Chapter 1 - The University
The popular enthusiasm for art and science stimulated throughout Britain by the Great Exhibition of 1851 led in Exeter to a series of developments which culminated in the establishment of the University in 1955.
The first result of this enthusiasm locally was the establishment of a School of Art in 1855 which was so successful that plans were soon being discussed for 'an institution of wider educational scope'. Indeed in 1865 the Albert Memorial in Queen Street took the form of a School of Art, a museum, a library and a reading and other rooms. For some years thereafter the Science and Art department at South Kensington and the University Cambridge both sponsored evening classes in the City. In 1893, Miss Jesse Montgomery proposed the reorganisation of this evening work and a scheme for increasing the scope of the studies by the inclusion of day classes and of a pupils teachers' course. After various developments including four extensions to the buildings at a total cost of £20,000 this resulted finally in the establishment of the Royal Albert Memorial College. During the next 30 years the curriculum broadened and the number of students continued to increase. In 1922 the College was incorporated under the Companies Act as the University College of the South-West of England. It was at that time still housed in Gandy Street in the building which had been given to the college by the City Council in 1906.
In 1922 Alderman W.H. Reed, a former mayor of the city, presented to the College the house and gardens Streatham Hall. At the same time, the first principal of the University College, later Sir Hector Hetherington, with great foresight persuaded the Council of the College to buy a major portion of the Streatham Estate. As a consequence when the University of Exeter received its Charter in 1955, it had one of the finest university sites in the country. Since first acquiring the Estate, the University College and subsequently the University have added to the area. The area of the central site now exceeds 300 acres.
Homefield, now Hope Hall, was the first house to be bought near the Streatham Estate and this was followed by the purchase of Highlands which was enlarged to become Lopes Hall named after the then Deputy President, Sir Henry Lopes, later Lord Roborough. Streatham Hall was renamed Reed Hall and had been opened as a Hall of Residence in 1925, followed shortly after by Lopes Hall. The first building put up on the Streatham Estate by the University College was the Washington Singer building. The foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales, then President of the University College of the South West of England, and the building was opened in 1931. In the late Twenties the College gave to the City the land on which the Prince of Wales Road was constructed by public funds in an effort to relieve unemployment in Exeter.
Reed, Hope and Lopes Halls were not, however, the first Halls of Residence used by the College. The College earlier owned Grendon Hall and Bradninch Hall as well as Kilmorie Hall, renamed Exeter Hall in 1940. The first two were sold when Halls near the new estate were opened and as it became clear that the future development of the College should be centred on the estate. The first of the new halls so built, Mardon Hall, largely paid for by the late E. J. Martin, was opened in 1933.
The second academic building proper on the Estate was the Roborough Library so named in recognition of the interest taken in the development of the College by the first Lord Roborough, one of its early benefactors. This was completed at the beginning of the 1939 - 45 war and was opened by the late Earl Baldwin.
Just before the outbreak of the Second World War the College had bought Great Duryard House with its very attractive gardens which were to have formed the basis of a botanic garden. The outbreak of war, however, held up the development after the first stage had been started. The sighting of the Department of Botany on the Streatham Estate at a later date made it desirable to develop a botanic garden near the laboratories. Great Duryard House itself became a Hall of Residence and was renamed Thomas Hall in recognition of the generosity of the late C. V. Thomas of Camborne.
After the war various other properties were acquired, notably Barton Place, the Barton of Jane Austen's novel 'Sense and Sensibility', Crossmead, Thornlea, Spreytonway, Montefiore House, Lazenby House, St. German's House, Birks Grange (the site of the three Birks Halls) and Duryard House. In recent years and through the good offices of the University Grants Committee, the university has also acquired Higher Hoopern Farm, Lafrowda, Duryard Lea, Cumbre and various other smaller properties.
In due course building recommenced on the Streatham Estate and the Hatherleigh Biological laboratories were opened in 1952 to accommodate the Department of Botany and Zoology and, for a short time, the newly formed Department of Geology. Following the granting of the charter in 1955 a whole range of new buildings were brought into commission, namely the Queen's Building (1958). Devonshire House for the Guild of Students and the Refectory (1960), Northcote House (1960) and the Chapel, the gift of Dr E Vincent Harris (1958). These were followed by the Great Hall (1964), the Department of Chemistry (1965), the Newman Building (1965) and the Department of Physics (1967). There were also new buildings for Mathematics and Geology (1967), for Engineering Science and Chemical Engineering (1968). Streatham Court, which at present houses the Faculty of Social Studies, was built in 1967, while the Sports Hall was opened in the same year. These developments permitted the transfer of most of the activities of the University to the Streatham Estate which had been the purpose of the original purchase. The only Departments not now (August, 1969) on the Estate, are the Departments of Psychology, Law and Extra-mural Studies which, with the Institute of Education, are still in the Gandy Street building, and the Department of Education which occupies Thornlea. The number of students grew rapidly during this period, the number in 1955 been 900 and in 1968 exceeding 3000.
The Northcott Theatre (1967) was paid for by the trustees of a fund set up by the late G.V.Northcott, with the help of an additional grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation. Mr Northcott was anxious to provide an Arts Centre for use by the City and the County. The university hoped that the author of the site for such a centre on the estate could do much to bring about a close link between its members and the inhabitants of Exeter and neighbourhood.
While these developments were taking place on the central Estate, the four Duryard Halls of Residence - Hetherington, Moberly, Murray and Jesse Montgomery - were being built. These were followed by those at Birks Grange - Haldon, Raddon and Brendon - together with additional accommodation at Crossmead and the Ransom Pickard Buildings at Lopes Hall. These buildings brought the total number of places in Halls of Residence up to some 1750. Developments are planned in the vicinity of Lopes and Hope Halls and when these are completed it is hoped that there ultimately will be accommodation for an additional 1500 students in this area. It has always been the policy of the University to provide residential accommodation for us high a proportion of students as possible.
Go to TOP of the document | Last modified: 09 February 2005 by S.C.Scarr