Survey of London: Volume 38, South Kensington Museums Area. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1975.
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CHAPTER XVIII - Imperial College
The Imperial College of Science and Technology was founded in 1907 by the conjunction of three institutions previously established at South Kensington. Two of these—the Royal College of Science and the Royal School of Mines—were maintained by the State and were already in nominal union, while the third—the City and Guilds College—was administered by the City and Guilds of London Institute and its separate identity posed some formal problems before a 'delegacy' finally integrated it into the new college in 1910.
The three constituent elements carried the history of the college back through the Victorian struggle for the advancement of technological education, in which the names of Prince Albert and T. H. Huxley are prominent. In the immediate circumstances of its foundation the strongest impulse was a fear that the United Kingdom would succumb to the advanced technology of Germany and other rivals in a world of widening markets and a widening strategy of industrial and military force, while the most important name is Haldane's. The comparatively swift and purposeful realization of the idea of Imperial College shows, indeed, no ordinary grip on the levers of power. (fn. 9) The example of the Berlin Technical High School was throughout much in mind, and the new project was often known as the British Charlottenburg.
In the last years of Victoria's reign Haldane had been able to gratify the Prince of Wales by assisting the removal of London University into part of the Imperial Institute's building. The Prince, as King Edward VII, was in turn a help to Haldane in his work for the new college and in obtaining a site on the 1851 Exhibition Commissioners' estate. By 1902 Lord Rosebery (the Chancellor of London University), A. J. Balfour and the Duke of Devonshire were involved in Haldane's scheme to create a trust fund of £600,000 for the intended foundation, while an important ally was Sidney Webb, under whose influence the Technical Education Board of the London County Council produced in that year what Rosebery called a 'striking report' on the application of science to industry. Among other things, this called for the establishment in London of an institution for advanced technological training comparable to the Berlin example. (fn. 10) In 1903 the Council agreed to a request from Rosebery, warmly backed by The Times, that it would give £20,000 per annum towards the proposed college, to make London the educational centre of the Empire in scientific technology. (fn. 11) Another ally, to whom Haldane paid tribute, was the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Francis Mowatt. Under his chairmanship (subsequently devolving on Haldane himself) a Departmental Committee was set up in 1904, primarily to report on the future of the Royal College of Science which had just been provided with new buildings (see below). Other members included Sir William Abney, Sir Philip Magnus, Sir Francis Ogilvie, Sir Arthur Rücker, Sidney Webb and Sir Julius Wernher. By that time Haldane's evangelism among industrialists was taking effect: the firm of Wernher, Beit had offered £100,000 towards a new foundation, and in an interim report in 1905 the committee asked the Government whether in these hopeful circumstances it would permit the integration in a new college of the two associated national schools of science at South Kensington. After a favourable reply the committee published a final report in 1906. (fn. 12) Acknowledging the impossibility that we should 'instantaeously compel ourselves to feel the German love of education for its own sake', and admitting that 'the attitude of the employer and the parent' had hitherto obstructed the spread of higher education, the committee nevertheless urged that with the co-operation of the City and Guilds of London Institute a new college should be formed out of the existing South Kensington foundations. Initially, the emphasis should be strongly on mining, metallurgy and engineering. In July 1907 a royal charter constituted Imperial College 'to give the highest specialized instruction and to provide the fullest equipment for the most advanced training and research in various branches of science especially in its application to industry'. (fn. 13)
Sites for new buildings were made available by the 1851 Exhibition Commissioners in Prince Consort Road (leased for 999 years from 1909 at £5 per annum). (fn. 14) Three important buildings, however, already existed nearby in the tenure of the three constituent bodies. Of these, the oldest survives, and since 1932 has been called the Huxley Building.
This building had been erected in 1867–71 for the Science and Art Department, initially with the main intention of housing a school of naval architecture and marine engineering, which had been established in 1864 at South Kensington under the joint auspices of the Admiralty and the Department. The school was, however, transferred to Greenwich in 1873, almost as soon as it had begun to use the new premises, and before the interior was entirely finished; and the building was in fact first permanently occupied, late in the previous year, by a variety of scientific departments removed from the Government (later Royal) School of Mines in Jermyn Street. These subsequently expanded to become the Royal College of Science. (fn. 15) The building was thus a slightly earlier contemporary of the Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford (1868–72) and the Cavendish at Cambridge (1872–4). (For the Huxley Building see Plates 14c, 58, 59; fig. 39 and plan-sheet A in end pocket.)
The School of Mines had been founded in 1851 as the Government School of Mines and Science Applied to the Arts. In 1853 it was brought into the Science and Art Department and in the same year united with the Royal College of Chemistry in Oxford Street, which had been founded in 1845 under the auspices of Prince Albert. The latter's intention was that through these connexions the School of Mines should become a school 'for the diffusion of Science generally as applied to productive Industry'. In that respect, however, the head of the School appointed in 1855, Sir Roderick Murchison, was a disappointment. Despite receiving 'a pretty little lecture' from the Prince on his ideas he proved to be chiefly 'a good hammer-man', who viewed the School 'simply as the School of British Geology and Mines', and he was largely successful in resisting its expansion into general science. (fn. 16) But the professors of physics, chemistry, and biology, hampered by lack of laboratories, became willing to move from Jermyn Street.
