Keswick Hall College of Education

What happened to Keswick Hall College?

Synopsis of talk given by Bill Etherington, last Principal

"It is almost 20 years (now around 35yrs – editor) since the college was, in effect, ordered to end its separate history, which began in 1840. When I arrived as Principal in September 1973, following John Gibbs' becoming a Bishop, we had nearly 800 students. In March, the D.E.S. had announced that by 1981 the number of student teachers in the country must fall by half; it had also told colleges to end their 'monotechnic' limitation to teacher training, and move into the general higher education system, either by diversifying (launching other courses themselves) or by merging with colleges of other types."

Keswick was given a breathing space for a few years while 161 teacher training colleges, which existed in 1973, dwindled to just 35 'freestanding' colleges within a decade or so. During this time Keswick " had completed work.... for the validation of a new B.Ed degrees with the University of East Anglia.... Our students starting the Certificate course in 1975 were able, if their third year results were good enough, to stay on for a fourth year UEA Honours Degree instead of having to move to a Cambridge College for the final year - the previous route to a B.Ed which had never attracted more than a dozen students a year."

"By the Summer of 1976, both Church and DES were making it clear that the breathing space had ended and that we were to be pressed to merge with the University of East Anglia... The college had a 99 year lease for the Keswick Hall property, on very generous terms, from the son of Quintin Gurney, who as Chairman of Governors has, with Miss Duff, saved Norwich Training College from closure during the war *." Legal processes were protracted and difficult. "It was not until the end of the Summer Term of 1981 that we were able to celebrate our incorporation and the College's formal closure at a great valedictory ceremony. Keswick was to be a second campus of the University, accommodating also the School of Law....but the Department of Education and Science had continued to cut its target number for teacher training.... The 1981 national target of teacher training students had been reduced to only a third of what it had been in 1973 and we were only allotted 400 places for the new School of Education...."

The UEA was told to dispose of Keswick by the University Grants Committee, even though James Gurney had been assured that if he sold the freehold to the University it would ensure Keswick's future as a teacher training establishment. Teacher training "moved out in 1984 to a new building on the UEA site at Earlham, costing a million pounds. After a long wait with little sign of a buyer, Keswick was ultimately sold for about half its 1981 valuation, to a property developer who made a good job of turning it into attractive homes and offices." 

"When we sold Keswick in 1981, the College Governors received one-third of the valuation amount.... After repaying to central Church funds the loans the Governors had needed, the remainder became the capital of the Keswick Hall Charity....the continuing expression of the Church foundation of the Norwich Training College.... The Charity still own Keswick Park which the UEA did not need.

The School of Education at the UEA has financial restrictions; "it is ironic that, after all, the posts of..Keswick Hall lecturer in R.E., ...our Field Officer (who ranks as an honorary lecturer) and our R.E. Centre's secretary...are the most secure because they are paid out of the funds resulting from the closure of our former College." The teacher training work of the College is carried on by the School of Education although there are significant differences.

"...The College's name and tradition are still alive. The history of teacher training in this country has, if we are honest, always been one of penny-pinching and shifting government interference. As in school teaching itself, quality has really depended on the efforts of the people doing the job because they are committed to it. Their commitment is what the College at its best existed to encourage and its formal closure as a separate institution has left the Trustees still able to help and encourage them."

William Etherington
November 1997

* due to enemy action the College buildings were partially destroyed - see separate article College during The Second World War.