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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.

Frederick Marriott- the first headmaster of Goldsmiths’ Art School from 1891 to 1925

Rue Gubernatis, Nice, Etching by Frederick Marriott. Image: Goldsmiths Art Collection.

It is not widely known that the teaching of Art at Goldsmiths predates the beginning of the life of the College as part of the University of London in 1905.

‘Studio’ Magazine profiled the Goldsmiths’ College Art School in 1918 and described Marriott as ‘the well-known painter, gesso-worker, and engraver.

The Art School started with the creation of the Goldsmiths Company’s Technical and Recreative Institute in 1891, and its first head teacher was an artist friend of the famous writer Arnold Bennett.

Like Bennett, Frederick Marriott was born in the potteries in Stoke on Trent in 1860.

His father was an engine fitter.

He became a respected painter and etcher of landscapes, architectural subjects and portraits.

He lived most of his life, like many other Goldsmiths’ artists and teachers, in Chelsea.

His address for nearly 40 years was 6A Netherton Grove, Chelsea, a quiet road bordering St Stephen’s hospital, entered and exited only by the Fulham Road,  and a stone’s throw from the working class slum terraces of Slaidburn Street and the World’s End.

Venice by Night, a colour etching by Frederick Marriott. Image: Barewall Studio.

The first history of Goldsmiths published in 1955, ‘The Forge,’ said that when he retired in 1925, he was regarded as ‘the well-loved Head of the School of Art since its inception in 1891 and had established its excellent reputation as a Fine Art School.’

Official Goldsmiths’ College portrait of Frederick Marriott painted by Harold Speed in 1925. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London Archives.

Brochure for the Goldsmiths’ Institute School of Art, Session 1903-4. Frederick Marriott was the only full-time member of staff. Classes were offered during the day and evening.

His portrait was painted by the artist Harold Speed, who had been in charge of portrait painting at the College since 1908.

For many years it hung in ‘the conference room’, but has since been relegated to storage for the College art collection.

The Delegacy (University of London management committee running Goldsmiths) ‘placed on record their high appreciation of his eminent services at New Cross for thirty-four years.’

The second Goldsmiths’ history written by Anthony Firth and published in 1991 was more critical:

‘Marriott was a lively figure and a close friend of Arnold Bennett. But he, and his successor as Headmaster, W. Amor Fenn (1925-9) had worked at New Cross from 1891. It seems clear that the work of the School under their direction did not change much in its early years as part of Goldsmiths’.

Marriott and Amor Fenn were both engravers, and students seem to have been encouraged to specialise in that area of work.’

River Landscape, Frederick Marriott (1860–1941) Image: Central Library, Bromley

Firth complains that the school had not moved very far in the direction of ‘higher education in art’ which had been the hope of the Delegacy and new funding body, the London County Council in 1906.

Graham Sutherland joined as a student in 1921 and in 1963 he recalled:

While the teaching at the school was probably sound and was certainly practical, it was totally out of touch with the great European movements, then in full flower and moving to a climax. If Old Masters’ names were heard I do not remember much serious attempt being made to implant any real understanding of the significance of their work.

A life class at the Goldsmiths’ Company Institute in the late Victorian and early Edwardian age. The artist Graham Sutherland thought the Art School was old-fashioned by the time he enrolled in 1921.

Still less were we really taught to apply their example to our own work. I do not remember hearing a word about the Impressionists and on the subject of the Modern Movement there was a profound silence.

New blood and ideas would be introduced when Clive Gardiner started teaching there from 1918. He would be appointed Headmaster in 1929.

By 1918 Frederick Marriott is now Headmaster of the Goldsmiths’ College School of Art. The advertisement in ‘Studio’ Magazine shows that the young Clive Gardiner has joined the team of visitor tutors teaching Drapery Study, Drawing and painting from the Antique and Still Life Painting. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

Marriott received his early training in the school of Art, Coalbrookdale, and at the age of 14 went to work as a pottery painter in a factory.

In 1879 he gained a National Scholarship to the Royal College of Art in Kensington where he studied for three years.

He then worked as a designer and illustrator to Wood and Sons potteries company.

Later he became Chief Designer with the publisher Eyre and Spottiswood working there for four and a half years.

He practised repoussé work, wood carving, enamelling and modelling, and produced some fine panels in modelled gesso with mother-of-pearl inlay.

He exhibited at the Royal Academy (R.A.), Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (R.E.), in the provinces and at the Paris Salon.

Bruges, Belgium colour etching by Frederick Marriott. Image: Barewell Studio.

He was in every way a striking character: five feet tall, handlebar moustache, a regular wearer of a Norfolk jacket, and charming sense of humour.

Jolyon Drury, in his book Revelation to Revolution: The Legacy of Samuel Palmer, The Revival and Evolution of Pastoral Printmaking by Paul Drury and the Goldsmiths School in the 20th Century offers a delightful account of Marriott’s introduction of Paul Drury to Graham Sutherland in 1921:

Frederick Marriott was showing Graham Sutherland and his rather ‘starchy’ father (‘a tall gentleman of evident distinction’) round the art school one day in September 1921, when they came upon Paul Drury in the smaller studio painting an ‘old salt’, a bargee, from a drawing from life. “This is the room” remarked Marriott to Sutherland Snr. “where students can get on with composition and have a nodding acquaintance with Mr. Yorrick [in the corner was a skeleton in its little sentry box]…he seldom answers but he always smiles.” “This is Drury’s little boy” Marriott continued, “known him since he was a baby. Did Drury send his son to the Slade? Or to the Academy Schools? No, he sent him here.”

Frank Clayton Bennett by Frederick Marriott (1860–1941) Image: The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

His work in public collections includes a commission of a small painting in the Royal Collection, called Normandy House circa 1923. It is a night scene with a gabled farmhouse, towers to the right and two figures at the door. This was commissioned for The Library in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House.

He was Design Master at Blackheath School of Art,  and head of art teaching at the Onslow College of Science and Technology, 183 King’s Road, Chelsea.

He served as Headmaster of the Art School at the Goldsmith’s Technical and Recreative Institute from 1891 to 1904 and then continued in the same role with the Art School when it became part of University of London, Goldsmiths’ College until 1925.

He made continental tours working on town scenes with the emphasis on architecture, and also visited and painted in Australia about 1910 when he was given leave by Goldsmiths’ College to visit relatives.

Although having been very much lost to history for many years, and not being particularly referenced in terms of art historical prominence, there are signs that his work and contributions to culture are gaining capital in auctions and the interest of scholarship.

Frederick Marriott census return for 1911. He was living at 6A Netherton Grove, Chelsea and describes himself as an ‘Art Master.’ By this time he was Headmaster of the Art School at University of London, Goldsmiths’ College. The London County Council had taken over the funding of the School from the Goldsmiths’ Company of the City of London in 1905-6. The Census Return has been filled in by him in his distinctive handwriting.

In particular, Keele University Library has a considerable number of valuable and informative papers in their Arnold Bennett collection originated and authored by Frederick Marriott.

Cover for Arnold Bennett Society Newsletter for April 2018 Vol 6 No. 2. Click through for image origin.

Its most interesting archive treasure is a charcoal portrait of Arnold Bennett by his friend Frederick Marriott in 1907 which was recently used to illustrate the front cover of an edition of the Arnold Bennett Society

6A Netherton Grove in Chelsea in 2018- Frederick Marriott’s home throughout his time when Headmaster of Goldsmiths’ College Art School and where he and his wife entertained Arnold Bennett during the early part of the 20th Century. Image: Google Street View.


The Arnold Bennett collection of archives at Keele University holds some important papers written by Marriott in respect of his relationship with Arnold Bennett.

They include the manuscript  ‘Adventures with Arnold Bennett’ and a 68 page memoir titled ‘My Association with Arnold Bennett.’

For the period between 1911 and 1929 there are eight letters and 18 postcards from Arnold Bennett and Marguerite Bennett) to Mr and Mrs Frederick Marriott and others.

There is also a delightful archive document of poetic tribute: ‘Rhyming couplets on Arnold Bennett’ written by Frederick Marriott.

John Shapcott, ‘Literary scholar & editor – Arnold Bennett, regional novels, silent films, Melvyn Bragg. Honorary Research Fellow, Keele University,’ is currently carrying out research on the friendship and association between Arnold Bennett and Frederick Marriott.

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

The first overseas students at Goldsmiths- two young men from Egypt

Two Egyptian students studying to be teachers at Goldsmiths between 1907-9. Image: Goldsmith, University of London archives. Back row second from the right and middle row standing at centre.

They were apparently the first overseas students to study at University of London, Goldsmiths’ College, as it was then calling itself.

They were two young Egyptian men who enrolled on the two year training certificate for qualification as a teacher between 1907 and 1909.

The spelling of their names varies in documentation: Osman Fareed (or Farid) and Mohommet (or Mohammed) Subhi.

Mr Fareed appears to be standing in the middle of the second row.

Mr Subhi second from the right standing at the back.

They had all the appearance of young Edwardian gentlemen like their fellow students.

Mr Subhi sports the traditional pocket-watch with its chain visible on the outside of his waistcoat.

Mr Fareed’s waistcoat is more colourfully patterned, despite the black and white nature of the image.

His moustache has gone by the time he features in the College first Rugby XV a year later in 1908.

Osman Fareed from Egypt, arms crossed, sitting in the second row third from the right by the side of the team captain who is holding ball. Image: Goldsmiths, University London archive.

The Egyptian students were among the few trainee teachers paying private fees.

Most of students in ‘The Training Department’ from Britain were sponsored by bursaries provided by county education authorities anxious to promote and fund the recruitment of qualified teachers in their expanding local authority schools at Elementary and Secondary level.

At present what we know about Osman and Mohammed can be gleaned from the meticulous records in Goldsmiths’ student archives and two very grandly embossed volumes ‘University of London, Goldsmiths’ College, Training Department: Record cards of those students who left the training college in July 1909′.

Osman Farid’s student record card from the Goldsmiths Archives. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London Archive.

