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Central School of Art and Design

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2753 Central School of Art and Design
Held at: University of the Arts London: Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design
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Full title: Central School of Art and Design
Date(s): [1896]-1987
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: approximately 100 volumes and 4 files
Name of creator(s): Central School of Arts and Crafts
Central School of Art and Design
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Central School of Arts and Crafts was established in 1896 by London County Council to provide specialist art teaching for workers in craft industries. The school was intended to be a centre at which art scholars and students from local schools could be brought under the influence of established artists in close relation with employers, and was a direct outcome of the Arts and Crafts movement sponsored by William Morris and John Ruskin. The architect, educationalist and conservationist William Richard Lethaby was a key figure in the foundation and joint principal of the school with George Frampton from 1896 to 1911. It was decided that teaching should be limited to definite crafts and so cover different ground to existing schools rather than compete with them. London County Council rented Morley Hall from the governors of the Regent Street Polytechnic and in 1896 part-time classes in architecture, drawing and design, modelling, stained glass, cabinet design, silversmithing, lead work, enamelling, structural mechanics and masonry for people engaged in trade began. The curriculum was soon extended and additional accommodation in the adjacent house and in Union Street taken. Under Lethaby the Central School was innovatory in both its educational objectives and teaching methods. The majority of teachers were part time and successful practitioners of their crafts, and provided the school with a variety of practical skills and valuable contacts with the professional world of the designer and craftsman.

In 1903 it was decided to purchase a site for the school in Southampton Row, Holborn, and at the same time classes were organised into schools in preparation for the move to the new building. The schools comprised architecture and building crafts, silversmiths' work and allied crafts, book production, cabinet work and furniture, drawing design and modelling, needlework and stained glass. The work of the Drawing, Designing and Modelling school, which included life drawing and modelling, was regarded as ancillary to the work of the other sections. Emphasis was always firmly on the craft basis of subjects taught, with mural painting or sculptural decoration preferred to painting or sculpture. It was not until 1941 that a School of Painting and Sculpture was formed. In 1908 the school moved to the new building in Southampton Row, which was designed and built to be shared with the London Day Training College. Most classes were held in the evening, with students working by day in their professions. Workshops were open during the day to those who could use them. Day art and crafts classes were held and day technical schools established for silversmiths' and jewellers' work and book production. The Royal Female School of Art (established 1842) was transferred to the London County Council and incorporated into the Central School in 1908. In 1912 the London Day Training College moved from the premises, and day classes were reorganised on lines suitable for building a scheme of advanced and specialised work.

Teachers at the Central School included the architect Halsey Ricardo and Eric Gill, a former student at the Central School who taught stone carving. Douglas Cockerell, J H Mason, Edward Johnston and Noel Rooke, innovators of the private press movement, were employed for book production training, which encompassed bookbinding, typography, calligraphy, letterform and illustration. Embroidery and Needlework were taught and, also in this area of study, costume design. In 1919 ceramic design became part of the syllabus under Dora Billington. By 1920 students ranged from trade apprentices to professional artists and advanced students of design, with nearly 1800 students in eight departments comprising silversmiths' work and allied crafts, textiles (including tapestry, stained glass and mosaic), painted, sculptural and architectural decoration, book production, furniture, dress design, engraving and ancillary study in drawing, and painting, design, modelling and architecture. In 1926-7 the Central School encompassed the School of Arts and Crafts with 1791 'ordinary' students and 31 University of London students, a Junior Day Technical School of Silversmithing and Book Production with 128 students, and Art classes at Upper Hornsey Road with 96 students. In 1930 the School of Textiles and Costume, which had grown out of the Embroidery and Needlework section, was divided. The design of theatrical settings became as important as costume, whilst printed and woven fabric were developed in the Textile section. Subjects previously taught in the school of Architecture and Building Crafts were absorbed by other sections. A course of Design for Light Industry, the forerunner to the Department of Industrial Design, was established in 1938. A post-war reorganisation of the Central School took place under the innovative principal William Johnston, who introduced the concept of basic design taught by Fine Artists to all students and developed the design elements in subjects such as ceramics, textiles, theatre and industrial design.