The building at South Kensington was in preparation in 1865, when the professor of the Royal College of Chemistry, A. W. Hofmann, promised the secretary of the Department, Henry Cole, to send him plans of laboratories being built in Berlin and Bonn. (fn. 17) The inclusion of considerable laboratory accommodation (chiefly for chemistry and metallurgy) beyond the strict requirements of naval architecture was evidently an idea incubated in the Department, particularly by Cole, with a hopeful eye to the Oxford Street and Jermyn Street establishments. (fn. 18) A plan by the Department's architect, Francis Fowke, of November 1865 shows 'Schools for Naval Architecture and Science' on this site (fig. 2 on plan-sheet A in end pocket), (fn. 19) and Fowke made a 'sketch elevation' before his death in the following month. (fn. 20) His building would have been linked by a bridge across Exhibition Road to his proposed Natural History Museum, and would presumably have harmonized with that design. It would have been an appreciably smaller building than that erected, and Cole's diary seems to bear out the 'inspired' statement made in The Times in 1871, that neither Fowke's plan nor his elevation had been used. The diary suggests that in the summer of 1866 Cole, Richard Redgrave, and Fowke's successor, Henry Scott, recommenced the work of designing a structure which may not have been replanned to its present dimensions before January 1867. (Cole says the lengthening of the front was suggested by his friend, the amateur of art, Sir Coutts Lindsay.) The foundations were begun in June of that year. (fn. 21)
By June 1868 the Department was contermplating the attraction of 'other branches of science' than chemistry to South Kensington. (fn. 22) An ally was T. H. Huxley, who as professor of biology at the School of Mines opposed the limitation of its scope. As early as 1864 he had been discussing science teaching at South Kensington with Cole and the Department's inspector for science, J. F. D. Donnelly. (fn. 23) In January 1869 Cole records that the three of them 'agreed to a National Training College for Science at S.K.', and it became the Department's aim to expand the 'Schools' into a 'College' of applied science. (fn. 24) Gladstone's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Robert Lowe, was, however, unsympathetic to the expansion of the School's scope, for which the Treasury could find no authority. (fn. 25) Work was stopped at second-floor level in 1869, and building materials lay unused on the site during that winter of 1869–70. Progress was not resumed until responsibility for the Department's building-operations had been transferred to the Office of Works. Funds then flowed again and work proceeded in the latter part of 1870. (fn. 26) Partly under Huxley's influence, the Royal Commission on Scientific Instruction recommended in March 1871 that because of the lack of facilities at Jermyn Street for laboratory teaching the Royal School of Mines and Royal College of Chemistry should remove to South Kensington. (fn. 17) Conflict of opinion at Jermyn Street was partially resolved in July 1872 when it was decided that the College of Chemistry, and the physics and biology classes should go to South Kensington, which they did in 1872–3. (fn. 28) The building thus first came into significant use as the home of Huxley's famous course of laboratory teaching in biology. The tardy provision of equipment, however, annoyed the professors, and extended into 1874. (fn. 29)
The diversion of the school of naval architecture from South Kensington to Greenwich facilitated the removal of other departments—mechanics, metallurgy and geology—into the building from Jermyn Street by 1880. (fn. 30) In that year the Education Committee under Earl Spencer renewed the attempt to have the remaining departments of mineralogy and mining transferred to South Kensington. (fn. 31) In this it was unsuccessful, but the aim of establishing a general college of applied science was achieved in so far as departments of mathematics, astronomy, botany and agriculture were added to the existing classes and the whole was reconstituted as the 'Normal School of Science and Royal School of Mines'. Under that title it was reinaugurated in October 1881, with T. H. Huxley as Dean. (fn. 32)
In Huxley's last year before retirement in 1885 H. G. Wells entered 'that burly red-brick and terra-cotta building' (Plate 58a) as a student, (fn. 33) and something of the genius loci is expressed in Love and Mr. Lewisham. The Normal School became the Royal College of Science in 1890. In the 1890's the department of mining finally moved to South Kensington (fn. 34) and by 1897 overcrowding required various sections of the College to be inconveniently lodged west of Exhibition Road. The laboratories had been designed largely under Hofmann's guidance (with some consultation of his successor, Frankland), and with the help of a survey of laboratories in German cities and at Zurich in 1871–2. (fn. 35) But thirty years later they were 'antiquated', while their location on a main street frontage subjected them to vibration. (fn. 36) (Sir) Aston Webb was therefore commissioned by the Office of Works to design, in conjunction with his completion of the South Kensington Museum, a new building for the Royal College of Science in Imperial Institute Road, to which the physics and chemistry departments were transferred in 1906–7.
The Huxley Building is a monument to the collaborative method of design practised in the Science and Art Department. Dating from the same years as the Albert Hall, it was created from a similar provenance. The Director of New Buildings, Henry Scott, had the credit and responsibility for the final result. But Cole and Redgrave were certainly consultant in the work: the former's son said that he had 'insisted' on the inclusion of the upper arcaded gallery on the Exhibition Road front, intended 'for open air work', and he sketched an alternative finish for the corner pavilions in May 1868 (Plate 58b). (fn. 37) At that time talk about the upper arcade included a reference to 'Cole' columns, (fn. 38) and some do indeed bear his motto 'Regem Serva Deum Cole' (Plate 59b).
Fowke's part in the executed design was evidently slight: on the other hand, the School was consciously modelled on the style established by him at the adjacent museum, (fn. 39) and the strong vertically of its smooth brick piers owes something to the front of his Residences there. Much of the decorative detail was taken directly from that on the museum by Godfrey Sykes (died 1866). His admired Lecture Theatre columns were duplicated in the ground-floor arcade (where they encase iron stanchions, Plates 13a, 58c, d). (fn. 40)
The modelling of Sykes's decorative designs and much of the other decoration inside and out was the work of his pupil James Gamble. (fn. 41) Gamble was also very much involved in the design of the upper arcade. (fn. 42) He himself laid claim to 'settling the general appearance' of the building. (fn. 43) By his colleagues in the National Art Training School he was regarded as having been responsible for the architectural elevation, (fn. 44) and there is a drawing by him of a colonnade and gateway proposed, but not executed, in 1869–70 to link the School with the museum that is suggestive of his authorship of their design. (fn. 45) The belief that the was in fact the 'architect' of the exterior of the building, however, probably owes something to jealousy of Scott among the Department's decorative artists and something simply to the great importance they attached to decorative detailing.