It can be seen that Osman was 19 years old when he started his teacher training course in 1907.

The name of his guardian is a Mr H.E Bowman of 36 Victoria Street, Westminster, the same man acting as guardian to his fellow Egyptian Mohammed Subhi.

The record shows that he ‘returned to Egypt to take up teaching’ and resided and worked at Gordon College in Khartoum, Sudan after qualifying.

Gordon College, Khartoum which would later evolve into the University of Khartoum.

Gordon College would later become the founding institution of the prestigious University of Khartoum.

It’s also clear that he has taken special courses in matriculating for a University of London BSc degree that he intended to complete in 1911. While completing his teacher training at Goldsmiths he took extra courses in Pure and Applied Maths, Chemistry and Physics.

We also know that Mr Farid/Fareed became a life-time member of the Goldsmiths College Old Students Association (GCOSA).

By the time of the beginning of the 20th century’s second World War in 1939, he was working for the Ministry of Education in Cairo.

Entrance to Goldsmiths’ College early 20th Century as the Egyptian students would have seen it. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London archive.


As a rugby player he was in a team that was experiencing more defeats than victories.

Rugby Union had not been played as sport by Egyptians.

If it was played at all it would have been the preserve of the British Army which had the country under virtual military occupation.

It was reported that on the 23rd January 1909 on the College ground (the playing field behind the main building) they were beaten by Holborn Circus 15 points to ‘Smiths 6 points: ‘Holborn seemed to be in the better humour for the boxing ring than the football field.’

Goldsmiths’ playing field in 1908 where the home rugby matches would have been played. The Blomfield new Art School block was completed in that year and shown in this image. During the first 2 years of the college this was an open quadrangle. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London archive.

More defeats that year included a thrashing one week later on 30th January by the rival side Boro Road College 29-nil.

That match was played at the college in front of a big and enthusiastic local crowd as Goldsmiths’ and Boro Road (from a college in Borough which would be one of the founding parts of South Bank University) were the leading teacher training colleges in London.

It was in the manner of a local derby as both colleges were located south of the River Thames.

The College’s rugby correspondent was embarrassed by the result and felt compelled to explain:

The Boro Road match was as usual, the match of the season. It was very unfortunate and disappointing to both present and past students, the College record broken in such an unmistakable manner. This is the first time Goldsmiths has been beaten by Boro Road on the Home Ground- the record established by our 1906-07 team also broke the Boro’s fourteen years inter-College record. Truly,  if we have any tears, we ought to get rid of them now.

In this match against ‘Boro’ we were outclassed in every respect. We were playing against fifteen players who have been reared on Rugby since they could walk, as the following analysis of the origin of the team will show. Two of the players came from South Wales : one from Conrwall ; one from Somerset : one from Warwickshire : one from Durham : two from Lancashire : three from Cumberland and four from Yorkshire.

They had perfect knowledge of the game, and their combination and skill showed, in addition, the result of long and continuous training.

Against this our team consists of players extracted chiefly from London and Egypt: progressing in knowledge of the game at the rate of what can be ‘picked up’ while playing an average of one match per week.

Consequently, it is presumption for us to anticipate anything but defeat at the hands of a stern, ambitious, team like that of Boro Road College determined as they are to go through the season unbeaten.

Mohammed Subhi was nearly 21 years old when starting his teacher training in 1907.

He too intended to complete a BSc degree with the University of London in 1911 in the same subjects as Osman Farid.

He lived at number 28 St Donatt’s Road while at Goldsmiths.

Mohammed Subhi’s student record card. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London Archive.

The College records also include a little slip of paper stating that he went on to teach at the Port Said Government School and the Khedivieh School and Engineering College.

Image: Goldsmiths, University of London Archive.

There is certainly evidence that the students and staff at Goldsmiths’ were very proud of their Egyptian students and cherished their presence.

Back of a postcard sent by Meg Hinwood to her family. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London archive.

One of the women students enrolled in the same year, Meg Hinwood, enthusiastically sent a postcard of the Egyptians’ student male group (Number VI) back home to her mother and annotated with the words: ‘I am sending this because it has both the Egyptians Osman Farid + Mohommet Subhi in it. It is Group VI.’

Osman Farid seems to have been expert on horses and contributed an article to the Goldsmithian called ‘The Arab Steed.’

In a description of the animals of Arabia, the first place is undoubtedly due to the noble steed. As a fact it is here that the animal attains its highest perfection ; not, indeed that of size ; for a true “Nejdee” of the best and purest breed seldom reaches, and never, perhaps exceeds fifteen hands in height ; but for perfection of form, symmetry of limb, cleanness of muscle, beauty of appearance- for endurance of fatigue, for docility, and for speed maintained to distances so long as to appear incredible, the “Nejdee” steed acknowledges no equal.

The animal is too well-known to require minute description. Reared under an open shed, and early habituated to the sight of men, to the sound and glitter of weapons, and to all the accessories of human life, the colt grows up free from vice or timidity and even acquires a degree of perfection in intelligence and surprises every stranger.

Colts are ridden early- too early, indeed- in their third and, even second years, and are soon broken into a steady walk, to a canter, and to the ambling pace which is a special favourite with Arab riders.

Racing, an Arab amusement from time immemorial, and the game of “jersed” : a kind of tournament of mock fight with blunt palm sticks, highly popular throughout the peninsula of Arabia, complete with training both as to wind and pace.

Of all niceties of grooming, Arabs are masters ; and their natural kindness to animals, together with the care which every reasonable man bestows on a valuable article of property, ensures to an Arab steed very good treatment at the hands of his owner. An Arab, flying for his life, has, indeed, been known to give the only morsel of dry bread about him to his steed, rather than eat it himself- an act in which self-preservation had probably as large a share as affection.

Mr Fareed must have been getting used to Europeans changing the spelling of his forename and surname at every turn, for the Goldsmithian represented ‘Osman’ as ‘Othman.’

His article was somewhat heavily derived from the entry in the 10th and 11th editions (1902) of Encyclopedia Britannica to the point that if it had been submitted as assessment in the present age, there may have been questions about plagiarism.

The following sentence is an exact match with the Britannica entry: ‘Reared under an open shed, and early habituated to the sight of men, to the sound and glitter of weapons, and to all the accessories of human life, the colt grows up free from vice or timidity, and even acquires a degree of intelligence that surprises a stranger.’

To what extent was Mr Fareed copying this text in an ironic manoevre to give his largely European readers a mirror of what he was seeing and they expected to be reading?

It was some kind of reflection of the projected image and symbolism of how the European mentality constructed their identity of ‘The Arab Steed.’

The Egyptian students would have had to tolerate the patronising and exasperating tendency for European Orientalism of their culture.

One can imagine how many times they could been enticed into conversations about Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, a translation by the English poet Edward Fitzgibbon from a Persian, not Arabic, source.

Edward Said articulated in his seminal text long standing perceptions and concerns experienced by Arabs who had to negotiate the European Imperialist world.

Mr Fareed and Mr Subhi were attending Goldsmiths’ College at a time of simmering nationalist discontent in Egypt.

There had been a state of British indirect rule from 1882.

A British military force defeated the Egyptian Army at Tel el-Kebir in September and took control of the country.

Along with the French the British harvested the country’s substantial foreign currency earning asset, the Suez Canal.

Under what became known as ‘Protectorate status’, the British Empire dominated, interfered with, and manipulated Egyptian affairs until a revolution in 1952 overthrew the puppet monarchy, established a republic, and expelled all British advisors.

Their enrolment in 1907 was only a year after the Denshawai incident of 1906 where pigeon shooting by British officers, and protests by local villagers that they were killing the very birds raised by them as a source of livelihood, led to injury and death.

The excessive military and judicial crack-down, that included brutal, humiliating and public execution, added insult, injustice and outrage.

The Denshawai incident has been described by some historians as the turning point in galvanising majority Egyptian opinion against British occupation and dominance.

The loss of life was not on the scale of the Jallianwala Bagh/Amritsar massacre in British India in 1919.

But it had a similar impact and hurt on Egyptian national consciousness.

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

The Artesian Well of Contemporary Art- Laurie Grove Baths

Laurie Grove Baths. Acquired by Goldsmiths, University of London in 1991 and converted into Art studios and teaching spaces. Image: Tim Crook

For decades it was a common sight- the morning ritual of crocodile processions of school children carrying a towel and their swimming costume to and from the Childeric Primary and Haberdasher Aske’s Grammar schools.

Distinctive blue and white glazed tiling. Image: Tim Crook

There would be a teacher at the front and a teacher at the back.

They would be on their way to the Laurie Grove baths.

The classes would snake up and down the New Cross Road.

The Childeric children would be carefully escorted while crossing Lewisham Way by the New Cross Super Kinema from 1925. It changed names over the decades eventually to ‘The Gaumont’ before becoming The Venue that we know today.

Trams and traffic would be held up as they crossed by the famous Marquis of Granby pub, a landmark coaching inn on the Dover Road through the ages.

When the pupils were hoping to gain their British Amateur Swimming Association gold, silver and bronze medal awards for life-saving their towels would also wrap around a pair of pyjamas.

That’s because the awards required swimmers to do a specified number of lengths in their pyjamas while carrying a brick at the same time, which was the equivalent of pulling and swimming with a small child.

And the brick would be provided to the children swimmers by the swimming pool.

Bronze personal survival medal issued by Amateur Swimming Association in 1969.

Academic Dr. Gareth Stanton first started lecturing at Goldsmiths when the baths were still open for business.

He recalled ‘that the pyjamas were also required for the silver and gold badges not simply to simulate swimming fully clothed but also because by inflating them when wet and tying the leg ends you made a temporary life raft of sorts.’

‘Later in life, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, I remember photos of Afghan Mujahideen crossing rivers on goat stomachs similarly inflated. The images took me back, madeleine-like, to early school swimming lessons…’

Studios for art students at Goldsmiths in the converted swimming pools at Laurie Grove baths. Image: Tim Crook.