The school continued to develop and expand during the 1960s, with a programme of reorganisation begun in 1960 prior to the school receiving recognition as a centre for the new Diploma in Art and Design by the National Council for Diplomas in Art and Design (NCDAD). The reorganisation led to the transfer of some purely craft courses to other colleges in order to make way for a greater concentration on approaches more in line with modern industrial methods. On May 1 1966 the school was renamed the Central School of Art and Design. In 1967 the National Council for Diplomas in Art and Design designated a joint centre for postgraduate studies composed of Chelsea School of Art, for Fine Art, and the Central School, for design subjects. The school continued to expand, with the move of the Textile and Ceramic Design Departments into new premises in Red Lion Square in 1962 and the opening of the Jeanetta Cochrane theatre, named after the founder of the Theatre Design course. In 1973 the library and Department of Liberal Studies were re-housed in a bridge in the school's main complex which was built to link the Southampton Row and Red Lion Square buildings. In 1974 the Weaving and Knitting sections of the Textile Department moved into an annexe in Proctor Street. Responsibility for the validation of diplomas was passed to the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) in 1974. In January 1986 the school became a constituent college of the London Institute, formed by the Inner London Education Authority associating its art schools and specialist colleges of printing, fashion and distributive trades into a collegiate structure. St Martin's School of Art, another constituent college of the London Institute, merged with the Central School of Art and Design in 1989 to form Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Central School of Art and Design, [1896]-1987, comprising minutes of the Advisory Council, 1915-1952; minutes and agendas of the Board of Studies, 1919-1937, 1962-1963; minutes of staff meetings, 1930-1932; annual reports of the Principal and Advisory Committee, 1911-1926; report by the Principal on the aims and organisation of the school, 1913; reports of the Advisory Council, 1926-1933; Advisory Council attendance book, 1915-1951; report of inspection of the Central School, 1920; Board of Education inspection reports of the Central School, 1920-1921; papers concerning aims and organisation of the school, including reports and correspondence, 1913-1956; papers concerning school inspections, including reports, 1929-1953; papers and correspondence relating to diplomas and fellowships, 1921-1953; papers concerning industrial art bursaries, 1947-1955; papers and correspondence relating to the Governing Body, including appointment of governors, 1955-1961;

correspondence concerning the book William Richard Lethaby, 1857-1931 by A R N Roberts (published 1957), [1956]; notes concerning a television programme on the School, 1954; notes on W R Lethaby, with some correspondence of Lethaby, [1909-1930]; visitors book, 1914-1984; timetables, 1973-1977;

photographs of Southampton Row building, [1908]-1970s; photographs of bomb damage to the school, [1942]; photographs of students, [1920s-1990s]; photograph album of students' work, [1950s]; photographs of Khartoum Technical College Department of Fine Arts depicting student life and work, 1963; photographs of life models, [1930s]; floor plans of the Central School building, [1950s];

copies of prospectuses, 1896-1987; prospectuses for departments, 1970s; exhibition catalogues for Central School Book Production and lithography, 1912-1913; degree show catalogues, 1950s-1990s; invitation and publicity concerning students' exhibition of work, 1952;

Students Union members' signature book, 1930-1932; rough lists of members of the Students' Society, 1959-1964; Central School of Arts and Crafts student magazines, 1919, 1920, 1923 (hand drawn and written); Book Production Class magazine (journals for the boys of the Day Technical School of Book Production and Silversmithing), 1912-1913; Printing Class Boys Magazine, 1916, 1926; student newspapers, 1970-1980; student handbook, 1974;

sketch books of R B Neal, of interiors of Hatfield House, sketches and photographs of furniture and notes and sketches on historical furniture styles, [1912-1914]; student essays on interior design and etching, 1954; printed examples of typographical work at a summer school for teachers, 1933;

articles and press cuttings relating to the history of Central School, including magazines and articles on the work of students, 1950s-1990s; press cuttings concerning the opening of the Jeanetta Cochrane theatre, [1962]; articles, obituaries, press cuttings, biographical information and papers relating to W R Lethaby, including his house designs, 1932-1980s; articles, press cuttings, exhibition catalogues, relating to Central School artists and designers, photographs and private view cards, compiled from the 1980s; press cuttings, publicity material concerning Central School exhibitions and fashion shows, 1987-1997;

printed London County Council Education Department records, including reports on technical education, 1912, training and employment in the printing trades, 1914, trade and technical education in France and Germany, 1914; handbook on education visits, 1910; annual report of the Council on higher education, 1911; reports on teachers' conferences, 1909-1914; reports on the Education Act, 1918; Staff Gazette, 1900-1903; Technical Education Board minutes, 1908.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The records are arranged as outlined in the scope and content.

Conditions governing access:

Researchers wishing to consult the archives should make written application to the Administrator, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design Museum and Study Collection, Southampton Row, London WC1B 4AP.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying is permitted at the discretion of the Administrator.

Finding aids:

Some of the records are listed on the on-line catalogue of the Museum and Study Collection.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The photographs of Khartoum Technical College were presented to the Central School's principal on a visit to the Technical College.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Acquired on the merger of the Central School of Art and Design into Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in 1989.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The Museum and Study Collection also contains manuscripts, prints and books, work and publications by members of the Arts and Crafts Movement, such as May Morris, Edward Johnston, Eric Gill, and W R Lethaby, Japanese prints, wood engravings and other prints, 1920s German film posters, books printed and bound in the School of Book Production, the textile collection of guard books, textile and wall-paper samples, garments and art work by staff and students.

Plans of the Southampton Row building and records of London County Council relating to the College are held at London Metropolitan Archives.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Julie Tancell as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

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:
August 2002

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