Gamble designed the terra-cotta chimneys and the street-front balustrade and seats, and the majolica soffits of the ground-floor arcade (Plate 58c) and (in colour) of the entrance passageway and bridge. He also modelled the interior plaster details. His designs for terra-cotta lamps on the street front and for the iron gate at the north end, considered 'strikingly original' by the Department, were not executed. For the latter the office of Works in 1885 insisted on substituting a cheaper design by J. Starkie Gardner and Company. (fn. 46)
The coloured mosaics in the tympana of the pediments were executed in 1871–2 by the museum's mosaic class, to the designs of F. W. Moody of the National Art Training School. An assistant of Moody's said later that Gamble would have preferred reliefs to mosaics. (fn. 47) 3 Moody was also the designer and his students the executants of the spectacular display of sgraffito decoration which in 1871–3 was (by reason of its avowedly experimental character, using various techniques) applied to the back of the building, where only the upper part is much seen (Plates 14c, 59d). (fn. 48)
Inside the building another hand appears, that of the architect J. W. Wild. As elsewhere at South Kensington he acted as Scott's assistant, and in the later recollection of a former student of the Art School employed on the museum building it was Wild who had planned the interior. (fn. 49) This, with its very high compartments, is less straightforward than it looks from outside (fig. 39). Cole's diary seems to associate Wild's name with the staircase, (fn. 50) and a certain affinity of treatment between that and the interior of the Cast Courts of the museum, where Wild was the effective architect, suggests that he may have designed that feature (Plate 59a). Indeed, on the street front also the accentuation of the top storey has a hint of the Cast Courts about it.
The remarkable 'modernism' of the inner courtyard (Plate 59c) adds another element to the 'style' of this disparate building.
In 1871 Cole was confident the cost would not exceed the estimated total of some £66,000, or 10d. per cubic foot. (fn. 51) The workmanship was admired. (fn. 1) Mosaic marble pavements were laid by convict labour. (fn. 53) The expensive red Fareham bricks of the front were all gauged work, and the fine joints were achieved by dipping the bricks instead of laying them on trowelled mortar.
The Builder thought that the terra-cotta 'medallions' on the stylobate of the ground-floor arcade (Plate 58d) were 'abortions', but the building was welcomed by The Times as 'a sight good for eyes tired of the eternal stucco', and Viollet-le-Duc liked the look of the brand-new, sunlit terra-cotta. (fn. 54) In 1880 The Architect thought details worth illustration as 'Bits from the Modern School of English Architecture', (fn. 55) and however unfashionable it became the building did not lack subsequent admirers. (fn. 2)
At present (1974) it is occupied by the departments of mathematics and meteorology of Imperial College, but it is intended to make over the building to the Victoria and Albert Museum when those departments move into a new building being erected in Queen's Gate. The name Huxley Building will then be transferred to that and the adjacent Physics building in Prince Consort Road, and it is intended that the present Huxley Building will be renamed the Henry Cole Building.
Next in age to the Huxley Building (and now demolished) were the original premises of the City and Guilds College, built in 1881–4 to a design by Alfred Waterhouse, simultaneously with the later stages of his Natural History Museum.
City and Guilds College
From the late 1860's onwards there had been a growing opinion that the Livery Companies of the City of London should contribute more to the encouragement of technical education for industry, and increasingly this became an object with their critics. (fn. 57) In the large provincial cities colleges of science or technology were being established, and in 1876 some City Companies decided to combine their efforts to that end. An executive committee was formed. Its chairman was Lord Selborne, a past and future Lord Chancellor (and member of the Mercers' Company) and its deputy chairman (Sir) Frederick Bramwell. In 1877 it asked six prominent advocates of technical education to make suggestions towards a national scheme. Among other questions they were asked if a central teaching institution should be set up in London, and whether it should include a 'technical library, museum and laboratories . . . whereby the industrial improvements and advances of foreign countries may from time to time, as they arise, be made known in England'. All the advisers, including T. H. Huxley, (Sir) J. F. D. Donnelly and (Sir) Douglas Galton, thought the establishment of a central institution vital, but anything beyond classrooms a luxury. All were opposed to its giving direct instruction in specific trades. Huxley in particular saw its chief (though not sole) value in the training of teachers rather than of the personnel of industry, and warned against drawing the latter too much within its orbit and thereby 'substituting exhausted book-worms for shrewd practical men in our works and factories'. The committee, however, recommended to the Companies, in 1878, that the school should be established not only to supply teachers to 'local trades schools' but also 'superior workmen, foremen, managers and principals of manufactories'. This strikingly wide diversity of students, comprehending artisans and the sons of factory owners, would be instructed in applied physics, chemistry, mechanics and art: the inclusion of applied art showed how at that stage the scheme was linked backwards to the 'industrial university' of the Prince Consort as much as forward to the present Imperial College. The Committee followed Huxley in recommending that in the building, which might cost £35,000, 'regard should be had rather to what is wanted in the inside, than what will look well from the outside'. (fn. 58) (For the City and Guilds College see Plate 67; plans b, c between pages 54–5 and fig. 40.)
