Art classes were started on 29 January 1867 in the Picture Gallery of the Charles' Museum in St Faith's Street on the initiative of the Reverend Henry Collis (1835 - 1905), the local Vicar at St. Philip's, Maidstone. Collis was greatly interested in art and an enthusiastic educationalist. The classes were placed under the care of a Master, James Bell Williamson, a landscape and figurative painter who came from Northern Ireland, and who remained in post for the next twenty years.
Towards the end of that same year, in September 1867, the classes moved again, through the goodwill of the Earl of Romney, to the College Buildings, now known as the College of All Saints in College Avenue which had been founded by Archbishop Courtenay in 1395.
The first Report of the Committee of the Maidstone School of Art was published in 1869. Classes took place every Thursday morning 11 to 1, and in the afternoon from 2 to 4. The fee, payable in advance was £1-1s per quarter, which consisted of 10 lessons. The Thursday evening class, which started at 7pm, was for artisans, who paid 4s a quarter, although 'persons not artisans may attend the evening class by paying 10s per quarter'. The annual examination of students took place in March of each year. Students' work was sent for examination to the offices of the Department of Science and Art at the South Kensington Museum.
The School was largely self-supporting, with the exception of the Government grant of £14 10s. Annual prizes were supported by W. Laurence Esq. and the Master. Among those receiving prizes for drawings sent to South Kensington was Frederick Ruck, who during the following years was successful at both national and local level, obtaining a Silver Medal in 1873 and two subjects of the Art Teachers' Certificate Examination in May 1880. He became a member of the School's Committee in 1884 and between 1889 and 1930 was both County Surveyor and County Architect of Kent County Council on a part-time basis.
Succeeding reports chart the somewhat chequered development of the School during the following years. Although the evening class, attended by artisans, increased in size and was almost always full, middle class support declined, with the eventual abandonment by 1877 of the morning class. This was a source of some concern to the Committee, as these students, through their payment of larger fees, helped to defray costs. So in 1872 the public were invited to give some help by making an annual payment. However finance remained a concern over subsequent years, despite the school standing fourth in the whole of England in the awarding of government prizes in 1877, and the practice of annual subscription was continued until 1885.
A Science Class opened in 1884, and by 1887 the School of Science and Art merged the two subject areas and the classes for both were re-housed in the Old Palace of the Archbishops which had been purchased by subscription and presented to Maidstone by the trustees to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria's accession to the throne. After an expenditure of £143.9s.5d on alterations, the new premises were occupied early in 1888 after being formally opened by Sir John Lubbock on 20 January. Two rooms were used for the Art classes, and two for Science.
George Ward replaced James Williamson in 1887 and an Assistant Master, H. Percy Clifford, was appointed for the Art Classes. At this time George Ward was also in charge of the Rochester School of Art where he remained Headmaster until 1926. Classes were now held in the afternoon on Tuesdays and Thursdays and every evening, including Saturday, apart from Wednesdays. Advanced students, at a small extra charge, could use the rooms on certain nights of the week for practice.
Early in the 1880s a Royal Commission on Technical Instruction was appointed to 'inquire into the instruction of the industrial classes of certain foreign countries in technical and other subjects for the purpose of comparison with that of the corresponding classes in this country'. The Report was critical of the state of the Science and Art Department and the provincial science and art establishments, and three Acts of Parliament enabled the formation of County Borough Councils, expenditure of a penny rate by those local authorities on technical and manual instruction, and the diversion of a proportion of surtaxes on beer and spirits for technical and scientific education ("Whisky Money").
The Committee of the Maidstone School made an early application under the Technical Instruction Act which was favourably received, and an annual grant of £75 was made. The Corporation's involvement with the School increased and they appointed six members to the Committee in 1889, increasing the number on the Committee to almost thirty. An Assistant Secretary was also appointed in addition to the two Honorary Secretaries.
Evening classes were well attended, although the afternoon classes for ladies not as full as expected, but overall it was felt that the middle classes were gradually 'availing themselves more largely of the first rate public educational advantages of the State places at their very doors'.
The increase in classes and numbers was causing accommodation problems, and the in 1892 the Corporation were persuaded by the Committee to devote almost the whole of the Technical School Grant received from the County Council to the development of Science and Art and had selected the plans of Messrs Ruck and Smith for a new school building connected with the Museum in St. Faith's Street. Albert W. Smith, FRIBA, of the firm of Messrs Ruck and Smith, had also been a former student of the School.
The foundation stone was laid by Alderman Spencer, Mayor on 6 July 1893, and by late summer of that year the two storey building was complete. The ground floor was occupied by the Science Classes and the Art Classes were located on the first floor, with the landing and corridor providing wall space for exhibitions of students' drawings. Apart from a very large elementary art classroom, the studios for advanced art were all in the rear of the building and lit by large and lofty windows on the north side, the Life Studio having a dressing room attached to it for the use of models. Both Art and Science Masters had a room of their own and in addition to an office for the Secretary, a Committee Room had been provided. Electricity had also been installed.
