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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 LMA/4535
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1842-1997
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 12.98 linear metres.
Name of creator(s): Working Men's College | London


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Working Men's College was founded in 1854. The activities of the College grew out of the Workers Association, which in turn, had its foundations in the Christian Socialist movement. F D Maurice, the first principal of the College, is generally credited as the ideologue of Christian Socialism.

Maurice attracted a group of young men including Charles Kingsley [author of the Water Babies], Tom Hughes [author of Tom Brown's School Days] and R B Litchfield. Many of Maurice's followers came from the Association and subsequently became teachers at the College. Once the College had been established the founders managed to attract a number of other high profile teachers including Ruskin, Rossetti and Lowes Dickinson.

In contrast to the Mechanics' Institutes, which had been judged a failure by the mid-nineteenth century, the College syllabus emphasised the a liberal rather than practical eduction. For example the art classes concentrated upon fine art rather than technical drawing. The founders and the other teachers moulded the curriculum and ethos of the College according to their own experiences as Oxbridge graduates.

As well as the formal classes the College encouraged extra-cirricular activities and the records of the student groups form a significant portion of the archive. The Common Room, in particluar, provided a forum for student involvement.

Women were admitted to the College in 1966 after almost 10 years of debate. In 1957 Frances Martin College (formally the Working Women's College) moved in with the Working Men's College premises and after 1965 a formal agreement was made to join the administrations of the two colleges.

The College premises were orginally in 31 Red Lion Square. They moved to 45 Great Ormond Street in 1856 and subsequently to the current, purpose built, building on Crowndale Road in 1904.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Working Men's College, London. This collection includes minutes of the governing committees of the college, including Directors Minutes (1857-1878); Council Minutes (1854-1997) and Executive Committee Minutes (1863-1989). Corporation ledgers (1875-1945) and College ledgers (1858-1905) chart the financial fortunes of the College. Most of the plans that survive are of the Crowndale road site but there is also one file of plans of the Great Ormond Street building. Lists of students (1854-1873) form part of the collection, the earliest of which records the occupation of students. Student participation in college life was not confined to the classroom and the records of the student clubs form a significant part of the collection.

Also within the collection is a volume recording donations made to the Working Men's Association, the organisation from which the College emerged.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The collection has been arranged under the following sub-fonds:
LMA/4535/A Predecessors and Legal Foundation;
LMA/4535/B Governance;
LMA/4535/C Finance;
LMA/4535/D Property;
LMA/4535/E Students;
LMA/4535/F Teachers and teaching;
LMA/4535/G Affiliated organisations.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to this collection rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in March 2009.

Allied Materials

Related material:

See also A/FMC: Frances Martin College.

King's College London Archives hold the papers of F.D. Maurice.

Publication note:

A history of the Working Men's College, 1854-1954 by Harrison, J. F. C. (John Fletcher Clews), published London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1954. Available at BARBICAN LONDON COLLECTION STACK and GUILDHALL LIBRARY.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
January to May 2011.

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