The memories of childhood swimming at Laurie Grove would be varied.

Some would recoil from the pungent smell of chlorine and the slimy feel of wet changing cubicle floors, and the echoing seagull style squalls of scores of children not exactly at play.

The blue and white glazed tiles and the bright shafts of light coming through the Victorian glass-house style ceilings would be slideshow images of that rites of passage experience when as a child you learned you could tread water and not sink to the bottom like a stone.

Image: Heritage of London Trust. Click through.

Autumn and winter days with wind, drizzle and rain blowing up from the Channel Ports would leave you feeling even more uncomfortable when returning to the classroom with damp tousled hair.

Mornings were for the splashing of school-children and swimming novices. Afternoons were preferred by adults.

Swimming pool interior. Note the partitions for studios. Image: Tim Crook.

Significance of Laurie Grove Baths in municipal and community history

It is not widely known that Laurie Grove Baths was the first significant public building project in Deptford in the history of the development of local government of this area of London.

That is why it is listed and a protected heritage site.

It was commissioned and completed before Deptford Borough Council was created by legislation in 1900, and, indeed before the building and completion of the Town Hall in 1905.

The project was designed between 1895-98 by local architect Thomas Dinwiddy. The commissioning body was the precursor to Deptford Borough Council with the quaint Victorian name of The Vestry Board of St Paul’s Deptford under the Public Baths and Washhouses Act 1846.

The baths were central to the commitment and campaign for public health.

The makeshift slums of the industrial revolution with its appalling legacy of deaths at birth, diphtheria, cholera, scarlet fever, and tuberculosis had to be left behind.

Britain was undergoing a slow progress towards representative democracy and that means people could vote in for themselves a better quality of life and some pursuit of happiness while life could be enjoyed.

The main priority was to create washing and bathing facilities for one of the poorest and most deprived urban areas of Great Britain.

The actual swimming pools offered a vital recreational resource. They were part of a great naval nation wishing to make sure the exponentially expanding city populations could learn to swim.

It also had the dual purpose of providing large-scale community meeting places. The pools could be covered with floor-boards and Laurie Grove Baths would transform into Laurie Grove Hall.

These spaces accommodated all kinds of entertainments and community organisations from wrestling, political meetings, to jazz and music concerts and dance hall events.

Laurie Grove Baths from New Cross Road. Image: Tim Crook

Laurie Grove Baths would become, apart from the collection of rates, Deptford Borough Council’s largest income stream.

The fact that it would be used by thousands of people every week meant that over the years it paid back the massive cost of its construction and substantially funded other vital local government services.

Cost and Construction

Laurie Grove Public Baths and Washhouses were opened on 20th April 1898 so the building complex is truly late Victorian Neo-Jacobean architecture on a grand engineering scale.

The total cost of £45,392 in today’s value (2018) would be £5,628,608.

The new Centre of Contemporary Art, CCA, has been created in what was the hugely impressive water pumping and water tank plant that provided thousands of gallons of water for two huge swimming pools, a smaller third one, and all the washhouse and slipper bathing facilities.


Original late 19th century floor. Image: Tim Crook

What is not readily understood in the early twenty first century, where new houses are usually constructed with several flushing toilets and two or three baths and ensuite bathrooms, is that at the end of the 19th and early 20th century more homes were without bathrooms than with.

Urban Poverty and the struggle to improve sanitation

Between 1898 and 1916 several thousand households in Deptford were one room only homes with full family occupancy.

Laurie Grove Baths were a vital public and municipal facility that enabled mainly working class and lower middle class people to have a bath once a week and to wash their clothes.

It was a tradition for all classes in Great Britain to bathe only one time a week or even less; a social habit that continued well into the 1960s and 70s.

Putting it crudely people were dirty and smelly, and this was not always necessarily true of the working-classes where pride would mean that overcrowded homes were much more vigorously scrubbed.

In 1926, the year of the General Strike, notices were put up in the baths imploring ‘Deptford bathers […] to have a hot shower before entering the swimming pool to keep the water clean for longer periods.’

The ‘Slipper Bath’ was something you would pay for. The current Laurie Grove Baths have preserved one such bath in all its glory, though when I visited the taps did not turn and the water was not flowing.

Goldsmiths has preserved one of the original ‘slipper baths.’ Image: Tim Crook

The degree of poverty in this part of inner London was agonisingly awful, though the Baths and Washhouse complex made a massive contribution to the improvement in public health.

It was a time when infectious diseases were still the scourge of everyday life and were often fatal.

Here is a record from 1907-8 of the common lodging houses that operated as hostels for mainly homeless people.

They were effectively hostels for single homeless people. The Laurie Grove Baths and Washhouse was the kind of place where they could bathe and clean their clothes. Image: Tim Crook.

The public Bath and Washhouse was a place where people in the depths of poverty and destitution could rescue some of their dignity, and indeed it became traditional for homeless single people to go to the Washhouse to have their last and final bath.

Stained glass and brass fittings- a people’s style palace mixing symbols of municipal splendour with the ecclesiastical. Image Tim Crook.

This may or may not account for the supernatural myth of there being a ghost called ‘Charlie’ who haunted the Laurie Grove Baths at night and weekends.

Death and tragedy would take place in the building in other ways. One diver misjudged the pool’s depth in 1952 when jumping from a high board and suffered a fatal fractured skull. There were the inevitable drowning incidents.

The Kent springs and water supply

The new Goldsmiths CCA. Image: Tim Crook. Appreciating Victorian industrial functionalism.

The new Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art Gallery has built its design heavily around the concept of the restoration of the original Victorian water tanks and tower complex that drew a massive fresh water supply from an Artesian well on the site.

This part of London was in the County of Kent during the 19th century and at the time of the original baths’ construction.

Kent Water Works operated in the area supplying 9 to 11 million gallons daily through steam power and drawing the supplies from rivers, wells and springs across 120 square miles.

The quality of the local water was such that it was the fountain of the Kent Mineral Waters Company whose business premises in the 19th century were situated in Dixon Road, adjacent to the then Royal Naval School. It’s the same site as the present College library, Warmington Tower, and the Education and student union buildings.

New gallery incorporates an impressive original water tower feature. Image: Tim Crook.

In 1883 Nathan Dews wrote: ‘The superiority of the Non – Intoxicating Drinks manufactured by this firm is, in a great measure due to the purity of the water supplied by the Kent Water Works Company, from their deep artesian wells, so highly spoken of by Professor Frankland, D.C.L., F.R.S.’

Surviving glass bottles bearing the Kent Mineral Waters Company name are occasionally and literally unearthed by diggers and collectors.

When the baths opened, as was traditional during this period of British social history, men and women had different entrances and gender segregated swimming baths.

Mixed bathing in public pools only began in Britain from around 1931 and then this was restricted to specific times. Dulwich Public Baths introduced a regime of mixed pools from 1946.

It’s not at present known when specifically men and women could ignore the gendered conduits to the two entrances, though it’s understood this happened post Second World War.

Men’s entrance. Image: Tim Crook

Women’s entrance. Image: Tim Crook

By this time Goldsmiths students and staff began to use the baths regularly because their own art nouveau pool had burnt down as the result of Luftwaffe action.

Alumni interviewed for the Goldsmiths History project have described that it was ‘a great way to make friends during the 1960s.’ Warden Richard Hoggatt, after whom the main building has been named, was a regular swimmer when he was living in New Cross.

It’s not known whether ambitious academics decided to take up swimming in order to catch his ear while he was breast stroking his exercise in the morning.

Goldsmiths’ College swimming pool constructed in 1891 when the Goldsmiths Company established the Recreative and Technical Institute. It was destroyed by enemy action in 1945.

So what was on offer at the Laurie Groves Baths and Washhouse at the time of the Battle of the Somme in 1916? A class system certainly. And the clearest discrimination against women in terms of time and access during the week.

If you were suitable and wealthy enough for the First Class pool it would cost you three times as much as the Second Class pool.

Page from Deptford Borough Council Yearbook for 1916.

Women had access only on Mondays and Tuesdays and then it was either the first class or the second class pool.

The statistics for the year 1907-8 confirm that well over a thousand adults and ‘scholars’ were using the pools and bathing/washing facilities every week. Nearly 106,000 paying customers throughout the year for all services.

That was roughly the population of Deptford at the time.

Some of the services and their charges do appear rather perplexing. The fact that there is no change in the price for a cold or hot first class bath. But a cold second class bath is 50% cheaper.

By 1961-62, the Borough Council’s Year Book revealed that about fifty years on the price of bathing and washing had not increased very substantially being nine old pennies- only three more pence than the first class charge of 1907-8.

And by 1961-2, the class division had disappeared. Equality, however, did require a contribution to the cost of a towel, soap and bath cube, all adding an extra nine old pence to the charge.

There was mixed bathing with men and women having equal access to gendered facility use if they wanted it, though the ‘men only’ option was consigned to the third ‘small bath’ situated in the basement area.

The Laurie Grove bathing and washing regime by 1961-62.

As previously Laurie Grove Baths had a summer and winter season.

These ran May to September and October to April.

It was during the winter season that the large bath was covered and used as ‘the Borough Hall.’

On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays it became an indoor bowling rink.

Culture and Politics

Much has been written about the cultural cachet of the Laurie Grove Hall as an entertainment centre. Jerry Lee Lewis playing a set in 1964, the Who doing a gig when it was on the Rock circuit, great bands of the 1930s playing regular Saturday night jazz.

South London’s Afro-Caribbean community felt safe, wanted and not turned away at Laurie Grove Hall; particularly through the 1960s and 70s, a time of racist violence and support for the National Front in Deptford and Lewisham.

Glass apex ceiling interior. Image: Tim Crook.

Limbo-dancing competitions were hugely popular. Local newspaper reports reference the baths for Water Polo competition, diving exhibitions and novelty races.

Women competitors swimming in pyjamas drew ‘a large number of entries’ in 1932.

In the 1970s professional wrestling from Laurie Grove was often shown on ITV sports with the famous Mick McManus top of the bill.

