Second round-up of the Special Collections Bradvent Calendar. More info in our previous post.
We’ll share Part 3 after the New Year!
Second round-up of the Special Collections Bradvent Calendar. More info in our previous post.
We’ll share Part 3 after the New Year!
After the signing of the Royal Charter that created the University of Bradford, the next step in making a University was the installation of the Chancellor, on 5 November 1966. The Chancellor-Designate was the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson.
Why Wilson? His aspirations for education matched those of the University:as is clear from his famous “white heat”speech of October 1963, Wilson believed Britain needed much more scientific and technological expertise and “a tremendous building programme of new universities”. He supported the transformation of Bradford Institute of Technology into the University of Bradford: “There is another thing we have got to do in the field of higher education, and this is to put an end to snobbery. Why should not the colleges of advanced technology award degrees?” He was also a Yorkshireman, which helped!
Harold Wilson was announced as Chancellor-Designate on 16 October 1964 at a press conference beginning at precisely 9.01 pm. It was the night of a general election in which Wilson as Labour Party leader became the Prime Minister. The odd timing of the conference meant it fitted into the short gap between the closing of the polling stations and the announcement of the election results. Thus Bradford’s decision could neither have an impact on the election campaign nor appear that the University was appointing the Prime Minister, rather than the man, to the role.
Two years on, the installation ceremonies began with a grand dinner on 4 November at the Midland Hotel. The Vice-Chancellors of the other Yorkshire universities gave the University of Bradford its ceremonial silver Mace, which is rich in symbolism and reflects the futuristic style of the period.
Ted Edwards, the Vice-Chancellor, observed the slight awkwardness of accepting a gift from potential rivals, remarking “Timeo danaos et dona ferentes” (I fear the Greeks even when bearing gifts). Harold Wilson in his speech later that evening jokingly rebuked Ted Edwards for using Latin in a modern technological university. In practice, the University eschewed Latin in its ceremonial identity, choosing a motto in English, “Give invention light”.
The installation ceremonial featured a service in Bradford Cathedral, then a procession across the city to St Georges Hall, designed to make sure many people got to see the parade. The event was definitely for the City as well as the University. As Harold Wilson said in his speech later on, the two would always be closely linked, with the University being,
“A new seat of learning and research and application, with the life of a region, drawing its strength from the life and vitality of that region and in turn making its own contribution to the future intellectual richness, industrial advance and social development of the region”.
The procession was huge, including the Lord Mayor of Bradford, civic leaders, representatives from other universities, academic staff, and the honorary graduands who would receive their degrees at the ceremony. One was the then minister of transport, Barbara Castle, who had grown up in Bradford.
In St George’s Hall, the Vice-Chancellor formally installed the Chancellor, who declared that he would fulfil the office. It was proclaimed that the University had a Chancellor; the band of the Royal Corps of Signals played a fanfare. Bradford had its university at last!
The event received extra attention because the Chancellor was also the Prime Minister. Demonstrators mounted a peaceful protest as the procession went by: apparently Harold Wilson congratulated a demonstrator on his poster “Come back Guy Fawkes, all is forgiven!”. Unfortunately government duties meant Wilson could not enjoy the event to the full. He was informed of a major crisis looming in Rhodesia and had to leave early.
Despite the demands of his role, Wilson was a great friend to the University of Bradford throughout his time as Chancellor (1966-1985). His legacy to the University will be kept alive via a new series of annual lectures. The first, delivered on the 3 November by Alan Johnson MP, got the series off to an entertaining and thought-provoking start. Johnson argued that Wilson was not the devious opportunist he is so often presented as, but an astute and pragmatic statesman – with core beliefs to which he remained steadfast, notably the importance of education for everyone.
“Education is not only one of our greatest national assets, it is also our hope for the future”, speech given at degree congregation, July 1985.
Credits and sources
This account is based on Chapter 2 of Robert McKinlay’s The University of Bradford: the early years. It also draws on his The University of Bradford: origins and development, and on various Wilson biographies and memoirs. Archival sources: UNI X0375 (installation speech) X1283 (1985 degree congregation).
Starter question. What famous jazz musician had the Christian names Ferdinand Joseph de la Menthe?
If you were concerned with Hooke’s Law, would you be more likely to be a student of church history, a statistician, a manufacturer of braces, or a pirate?
From Shakespeare, which character said (and in which play)? “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad”.
Can you guess which quiz show sent these specimen questions to Bradford students? No conferring!
Yes, it could only be University Challenge, the famously fast-moving and difficult quiz for teams of students, first broadcast in 1962.