At first a site on the Embankment was in favour. (fn. 59) This was proving unobtainable, however, when in July 1878 the 1851 Exhibition Commissioners announced in their Sixth Report a determination to devote more of their resources to the encouragement of scientific education. An important part of their estate was then on offer to the Government for a science museum and laboratories. (fn. 60) But by the beginning of 1879 it became known that the Government was unlikely to take up the offer. Negotiations were therefore opened, largely between Lord Selborne and Lord Spencer (on behalf of the Commissioners) for the appropriation of a site on the estate to so mutually congenial a purpose. (fn. 61) From the first, however, many in the City were reluctant to see the technical institution go to South Kensington. The Companies' chief trade school was being established in Finsbury, and there was some feeling that the Commissioners' estate was ill-placed for artisan students. (fn. 62) Bramwell pointed out that it was 'within cheap railway distance of wholesome suburban lodging,' but admitted to sharing some of the 'instinctive repugnance' to 'South Kensington', which, personified in the officers of the Science and Art Department, 'has got the disposition or faculty of swallowing and assimilating that which comes within its grasp'. (fn. 63) Seen from the City the Commissioners and the Department had something of a common 'governmental' complexion that induced nervousness. This was not diminished when in the summer of 1879 the Commissioners required, before granting a lease, that the newly constituted City and Guilds of London Institute should be augmented by their own representatives and ex officio representatives of the Royal Society and other scientific societies. (The reinforcement was approved by Huxley, otherwise rather a sympathizer with 'City' sentiment.) The alternative use of Baron Grant's former house in the Kensington Road was considered, but by the end of the year the Institute reconciled itself to the ex officio members, and during the spring of 1880 the principle of a lease was agreed with the Commissioners. (fn. 64)
The site was to be less extensive than that which would have been made available for a governmental scientific foundation, and would compare ill with such imperial projects as the Berlin Technical High School, begun the previous year on a spacious suburban site at Charlottenburg. In essentials, however, the project was kept abreast of the best foreign practice, and this was further ensured when, early in 1880, the Institute acquired as Organizing Director (Sir) Philip Magnus, whose membership of the Samuelson Royal Commission on Technical Instruction (1881–4) strengthened the Institute's knowledge of Continental progress in that field.
Initially the site at South Kensington was to be on the northern corner of Exhibition Road and the new (Imperial Institute) Road. The City and Guilds Institute then aspired to an imposing site in Queen's Gate, looking along Queen's Gate Terrace. (fn. 3) The Commissioners refused, because an institution 'having something of the nature of a school' would depreciate land values there, and in May shifted the intended site away from the impressive corner position in Exhibition Road to another further north (plan be between pages 54–5). (fn. 66) This was granted to the Institute, by a lease dated in November, for 999 years at 1s. a year. The amount that the Institute was willing to spend on the building had risen to £50,000, and the Commissioners required it to be completed for this minimum outlay in the years 1881–4. (fn. 67)
In August 1880 the Institute's executive committee chose Alfred Waterhouse as architect, from a short list of three, the other two being Norman Shaw and G. E. Street. (fn. 68) The committee's chairman, Lord Selborne, was not present, but it may be, as a student of Waterhouse has suggested, that the latter was chosen by the influence of this patron of his elsewhere. (fn. 69) Twelve days later Sir Henry Cole, the former head of the South Kensington Museum, then in retirement, congratulated Waterhouse on the proposal, of which he had heard, to give the building a porte cochère—'So convenient but uncommon'. (fn. 70) Unless this was a large misapprehension it suggests that the process of appointment regularized a fait accompli. Waterhouse's experience as architect of similar buildings (for example, Owen's College, Manchester, and the College of Science, Leeds) was considered a recommendation. (fn. 71) The trouble that he was encountering over the cost and progress of the Natural History Museum may (if it was known to the Institute) have generated doubts, but the speed of the work for the Institute proved satisfactory and the control of cost reasonably so.
In November Waterhouse was instructed to provide accommodation for 200 non-resident students, and a specified number of classrooms, laboratories (four for physics and one each for chemistry and mechanics), lecture rooms, art rooms, a library, space for 'collections', and offices. Bramwell apparently proposed an inspection of comparable buildings at Zurich, and although it is not clear whether this took place, Waterhouse, Bramwell, Magnus and Professor Roscoe of Manchester arranged to visit J. A. Cossin's Mason's College building at Birmingham, as other supporters of the scheme had done. (fn. 72) In January 1881 Waterhouse submitted sketch-plans. What they were like is not known but if Cole was well-informed they may have differed considerably from the final version. He was told to revise them and in February and March produced sketch-plans and finished drawings that in essentials correspond to the building as erected. (fn. 73)
In his report he estimated that the cost would be about £66,000. This excess over the £50,000 maximum was partly caused by the inclusion of more administrative accommodation. The Institute accepted its Council's advice to proceed on this basis, mindful 'of the large sums of money that are being spent abroad and especially in Germany, on technical education, and how materially the trade of this country is being affected for the worse by the absence of those facilities for technical instruction which other countries possess'. (fn. 74)
A reduction of height in the upper part of the rear of the building was, however, insisted on by the Commissioners' secretary, Henry Scott, and their surveyor, Henry Hunt, to prevent the obstruction of light to their Eastern Galleries. (fn. 75) (As it happened, Scott had himself been the responsible architect for that building, while Hunt, as consultant surveyor to the Office of Works, was clashing with Waterhouse over his work at the Natural History Museum.) It was presumably to accommodate this change that Waterhouse introduced dormer windows into the front slope of his roof.
