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Delve into the history of York School of Art...

The York School of Art has a rich history that dates back to 1842 on Little Blake Street. The School of Art moved many times around the City of York, before finally becoming part of the College at our former Tadcaster Road site in 1976. We are proud to be part of its history and its future.

Little Blake Street
Little Blake Street

1825: William Etty becomes Royal Academician

  • William Etty, the respected artist from York was a member of the Council for the Schools of Design. Of those selected to be on the Council for the Government funded Schools of Design, he was the only Council member who favoured an art training for the artisan that included life drawing. Etty’s own educational background served as endorsement of his conviction of the importance of study of the human figure for School of Design pupils. The York School of Design was established in 1842 with a grant from the Council of the Schools of Design and a curriculum that he had influence over. Etty kept in close contact with the York School of Design until he died, aged 52 in 1849; he would sometimes teach drawing classes there, and presented the School with a number of his drawings and prints.

1827: York Mechanics’ Institute opened

  • Drawing classes had been offered when the York Mechanics’ Institute opened in 1827 with 60 people enrolling during the first year.

1837: Government funded Design Education established on a national basis

1842: York School of Design established in Little Blake Street.

  • George Lambert appointed Master of York School of Design
    The first School of Design was located in the Freemasons’ Hall on Little Blake Street (now Duncombe Place).

    York became the second state funded Provincial/Branch School of Design outside of London to be established in the country after Manchester. Others in the likes of Nottingham, Sheffield, Birmingham and Newcastle followed in 1843. It was founded on 26th July 1842 following the introduction of British national art education in 1837.

    There was a pledge from the Government to provide £150 per year towards the funds of running the School if the citizens of York matched that amount for the first three years. Thereafter, it would be fully Government funded.

    There was a policy decision by the Council of the Schools of Design that the School of Design must not produce artists. An ‘express minute’ of the Council of School of Design prohibiting the study of the human figure had been passed. It was as a result of this and the school’s practice of copying ornament, that artisans sought some fine art influence for their work elsewhere, possibly at a Mechanics’ Institute. Eventually the committee had to retract their prohibition of making studies of the human figure. Partly as a result of the rigid course set up by William Dyce (Edinburgh based portrait painter) a class was introduced specifically to train art teachers, which included the younger students of the School. It was intended to produce teachers of ornamental drawing. Mr Lambert, the first Master at York School of Design, came from the initial group trained.

    As more Schools of Design opened, many deviated from Dyce’s rigid structure. In practice, it became evident within a few years of the establishment of the Brand Schools of Design that few of the Masters or pupils were interested in the original concept of the schools for ornamental design as advocated by Dyce. The schools were, by their intention, destined to become Schools of Art.

1843: J Pattison appointed Master of York School of Design

1848: York School of Design moves to Minster Yard

  • Becoming York School of Art
    Manchester under the guidance of its first Master quickly developed into an Art School, which became an issue with representatives of the Governing Council of the Schools of Design. York was also a prime example of a Branch School of Design working beyond its set parameters. The School at York was popular to the extent that within six years of being established it had to move from its premises in Little Blake Street to a larger premises in the Minster Yard, to accommodate the number of students enrolled, many of whom attended painting and drawing classes in addition to following the prescribed curriculum associated with the Branch Schools of Design. The School produced several promising artists, including Henry Moore, R A, the marine painter. The fine art policy was tolerated at York by the Council of the Schools of Design due to the association of William Etty.

1849: William Etty dies

1851: Thomas Colchett appointed Master of York School of Art

  • York School of Design becomes York School of Art

1853: The Department of Science and Art was introduced

  • The Department of Science and Art was introduced in 1853. This led to the establishment of the Department of Practical Art. A major influence in this was Henry Cole, who as a General Superintendent of the Schools of Design, introduced sweeping changes to the delivery of art education in this country. The Provincial or Branch Schools of Design were renamed Schools of Practical Art. There was a definite shift away from vocational training for the Board of Trade’s purposed towards general art education.

    This was also the introduction of a uniform system for public art education. The success of the different schools was judged by the number of prizes awarded to them through the National Competition for Schools of Art. Work was submitted for the different levels as offered within the National Course and prizes and medals were awarded to individual pupils.

1855: Charles Sturtevant appointed Master of York School of Art

1856: Charles Swallow appointed Master of York School of Art

1859: The growth of Art Schools

  • By 1859 there were 73 schools of Art in England. In 1861 the Schools of Art in the UK were giving instructions to over 84,000 people. York School of Art alone was educating around 800 pupils.

1870: JS Dominy appointed Master of York School of Art

  • The York School of Art numbers increased greatly through the 1870s. With the increase in attendance, problems arose with the accommodation. When the School moved into Minster Yard in 1848, there were 77 students enrolled; by 1875 there were 181 registered pupils.

1880: J A Kean appointed Master of York School of Art

1884: Arthur Turner appointed Master of York School of Art

1892: York School of Art moves to Exhibition Square (York Art Gallery)

  • In 1885, an application was made by the School of Art to the Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Institution to accommodate the School of Art within the Exhibition buildings. The response initially was that there was insufficient space for the School of Art. The proposal was not dismissed though, as it was suggested that conversion of some of the Exhibition Buildings and additional building could provide accommodation. It was agreed in 1889 that there would be sufficient accommodation for the School of Art. Relocation gave the School of Art a total area of 4974 sq ft – more than double the amount that they had in Minster Yard. The annual rent was to be set at £75.

