Tag Archives: Harold Wilson

I, Harold Wilson, hereby declare … Installation November 1966

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.

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Installation of the Chancellor, 5 November 1966

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.

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Yorkshire roses in steel.  The University of Bradford ceremonial mace

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”.

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The procession through Bradford: Ted Edwards, Lord Morris, Harold Wilson

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.

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Harold Wilson giving Barbara Castle her honorary degree

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.

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Harold Wilson in his robes as Chancellor, circa 1976.

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).

Happy 50th Birthday! Fancy some cake?

Tuesday 18 October 2016 is the University of Bradford’s 50th Birthday!  It was on that day in 1966 that Queen Elizabeth II granted the University its Charter.  Staff and students are invited to celebrate the event in the Richmond Atrium between 1.30 and 2.30pm.    There will be a last chance to look at the 25th Anniversary Time Capsule, and a glimpse of the objects chosen for the 50th Anniversary Time Capsule before both are locked away until 2041!  And yes, there will be a birthday cake.  We look forward to seeing lots of friends and colleagues there for a very special day.

Here’s one we made earlier: our 40th anniversary cake.

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These forthcoming 50th anniversary lectures are going to be very interesting.  Both are free, but do register, as they are likely to be popular!

Harold Wilson: statesman and visionary.  Lecture by the Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP.  3 November.

Vice-Chancellor’s 50th Anniversary lecture with writer and educationalist Will Hutton (best known perhaps for his book The State We’re In).  26 October, 6pm, the Norcroft Centre.

£875 a year! And other Bradford Stories

In 1966, Dr John Horton joined the staff at Bradford University library on a salary of £875 a year.  He stayed at the Uni for the rest of his working life, eventually becoming University Librarian.  John shares his memories of our first Vice-Chancellor, Ted Edwards, and our first Chancellor, Sir Harold Wilson, in the first of a series of videos created by staff and students to celebrate the University’s 50th anniversary.

The Tall Blue Building: Happy 50th Birthday, Richmond

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.

Main Building, circa 1966.  (UNI B 19)

Main Building, circa 1966. (UNI B 19)

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.

Harold Wilson opening Main Building, 11 June 1965 (UNI PHw4)

Harold Wilson opening Main Building, 11 June 1965 (UNI PHw4)

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.

September 1964. View from top of Richmond Road, with Great Hall in foreground. Surrounding wall still under construction. Cars and vans at roadside. (UNI B10)

September 1964. View from top of Richmond Road, with Great Hall in foreground. (UNI B10)

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.

Artist’s impression of the proposed glazed atrium. News and views, September 2004, p. 3UniB15

Artist’s impression of the proposed glazed atrium. News and Views, September 2004, page 3 (UNI B15)

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?

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Music in the Atrium at an event for the University’s 40th anniversary, 2006

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.

Collections of the Month: Elections in collections

Independent Labour Party mural in Bradford

Independent Labour Party mural in Bradford

The modern archives in Special Collections were almost all created by people  engaging with public affairs in some way, whether as politicians or campaigners.

Here are some of the most interesting political characters in our archives, all liberal/socialist/left-leaning, influenced in some way by Bradford and West Yorkshire.  Bradford was a radical city, fast-growing, full of ideas from non-conformist religion and the growth of trades unions.  The Independent Labour Party was founded here in 1893.

Sir Isaac Holden

Sir Isaac Holden

Isaac Holden. Bradford wool manufacturer.  He was Liberal Member for Knaresborough 1865-1868, for the Northern Division of the West Riding 1882-1885, and for Keighley 1885-1895.  He had been advised to enter Parliament as a change of occupation for health reasons.  Born in 1807, Holden was still an MP in his eighties, though e.g. “when the Home Rule Bill of 1893 depended on the willingness of Liberals to pace the division lobbies for two solid hours on a sultry summer night, among the faithful few were ‘two young fellows'”: Gladstone and Holden, both well over eighty.  A committed Wesleyan, Holden favoured self-help, education and temperance.

The Holden Papers.

J.B. Priestley statue, in Bradford

J.B. Priestley statue, in Bradford

J.B. Priestley. His father, Jonathan, was a socialist, and, like Holden and many others, believed in the power of education.  Priestley was loyal to the basics of socialism throughout his life, which inspired his finest works. He wrote passionately about 1930s social inequalities in English Journey, his shock at discovering the class system in the WW1 trenches in Margin Released, his belief in society in An Inspector Calls.  In WW2 he tried to ensure a post-war world that would be worth fighting for, as he explained in his famous Postscripts.   Priestley stood as an independent candidate for the Cambridge University seat in the 1945 election, when he was also broadcasting and writing to promote the Labour campaign: Labour won, but he came third.  Given his dislike of committee work, that may be just as well.

The J.B. Priestley Archive.

 

Barbara Castle

Barbara Castle. She grew up in Bradford, which had a huge influence on her political ideas.  Cabinet Minister in Labour governments 1964-1970, 1974-1976.  Best known for equal pay, road safety improvements, and the failed attempt to tackle trade union power.  Special Collections holds her Cabinet Diaries, which give a wonderful view of her immediate responses to developing events, complete with doodles and handwritten comments.  While her political career was effectively ended by the failure of “In place of strife”, she definitely made it possible for women to be taken seriously as senior politicians.  She faced many difficulties she faced in her working, personal, and political life and always fought back, characteristically entitling her autobiography “Fighting all the way”.

Harold Wilson at Bradford University

Harold Wilson at Bradford University

Harold Wilson. Huddersfield-born, Prime Minister 1964-1970, 1974-1976. First Chancellor of the University of Bradford.  His political life was turbulent and remains controversial, particularly the extraordinary February 1974 election which has been much discussed recently in view of possible developments in the May 2010 election.  There are many documents relating to him in the University Archive: he was clearly sympathetic to higher education and to the University of Bradford.

“It is only at ceremonies like today’s that a glimpse can be had of the wide-ranging activities that are this University’s proud achievement.  Undergraduate courses which offer … a real appreciation of the marriage of theory and practice, research which plays a vital role in the economic and social well-being of this country; a lively interaction with the local community.  Some ivory tower!” (Harold Wilson, at a degree ceremony in 1982).