In May 1881 the Commissioners accepted the design, after submitting the elevation to the President of the Royal Academy, Leighton. (fn. 76) To comply with the lease and to permit inauguration that year, a separate foundation contract was made (with George Munday), (fn. 77) and in July the Prince of Wales set up a founding column at a ceremony where his and Lord Selborne's speeches referred to the Prince Consort's vision and the current rivalry from other industrial nations. The total cost including fittings was expected to be £75,000. Where exactly between practical and theoretic teaching the institution's aim lay was clear to The Builder, which commented that 'it is not an easy matter for any one to obtain a distinct idea of the exact drift of either of these speeches'. (In its own opinion the chief need was for industry to learn economy in the use of labour.) But most agreed the occasion was historic. (fn. 78)
Waterhouse had already conferred with the teaching staff at the Institute's Finsbury college about the arrangement and equipment of the building. Professor Roscoe and others were also consulted. (fn. 79) An active member of the Institute, and a friend of the South Kensington undertaking, was E. C. Robins, himself an architect of technical and other schools. Although not on the South Kensington sub-committee he gave Waterhouse's building favourable publicity and was perhaps a helpful influence. (fn. 80) At least, the directives given the architect were not such as to delay the progress of planning and construction. In dealings with the staff at South Kensington, however, Magnus seems usually to have been an intermediary. This caused discontent and perhaps some failure to meet the teachers' requirements: structural alterations (though possibly of no great extent) were needed in the last stages of building. (fn. 81)
From 1883 Waterhouse had the help in fitting up the building of a committee of experts—Sir Frederick Abel, Bramwell, George Matthey, (Sir) William Perkin and Sir William Siemens. (fn. 82) The professors at South Kensington, W. E. Ayrton, O. Henrici, W. C. Unwin and (especially) H. E. Armstrong, were closely involved in the protracted equipping of the laboratories. (fn. 83)
In October 1881 Waterhouse produced more drawings, to obtain tenders for the main contract. Apart from the dormers the chief architectural change was the substitution of a more modest doorway. Waterhouse now thought the main contract should be obtainable for £66,000. (fn. 84) Of the 16 builders invited to tender at least four were provincial, and it was one of these, Henry Lovatt of Wolverhampton, who was successful, in December 1881, at £68,518. (fn. 85) Economical changes (chiefly in cheaper internal finishings, with plaster instead of some of the terra-cotta) reduced this to about £65,000, and work on the superstructure began in March 1882. (fn. 86) The contract was made in May. By November 1883 the Institute, running short of funds, was asking Waterhouse if the rate of progress could be slowed down. He replied: 'It is somewhat unfortunate that Mr. Lovatt is about the first contractor I ever met with who seems likely to have his work properly finished before the appointed time, whilst this work is the only one I have been engaged upon in which the Committee have requested it to be delayed! (fn. 87)
On 25 June 1884 the building, not yet finished or fitted for use, was formally opened by the Prince of Wales, President of the Institute. He spoke of the disproportionate attention hitherto given in national education to 'literary training' compared with 'scientific instruction'. Like Lord Selborne he saw the Institute's main role as teachertraining. (fn. 88) The Times reported that the full cost was now expected to be £100,000. (fn. 89)
The exterior was in Berkshire red brick and red terra-cotta, the latter provided by Gibbs and Canning of Tarn worth, Staffordshire—apparently with less interruption than in the supply for the Natural History Museum. Virtually the only ornamental accents were the coats of arms, chiefly of manufacturing towns, which were evidently substituted for those of the contributing Livery Companies for 'diplomatic' reasons. These were designed and supplied for £923 by James Gamble, formerly of the Science and Art Department, whose preference for Messrs. Doulton as manufacturers was overruled by the architect (Plate 67d). (fn. 90) (Gamble, in straitened circumstances since Henry Scott's discontinuance of his work for the Department, had been employed by Waterhouse on the recommendation of his chief patron, Sir Henry Cole—'His work would suit any style, Mediaeval or Renaissance'. (fn. 91) )
Inside, the terra-cotta of the principal staircase (Plate 67b) was Burmantoft's. The internal woodwork was generally painted deal: (fn. 92) in the Council Chamber the carving of the coats of arms in oak was by Farmer and Brindley. (fn. 93) The detailing and equipment of the interior, down to the laboratory stools, is shown with great precision in Waterhouse's drawings. (fn. 94)
The ironwork was provided by W. H. Lindsay and Company. The clerk of works was T. Streeter. (fn. 92)
This sober building (Plate 67c), whose only external oddity was the traceried, window-like openings between the linked chimney-stacks, was respectfully received. When the elevation had been exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1881 the Companion to the British Almanac thought it important, simple, and perhaps rather heavy. The finished structure had, it thought, like all Waterhouse's work, 'the general character... of common sense and good building, not excluding picturesque effect'. (fn. 95) In 1884 H. H. Statham dwelt upon it in a review of English architecture in The Builder, finding its 'common-sense and propriety' a more admirable type of eclecticism than the fashionable 'Queen Anne' of Norman Shaw: it was an exemplar for English architecture 'in its every-day aspect'. (fn. 96) (fn. 4) The British Architect praised Waterhouse's grasp of practicalities in the 'admirable internal arrangements' of the building. (fn. 97) Symmetrically disposed, a central entrance led to a long corridor running transversely and a staircase compartment at the rear: the smaller and moderate-sized apartments were ranged along the forward side of the corridor, on the street frontage, while the larger apartments were placed behind. Conditioned partly by the rather narrow site, his plan evidently became influential on Aston Webb's science buildings nearby (fig. 40 and figs. 41, 42 on pages 242, 244).
At the time of the formal opening it was still proposed that the courses should include applied art (and architecture), and the main room on the second floor was 'intended for an Art Museum'. (fn. 98) These studies were, however, already postponed, (fn. 99) and, despite an offer by Banister Fletcher to found a chair of architecture in 1888, (fn. 100) were never reinstated.
