‘sometime lecturer in education at Goldsmiths’ College.’
13 July 1937 Physical Training and Recreation Act 1937 provided for National Advisory Councils and a National College of Physical Training. Physical Training in education was seen as an adjunct to promoting better health.

British Pathé. ‘Time To Remember – Sense Of Values 1937 – Reel 3.’

1937 Goldsmiths’ College followed up the legislation by establishing a Third Year course of Advanced Physical Training for men, running until the outbreak of war, and training a complement of 20 men.
30 July 1937 Factories Act 1937- wide-ranging Act including limitations on the employment of young people in hazardous environments. For as many working class parents who hoped that education could bring about a better working life for their children there were as many who were prejudiced against extended education for simply economic reasons. Earning 14 and 15-year-olds were vital to balancing strained family budgets. 1937 The College had endeavoured in 1935 to develop a Third-Year course for teachers of ‘backward, dull and difficult children,’ but despite the distribution of 3,000 copies of ‘an elaborate prospectus’ to local authorities central Board of Education cutbacks meant secondment of teachers was not possible.  However, Refresher Courses in the summer terms of 1937 and 1938 proved very successful with 50 teachers taking part.
1 July 1937 Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937. A wide-ranging Act covering child protection, employment, criminal proceedings and children in care. The Scottish constitutionally determined an independent approach to youth crime.

The International African Service Bureau (IASB) founded in London as a pan-African organisation by West Indians George Padmore, C. L. R. James, Amy Ashwood Garvey, T. Ras Makonnen, Kenyan nationalist Jomo Kenyatta and Sierra Leonean labour activist I. T. A. Wallace-Johnson. Its journal International African Opinion was edited by C. L. R. James.

The IAFA had organised a reception for the exiled Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie at Waterloo Station in 1936.

British Pathé. ‘Time To Remember – Sense Of Values 1937 – Reel 4.’

1937-8 ‘Particularly vigorous’ year with the total student roll during the day and evening passing the 2,000 mark. A large team of H.M. Inspectors was critical of the Degree courses, the poor state of parts of the estate; particularly student hostels.

‘Harold’ H.H. Stanners, student teacher 1910-12, enjoyed some success as an author of 1930s crime fiction with three novels between 1936-8.  He won the Military Medal during his six-year service in the Great War between 1914 and 1920, rising from private to full  lieutenant in the Royal West Surrey Regiment, Munster Fusiliers, and Royal Flying Corps.

In 1937, Stanners published his second novel At The Tenth Clue, following Murder at Markendon Court the year before.

27 October 1938 The ninth Earl de la Warr (Herbrand Sackville) appointed the seventh President of the Board of Education in the 1930s. He had been the first hereditary peer to join the Labour Party, and one of only a handful of Labour ministers to follow Ramsay MacDonald into National Coalition government.

British Pathé. ‘Time To Remember – Wind Up Week 1938 – Reel 1’ 

‘Time To Remember – Wind Up Week 1938 – Reel 2.’

1938 Goldsmiths’ College was almost alone among London Training Colleges in carrying on as normal during the Munich crisis.  All courses were running. Only the Nursery School Children were dispersed. Students ‘maintained admirable steadiness’ and helped with the assembly of respirators for the Borough of Deptford and other aspects of civil defence.
1938 Influential Spens Report on Secondary Education with Special Reference to Grammar Schools and Technical High Schools. The report of the Board of Education Consultative Committee recommended a ‘tripartite’ system of grammar, technical and secondary modern schools.  This would shape the post Second World War development of secondary education in England and Wales.

British Pathé. ‘Time To Remember – Wind Up Week 1938 – Reel 3.’

‘Time To Remember – Wind Up Week 1938 – Reel 4.’

1938 The College drew up a programme of ‘gradual modernization’ with a memorandum on capital needs for the University of London. Reserves of £14,000 were used to buy 24 acres at North Cray including the former home of Lord Castlereagh, where it is believed he shot himself. Woollett House was converted into a woman’s hostel and renamed Loring Hall. The playing fields are still owned and used by Goldsmiths. Indian international cricketer Cottari Subbanna Nayudu studied physical education for one year.
31 August 1939. Forces mobilized and reserves called up.

1 September Children began to be evacuated in school groups from the major cities when German troops and aircraft attacked Poland at 04.45 hours GMT.

3 September War was declared at 11.15 a.m.  Throughout this month 827,000 schoolchildren living in urban areas were dispersed mainly by train journey to the countryside.  On arrival children were taken to reception centres to be allocated to ‘billeters’ who were paid 10 shillings and 6 old pence a week for food and care for the first child and 8/6 for a second.

5 September 1939 Education (Scotland) (War Service Superannuation) Act 1939. Teachers’ war service to be reckoned for superannuation.

British Pathé. ‘Time To Remember – The Reluctant Warriors 1939 – Reel 1.’

‘Time To Remember – The Reluctant Warriors 1939 – Reel 2.’

‘Time To Remember – The Reluctant Warriors 1939 – Reel 3.’

‘Time To Remember – The Reluctant Warriors 1939 – Reel 4.’

1939 Goldsmiths’ College prepared to evacuate to University College, Nottingham and plans were first drawn up in April. The actual move of taking 400 students along with most of the staff took place in September in readiness to start teaching in early October.

It was a huge logistical operation with equipment, library books and furniture filling more than a dozen pantechnicons.  Lodgings for 150 male students were found in Nottingham, the women students being accommodated in existing University College halls of residence.

Deptford Borough Council occupied parts of the college for a First Aid Post, Air Raid Patrol Centre and the RAF set up and maintained a Balloon Barrage site on the back field. In early October a storm caused the balloon to lose its moorings and demolish the tower of the old New Cross Naval school chapel, and damage part of its roof.

Goldsmiths’ College from the air during 1930s. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

Indian international cricketer Cottari Subbanna Nayudu (centre), student at Goldsmiths 1938-9. Image: Public domain Wikipedia

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