The Centenary Celebrations

From Harry Webster’s 1984-1985 Annual Report we can find out about some of the things that happened during Edge Hill’s centenary year.

Since 1885 was the year of the College’s foundation, the most significant event of 1985 was the celebration of our centenary. Planning for the centenary celebrations began in March 1984 with a series of exploratory meetings involving College staff, members of the Guild of Former Students, and members of the Executive Committee of the Students Union, representative of the broad range of expertise required for such an important undertaking. Subsequent progress in designing a programme of events was based on three aims: to present a history of the College and a view of the College today representative of the breadth of its work; to offer a focal-point to the thousands of present and past students, staff and friends of the College to meet together to celebrate its centenary; and to enable people in the local and regional communities to share in these celebrations.

Presentation of the unique history of the College took two complementary forms. First, a comprehensive exhibition was assembled consisting of visual and written material based on the College archives and numerous items of memorabilia loaned by members of the Guild of Former Students. First exhibited in the College in January, it was designed to be easily transportable and was subsequently exhibited at a number of public locations in the North West. Second, this highly successful exhibition was paralleled by a much more detailed examination of the historical development of the College which was undertaken by Dr Fiona Montgomery, one of our History tutors, in producing her book ‘Edge Hill College : A History 1885-1985’. Published in June, this work concentrates on the transformation of the College from its inception as a small, women’s college with 41 students and the first non-denominational training college in England. It includes developments in teacher education over the last century and, besides interesting social historians, it will also contribute to women’s studies since it throws light on the development of attitudes towards women’s work and their roles within society.

Presentation of the vast range of work of the College as it is today was concentrated into a programme of some thirty events from January to July of 1985 including public lectures, conferences, seminars, concerts, dramatic productions, dance displays, poetry readings and a wide variety of exhibitions. Details of this programme, representative of the breadth of College activities was contained in a Centenary Year Diary of Events, 6,000 copies of which were distributed to Universities, Polytechnics, Colleges, Schools and Libraries throughout the country. A press and media conference was held to launch the total programme.

The first major event, the Centenary Lecture, was delivered by Professor A M Ross, Director of the School of Education of Lancaster University. In this lecture tribute was paid to the continued success of the College through a century of social and educational change and development. Professor Ross spoke in particular of the college’s close and fruitful association with the University of Lancaster during the last decade and recognised the dynamism which the College was showing for continued academic development in the future. Edge Hill College was already showing its potential for moving into new fields appropriate in a time of rapid change in Higher Education where fundamental principles would have to be re-interpreted as we move towards the twenty-first century.

This stimulating lecture, emphasising the present and future work of the College, did much to ensure the success of the lectures and conferences which followed in the programme and which were attended by a total of some three thousand people. In addition, the numerous exhibitions and arts events also attracted thousands of visitors to the College, helping to sustain public interest at a high level throughout the period and leading to the third and final phase of the celebrations, the College Centenary Open Day on the 29th June.

The Hale Hall provided an appropriate setting for the Service of Thanksgiving which began the Centenary Open Day Celebrations. Conducted by the Rev K Thornton, Vicar of Ormskirk, before a large congregation of members of the Guild of Former Students, past and present staff, students and College guests, the service was both moving and memorable. Hymns were led by the College choir, readings were given by staff and students, the College Prayer was delivered by a senior member of the Guild and the address was given by Dr B Greaves, Deputy Director of the College.

Following the service members of the Guild of Former Students escorted their guests, who included the present Director, Mr H Webster, and three previous Directors, Dr M I Bain (1947-64), Mr P K C Millins (1964-79), Miss M W Stantan (1979-82) to their Centenary Luncheon in the College Refectory. Meanwhile the facilities and campus were opened to the public.

It was evident from the constant stream of cars entering the campus from 10.30 a.m. onwards throughout the day that publicity in the form of press and media coverage, posters and pamphlets had been effective. The number of visitors was finally estimated to be in the region of eight thousand.

Besides the exhibition on the history of the College, 40 other exhibition areas, including displays of subjects, student community work and student societies, courses and admissions information and the use of facilities by outside organisations, were all designed to reflect the very active life of the College today. Existing and developing links with other major institutions of Higher Education in the county were stressed in exhibitions arranged by Lancashire Polytechnic and Lancaster University. A particularly lively exhibition by various local Adult Studies organisations which also have strong links with the College, aroused considerable interest, while the two Halls of Residence which were open to the public demonstrated the excellent residential facilities available for students.

This wide range of exhibitions was supported by an equally extensive programme of arts and sports events. Demonstrations and displays in the gymnasium and swimming baths were supple-mented by an outdoor programme of sporting activities and a Summer Fair organised by students. Performances of Indian Classical Dancing, Victorian Melodrama, Medieval Pageant Plays, Band Concerts, a Gymnastics Heritage Display and various craft activities in which visitors could participate, all proved popular attractions.

The College buildings, grounds and gardens were at their very best, providing a perfect setting for this memorable day when so many past and present staff, students and friends of the College met to celebrate not only its distinguished past but also its present position as one of the leading Colleges of Higher Education in the country.

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