Building work under the main contract evidently continued into 1885. (fn. 101) When the final account, including the foundations but not the cost of fittings or Waterhouse's commission, was made in that year it totalled £73,356. (fn. 102) The cost of fittings had been estimated at £17,195 in 1883. (fn. 103) Partly because of attempted economies, their provision was very slow, and it was summer 1885 before the building was used. (fn. 104) The final total cost was stated as £100,000 in 1889. (fn. 105)
Already in 1885 the institution was, as Donnelly, the secretary of the Science and Art Department, told Huxley, in 'a bad way'. (fn. 106) Both prospective students and firm support from the City were wanting. Donnelly admitted to ambitions to take it over, but this ignored the aversion to South Kensington that caused some of the City's coolness towards its new institution. (fn. 107) These early years were very difficult, but in 1899 it was constituted a 'school' of the University of London in the faculty of engineering, and in 1907 the City and Guilds College of the new Imperial College of Science and Technology. (fn. 108) Henceforward its fortunes prospered with those of Imperial College, although as a school of engineering only, not of wider applied sciences. By 1901 the problem of overcrowding had caused it to hire accommodation in the new school of needlework next door, (fn. 109) and in 1909 the building of the large northern Goldsmiths' Extension (paid for by that Company) was initiated in conjunction with a. new building for the Royal School of Mines (see page 245). The Waterhouse building was demolished in 1962 in the course of the rebuilding of Imperial College.
In 1907 the most recently built premises (now being demolished) were those into which the chemistry and physics departments of the Royal College of Science were then about to move from the Huxley Building.
Royal College of Science (Chemistry and Physics Building), Imperial Institute Road
In 1890 the Government had bought from the 1851 Exhibition Commissioners a 4½acre site on the south side of Imperial Institute' Road. The primary object of advocates of this acquisition had been the establishment of a science museum. (fn. 110) The Normal School of Science in Exhibition Road (in that year created the Royal College of Science) had, however, become very crowded in its premises (now the Huxley Building); the science museum had itself been visualized chiefly as an aid to science teaching, and it was as a site for new buildings for the College that the ground was first used. There was, nevertheless, ten years delay, during which departments of the College were moved into makeshift accommodation in the old buildings surrounding the Horticultural Society's garden and elsewhere. (For the Royal College of Science building see Plate 73c, d; plans c, d between pages 54—5, and fig. 41.)
Soon after the purchase, the College staff was asked to state its requirements and in the summer of 1890 asked for the physics, chemistry and astronomy departments to be housed on the new site. In the following year Sir A. Rücker and T. Thorpe, the professors of physics and chemistry, viewed the design and equipment of continental laboratories, and in November 1891 plans of the required accommodation were forwarded to the Office of Works in anticipation of its provision at the same time as the new buildings of the South Kensington Museum east of Exhibition Road. (fn. 111) It was envisaged that the new building would abut on the west side of that road and on Imperial Institute Road, where the College and the Science Museum would share most of the south side. A scheme to place the Tate Gallery here instead caused alarm to scientists (fn. 112) and although this was prevented work on the College was postponed. (fn. 104) In about 1894 Sir John Taylor, surveyor of the Office of Works, had plans prepared for the Science and Art Department, which scientists liked for their suitability, (fn. 113) but when in 1897 the Government took the matter up again, in conjunction with the execution of (Sir) Aston Webb's South Kensington Museum plans, it was initially for a relatively confined site adjacent to the old building east of Exhibition Road. The protests of scientists and of friends of the art museum prevailed (one benevolent influence being the Prince of Wales), (fn. 114) and by the latter part of 1898 Aston Webb was preparing (at the same time as his South Kensington Museum designs) sketch-plans for the College on the Imperial Institute Road site. (fn. 115) The College had fared rather better than the Science Museum, and was now given the principal site occupying most of the south side. Of £800,000 voted by Parliament for the science and art buildings the new College buildings were to take £200,000. (fn. 116)
Described in The Building News in 1900 as a 'great work', on the strength of Webb's Academy drawings, (fn. 124) the building (Plate 73c, d) was well received by the press. It had the great disadvantage for a monumental structure of a north aspect, and did not enjoy the reclame of a royal opening, or the public interest of the new South Kensington Museum, but two aspects of Webb's work in particular were praised. One was the simple effective planning, associated with careful provision before building began for an appropriate arrangement and equipment of the rooms (fig. 41). Indeed, the professor of physics told a Departmental Committee in 1904 that he thought the buildings 'were rather intended to serve as a model of what laboratories should be to the schools throughout the country, and for that reason no doubt a good deal of money has been spent on making them monuments of fine work'. (fn. 125) The chemistry department was in the east wing where the disposition of the three divisions of general and analytical, physical, and organic chemistry, originally planned by Professor Thorpe before 1894, was revised for the actual site by Professor Tilden. The requirements of the physics department in the west wing, arranged by Professor Rücker and his successor Professor Callendar, probably involved more architectural considerations, to prevent vibration or magnetic interference. Metal was excluded so far as possible from the structure of the laboratory block at the rear, which was only lightly linked to the front building and surrounded by a peat-filled trench. The benches had foundations independent of the floor, which itself was cushioned on a bed of coke. (fn. 126) A special system of distributing electric current was devised by G. A. Steinthal of Bradford and Professor Callendar. (fn. 104) On a similarly wide and shallow site Webb kept the plan of his building very close to Waterhouse's scheme for the City and Guilds College. (fn. 127)
The main apartment over the entrance, on the first and second floors, was appropriated, not to the College, but to a science museum library.
