Epsom School of Art

The Epsom Technical Institute and School of Art was originally built as result of the public funding of the public spirited and enterprise of a number of Epsom and Ewell citizens and Epsom Urban District Council. The Institute was financed through public subscription which Lord Rosebery (5th Earl of Rosebery) was a substantial contributor. It was later transferred to the Surrey County Council in 1930s under trust for the continuance of the art and technical education in the district. In 1893, Epsom Urban District Council made the first steps towards the development of further education in Epsom, with the establishment of a number of study classes in various subjects. Building started on the Technical Institute in Church Street, Epsom in September 1893 on land given by Mr Basil Braithwaite of Hookfield. The architect was Mr John Hatchard-Smith and the builder and contractor was Mr John .B. Potter. The building was built in the English renaissance style and was completed in May 1896. The site was occupied until 1980 when it became inadequate for its purpose.

The Epsom Technical Institute and School of Art was opened Lord Archibald Philip Primrose Rosebery (5th Earl of Rosebery), the former Prime Minister (1894-5), on Friday 24 July at 3pm. Lord Rosebery gave a major speech in which he said the Institute was the means by which a man might fit himself to be a skilled artisan in his trade William Henry Osmond (1865 to 1943) was the first Principal of the School of Art, serving from May 1896 until July 1930. Mr Osmond was also the Head Art Master and the holder of three national bronze medals for Architectural Drawing, Modelling, and Figure Painting as well as seven national book prizes. The Annual Report for 1896-7 reported that there were 34 students on its register (14 morning and 20 evening students). The courses offered were: shorthand, drawing, carpentry, home nursing, cookery and French. Due to lack of Secondary School provision, the Surrey County Council proposed that the Technical Institute should be used temporarily as a secondary school for girls providing accommodation for 160 pupils from September 1921. In 1930, David Birch (William Henry David Birch) (1895-1968) became Principal of the School of Art and remained in post until 1961. David Birch was born in Epsom, and was himself a student of Mr Osmond in the years before The Great War. He was a renowned landscape painter and member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters following in the Constable tradition.

1936-37

Student’s work from the 1936-37 prospectus

By this time the two establishments, Epsom Technical Institute and Epsom School of Art, had separated. Schemes for new premises for the art school were first considered in 1934 for a site now occupied by the Fire Station in Church Street. Plans were drawn up and exhibited in the Town Hall. One set was accepted, but the Borough Council subsequently decided there would not be room for the allied provision of a public library, fire station and art school proposed. In 1936 the Epsom Urban District Council offered another site for the Art School in East Street which was declined by Surrey County Council. The Heathcote Road site was purchased by Surrey County Council in 1937 for a new school and Library. Plans were drawn up in 1938 but were unsuccessful due to delays from Epsom Urban District Council. To meet the rapidly growing requirements of the school, The Cedars premises at 14 Church Street, were rented from the Epsom and Ewell Borough Council. In 1957, the School of Art was providing vocational and cultural education for some one hundred full-time and 1200 part-time students. In 1961 a proposal for a new school of art to be built on Heathcote Road, Epsom was made by the then principal, David Birch. The School of Art present accommodation included No. 1 Church Street, The Cedars 14 Church Street and 1 Worple Road. The Surrey County Council was interested in purchasing Nos. 17, 19 & 21 Ashley Road which adjoin the Heathcote Road site which would provide a maximum student capacity of 542 students Mr Robert A. Strand became Principal of Epsom School of Art (1961-1970). Throughout this period historical and contextual forms of study were added to the curriculum as a direct result of the Coldstream Report of 1960.

The Epsom School of Art & Design was opened on Thursday 26 April 1973 by the Chairman of the Surrey County Council, Mr T. Irvine Smith O.B.E. The building was designed by the County architect R.J. Ash.

Epsom School of Art and Design merged with West Surrey College of Art and Design (Farnham campus) to become the Surrey Insitute for Art and Design in 1994

One thought on “Epsom School of Art”

  1. R.F.Cutler says:

    My name is Rosemary Cutler, née Davies and I attended Epsom Art Colledge circa 1959 to 1961. Having had an overseas life, on retuning to the U.K. worked as costume designer for Surrey County Youth Theater. Now I am retired, I wondered if the costume department would be interested in my collection of costume books

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