Mick was known also to frequent the nearby New Cross Inn.

He was born and brought up in New Cross and after the Second World War established his reputation as ‘The Man You Love to Hate’,  and ‘Rugged South London Tough Guy.’

He played up his apparent Achilles heel with his catchphrase ‘Not the ears, not the ears.’

The big pools also hosted boxing fights and benefits; particularly for widows left on their own after veterans of the Great War succumbed to war wounds and the lasting effects of mustard gas.

Politics and entertainment often went together.

Glass apex ceiling exterior. Image: Tim Crook.

In 1927 one of the first national woman trade union organisers, Mary Carlin, was reported to have said: ‘The Men will wake up like Rip Man Winkle in about 20 years’ time and find that their wives have displaced them in the labour market because they had been too slow to protect themselves against undercutting by refusing to work with unorganised women.’

She was speaking at a concert in Laurie Grove Hall raising money for the Transport and General Workers’ Union convalescent home.

In the early 1930s hunger marchers from Kent would be given accommodation and hospitality in the Baths under the auspices of local Labour Party activist and first woman Mayor of Deptford, Beatrice Maud Drapper.

The Town Hall and the Baths

The plan to build a new Town Hall in Deptford developed at the turn of the century.

The land originally bought for the baths and washhouse complex from the Christ’s Hospital Trust and Clothworkers’ Company in 1893 for £7,000 extended out to the New Cross Road and the Town Hall project conveniently paid back £4,300 of the original loan.

The brand new Deptford Town Hall only two years after its completion in 1907. Note the large door on the right for the new Motor vehicles.

The Centre for Contemporary Art has made imaginative use of the huge metal piping that drove the steam-powered machinery pumping Artesian well water up into the water towers.

It also had to heat the slipper baths and shower-cubicles, and mix the disinfecting chlorine with the water for the three pools.

The view of the driveway for the Town Hall from the water heating and pumping buildings shows how interconnected the baths were with Deptford’s administrative headquarters and centre for local democracy.

Only a stone’s throw away councillors in 1910 debated the problem of a crime-wave of thefts at the Baths, and its development as a centre for public meetings:

Kentish Mercury 29th July 1910

‘The Laurie Grove Baths – Alleged Robberies’

Councillor Strong further stated the baths in Laurie Grove would be ready for public meetings before Christmas. – Replying to Councillor Soper, who alleged that there had been robberies at these baths, the Town Clerk said that no complaint had been received.- Councillor Strong said that there was a book for complaints, but people did not trouble to write them down.

The future

It’s one hundred and twenty years since the Artesian well water flowed into the huge water tanks supplying Laurie Grove baths for the people of South East London.

Now it is creativity that runs deep through this remarkable building complex.

Philanthropy making the Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art Gallery a reality. Image: Tim Crook.

It was largely made possible as the result of the vision of people at Goldsmiths, University of London as well as the generosity of graduates of Goldsmiths’ Art School who have been setting the agenda on what is art, and the role it should have in human society since 1891.

And this continues to be for the public as well as those enjoying all the privileges of higher education.

Except in 2018, it’s not six old pence for a hot and first class slipper bath.

The Head of the Goldsmiths’ Art Department, Richard Noble said: ‘What I wanted to do was build a space that would bring the art world to Goldsmiths.’

This project goes much further than that.

Yes, art is now coming to Goldsmiths perhaps in equal measure to the art going out.

While all this is happening the public can walk in gratis and experience art in all its complexity and beauty- freestyle.

That’s a civic spirit and democratisation that the university and local community can be proud of.

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

The George Wood Theatre- prayers, pageants and performances

Goldsmiths’ College staff and students from 1933 in front of the former Royal Naval School Chapel before its conversion into a theatre in 1964. Woman’s Vice Principal Caroline Graveson and then Warden Arthur Edis Dean are first and second left seated front row. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London.

The George Wood Theatre has been the site of prayers, pageants and performances since the building’s original construction as a chapel for the Royal Naval School in 1854.

Tucked away on the north west side of the College Green (formerly known as the back-field) it also served as the Royal Naval School’s biggest teaching space.

The Chapel’s Original Design

Architect’s design of Wren style chapel and floor plan. Image: Lewisham local archives.

The illustration above is from the special fund-raising brochure circulated in 1852 to accrue the budget for the building from donations.

The target for the ‘Chapel Building Fund’ was £3,000 which in 2018 would have a purchasing power of £406,767.36.

The floor design accurately shows the architecture of the interior that remained the same until the early 1960s prior to its conversion for professional theatre production.

The circular seating maximised the capacity for the 400 pupils for whom the original main building was constructed along with all the ‘servants and officers.’

The brochure said that ‘open seats are provided for the pupils, slightly radiating to the Pulpit, Desk, and Communion Table to the East, so as to afford perfect inspection.’

This aspect was situated on the spur of the building which later became the entrance to the theatre.

Restored Chapel 2018. Image: Tim Crook

The chapel appears to have had a gallery as a staircase is indicated in the plan along with a covered walkway to the infirmary which is now where the Music department is situated.

The view from the playing field was designed to be ‘ornamental and appropriate.’

In 1852 the biggest donor had been Vice-Admiral William Bowles CB with £1,000 followed by a Captain Gladstone with £110.

Bowles had seen action during the Napoleonic wars and served as aide-de-camp to King William IV.

He was MP for the Cornish town of Launceston and his late wife had been the sister of the two times Prime Minister Viscount Henry Palmerston.

The brochure also explained that the ‘primary object of this school is to board and educate the sons of Naval and Marine officers at the least possible expense, and to admit a limited number gratuitously, or on a very reduced payment, preference being given to the Orphans of those who have fallen in the Country’s service.’

The former chapel and lecture room in 1907 during sports day. The magnificent tower was knocked down by an out of control barrage balloon in 1939. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London.

Royal Naval School Chapel

It was even used for drama during the 19th century when the naval cadets put on a traditional Christmas play every year.

So much of its religious symbolism and furniture has been stripped away and lost to history.

This includes the velvet altar cloth, communion chairs, cushions, the stained glass, the massive silver alma dish inscribed with the words:

Produced for the use of the Chapel of the Royal Naval School by several former pupils, as an offering of gratitude, for benefits derived from the Institution.

Also lost are the tablets and commemorations to former cadet pupils who died on active service.

The spectacular marble monument to six men who suffered violent and terrible deaths during the Crimean War is now on the wall of the vestibule of the Royal Naval Hospital Chapel in Greenwich.

Illustrated London News 1858.

It is situated behind a bench and visitors would have no idea that the names of the fallen had been educated in the current Richard Hoggart main building in New Cross.

The monument to fallen heroes of the Crimean War now accommodated in the vestibule of the naval chapel in Greenwich. Image: Tim Crook.


Also long lost to history and probably obliterated into brick dust, is the special tablet sponsored by Major-General Sir Henry Floyd.

His son died on active service on HMS Marlborough at Gibraltar.

In 1860 he had erected a tablet giving testimony to the advantages his son ‘had received from the Royal Naval School and as a memorial to the high character he had obtained in the service.’

The Chapel was often used for annual prize-giving.

The most spectacular occasion was 1871 when Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, presented the awards.

So appropriate when his father, Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert, had laid the large slate foundation stone for the school in 1843, which has been preserved to this day and is such an impressive part of the entrance to the main building.

The Chapel was adorned with flowers and evergreens with a banner over the entrance exclaiming ‘Welcome to Prince Alfred.’

He told the cadet pupils about the close interest that his mother Queen Victoria took ‘in the Royal Naval School and the importance that my father attached to it.’

Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh giving out prizes at the Royal Naval School, New Cross in 1871. Illustrated London News.

The Chapel rang out with cheers as he said how much he looked forward to meeting the boys later on in Royal Naval Service.

He was a serving Royal Naval captain himself.

Prince Alfred was still recovering from a bullet wound received in an assassination attempt in Sydney while on the first ever Royal tour to Australia three years before.

In later life he would succeed to his father’s princedom of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

He had to endure the tragedy of his older son, Albert, dying before him from gunshot wounds inflicted in a suicide attempt after becoming embroiled in a scandal involving his mistress in January 1899.

Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and later Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Public domain Creative Commons.

Alfred died a few months later from throat cancer leaving his mother Queen Victoria with the grief and agony of outliving husband, son and grandson.

The Royal Naval School was not just an elite military school producing naval and army officers to expand and control the British Empire, and suppress rebellion.

In its own way it was an educational conduit for social mobility.

The school had been established to give opportunity to the orphans of Royal Naval officers and those from more challenging economic circumstances.

It operated as a philanthropic project and depended for its survival on grants, bequests and subsidies; many of them coming from the Royal Family.

One of the school’s famous graduates was the great Shakespearean actor Sir Ben Greet- born in HMS Vulture when moored on the Thames opposite the Tower of London.

Sir Ben founded Open Air Theatre in Britain and was knighted by King George V for making Shakespeare popular and accessible in modern education.

Sports day 1908 showing the former chapel with its distinctive pre WWII tower to the left. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London.

The Chapel was deconsecrated following the School’s move to Eltham in 1889.

And so it lost its ecclesiastical purpose.

Goldsmiths’ teaching and performance space 1891-1964

It became more important as a big lecture and performance space for the Goldsmiths Technical and Recreative Institute in 1891 and then Goldsmiths’ College, University of London from 1904.

Seating of the converted Royal Naval School Chapel used as a large lecture theatre in 1910. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London.

A photograph in the City of London Metropolitan Archives from 1912 shows a small orchestra being conducted with musicians playing classical instruments. The interior still has the appearance of a methodist or non-conformist chapel.

Its distinctive tower, which apparently contained the graffiti of Royal Naval School cadets scratching in their names and initials into plaster, was knocked down by a runaway barrage balloon in 1939, and never fully reconstructed.

After the Second World War it became the focus of the developing subject of performance and drama in teaching.

