Reproduced from the booklet
Blackburn College - 100 Years
This Centenary Booklet commemorates 100 years of service by Blackburn College to the Community of Blackburn, Darwen and East Lancashire. It highlights significant stages in the growth and development of the College from its foundation in May 1888 to the visit in 1988 by Prince Charles.
We offer a thank-you to
Marian Hesketh who compiled the text and was also responsible for collecting the photographs.
Other photographs reproduced by kind permission of Nick Clarke.
Thanks also to Blackburn Public Library and especially Stanley Miller for help with archive material.
Quotations from the Blackburn Times reproduced by kind permission of the Lancashire Evening Post.
When this booklet was originally written in 1988 the College had 14,000 enrolled students served by a Lecturing Staff of 385 and 150 non-teaching staff.
Two local men shared the initiative which led to the foundation of Blackburn College. One was Mr. W.E. Bickerdike, a manufacturing chemist at Oswaldtwistle, who was especially interested in technical education. The Blackburn Times' obituary after his death in 1930 described his role in the inception of the college:
While in Berlin in 1872 he was impressed by the importance that was attached to scientific instruction, which was in marked contrast to the indifference displayed towards it in England. . . Prior to this the advisability of commencing a technical school at Blackburn had been discussed, but the project hung fire, until it was decided that it would be an appropriate method of commemorating Queen Victoria's jubilee in 1887. Mr. Edgar Appleby (the then mayor), Mr. Bickerdike and Mr. Herbert Stones gave enthusiastic support to the scheme.
A subscription list was opened and about £15,000 was given voluntarily to build the school. . . There was, however, an undercurrent of opposition. As Mr. Bickerdike said. . . "some of the old and very conservative people. . . thought it was throwing money away". . . now the college is regarded as one of the best in the country from an educational standpoint. For the spade-work that he did, Blackburn will always owe a deep debt of gratitude to Mr. Bickerdike.
Many local businessmen were opposed to the provision of education for the working classes and felt that enough was already supplied by the Mechanics' Institute and various private colleges. In 1886 there had been a public meeting to discuss the foundation of a technical school, but there was so little support that the meeting had to be abandoned. Only a year later, the idea of a new technical school was put forward as a suitable project to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Edgar Appleby, the mayor of Blackburn, was enthusiastic about the idea and, with Mr. Bickerdike, was the driving force behind the foundation of the college. He made substantial personal donations to the fund and stood for mayor a second time in order to see the project through.
On 9th May 1888, the Prince and Princess of Wales came to Blackburn to lay the foundation stone of the college. It was the first royal visit to Blackburn and the Blackburn Times commented:
We are bound in justice to give the mayor the chief credit, both for securing our hard-worked townspeople a chance of basking in the sunshine of royal smiles, and for laying the foundation of a great public institution.
The day of the royal visit was warm and sunny, and the streets of Blackburn were thronged with people anxious to catch a glimpse of their future King and Queen. The state carriage with its escort of lancers moved slowly down Preston New Road, where the entire route was decorated with flags and elaborate arrangements of flowers. The site chosen for the college was on Blakey Moor, which was then "a plot of land. . . noted for many years for its bleak aspect and its uncomely surroundings."
Building work had not yet started and the stone was laid inside a huge marquee on the empty site. Inside the stone was placed a bottle containing coins, local newspapers and an inscription on vellum. After the Prince of Wales had laid the stone with full masonic ritual, he was made the first honorary freeman of the Borough of Blackburn. At a lunch in the town hall, the Prince made a speech expressing his support for technical education as the basis for successful manufacturing industry. The royal couple left Blackburn in mid-afternoon, pursued to the last by a crowd eager to see royalty in the flesh, and celebrations continued far into the night, culminating with a spectacular firework display in Corporation Park.