The second aspect of Webb's building to be much applauded was its relationship to the Imperial Institute opposite. This rather modest advance upon the individualism of the Victorian architect was hailed as 'a new departure among us'. Webb's early plans, in 1899, had in fact promised a scenic treatment of Imperial Institute Road, with screens of entrance arches and a sculptural feature at the centre of a circular place between the two buildings. (As shown in a published drawing the monument in the place looks like the Memorial to the 1851 Exhibition, which it was perhaps proposed to utilize.) All that was done in the end was to make the front of Webb's building respond in plan to that of the Imperial Institute, and the pavilion at each extremity, 'with Mr. Collcutt's concurrence', echo the design of those opposite: the Architectural Association found the differences of detail in the pavilions interesting. Webb made no attempt to rival Collcutt's rich, small-scaled ornamentation but his 'large, quiet' design, realized in Fareham red brick and Whitbed Portland stone, was thought to hold its own in 'dignity and power'. (fn. 128)
The contractors were Leslie and Company of Kensington, and Webb's clerk of works J. G. Peacock. The stone carving was by W. S. Frith, the plasterwork by S. Spenser and the specially designed internal and external light fittings by the Bromsgrove Guild. (fn. 129) Glazed white brick was used extensively in the interior. The final cost reached about £304,000, plus some £25,600 for fittings. (fn. 130)
As part of the reconstruction of Imperial College the west wing was demolished in 1961–2. The centre and east wing were in course of demolition in 1973–4.
Royal School of Mines and City and Guilds College, Goldsmiths' Extension, Prince Consort Road
The Royal School of Mines was thus the part of Imperial College most urgently in want of new accommodation in 1907. (For this building see Plate 74a; plans c, d between pages 54–5, and fig. 42.) At the same time the need for instruction in mining and metallurgy was, with engineering, that most compellingly felt by the founders of the college. (By 1912, the college owned a mine in Cornwall. (fn. 131) ) As the mining industrialist Sir Julius Wernher told a meeting at Lord Rosebery's in 1902 'the men he and others wanted were not to be found in England, and the only alternative to the employment of Germans was the foundation of a technological department of the [London] University'. (fn. 132) The Departmental Committee of 1904—6 had stressed that 'as London is the financial centre of many great engineering, mining and metallurgical industries in the Colonies, it is ... the best site for a more highly developed School of Mines which shall provide for the needs of the Empire'. (fn. 133) In July 1908 Imperial College asked Sir Aston Webb to act as its architect, (fn. 104) and his building in Imperial Institute Road was thus very shortly followed by a comparable structure in Prince Consort Road that was, however, the first to be erected for Imperial College as such. In the formality of its architecture it seems to express something of the concentrated drive at the level of governmental strategy that lay behind the new foundation.
In July 1909 King Edward VII laid the foundation stone for the Royal School of Mines and the extension (for engineering) of the City and Guilds College. (fn. 134) (fn. 6) The estimated cost was £120,000 for the Royal School of Mines (to which the Bessemer Memorial Committee made a large donation in the form of the Bessemer laboratory) and £80,000 for the extension of the City and Guilds College (to which the Goldsmiths' Company gave £50,000, later increased by £37,000 to cover the whole final cost). The work, executed by Messrs. Killby and Gayford and Messrs. Dove Brothers, began in 1910. The clerk of works was H. W. G. Tanner. The Royal School of Mines and Bessemer laboratory were completed by 1913 and the Goldsmiths' Extension of the City and Guilds College by 1915. The Extension, after requisitioning by the Government, was only fully occupied by Imperial College in 1926. (fn. 136)
An article in The Builder in 1911 noted that Webb had planned his fronts in bays of equal width, with movable internal partitions: 'this principle of units has affected the external elevation, which is kept simple, and will depend for its effect on the repetition of features and continuous horizontal cornice'. (fn. 137) The result was approved by The Building News (Plate 74a). (fn. 38) The sculptured figures flanking the entrance in Prince Consort Road, by P. R. Montford, were exhibited, as models, at the Royal Academy in 1916, and placed in position in 1920. (fn. 104)
In his arrangement of the Royal School of Mines Webb again followed broadly Waterhouse's scheme at the old City and Guilds College (fig. 40). (fn. 139) In the internal planning of the Goldsmiths' Extension he was guided by Professors Dalby, Unwin and Coker of that College.
The Bessemer laboratory was rebuilt by Killby and Gayford in 1951–3. An extra storey was added to the Goldsmiths' Extension, for geochemistry and geophysics, in 1954–5. (fn. 104)
Other buildings of Imperial College
For fifty years the buildings raised by Imperial College itself were confined to Prince Consort Road. On its north side, west of the Albert Hall approach, Sir Aston Webb designed at about the same time as the Royal School of Mines but in a restrained Tudor domestic style the northern range of an intended quadrangle, to serve as the Students' Union. It was built in 1910–11 by F. and F. H. Higgs at a total cost of just over £16,000. (fn. 140) In 1955–7 it was enlarged and altered by the architects Norman and Dawbarn in consultation with Sir Hubert Worthington. The prospective cost of this in 1954 had been £198,883. (fn. 141) For the east side of the quadrangle Webb designed a range to accommodate botany and plant pathology and physiology. This was in a similar style except that, he said, 'the maximum of glass has been given to all rooms'. It was built in 1912–14 by Dove Brothers at a total cost of £16,698. (fn. 104) The west side consists of a range for biochemistry built in 1921–3 at a cost of £48,731, and a hostel at its north end built in 1925–6 to a contract price of £16,304. Both were built by Foster and Dicksee to Webb's design. (fn. 142) In 1927 a south side to the quadrangle, fronting on Prince Consort Road, was designed by Webb (who died in 1930). A contract was concluded, with John Knox and Dyke, however, only in 1929, by which time the design was in the hands of Aston Webb and Son, that is, in effect, of Maurice Webb. As ground landlords the 1851 Exhibition Commissioners submitted it for approval to Sir Reginald Blomfield, but acknowledged that they had no effective control. Blomfield's only comment was that the proportions of the Ionic pilasters on the exterior were unusually tall. This range, known as the Beit Building, was constructed in 1930–1 at a cost of £87,946 (see plans c, d between pages 54–5). (fn. 143)