In the early 1960s Goldsmiths College alumna and distinguished journalist and novelist Val Hennessy recalled for the history project how much fun it was rehearsing in the old Chapel that was used as their theatre space: ‘We sat on the floor, or on those wooden block things; the chapel was hellishly dusty, and full of old chairs and pews stacked up. Very cold too, but we loved it.’

She remembered being involved in a successful production of Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus that had so much local cultural resonance given the playwright’s killing in a nearby Deptford Inn centuries before.

The distinctly Wren style Chapel interior leant itself to theatrical improvisation and production through the use of curtains and the eccentric circular and tiered seating.

In 1964 the chapel was fully converted into a purpose-built interior theatre space for the expanding and increasingly popular drama and performance teaching courses.

Theatre 1964- to present day

Its walls and stage have echoed to the full range of classical and modern theatrical production.

South facing spur of the Chapel

These examples, randomly selected from the history of production by students in Drama and Performance and collaborating artists, give some idea of the intensity, power, passion, and richness of the work shown in the George Wood Theatre space. To do justice to the full programme would take up hundreds of lines of online text and space.

March 1979. Double-bill of two full length plays Female Transport by Steve Gooch and the Greek classic Ecclesiazusae.

February 1980. Meet Mr Macready by Frank Barrie (married to the then Senior Assistant Registrar Mary Barrie.)

March 1981. The Dog Beneath The Skin by W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood.

June 1982. When We Dead Awaken by Henrik Ibsen and Plenty by David Hare.

George Wood Theatre 1980s to 2017. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London.

June 1983. Too True To Be Good by George Bernard Shaw.

March 1985. Die Driegroschenoper (in German) by Bertholt Brecht and Kurt Weill (music).

May 1985. Workshop by Sir Ian McKellen, then playing the title role of Coriolanus in a National Theatre Shakespeare production.

June 1985. The Revenger’s Tragedy by Thomas Middleton and Top Girls by Caryl Churchill having been toured during the Easter Vacation to universities in Budapest and East Berlin (at that time both behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.)

February 1986. Annie Wobbler by Arnold Wesker- a reading of his own play.

Restored buildings 2018. Image: Tim Crook.

March 1986. Kathchen Von Heilbronn by Heinrich von Kleist performed in German.

May 1986. Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett performed by Max Wall and a production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, rehearsed at Goldsmiths’ prior to national tour.

October 1989. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare.

March 1990. Translations by Brian Friel.

May 1991. Betrayal by Harold Pinter. A Centenary production (Commemorating 100 years of Goldsmiths’ College history).

October 1991. The Rover by Aphra Behn.

Aphra Behn. Yale Center for British Art, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Public Domain Creative Commons.

May 1994.  To by Jim Cartwright.

May 1996. Hindemtth’s one-act expressionist opera Sancta Susanna.

August 2003. Urban Tales: An Adventure in Hip Hop by Second Wave- a youth arts centre in Deptford with Goldsmiths College and a cast of performers aged between 15 and 24.

Political Debate on the Arts

The foyer was refurbished and the theatre modernised in 1978 when it was named after the College’s over-worked, much-loved and eccentric Registrar George Wood.

The then Director of the National Theatre, Sir Peter Hall, gave a lecture on 30th November of that year entitled: ‘The Theatre in its Place.’

He discussed the influence of buildings on the development of theatre from Shakespeare, writing for two to three thousand people in an open theatre, to the fashion at that time for fringe theatre operating in cellars and disused warehouses.

Sir Peter said his argument was ‘a corrective’- an attempt to redress the balance a little at a time when it was fashionable to decry buildings and the effect they had on theatre people.

The rebuilt foyer included the new plaque naming the theatre in memory of George Wood, and visitors included members of his family and the Chairman of the Arts Council, as well as the architect responsible for converting the theatre from its original chapel interior in 1964.

Restored ceiling with theatre’s new lighting gantry. Image: Tim Crook

May 1981. Melvyn Bragg, the broadcaster and novelist, presented the Dean Memoirial Lecture on the subject of ‘Television and Literature: Confluences and Contradictions’ organised by the Goldsmiths’ College Association.

April 1984. High noon challenge to Arts Council cuts. The then college Warden, Richard Hoggart, took up a challenge to debate heavy cuts in theatre grants he had been responsible for in his role at the Arts Council. 46 arts organisations had received the chop. The Stage newspaper described the confrontation as a case of ‘High Noon at Goldsmiths’ College.’ Richard Hoggart was joined by fellow Arts Council boss Sir Roy Shaw.  The paper reported that Goldsmiths student Beth Wagstaff had been organising a campaign of picketing of Hoggart’s Goldsmiths’ lectures in protest against the economies that included the National Youth Theatre.

Who was George Wood?

George Wood was College Registrar from 1958 to his death in 1977. A.E. Firth, Deputy Warden and author of Goldsmiths’ College: A Centenary Account, said:

He overworked constantly, took no exercise and very few holidays, and found it difficult to delegate authority. He did not maintain much in the way of a filing system, apart from those papers he took home each night in four bulging briefcases. There were occasions, after his sadly early death, when the College was surprised by the appearance of awkward documents, relating to contracts of employment, conveyances and the like, of which it had no record.

Warden Richard Hoggart remembered him as somebody who could get things done that nobody thought was possible. His ‘creative untidiness’ overwhelmed seemingly unavoidable obstacles. He was brilliant at external relations and able to secure deals with local, regional and national government for schemes and funding that were all to Goldsmiths’ benefit. And he was ‘a quite exceptionally nice man.’

The new theatre’s raked seating and light gantry 2018. Image: Tim Crook.

Peter Brindley in adult education recalled George Wood’s enthusiasm:

…for purchasing or renting houses across the road for the College, or in the surrounding terraces. He was rather like a keen Monopoly player: if he got three houses together on the board we could have a Sociology Department.

Another former Warden, Sir Ross Chesterman, confirmed that George Wood was a workaholic with an interest and absorption in his work for the College at a ‘total’ level of commitment:

George was a scientist like myself, and had an extremely clear and quick mind, especially in the early days before his first heart attack. He introduced a most effective and foolproof system of filing records of all kinds, which saved us hours of work and gave great efficiency.

But of all his contributions which helped me most, it was his personal support during the student troubles (1960s), when he would stand at my elbow, as it were, and clearly and quickly would suggest in a few words how each question from the floor should be answered. I am certain that trouble-makers at these student meetings must have felt disheartened in never being able to penetrate our defences.

Sir Michael Caine workshop 1994

Goldsmiths has conferred honorary fellowships on key figures in the history of contemporary drama including Sir Richard Eyre and Sir Michael Caine. They were both knighted after getting their Goldsmiths awards.

In December 1994 Michael Caine, as he then was, decided to do an actor’s discussion and workshop in the George Wood Theatre after accepting his honorary degree.  He said:

In ten years time, I will be 71. I will be going to the movies at 12 o’clock to get in for half price. In ten years time, I will still be working because I cannot not work!

This is certainly the case more than 20 years after Sir Michael was at Goldsmiths.

He was asked this remarkable question by one of the drama students and it elicited a quite remarkable answer:

Many successful actors whose work lies primarily in film and television see it as being similar to the relationship with their wife or husband, and work in the theatre as similar to their relationship to a lover or mistress. Have you thought about taking, or are you planning to take, a mistress? (Sir Michael’s wife Shakira who was in the audience was seen to find the question most amusing.)

I spent time in the theatre, I was 11 years in the theatre, Then I went into movies, and I have been there for 30 years. I never went back to theatre. I also did television. Someone asked me what the difference was between the three. I see that the theatre was a woman who you loved very much and did not care for you, and treated you like dirt; film was a woman who loved you very much and no matter what you did to her, she still came running back; and television was a one-night stand.

The future

In 2018 it will be re-opened after a 21st century redevelopment as a multiple-purpose theatre space funded to the extent of £2.9 million.

Architect’s plan for new multiple and flexible studio spaces in the George Wood Theatre 2018. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London.

Some of its original features were revealed when decades of panelling was stripped away to reveal the  original design and brick-work of the architect John Nash Junior who designed what is now the Richard Hoggart main building first built in 1844.

Artist’s impression of the new interior to be unveiled for opening in autumn 2018. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London.


The renovation space will provide the College with a contemporary theatre seating up to 200 people and two new studio spaces fit for 21st century creative practice.

Many thanks to Rory O’Connell for additional research at the Lewisham Archives Centre. 

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

Goldsmiths students misbehavin’ – College rules and what happened to those who broke them.

These male seniors of 1908 were labelled ‘The Not Innocents.’ We have no information about why they earned this nickname. Image: Goldsmiths College archives.

Is there a spirit connected with being a Goldsmiths’ student that is somewhat distinctive, radical, questioning, and protesting?

Beyond any desire to ‘brand’ and make distinctive something about Goldsmiths, it is a question with no easy answer.

It might be foolish to generalise. In the photograph above these are men behaving badly for a brief moment: sticking their tongues out, pulling rude faces, making somewhat impolite gestures with their hands, and in one case smoking a cigarette and pipe at the same time.

But there are events and evidence of a tradition that could suggest something.

The Warden, Ross Chesterman (1953-74) recalled deciding to ring up the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Robert Mark, in the late 1960s when some of ‘our students occasionally got into mild trouble with the police, usually because of demonstrations.’

Mark had a fearsome reputation. The local police commander was certainly in fear of him: ‘When the Commissioner Mr Mark says jump, you don’t think about it or argue, you bloody well jump!’

Ross recalled:

I told him that most of my students were law-abiding and moreover interested in helping others less well-off than themselves. Our talking, conducted at a pleasant conversational level, went on for more than half an hour and I like to feel that I may have helped a little to liberalise the police force.

The senior men students of Goldsmiths’ College in 1908. They were known as the ‘the Dears!’ We have no idea why they earned this nickname; particularly when there are at least two pairs of the young men actually, or pretending to beat each other up while the photograph is being taken. Image: Goldsmiths College Archive.

One wonders whether one of Ross Chesterman’s predecessor Wardens, Tommy Raymont, had a similar chat with the then Commissioner when Goldsmiths’ students were arrested for being somewhat over-boisterous with the College’s donkey outside New Cross Gate station in 1926.

