The college itself began in 1839 as the Norwich Diocesan Training Institution with a superintendent, six female and four male students. The college had a long and distinguished record with a history of overcoming difficulties, meeting new needs and providing teachers and headteachers who have had, and still have, an influence on countless hundreds of thousands of school children.
From its inception, the college was sustained by the Church of England. Even when the Board of Education (now the Department for Education) had largely become responsible for much of the funding the Church of England maintained control, in much the same way as Voluntary Controlled Schools operate today.
Early in Queen Victoria's reign new National Schools (at the time there were also British and Foreign Bible Society Schools and others) were supplied with teachers from the various Diocesan Training Colleges Accordingly the Norwich Training College initially commenced in a house in Cathedral Close (at a rent of £25 pa) , the students undertaking training in schools within the city. The subjects for instruction were: 'The Holy Scriptures, Church formularies, English Grammar, Arithmetic, History, Geography, rudiments of Science, elements of Music and Psalmody, discipline of children, method of communicating instruction.'Female students were boarded at no 51 The Close from 1840 - 53.
In June 1853 thirteen students moved into premises in St George's Plain. Documents from this time contain the last references to male students. It was 108 years before the College became co-educational again. The Principal was Rev A Bath Power who also gave frequent lectures. His successor, in 1857, the Rev W. Cufaude Davie had previously been an assistant master at Eaton and Headteacher of Yarmouth Grammar School.
Later, in 1875 the Rev Thomas Archbold took over.
At this time the menu included:
Breakfast: bread and butter and weak tea.
Sunday:cold joint, potatoes, pudding
Monday: hash, potatoes, boiled pudding
Tuesday: stew, dumplings, potatoes
Wednesday: hot joint, two vegetables, suet pudding or rice and syrup
Thursday:cold joint, pudding
Friday: 'Resurrection' pie
Saturday: joint, hot or cold
Tea: Generally a repetition of breakfast but cake on Wednesdays and the weekend.
Old Students of the 1880-82 year group recalled their experiences: " The situation (of the college) was peculiar. On the right was the Presbytery for training young R.C priests; a high wall and the tradesmen's
passage separated us. On the right was a boot factory with wire blinds on our side. During singing lessons any song especially approved was punctuated by the rapping of hammers in unison to the
delight of the students, but not to our music master....The menu (above) may interest epicures"
" I remember the old College house at St George's - it was certainly very early Georgian - deep basement which was floored with paving stones and very bad lighting. I might say that in all rooms the lighting - by gas of course - was very poor. The dining room, which was long, had two windows looking on to a garden, where now and again, croquet was played...I am not quite sure of the number of students in my time - so long ago - but I think it was between forty and fifty.
After these various temporary locations the college settled in College Road on October 12th 1892 where it continued preparing female students until its move to Keswick Hall 56 years later.