In 1966, Students’ Union official Roger Iles contacted the programme’s producer, Douglas Terry, and its maker, Granada Television, to ask whether Bradford Institute of Technology (BIT) would be able to take part in the programme. BIT was after all just about to become a “University”. His enquiry was welcomed and Bradford was invited to put together a team for the autumn series. BIT was thus the first College of Advanced Technology turned University to be recognised in this way.
The 3 February 1966 issue of Javelin shared the good news and the call for entries. The specimen questions were included to help students decide if they were up to the standard of the competition. Answers at the bottom of this article (No googling!).
It took a few years, but Bradford University did eventually become University Challenge Champions.
Other stories from the 3 February issue:
Five students living in Revis Barber Hall of Residence had jointly hired a television set which was “capable” of receiving a hazy BBC-2: a slightly more “highbrow” channel than the existing BBC and ITV programmes, and with a remit including arts, culture and education. Assuming the set could in practice receive the channel, the students would have been able to watch Playschool, Horizon, and (the following year) the unmissable Forsyte Saga.
Students were asked to stop stealing glasses from the Union Bar and were rebuked for using “vulgar language” in the “conveniences” on Richmond D Floor. This had upset a member of staff and meant students were banned from the only toilets on the same floor as the Bar – inconvenient!
Ad of the Week
Excel Bowling (Canterbury Avenue). Ten-pin bowling had become really popular in Britain during the 1960s. Excel was a large chain of bowling alleys.
My favourite story from the 20 January 1966 issue of Javelin is the opening of two beloved Bradford landmarks, the Silver Blades Ice Rink and the Heart Beat discotheque above it.
Located in Wardley House on Little Horton Lane, these were handily near the University (as we will see, the University would soon have a presence in the same building).
Silver Blades was rather special when opened:
“… reputed to be “The finest rink in the world”, with coloured lighting in the barriers, sparkling chandeliers over the ice, and a plush bar and restaurant. The resplendently dressed skaters were entertained with organ music. The opening gala at the rink had performances by British skaters who had just returned from the World Championships. They included Sally Anne Stapleford, John Curry and ice dancers Bernard Ford and Diane Towler.” (from the History of Bradford Ice Arena).
But ice rinks are expensive to run! In the 1970s and 1980s recession and cuts to maintenance meant it became run down, and its owners Mecca Leisure decided to close it in 1991. The rink was saved thanks to a new company put together by local campaigner Krystyna Rogers. It is lovely to note that it is still going strong. Now known as Bradford Ice Arena, the rink is celebrating 50 years of bringing fun and exercise to the people of Bradford.
And the Heart Beat? It seems to have become Annabella’s at some point during the 1970s. I’ll share more info when I come across it. And of course, memories and images can easily be found on Facebook and other sites – see All About Bradford for instance.
In January 1966 it looked as though Bradford might be at the point of achieving a century-old dream: its own University. Or was it?
1868-1963 The fight for a University
As early as 1868, local Member of Parliament W.E. Forster was clear that “if industrial universities were to be established in large centres of manufacturing, Bradford would do its best to become one of those centres”. Such universities were indeed established: Leeds, Sheffield etc. acquired universities in the”red-brick” boom of the 1890s and 1900s. Lack of local support and political influence meant Bradford missed out.
Scheme after scheme for university status foundered over the next century. At last, in 1957, Bradford became Bradford Institute of Technology, one of eight Colleges of Advanced Technology, concentrating on university-level teaching and research. But the CATS lacked the independence, kudos, and funding available to”universities”.
This unfairness was particularly noticeable during the early 1960s, as so many new universities were springing up. These, as Robert McKinlay remarked in his histories of the University, achieved university status with all its benefits while often consisting of only a “Vice-Chancellor and a watchman’s hut”. The CATs, with years of high-level work, buildings, staff and students, were still at a disadvantage.
1963-1966. Hope for Bradford?
To put right this anomaly, Lord Robbins in his 1963 report recommended that the CATs be granted Royal Charters to become technological universities. It’s easy to assume that this meant the Institute’s move to university status was inevitable.
However, the lead article in the 20 January 1966 edition of Javelin suggests some students at least were not so sure. Was there “hope for Bradford”?
Of course it is possible that uncertainty about university status was being exaggerated for effect. Javelin reporters tended to be sarcastic and cynical! Either way, the signs were correct: Bradford would indeed become a University before the year was out.
Part II to follow: what else was happening around the Institute and the City in January 1966?
The splendid costumes worn at University of Bradford graduation ceremonies are part of the pageantry that makes the ceremonies such special occasions for students and their families and friends.
The costumes are known as “academic dress” and derive from the clothes worn by scholars at the earliest universities, during the Middle Ages. Each university has its own academic dress and staff taking part in graduation processions wear the outfit of the university from which they received their degree. Note also the use of fabric, colour and trimming to denote the type of degree or rank of the individual, again something typical of medieval practice. Undergraduates have the simplest designs, with more colour and decoration for higher degrees; the Chancellor and other University officers wear the most elaborate costumes.
