Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Science and Art Institute

The Science and Art Institute had the distinction of being the second "mechanic's institute" in the country - the first being Owen's College, which later became  the University of Manchester. The Science and Art's history ended up by being much more modest. The Mechanics Institute started in 1840 without any permanent buildings and it took until 1864 before a proper dedicated building was available; this, to provide its new name the Wolverton Science and Art Institute. The new building on the corner of Church Street and Creed Street had 12 classrooms, a library, an auditorium and a lecture theatre. Evening classes were offered in a range of academic and practical disciplines.

I think a technical school was founded there in 1925 or 6. By the 1950s it had taken on its role within the confines of the 1944 Education Act which created Grammar Schools (selection at 11), Technical Schools (selection at 13) and Secondary Modern Schools (general education from 11-15).

I'm afraid a lot of assumptions about social mobilty were built into the 1944 Education Act. Grammar School pupils would fill clerical and managerial positions, boys who went to the "Tech" would fill technician roles while girls who did shorthand and typing would become office girls, and the rest who spent their last four years of schooling at the Aylesbury Street school without science laboratories and only a woodwork shop and cookery classroom in addition to their ordinary classrooms, would end up in all the other jobs. This stratified vision of education began to unravel in the 1950s when the Tech was merged with the Grammar School to create the Radcliffe School. Eventually the "Secondary Modern" disappeared before a wave of comprehnsive schools.

I had little to do with the Science and Art Institute. I delivered papers to the Reading Room on the occasion I took that round. I went to meetings of the Wolverton Photographic Society each Wednesday as a teenager. So I have few memories of it.

In 1970 it was razed to the ground after a fire. 

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