There had been a procession of one hundred Goldsmiths’ students ‘led by a young man in particularly wide Oxford bags and wearing a long black coat’ which surrounded police officers on traffic duty with the chant of ‘ring-a-ring-of-roses.’

This was accompanied by the loud and aggressive rattling of collection tins.

The College donkey played a major part in the procession straddled ‘by a weirdly dressed figure’ quite possibly one of the students.

Goldsmiths’ College rag students were the Millwall soccer supporters of the university rag world.

The local community lived in fear of impromptu false imprisonment on Lewisham Way or the New Cross Road during rag week.

The College’s first history, The Forge, recorded the origin of the donkey:

It was on the ostensible ground of economy that in May 1920, a donkey was purchased to replace a horse for the roller on the playing field.

The notoriety of the Goldsmiths’ rags continued until 1930.

How the College donkey of 1920 to 1930 may have looked. Much loved by the students and used as a mascot in raucous student ‘rag’ stunts to raise money for charity. Image: Tim Crook.

The third Warden, Arthur Edis Dean, decided enough was enough when an entire tram of passengers had been captured by a ring of students outside the College main building while the College song was being sung at morning assembly.

The incident was followed by the students bursting into the Great hall with their ill-gotten gains and the over-excited donkey during the National Anthem.

Warden Ross Chesterman’s philosophy was conveyed to the College’s freshers in the Great Hall in October 1966 with the exhortation:

Students should divide their time into three segments: one third should be spent working, one third should be spent sleeping, and one third spent enjoying yourself.

An examination of the College’s picture archives has plenty of evidence that one third enjoyment is something that has been taken to heart rather enthusiastically throughout the generations.

When the college had its own swimming pool, and before it was burnt down by Second World War Luftwaffe bombing, these members of the College Water Polo team certainly showed every sign of enjoying themselves.

But I do wonder if their group hug was a way of dealing with the damp cold of a Deptford winter.

They do look a bit desperate.

It can’t have been much fun walking barefoot on that stone grit scattered over the pathway.

The player in swimming costume top right appears to be grimacing rather than smiling, and I do wonder if he was thinking ‘when is this photographer going to press his flash gun so I can get back inside and warm myself against a radiator?’

Goldsmiths College Water Polo team 1911. Image: Goldsmiths College Archives.

When you next walk through the corridor entrance of the Richard Hoggart main building  just imagine the shenanigans of the College rugby team ‘messing about’ during this photo-shoot in 1910.

In this picture consider all the characters, attitudes, emotions, feelings and relationships.

The central player balancing the rugby ball on his friend’s head below, with his legs around his friend’s shoulders, and peering over the tip of his fingers so only his squinting eyes and forehead can be seen. And then there’s the player leaning forward over the top of his head and scrunching onto his hair as if he were holding onto a pair of goat’s horns!

Goldsmiths’ College rugby first XV of 1910. Image: Goldsmiths College Archives.

So far it’s been all men looking naughty and mischievous.

Well the women during this time had their own way of showing how smart and quick of wit they were.

The ‘Swanky Swotters’ of 1910 you would not want to be pitched against in an Edwardian University Challenge, or indeed a pub quiz game at the Rosemary Branch or Marquis of Granby.

Group of women students at Goldsmiths’ College in 1910 who called themselves the ‘Swanky Swotters.’ Image: Goldsmiths College Archives.

And as for dancing, you do get the impression that these Eurythmics during the time of King George V could jive and boogie off the dance floor any rapper or disco break-dancer of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Eurythmics dance class at Goldsmiths’s College circa 1916-18. Image: Goldsmiths College Archives.

By 1916-18, Eurythmics were central to the curriculum. The College was dealing with the darker times of the Great War. Women students dominated the student cohort and were coming to terms with continual reports of student and staff casualties from the Front.

It is understood Goldsmiths’ was one of the first British colleges to pioneer this expressive movement art which became quite popular during the early part of the 20th century. It was primarily a performance art, and students were encouraged to develop a movement repertoire relating to the sounds and rhythms of speech, to the tones and rhythms of music, and to ‘soul experiences’, such as joy and sorrow.

Goldsmiths’ Eurythmics of 1916-18. Image: Goldsmiths College Archives. Note the fair amount of photo-bombing faces of people peering through the windows.

Rest assured Goldsmiths’ women students knew their steps and moves, and were ready for anything as this photograph of a physical education class from 1907 undoubtedly confirms.

Women students in physical education in the College gymnasium in 1907. Image: Goldsmiths College Archives.

It is not generally known that up until the early 1930s, Goldsmiths’ College students were issued with a student handbook in which they were instructed on rules of gender segregation and strict behavioural standards.

Student handbook for 1914-15. Image: Goldsmiths College Archives.

To begin with the first floor was out of bounds.  It was exclusively reserved for the staff, apart from the gymnasium gallery- what is now the part of the first floor of the refectory.

Men could only use the western corridor and women could only use the eastern corridor. Yes, they had separate entrances.

Men and women even dined at different times. Women had the first luncheon at 12.15, and the men with two sittings afterwards. For some reason the rulebook states categorically that ‘Women students may not absent themselves from dinner without permission.’

No such stricture applies to the men.

Men had priority over the main lower playing field for cricket and soccer. Women had the upper and smaller playing field. Each had different pavilions. The men’s was bigger. Neither could be seen using each other’s.

The men and women students had separate common rooms.  Men could smoke in their common room.

Nothing was said about whether women could smoke in theirs. So perhaps they did!

The enforcers were a cadre of awesome looking Goldsmiths’ students recruited as prefects.

Consider this delightful selection of rule enforcers for the academic year 1908-9.

Goldsmiths’ College prefects 1908-9. Image: Goldsmiths College Archives.

The young woman sitting far left in the front row has a very disapproving face. You can almost hear her saying: ‘Crook, not you again!’

The young man standing far right does not look like he has much tolerance for slackness and lack of discipline. Such an attitude appears to be held by his compatriot standing bold and upright on the other side holding his hands behind his back.

And the young woman sitting far right might be wearing an expression of grave disappointment in the human race.

There was more discrimination in the ‘in bed’ and ‘lights out’ rules.

Men had to be in their hostels by 10 p.m., but for some reason women had to be confined two hours earlier at 8 p.m.

Landladies and landlords of private lodgings were contractually obliged to report the comings and goings of Goldsmiths’ students according to this timetable. And no early morning jaunts before 6 a.m. though it seemed to be accepted that there did not appear to be any need for gender differentiation for the early morning stricture.

The view from the women’s Upper Playing Field- smaller than the men’s lower playing field which had the bigger pavilion (seen with the clock on the right) and soccer and cricket facilities. The position of the women’s playing field is now occupied by the Professor Stuart Hall Building and tennis courts.  Image: Goldsmiths College Archives.

It has to be said that where there are rules, there are rule-breakers and you do get the impression from this jaunty and riotous image of ‘Dan Leno’s troupe’ from 1909, that the students of yesteryear had their own ways of living and breathing the necessary freedoms to develop as young adults in the early part of the twentieth century, without being caught by the formidable prefects.

Goldsmiths’ College senior men students in 1909 not taking very seriously an occasion for official photography. Image: Goldsmiths’ College Archives.

Rules for Goldsmiths’ students from the Handbook 1914-15

Image: Goldsmiths College Archives.

When the College started in the autumn of 1905, the staff recorded their evaluation of the first students in very precise minutes.

The general view was not particularly optimistic. In November the science lecturers reported that their students were: ‘All quite ignorant.’

Miss Strudwick was concerned that: ‘they express themselves badly and are very inaccurate.’

In history the lecturer Miss Spalding despaired: ‘very unintelligent, unable to take proper notes, and very ignorant of present conditions.’

There was concern about the students’ lack of punctuality which was not helped by the College clocks showing different times.

It was suggested that lecturers ‘close doors occasionally and reckon all excluded students as late.’

On the subject of homework, the students were complaining of being over-worked.

The minutes state: ‘The Vice-Principals think there is overwork in the case of the more stupid students.’

Pages 6-7

Image: Goldsmiths College Archives.

There is not much evidence of punishment and sanctions being applied to Goldsmiths students in the early decades of the College’s existence.

It is possible that any documents relating to most disciplinary processes may well have been destroyed.

But just occasionally it is possible to identify traces of action being taken to terminate a student’s participation.

For example, Goldsmiths’ College Delegacy minutes for the University of London disclose that in 1923-4, ‘Two men students have been dismissed in consequences of grave misdemeanour since the opening of the session. One woman student returned in January to complete her interrupted course.’

In December 1924 there is a very sad record of the College reporting that a trainee teacher had to be dismissed after suffering ‘seizures’ while at the college.

The indication is that the student concerned was epileptic.

It transpired that when the college’s medical officer checked with his general practitioner, the student had concealed his condition when applying for a grant.

It was a reflection of the prejudiced values of the time that the minutes declare he: ‘…was not, therefore, a suitable person to be trained as a teacher.’

Those records that have survived ask many more questions than they answer about students whose unusual lifestyle did not necessarily conform to the norms of the time.

Certainly more research is going to be undertaken in respect of a named student whose dismissal was recorded in February 1922:

The Warden stated that an ex-service student of the training department had been under suspicion of leading an irregular mode of life for some time; that after this was proved to be the case, and after having obtained the sanction of the Board of Education, he had dismissed him, acting on behalf of the delegacy, on the ground that he was not a proper person to be enrolled as a certificated teacher.

In 2018 we want to know what was meant by ‘irregular mode of life’ in 1922, what was the nature of the ‘suspicion’ and whether it were possible to find out how the student had been judged as ‘not a proper person’ to be working as a teacher.

Pages 8-9

Image: Goldsmiths College Archives.

