Keswick Hall College of Education

A brief history of Keswick Hall since 1948

In 1948, with a minimum of furniture, and with five dozen builders still at work, an advance party of two lecturers and 45 students moved into Keswick Hall, just south of Norwich. The property had belonged to the Quintin E. Gurney, Chairman of the College Governors; the Gurneys were a wealthy banking family, latterly linked with Barclays Bank. For the next two years the Teacher Training College, as it was then, struggled on in two halves, using the original college in College Road and the converted Hall, three miles distant.

“…in retrospect the sun was always shining as we bicycled endlessly along the Ipswich Road. Keswick was always beautiful with flowers and squirrels and the song of a thousand birds. Back in College Road there was the warm familiarity about the huts and the hostels, small and yet indestructible" wrote one former member of staff.

The 25 years or so from 1948 were the most expansive in the history of the College. Building continued during the next decade with East Wing being tastefully added to the main building and separate hostel blocks constructed to the west. Under the auspices of the Cambridge Institute of Education the syllabus continued in accordance with the latest educational trends.

The 1960s and 70s was a period dominated by a serious teacher shortage and the need for a rapid expansion in teacher training. Keswick Hall, under the leadership of Rev, John Gibbs from 1964 to 1973, expanded to help meet the need. Larger number of students meant more building. The College was joined by an ever growing number of older, ‘mature’ students (over the age of 25) and Belstead House, the Ipswich annexe, was acquired during this period of expansion.

Although for most of its history only admitting females, in the 1960s the College once again became co-educational, as it had done when it opened as a Training College in the 1840s.

 Oddly, by today’s standards, there were different admission criteria for females, who needed a minimum of two A level for entry while. Males (for which there was a greater shortage) only needed five O-level passes!

The future of Colleges of Education, like Keswick Hall, looked secure. They were producing well qualified, enthusiastic, caring teacher to fill the nation’s school. However, the Secretary of State for Education, Margaret Thatcher, set up ‘The Committee of Inquiry on Teacher Education and Training’. Their findings, the James Report, was published in 1972. It had far reaching effects; the prospect of all Colleges of Education was under the microscope. Now the future was specified in terms of diversification, degree as opposed to ‘certificate’ courses, mergers with polytechnics and universities and probably closure. Interestingly there would be no shortage of teachers today if Colleges of Education had been left to continue.

In 1973 Bill Etherington took the reigns to become the very last principal of the College. With the existing teacher training system collapsing he oversaw a reduction in student numbers from 700 to 400 and the amalgamation of the College with the much larger University of East Anglia, in 1981.

Most experienced teachers regret the changes the government made in the training of teachers, along with the changes and U-turns in education since then. Many regard the three year full time courses offered by Keswick, and the other Colleges of Education, as the ideal model of how to educate and prepare prospective teachers. The influence these former Keswick Hall teachers have had on hundreds of thousands of school pupils has been remarkable.

The spirit of Keswick Hall lives on.