In 1965, the Bradford Institute of Technology was working towards its transformation into the University of Bradford. This included deciding on its heraldic and ceremonial identity, expressed in the coat of arms and the academic dress. A Committee was set up to investigate and make these choices, meeting several times during 1965 and 1966. Frank Earnshaw, the then Librarian, took on the task of finding out about academic dress elsewhere, so that our designs did not duplicate those worn by other universities. Several other universities were taking shape and making similar decisions at this time, but everyone kept in touch and clashes were avoided.
The Committee settled on velvet for the splendid robes of the officers of the University: the Chancellor wore wine-colour, the Pro-Chancellor black, the Vice-Chancellor blue and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor black with grey. The garments were enriched with trimmings of gold braid and moiré and silk linings. In keeping with the University’s (then) unusual emphasis on involving students in governance, the President of the Students’ Union also had a special gown, of blue stuff trimmed with saffron*.
To celebrate our links with local industry and role in the city, much of the design and manufacture of the officers’ robes was carried out by Bradford companies, including Lister and Co, who wove the velvet, Naylor Jennings of Yeadon, who finished the moiré trim, and Denby and Sons of Shipley, who finished the linings. Students from the Regional College of Art prepared the robe designs and University staff from the department of Textile Technology wove the silk linings and moiré collars.
As you can see in this 1986 picture, the original heavy velvet gowns were later replaced by lighter ones of black artificial silk with elaborate facings.
The Committee chose black for bachelors and masters and scarlet for Doctors of Philosophy. These outfits feature a variety of saffron trims, linking them with the President’s design mentioned above.
You might like this video made a few years ago, in which I talk a little more about the University’s robe designs.
Like the coat of arms and the University mace, academic dress is part of the magic of higher education, connecting our graduands with scholars past, present, and worldwide. We in Special Collections would like to wish all our 2015 graduands and their families a wonderful graduation day and all the very best in the future!
*Saffron, a rich yellowy-orange, is described as the University’s colour, though I have never seen an explanation for this. Possibly a connection with the city’s dyestuffs industry? If anyone knows, do tell me, and I will update if I ever find out.
On 11 June 1965, Prime Minister Harold Wilson came to what is now the University of Bradford to open Main Building. Later renamed Richmond Building, Main Building, a striking multistorey structure, quickly became the University’s most recognisable feature, its hilltop position making it visible across the city.
When Main Building opened, it was part of the Bradford Institute of Technology. BIT was about to achieve the century-old dream of a University for Bradford: it received its Charter in October 1966, with Wilson as its first Chancellor. However, the Institute had struggled with poor quality and outdated accommodation since its establishment as a College of Advanced Technology, which hived off the higher education side of Bradford Technical College. A University would need even more space for staff and students as well as better facilities for high level research and teaching in science and technological subjects.
BIT, unlike the College, was no longer under local authority control, but in practice it was impossible for it to act alone to solve its space crisis. The two organisations had to work together for the benefit of the city, the Institute bringing in money and people and ideas and the authority making space and plans available. They considered various greenfield sites for a whole new campus, including Woodhall, Tong and even Harrogate (remember this was the 1960s when new “plate-glass” universities were taking shape outside cities).
However, it was eventually decided to expand the campus into the back streets which wrapped around the College. Whole streets of houses were demolished (many people had to be rehoused as a result) and work on Main Building began in May 1960. The building was commissioned by the Local Authority and designed by the City Architect, Clifford Brown, then handed over to the Institute. The lower four floors of Main were first occupied in October 1962; other parts of the building in 1963 and 1964.
Since the 1960s, Main/Richmond has been an important part of the University experience for students, from arrival at their first open day to their graduation ceremony. Staff too (everyone visits Human Resources on their first day here!). Visitors get their taxis and their parking permits at the “tall building”. As well as many academic departments over the years, Richmond houses most central University functions plus shops and places to eat.
However, by the early noughties, it is fair to say that, like many 1960s buildings, Richmond was showing its age. Many improvements to its appearance and usefulness have since been made, most noticeably the sky-blue cladding and the glassing in of underused space to create the Atrium where coffee and comfy chairs are to be had. Alas, the fabulous modern “porch” on stilts you can see in the older photographs has gone. I wonder if Richmond will be here in 2025 and how it will look?
PS I don’t have the date of the renaming to hand, but we know that Main Building was renamed Richmond Building after the street on which it lives. This was in line with the University’s then policy of naming its buildings after such streets or other local heritage features.
Sources: Much of this article is based on Robert McKinlay’s histories, which are full of detail on the architecture and planning decisions of the 1960s, and on the Main Building article in our 100 Objects exhibition.