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

Caroline Graveson- A founding conscience of Goldsmiths’ College

Caroline C. Graveson, first Woman’s Vice Principal of Goldsmiths’ College, University of London on her appointment in 1905 with the women staff. Centre front row. The picture was taken at the entrance to the women’s corridor on the east side of the building

Caroline Graveson’s appointment as women’s Vice Principal of Goldsmiths’ College in 1905 received national newspaper exultation.

The Daily Telegraph and London Evening Standard said ‘it was one of the most valuable and important among those now open to women.’

Some of Caroline Graveson’s first women teacher training students in 1905-6.

She remained one of the most important women in British Higher Education during the Edwardian period, through the First World War and continuing through the 1920s and 30s until her retirement at the end of 1934.

A typically distracted pose of Caroline Graveson in group photographs

During the Great War, Goldsmiths became virtually an all-woman’s place with most men students and staff joining the armed forces. By 1916 the roll call of students was 268 women to 20 men.

It was a pioneering training college centre for educating teachers because it was the first to be co-educational and non-denominational. This meant it could admit students with non-Christian backgrounds such as Jews and Muslims, and it partnered with the prestigious Art School and thriving adult evening educational programme started by the Goldsmiths Company’s Technical and Recreative Institute in 1891. It was also run by the University of London- the most important and influential university in Great Britain outside Oxford and Cambridge.

Caroline was one of the first women members of the British Psychological Society- a reflection of the College’s commitment to researching and teaching educational psychology.

She spoke fluent German because she had been a student at German universities for 2 years between 1896-98.

She wrote several books during her career, and was one of the leading Quakers in the UK.

She was also an international traveller with trips to Algiers in 1913 and the USA in 1938.

Caroline could be described in modern terms as a quiet feminist radical who travelled the country attending speech days at state secondary schools to encourage girls to be ambitious. She wanted them to challenge the public school domination of the professions and elite institutions.

Photographs and written accounts reveal a person who was physically small, slightly built, who did not dress or live ostentatiously, but had a voice described as ‘superb’ with perfect elocution.

This enchanting voice ‘could, without the microphone, penetrate to the remotest corner of the Great Hall of Goldsmiths’ College.’

Hymn and libretto writing

Caroline wrote the words for the College hymn sung at the morning assemblies held in the Great Hall for over fifty years.

Original score for ‘The Smiths’ Hymn’ signed by the composer Leonard Rafter.

The lyric was inspired by a passage from Ecclesiasticus XXXIX 28 about the spiritual creativity of the blacksmith fashioning the future with hammer and anvil.

She was an expert on the Old and New Testaments writing three books before the Great War on ‘Lessons on the Kingdom of Israel’, ‘The United Monarchy of the Hebrews’, and ‘Lessons on the Kingdom of Judah.’

Her writing was romantic and hopeful about the teacher’s role in conjuring ‘countless forms of beauty’, perfecting the ‘golden enterprise’, before ‘dreaming eyes’, and seeking to ‘fashion children for a finer, nobler land.’

This was Goldsmiths’ College’s version of William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ where the ‘Smiths were working on’ in the midst of desperate urban deprivation and poverty to build their own ‘green and pleasant land.’

She also wrote the libretto for R.T. White’s composition ‘The Court of Old King Cole’ first published by Faith Press in 1914 and revised in 1952.

It was a kind of jaunty two act children’s nursery rhyme opera.

Caroline Graveson was a woman who acted, moved, decided and directed with quiet and concentrated dignity.

Caroline’s memories

This is evident in two powerful memories she offered in the college’s 1955 history titled ‘The Forge’:

One vivid recollection I have of the German Zeppelin flying low over our college field, of the women students in gay summer dresses running out to look at it, and of urgently shouting them back to shelter. We had not yet learnt to look up at the sky for danger.

One of Caroline’s students, Kathleen Porter, kept an evocative scrapbook of her time as a student at Goldsmiths during the First World War, and her remembrance of the cry ‘Air Raid, Take Cover’ is just one example of the caring and effective leadership the women’s Vice Principal set her students.

Illustration of Zeppelin raid in UK First World War recruitment poster.

Caroline Graveson was also a pioneer of progressive education that baulked at over-disciplinary and retributive regimes of punishment:

One day in 1905, sometime before the Opening, as I was working at my desk in the woman Vice-Principal’s room, an elderly naval man walked in unannounced. He looked surprised to find a female in possession, and apologised by saying that he only wanted to re-visit the scene of his many thrashings as a boy at the Naval School. He told me that in those days my room was the Headmaster’s room, and the cane kept in its corner cupboard. I had heard of the terribly harsh treatment of the young boys in the school, and felt like disinfecting the room.

Family background and education

Handwritten staff profile for Caroline Graveson.

Caroline Cassandra Graveson was born into a Quaker family on 16th June 1874, and was one of six children of Michael T Graveson and his wife Hanna. They ran a grocer’s shop in Liscard Village, Birkenhead near Liverpool.

It must have been a successful enterprise because the 1881 census shows Mr Graveson was able to employ an 18 year old apprentice grocer, George Cooper, who was living with them along with two servant girls aged 16 and 21.

Caroline and her three sisters all pursued professional teaching careers and remained unmarried.

It is problematical to apply contemporary understandings of gender and sexual orientation to individuals and social situations of more than 100 years ago.

It may be the case that these impressive women decided that their commitment to public service and teaching was far too important to sacrifice on the altar of romantic entanglements and marriage. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries women faced a discriminatory marriage bar in the teaching profession which meant they had to surrender their careers on marriage.

Caroline’s education and professional career paralleled the immense struggle for equality and the right to vote by the women’s suffragist and suffragette movements.

It would not have escaped the attention of women staff and students at Goldsmiths in June 1914 that the first cousins of the architect of the new Art School block, Sir Reginald Blomfield, had infiltrated Buckingham Palace to stage one of the most dramatic suffragette protests of the time.

Mary and Eleanor Blomfield, WSPU activist first cousins of Goldsmiths’ Art block architect Sir Reginald Blomfield.

The Daily Herald reported that instead of ‘passing the Royal Presence with the customary abject attitude’ Mary Blomfield ‘fell on her knees and cried out in a loud, shrill voice that penetrated the limits of the Throne Room “Your Majesty, Won’t you stop torturing the women?”‘

The orchestra was ordered to play louder as she was bundled away by royal attendants. The newspaper reported that the sisters had been able to gain entry to the event because they had previously been presented at court. They were described as ‘ardent suffragettes and students of Persian Philosophy.’

By 1939 Caroline Graveson was living in Malvern Worcestershire with her older sister, Bertha, who started out as a teacher and then became a hospital almoner, a pre-NHS forerunner of a hospital social worker, and her younger sister Hannah, a retired teacher and nurse. Her oldest sister Agnes had also been a teacher and was living in Hoylake, Cheshire, though was described as ‘incapacitated’ through ill-health, and died in 1943.

Caroline was educated at the famous Friends boarding School, Ackworth in Pontefract, Yorkshire, the Jersey College for Girls in St Helier, Jersey in the Channel Islands, and took a first class degree at University College, Liverpool between 1892-96 which in those years could only be validated by the University of London.

For the next two years she travelled and studied in Germany where she gained fluency in German while at the University of Jena.

She gained her first class Teacher’s Diploma and distinction Frobel certificate in theory and practice at Cambridge Training College between 1898-99.

She began her lecturing career at the University of North Wales in Bangor moving onto the University of Liverpool between April 1900 and September 1905.

Personality and character

In college archive photographs it has to be said Caroline does not indicate that she very much liked being photographed.

She is always pulling a face, looking in the distance, or away from the camera.

Caroline Graveson sitting second row fourth from the left in 1911.

A former student G.R. Lloyd who did his teacher training between 1923-25 said:

The sound of Miss Graveson’s beautiful voice reading a passage of great prose, or giving one of her erudite and finely constructed talks would also impress me immensely and send me away with the feeling that the day had indeed begun.

Handwritten minutes of Goldsmiths’ College staff meeting 28th February 1907.

But behind the diffident mannerism and mellifluous voice was an acute concentration on human character and a mischief she would often deploy to advance what she thought was right and fair.

This is evident in the minutes of a staff meeting held 28th February 1907 which was discussing how to deal with the ‘rustication’ of minor misbehaving students.

Most of the men appeared to be advocating draconian measures.

Caroline’s ally, the kind-hearted and soft-natured Vice-Principal for men, Tommy Raymont, complained that the proposal was ‘brutal.’

Caroline deftly explained that women students should have to be dealt with by women staff and vice versa.

She then discharged the heat from the discussion by suggesting a stop-gap step beginning with a meeting before the Vice-Principals before any kangaroo court style committee trial process.

The issue fizzled out and was not followed up in future meetings.

In July of that year she was invited to a prize giving ceremony at Leamington Spa Secondary School for Girls.

She noticed the array of male local government dignitaries soaking up the pride of being appreciated for  supporting state funded education for girls.

The first women students of Goldsmiths’ College lodging at one of its nearby hostels.

Caroline was there as a pioneering role model of achievement and assured them: ‘How better you are going to be than your grandmothers.’ She hinted that in order to succeed they would have to work harder then boys: ‘Avoid drifting along learning a little here and a little there. Make an effort to do over and above what is required.’

She finished her address by recommending that the school’s managers give all the girls and their teachers a day’s holiday as a reward for their great achievements.

The motion drew rapturous applause, particularly from the students, and became something of a fait accompli.

Kathleen Porter’s scrapbook from the time she was a student at Goldsmiths during the First World War. Her middle annotated photograph of ‘Some of the STAFF’ includes Caroline Graveson sitting front row fourth from right. Again she looks unassuming and hardly noticeable.

Another former student, L.R. Reeve remembered that she was ‘one of those exceptional women whose integrity, judgment, fairness, and dignity were suggested immediately one met her, and one always felt that any of her interpretations was likely to be the right one.’

In the memoir he added:

Then, too, she was fearless in her decisions. She wouldn’t, she couldn’t, choose an easy way out of a difficult situation. Her self-respect permitted no relaxation, and compromise was possible only when no principle was involved.