Third only to mining-and-metallurgy and engineering in the new college's priority of subjects was chemical technology. This was sited south of Prince Consort Road, west of the Royal College of Music. In 1912 Sir Aston Webb made plans for a building with a stone front on the general pattern of the Royal School of Mines. Instead, a cheap and bare structure set back from the street frontage was erected in 1913–14 by Killby and Gayford for £10,080. Despite the college's doubt whether Webb would want to be associated with it, he provided the design. He added two storeys for chemical engineering in 1920–2, and the building was extended again by Sir Hubert Worthington in 1948–9. (fn. 144)
In 1929 Sir Henry Tizard became Rector and during the 1930's made some headway with a plan foreshadowing post-1953 developments. By this the college would have expanded southward from Prince Consort Road and the area between that road and Imperial Institute Road (the 'island site') would have been limited to academic uses. The area south of the latter road would, however, have been reserved for museums and the Royal College of Science site would have been given up, as would the Huxley Building. In 1936 Tizard contested an abortive plan to place the Royal College of Art and a museum of ethnology on the island site and obtained some official concurrence in his scheme. This was worked out for Tizard in architectural terms by Sir Hubert Worthington in 1936–7—evidently on a strong east-west axis with a ceremonial entrance in Queen's Gate (on the site of Nos. 177–179). The only actual progress before war intervened, however, was an arrangement for the college to take over the Royal School of Needlework building. (fn. 145)
In 1949 Worthington designed a new brick and stone building for both chemical technology and aeronautics west of the Royal College of Music on the Prince Consort Road frontage, to which it would have presented two gate-towers. The foundations were begun by Higgs and Hill in 1951 but progress with the framework of the superstructure was halted throughout 1952 for want of an allocation of steel. (fn. 146)
Then in 1953 this difficulty was solved by an event which in its larger consequences has brought about the as-yet uncompleted transformation of the college. This was the Government's decision that in 'a development of towering magnitude' (as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury called it) the main feature of its policy for the advancement of technical and scientific education at university level should be a great and immediate expansion of Imperial College. Within ten years the number of students was almost doubled, to nearly 3,000. The expansion was intended to be greater in the engineering departments than in others, and greater among post-graduates than among the more junior students. (fn. 147) By 1964, after the Robbins Report on Higher Education, the total number of students aimed at was 4,700. (fn. 148) The problem of physical expansion was somewhat eased by the high priority that was generally given to the work by the Government, although progress has not been unaffected by financial stringency. On the other hand it was made more difficult by the 'sad jumble' of the island site, which, as the Annual Report of the college said in 1955–6, 'rather resembles the continent of Africa, in that we are tolerably familiar with the margin or littoral region, but some of the interior is very dark indeed.'
By the autumn of 1953 the college had approved the results of an appraisal of the site by its architects. (fn. 149) These were Messrs. Norman and Dawbarn, who were henceforward responsible for development of the island site with Sir Hubert Worthington (died 1963) and Sir William (later Lord) Holford acting as consultants. (fn. 150)
Norman and Dawbarn redesigned the superstructure of the interrupted chemical technologyaeronautics building, erected in 1954–7 by John Jarvis and Sons. Called the Roderick Hill Building, its entrance hall contains 'a decorative wall made up of the College arms in bone china', designed by Professor R. W. Baker of the Royal College of Art and executed by W. J. Copeland and Sons of Stoke-on-Trent (fn. 151) —a use of ceramic ware reminiscent of old South Kensington.
Early in 1956 the overall scheme of Norman and Dawbarn was made public. More symmetrically planned than it afterwards became, the layout attracted some criticism on the grounds that it tended to overbuild the site, and aroused a public agitation, as well as strong doubts in the Royal Fine Arts Commission, by its complete elimination of the Imperial Institute building. (fn. 7) The college itself was unhappy at its unusually low proportion of resident students, and during 1956 some alleviation of all these matters of concern was contrived, when the greater part of Princes Gardens, east of Exhibition Road, was acquired for residential hostels and other uses. (fn. 152) A revised scheme approved by the London County Council and the Royal Fine Arts Commission in 1958 allowed a lower density of development on the island site and the retention of the Imperial Institute's tower (Plate 76 b; plan d between pages 54–5). (fn. 153)
The aim in designing at least the earlier of the post-1953 buildings on the island site was expressed in the college's Annual Report of 1955–6. Necessarily Very large functional buildings', they would 'not be "modern" in the vulgar sense that they will astonish our neighbours and clash with the pleasant legacies of the past, but they will be contemporary in that they will perform, without fuss or exaggeration, but we hope not without elegance, a complicated and necessary task of our times'. (fn. 154)
The dates of some of the island-site buildings are: Mechanical Engineering 1957–65; Physics 1957–9; (fn. 8) Electrical and Civil Engineering 1960–63; Aeronautics and Chemical Technology extension 1964–6; College Block, Archives department, Great Hall and libraries, 1966–9; Mathematics begun 1971. It is intended that the Physics and Mathematics buildings shall be named the Huxley Building when the department of mathematics moves out of the present Huxley Building in Exhibition Road.
For the buildings in Princes Gardens (outside the area generally included in this volume) Richard Sheppard and Partners were appointed architects in 1956. Weeks Hall was built on the north side in 1957–9, then halls of residence on the south side in 1960–3, followed by those on the east side and the sports centre on the north side in 1966–8. (fn. 156)
In 1961 the college decided to demolish Aston Webb's Royal College of Science building, and replace it with new buildings for Biochemistry and Chemistry designed by Architects Copartnership. Webb's west wing was therefore demolished and the Biochemistry building erected on the westernmost part of its site in 1962–5. Financial restrictions by the Government delayed progress, however, and the first section of the Chemistry building was not erected until 1968–70 (Plate 76a), while in 1973–4 the intended site of the remainder of it was still occupied by the centre and eastern wing of Aston Webb's building in course of demolition.