The Corporation was now responsible for the renamed Maidstone Municipal School of Science and Art. Henry Collis was co-opted onto the new Committee and remained as Honorary Secretary until the passing of the Education Act in 1902 when the County Council became responsible for most of the higher education throughout the County.
Classes started in the new School on 11 September 1894, and with much local celebration was formally opened by the Duke of Cambridge opened the building on 16 October. The estimated cost of the building, including fittings, was almost £11,000 and the Corporation expressed the hope that by means of generous donations they would be able to complete the School at a early date.
Richard Ternouth had joined George Ward by 1894, and by 1901 Alfred J. Madeley, Lena Walter and Frank Stone had joined the staff.
The new building proved a great attraction for students and their numbers increased from 165 during 1893/94 to 421 in 1894/95, of which 213 were studying Art and 208 studying Science. A year later there were 520, and the number of teaching staff had risen to eight. Subjects taught included wood carving, agriculture, botany, hygiene, magnetism and electricity, in addition to the art and science subjects previously covered. With the growth in the number of scientific and technological subjects, the School was renamed the Maidstone Municipal Technical School in 1896.
Students continued to perform well in the national examinations. Ernest Clarke studied for four years at Maidstone and obtained a post at Limerick School of Art in 1898 to teach both Modelling and Applied Design. Promotion came rapidly and by 1902 he was appointed the Head master at the same school. Maidstone students continued to retained the leading position in the County for three consecutive years. Student numbers continued to increase, 629 in 1902, and this in turn caused accommodation problems again.
With the 1902 Education Act the Kent County Council awarded scholarships for both Science and Art Schools. Twenty five of £10 a year each were available to males and females between the ages of 14 and 20 years. Twenty five free scholarships were available for boys or girls who showed some skill in drawing or carving or who could produce Government Certificates obtained at the annual art examination.
The classes were now arranged in four schools of Art, Science, Technology and Commerce, and the minimum age for entry was between 13 and 15 years.
In 1903 George Ward was replaced by Alfred S. Ryland, who was to remain Headmaster for the next forty years. Alfred Madeley was the Second Master. Papermaking, wood carving and dressmaking were taught in the School of Technology and journalism in the School of Commerce.
By 1911 there were also two regular members of staff and one visiting, with 23 day students, 14 day and evening students and 51 evening only students, totalling 88. This number increased to 117 the following year.
In 1910 Frederick Ruck designed the semi-circular addition which was built in front of the Sessions House in 1913 to from the front block of what is now County Hall.
By 1914 the School of Art was no longer associated with the Technical Institute other than sharing a physical location.
Throughout the First World War staff were involved in teaching in secondary schools with a reduced contribution to the work of the School of Art and by the end of the period there were some 82 students and a small staff. In addition to the art and design curriculum, painting and decorating had been introduced and a subject provision had yet to be made for the important industries of printing and lithography; some work was undertaken for the intermediate examination of the of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Board's Examination in Drawing. In addition work was undertaken for the preparation of teachers.
By 1923 the School was known as the Maidstone School of Arts and Crafts, and in 1931 Alfred Ryland had more staff - Arthur Sharp, ARCA, Elsie Williams, ARCA, J. Hale, FIBD, C. Errington, C&G, Full Tech. Printing, M.D. Walford, dressmaking, E.W. Smith, weaving, P. M. Moss and F. Ridlington.
By 1936 classes were held in commercial art, architecture, dress design, house painting and decorating, typography, jewellery and silversmithing, general crafts and weaving. Printing classes were held for eleven sessions per week in typography, process reproduction, letterpress and lithography.
In 1940 Charles L. Pickering was appointed Head of Printing. Pickering was later to take up a similar post at Rochester.
After forty years service Alfred Ryland retired and continued to live in the Maidstone area until his death in 1977 aged 100 years; long service indeed.
In 1944 Edward J. Morss became Principal. His term of office was brief, lasting until 1946 when he was appointed Principal of St. Martin's School of Art. He remained in that post until 1972.
Gerald M. Norden, who had been teaching at Canterbury became Acting Principal for a year, 1947 - 1948 before himself succeeding to the position of Principal at Dover and Folkestone Art Schools. Gerald was a noted painter of still lifes and landscapes in both oils and watercolours. After his retirement in 1971 he continued to exhibit in London galleries.
In 1948 R. A. Richardson was appointed. It was at the beginning of his tenure, between 1948 - 1949 that the School became the Maidstone College of Art.
At this time the Ministry of Education's National Diploma in Design superceded the Board of Education's examinations in Art and Craft for full-time art students and there were also internal examinations conducted by Kent Education Committee on an annual basis and certificates were issued, as well as City and Guilds and Royal College of Art entrance.
The college expanded and such practitioners as Gerard de Rose, Mervyn Peake, Enid Marx and Anne Scott joined the staff. The new discipline of Art History, reflecting national interest, was introduced led by E. W. Edmonds.