Some of Caroline Graveson’s first women students training to be teachers at Goldsmiths’ 1905-7 and holding tennis rackets and hockey sticks.

The leading Japanese psychiatrist, Kamiya Mieko, recalled meeting Caroline at the Friend’s House in London in 1939 and after being taken by her to a vegetarian restaurant she recalled:

How warm and pure was her love towards me. She rejoiced with me that a way had been opened for me to become a doctor. She added, however, that I would probably turn to psychiatry later.

Goldsmiths Old Students’ Association Yearbook for 1935 said:

…her gracious personality, her impelling influence and her complete devotion to the College will be an abiding memory to us all and particularly to the women students (nearly 5,000 of them) who have known her as their Vice-Principal.

Caroline Graveson was clearly a self-effacing individual who put her public service and concerns for others way before herself.

Sports day at Goldsmiths College 1905-6 before the building of the Blomfield art block that closed the open quadrangle looking out onto the back field.

She always lived simply. Despite being appointed with a salary of £540 a year in 1905, which is the equivalent of £60,250 at the time of writing, the 1911 census reveals that she was boarding at 33 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury.

She made no effort to demand any increase in her salary from 1908 to 1920.

And it is also significant she was paid about 17 per cent less than her male equivalent.

Some of the first women students at Goldsmiths’ College lodging at the Kent Hostel.

In 1922 the College delegacy minutes reveal that her doctor recommended she needed six months rest due to ill-health.

She was 48 years old and had endured all the stresses and grief of trying to save the college from closure with her colleague Tommy Raymont during the Great War.

Sports day on the back field in 1908 after the completion of the Blomfield building accommodating the Art School. Men and women in Edwardian dress.

She had written sorrowfully of how she had to deal with the trauma of the first Warden’s death at Gallipoli in 1915, and then the equally tragic death in action of the highly popular English lecturer Billy Young:

The First War dealt a heavy blow at the College. The loss of our Warden, of Mr Young and of many students deeply over-shadowed those left behind. I recall going down to the College (it must have been a Saturday afternoon) to break the news of the Warden’s death to the women students, who were having some sort of impromptu dancing in the Great Hall. I asked them all to be present at Monday morning’s Assembly and they silently left the college.

Caroline Graveson front row second from the left sitting beside Warden William Loring killed in 1915. English lecturer Billy Young, another treasured colleague, standing back row on the far right was killed while serving in France in 1917.

I remember how strangely empty and desolate the place felt when they had gone. I remember, too, making the journey into Buckinghamshire to consult with Mrs Loring about the Memorial Service, and how heavy with sorrow and foreboding seemed the late autumn countryside.

Times continued to be tough after the 1918 armistice.

Memories and herstory

When the college was preparing to celebrate its 50th Jubilee in 1955, an editorial committee discussing and deciding content for the college’s first history book decided that Caroline should be commissioned to write Part III ‘Daily Life In College.’

True to her democratic and inclusive spirit the section became something of a style of broadcast programme where she linked presentations of contributions from students and colleagues who had worked and lived through the half century of college life with her.

Because despite retiring at the end of 1934, she was still centrally active in the students’ association and her professional career continued with her election to the presidency of the Training College Association.

Her ‘links’ in ‘The Forge’ are lively and characterful descriptions of the atmosphere of those first years:

The building was entirely in the hands of workmen, and we moved from one corner to another of the Great Hall, as chips of plaster fell on us and our previous time-table then in the making. In those days one looked out from the windows of the passage behind the Gymnasium, across the Quad into the field.

The Great Hall adorned with decorations for the grand opening in September 1905.

Dear, unwieldy, spacious, dusty buildings! Even your oddities proved useful to us. The mezzanine corridors were ghostly wastes of space, but very convenient for lecturers to hurry through when the ground-floor passages were crowded, and opening into many small, low-ceilinged rooms, useful for staff studies. There were unexpected, tucked-away little rooms and for the first year or two, whenever more space was required, I went exploring with a pass-key and always found a cubby-hole that would serve.

Despite being ‘co-educational’ there was gender segregation by prefect patrol.

Women entered and left by their own entrance on the east side. Men on the opposite west side.

A scene from the first Goldsmiths’ College library situated on the upper floor of the main building. A woman student is concentrating reading a book while a man in plus fours looks somewhat furtively behind the racks of newspapers, periodicals and magazines.

There were separate common rooms. Integration would be achieved initially through teas, clubs and societies:

In those days women students came to College in gloves and were liable to faint. Had one of them appeared in the street in the short skirts of today (1955) , or – simply scandalous – stockingless and hatless, she would certainly have been followed as a laughing stock. We might be bent on making history, but meanwhile we had to prove we could live well in the present.

Teacher training consisted of a two year programme for students without a degree until 1962.

They called themselves ‘Aborigines’ and were among the first women students at Goldsmiths’ College. In this group photograph you can see the faces of other women students pressing against the window-panes on the left to watch the photographer at work or trying a version of ‘Edwardian photo-bombing!’

The first year was packed with English, French or Mathematics, History, Geography, Science in some form, Handwork or Needlework, Drawing and Physical Education:

They had lectures almost without pause from 9.45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Every student by order of the Board of Education had to learn 200 lines of poetry by heart. If I remember rightly, Wednesday afternoon was free for all; though later, owing to rivalry between men and women for the playing field, the men took Wednesday, and the women Thursday afternoons. It was touch and go whether the College should meet on Saturday morning also, and I was always grateful to our Jewish contingent for making this impossible.

Between the wars, Caroline recalled the college filling up with men to almost bursting point.

Men were coming back to ‘Civvystreet’ from the armed forces and those taking up teacher-training 1919-21 could not be found enough accommodation. So the College’s ground-floor teaching room number 14 becoming a temporary hostel:

As was to be expected, the men just released from Army discipline were in high spirits, and I remember an eruption of arm-linked men into the women’s corridors, and being accidentally knocked down. I heard, considerably later, and with some amusement, that Mr Raymont (now the Warden) had used the enormity of knocking down Vice-Principals as his text to an address to this army of invasion.

All Goldsmiths’ College students had to dine at lunch-time at long tables with the staff sitting at a top table under a huge coat of arms. There were separate sittings for male and female students. True to the patronymic values of the time, the men had their lunch first, though the situation changed by 1914 when they were outnumbered 20 to 1.

Caroline Graveson also recalled sitting furiously ‘doodling’ on the blotting paper in unspoken sympathy with young women being interviewed by all men local education authority committees:

Does any old student interviewed early in the first war recall the patriotic elderly gentleman who asked each candidate in turn what she would have done if she had been born a man; and the student who, after some moments’ consideration replied: ‘Well, I suppose I wouldn’t have been an Infant Teacher.’

Post retirement influence

The Warden of Goldsmiths’ College from 1953 to 1974, Ross Chesterman had close connections with Caroline Graveson and speculated that this may have smoothed his path during the early and rather difficult years of his appointment. In his 1998 book ‘Golden Sunrise’ he said:

She was a distinguished person and a very strong character with, I soon discovered, almost unlimited influence in College affairs. As I have said I had myself been for many years a member of the Society of Friends (a Quaker) and Caroline, like me, lived in Malvern where we both attended the same Meeting of Worship, and where she was an Elder of the Meeting. We were close friends.

Caroline Graveson in her senior years.

When the college held a reunion of ‘The Aborigines’ with a planned dinner for 1,000 alumni in the Great Hall in 1954, she stayed overnight with the Chestermans at their home in Eltham:

Her actual visit to our home can hardly be described as a total success because John, our son, was at a difficult stage and was not very pleasant with the somewhat strict Caroline.  No harm was done, though Caroline did say she thought John was rather spoilt.

While the domestic scene had been rather frosty, the professional connection in the College proved to be very promising:

…at College she was in her element, and did a lot to make the day a success. The fact that Caroline appeared to like me was naturally an enormous help in my relationships with the old students and the present staff. I am quite certain that this scuppered any plans by our local communist cell to make life difficult for me. From that day I no longer had to be afraid of a hostile attack from the rear, as poor old Price (the previous Warden) had had to put up with during the whole of his short stay at Goldsmiths’.

Ross Chesterman argued that Goldsmiths’ first students ‘were charming old people, even if some were reactionary in their educational views.’  He added:

I’m afraid that after a few years when I began building – extending and altering the College and bringing standards up to something acceptable – the old students were less forthcoming, and soon became bitterly opposed to any changes from the Goldsmiths’ they had known and loved all those years ago. Apparently they liked it looking tatty and depressing.

But if the older generation were set in their nostalgic and Edwardian ways, Caroline Graveson remained an advocate for social progress and equality.

In a speech to the Malvern National Council of Women in 1943 on ‘Education and Social Class Distinctions’ she advocated an expansion of the Secondary School system so that elementary education could be widely extended to state pupils until the ages of 16 to 18.  She complained that:

About 80 to 85 per cent of the better paid positions in this country are occupied by people from the Public Schools. England was the only country in the world where a public school education served as a means of entry to a club or society.

First history of Goldsmiths’ College published in 1955 to commemorate its first half century of existence.

She agreed with her fellow speaker Dame Elizabeth Cadbury that the war was acting as a great leveler, and it was going to make for a very great fellowship in peacetime.

Caroline Graveson passed away in Portsmouth in 1958 in her 84th year.

It would be 59 years before the College would recognize her contribution to its legacy by naming a building after her.

She signed off her collaborative section of the 1955 college history by quoting from her hymnic lyric.

The old-fashioned language and metaphor is, or course, somewhat lost on the present 21st century generation of students studying and researching at a ‘postmodern’ university:

The ‘Smith still works at his forge, and those of us who set him there, and those who so valiantly re-established him there (after the Second World War) unite in the same prayer that he may ‘set his mind to finish his work and watch to polish it perfectly.’

Goldsmiths College as it was in 1905-6 when Caroline Graveson took on the role of Woman’s Vice-Principal.

Written and researched by Professor Tim Crook.
All images strictly copyright of Goldsmiths, University of London. All rights reserved.

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