    Once moved, student recruitment numbers immediately increased by 50 more than the previous year. The accommodation and resources affected work in a positive way, as records indicate that results were perceived to be greater in number and of better quality than previous years.

1904: Corporation Technical Instruction Committee

  • Meetings held in 1904, the Corporation Technical Instruction Committee again had the Amalgamation of Schools of Art on the agenda. The Committee chose to look at alternative recommendations. They decided to ask for an estimate and have plans drawn up to put an extra storey above the present School of Art, named St Leonard’s School of Art, in Exhibition Square. The decision to extend the School of Art at the Exhibition Buildings was, in essence, to accommodate the classes held at Clifford Street, giving York one amalgamated Art School.

1906: John Windass Appointed Master of York School of Art

1913: William Parkinson appointed Master of York School of Art

1914-18: The First World War

  • The First World War (1914-18) affected York Schol of Art. The School was temporarily housed at 47 Bootham in 1917. This followed a request from the Assistant Quartermaster of the Northern Command who wished to locate the Army Pay Department in the School’s buildings, for the latter part of the war. In fact, the School of Art did not fully return to the Exhibition Building until 1920.

1927: Reginald Cotterill appointed Master of York School of Art

1942: Air raid damages Art School accommodation in Exhibition Square

  • The Second World War (1939-45) impacted the school’s accommodation. The upper floor of the Art School was given to the Royal Army Pay Corp. The building was also impacted by heavy air raid across York in April 1942. The air raid destroyed a number of the School’s resources.

1949: Dudley Holland appointed Master of York School of Art

1951: Dennis Donn appointed Master of York School of Art

1959: National Advisory Council for Art Education set up

1960s: The growth continues

  • Eventually the School of Art gained more space. So much had the School’s range and demand of courses increased that by the 1960s there were small outposts in Aldwalk (typography), the former stables of Ashfield House (interior decorating and coach painting) ex-army huts Marygate (lithography, screen printing, letterpress and etching) and photographic studios and a garage that became an annexe at the back of the main Art School buildings in Marygate. Facilities for modelling, carving, metalwork, jewellery and bronze casting were housed in the annexe, referred to as ‘the terrapin’, as were the fashion related resources.

    After only being in use for a couple of years, severe fire damage in March 1966, gutted the annexe used by the School of Art for modelling, carving, metalwork, jewellery and bronze casting leaving it as a burnt-out shell. A decision was taken by York Corporation to carry out reinstatement works for the Art School damage. This decision endorsed the importance of retaining the existence of specialist facilities within the Art School resources.

1976: York School of Art relocates to Tadcaster Road site

  • The long-term aim of the City Council was to move all the City Further Education establishments to a site at Dringhouses, the Ashfields Estate site on Tadcaster Road. The Art School had been scheduled to move there in 1961. In 1961, they were informed that it would be 10 years before they would be relocated. The Art School eventually moved to the new site in 1976. The purpose-built building offered generous resources with specialist facilitates to carry out study across the range of Art and Design disciplines.

1978: Michael Pullee appointed Master of York School of Art

1982: Roger Butler appointed Master of York School of Art

1993: Bob Saynor appointed Master of York School of Art

1995: Chris Brace appointed Master of York School of Art

1999: The merger

  • The merger of York College of Further and Higher Education (formally known as York College of Arts and Technology) with York Sixth Form College – Mike Galloway appointed Principal
    The York School of Art was absorbed into York College.

2003: The start of degrees

York College, as the derivative organisation of York School of Art, did not offer Art & Design degrees until 2003 when BA (Hons) in Graphic Design, and then in 2005 BA (Hons) Contemporary Crafts. Foundation degrees in Fashion and Creative Digital Communications were added to the portfolio in 2007.

    2006: The rise of art and design education

    • Over the 30 years that art and design education was conducted at the Further and Higher Education College site at Dringhouses, the use of Space within Art and Design was changed and adapted as required. What had initially been spacious accommodation in the 1970s for just over 100 full-time students and around 850 part-time students, struggled to house the ever-increasing numbers of students wanting to study areas of Art and Design.

    2007: New College opens on Sim Balk Lane

    • By 2007, there were over 500 full-time students and approximately 250 part-time students. The Fine Art, Design and Craft Department, as part of the York Further and Higher Education establishment known as York College, moved into a purpose-built building on Sim Balk Lane, where it remains today. The Sim Balk Lane building was designed to accommodate both traditional and contemporary aspects of Art and Design education. The studios and workshops are equipped to enable students to be educated in Art and Design through a range of learning experiences in a specialist environment. Though it is no longer housed in its own individual building, the culture of art education in York, as delivered by the organisation that has been known through its history by derivatives of the School of Design, School of Art, School of Arts and Crafts, Art and Design and Fine Art Design and Crafts will be nurtured and developed for future generations of visual arts students in York.

    2020: York College University Centre

    • York College receives University Centre status for its higher education provision.

    2024: York School of Art rejuvenated