James Butler, the noted sculptor, attended classes between 1948 and 1950. Tony Hart, the artist and children's presenter, attended the college at the same time.
By 1955-6 the examinations taken included not only the National Diploma in Design (in conjunction with Tunbridge Wells School of Art), but the Ministry of Education's Intermediate examination, Special Levels in Commercial Design and Book Production, Main Levels in Painting and Dress Embroidery and Additional levels in Lithography, Book-binding, Wood Engraving, Lettering and Embroidery - Printed Textiles. There were also part-time and evening classes in Architecture, Advertisement Design, Display, Cabinet making, drawing and painting.
Maidstone was also the centre of the Mid-Kent Department of Printing, which included several other local art schools. By this time Kent colleges and schools of art were organised regionally and Maidstone and Medway formed the centre. Beckenham, Bromley, Sidcup, Dover, Folkestone, Gravesend, Thanet, Tunbridge Wells and Ramsgate colleges grouped around the two. It was not until the 1974 local government reorganisation that Beckenham, Bromley and Sidcup were re-placed in the Ravensbourne College of Art.
In 1957 R.A. Richardson was appointed to H.M. Inspectorate, a role he occupied until his retirement.
William Stobbs succeeded as Principal in 1958, and shortly afterwards a Schools of Painting, Women's Craft and Graphic Art & Design were formed. William Stobbs was a noted children's book illustrator, winning the Kate Greenaway medal in 1959.
By 1962 teaching staff included David Hockney, Ruskin Spear, Edwin La Dell, Elisabeth Frink, Herbert Dalwood, Alistair Grant, Patrick Procktor, Carlos Sancha, as well as visitors Robert Buhler, Leonard Rosoman, Leonard Stoppani (later Principal at Farnham), John Ward all of whom were active practitioners in Fine Art and were also joined by Henri Henrion and Paul Hogarth in the School of Graphic Design.
By 1965 painting students were able to visit various ateliers (or workshops) - Robert Buhler in Norfolk, Derek Greaves at Woburn, George Chapman in Wales and Alistair Grant in London. A pe-diploma course was formed.
By 1966 the College consisted of four schools: Fine Art (including Sculpture), Graphic Design, Printing, Fashion and Textiles, as well as a Crafts department. The Fashion school was disbanded in 1967 and the Crafts in 1977.
In 1968/69 an Academic Board comprising the Heads of Department was formed to undertake the management of the college. The pre-diploma course was redesignated a Foundation course.
The College still shared its premises with the Maidstone Museum at St. Faith's Street and also various annexes. These premises were rapidly becoming inadequate and by 1968/69 the new college premises on the Oakwood Park site were nearing completion. Both the Maidstone College of Art and the Maidstone College of Technology moved to this site. The juxtaposition of the two was beneficial, with the School of Printing and within the Faculties of Painting, Sculpture and Graphics where technical means of expression included many applications of science such as optics and photography.
Gerard de Rose had left in 1967/68 and Keith Grant was appointed Head of Fine Art in 1969, leaving in 1971 to concentrate on his work as a landscape artist.
In 1976/76 John Kaine became the first Vice-Principal and the College was validated to provide courses leading to the award of degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours of the Council for National Academic Awards courses in Fine Art and Graphic Design, Foundation in Art and Design, Diploma in Graphic Design, and City & Guilds in Printing. The College shared communal facilities with the College of Technology.
J.R. King was the Head of Foundation Studies, and Photography was looked after by Leonard Smith and Leslie Harris. The department of Film, Video, Sound and TV was created to accommodate students from the faculties who had an interest in working with audio-visual material. David Hall was in charge of the areas. Keith Booth looked after Ceramics as a subsidiary degree of study.
In 1978 Gerald Rose was appointed to teach Illustration within Graphics. Course consultants were Ken Garland and Quentin Blake. Printing changes were reflected within Graphics courses.
In 1979 William Stobbs retired after 22 years service and Kenneth Gribble succeeded. By 1980 the college had 286 full-time and 120 part-time students. The BA in Fine Art consisted of areas in painting, sculpture, printmaking, including etching, lithography, screen printing, film, video and sound. The BA in Graphic Design consisted of Illustration, Communication. Both courses included General Studies, History of Art and Photography.
Maidstone continued as a centre for printing until 1983 when the students transferred to the London College of Printing.
Tracey Emin, the celebrated artist studied Fashion at the Medway College of Design between 1980 and 1982, where she was associated with the Medway poets and then went on to study Printmaking at Maidstone between 1984 - 1986.
In 1985/86 Kenneth Gribble retired and Geoffrey G. Bellamy took over as Principal for one year.
In September 1987 the Kent Institute of Art and Design (KIAD) was formed by the amalgamation of the Canterbury School of Architecture, the Canterbury School of Art and well-established art colleges in Maidstone and Rochester.
From the guide to the Maidstone College of Art Archive, 1936-1987, (University for the Creative Arts)
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