Skip to content


A gathering of local people at the town hall (then the Guildhall) discusses the ‘stigma’ associated with Leicester, a town of 90,000 people, for not having a school of art. A proposal to start a School is heartily supported and an organising Committee is formed.


Leicester School of Art opens in a disused warehouse at number 2 Pocklingtons Walk. Artist and teacher Wilmot Pilsbury is hired as the headmaster.


The School moves into spacious new accommodation built on the Hastings Street side of New Walk Museum.


Ernest Gimson enrols on Architecture course. Gimson would become a celebrated architect and designer associated with the Arts and Craft movement, and his cottage Stoneywell is now in the care of the National Trust.


The Ellis Memorial Technical School is opened as an addition to the Wyggeston Boys’ School on Applegate. It will provide teaching in science, technology and technical drawing.


The School of Art and Technical School are merged as the Leicester Municipal Technical and Art School. The first wing of the Hawthorn Building is opened. Extensions will be added in 1909, 1927 and 1937.


Frances Livingstone becomes the first female Head of Department, though she is not allowed that title and is called instead the ‘Chief Instructress’ of the Department of Women’s Crafts.


Headmaster of the Art School, Benjamin Fletcher, persuades his friend, local bookseller Harry Hardy Peach, to create a manufacturing company, Dryad Furniture Works.


Students of the Printing Trades classes publish an annual yearbook to showcase their work and advertise the course.


School of Pharmacy founded as part of the Technical School, although Pharmaceutical Chemistry was taught as early as 1887.


Three School of Art students are killed in action on the same day, during the assault on the Hohenzollern Redoubt, part of the Battle of Loos. Cabinet making student John Mawby and typography students William Henry Grayson and William Davis were in the 1st/4th Leicestershire Regiment, which was part of the 46th North Midland Division.


The Schools of Art and Technology offer lessons for disabled former servicemen so that they can learn new skills that accommodate their disability.


Mr E.E. Brooks, Head of the Electricity and Physics Department, conducts secret research for the Navy to assist with development of anti-submarine apparatus.


Promising artist Walter Anson is killed while serving with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers 1st/6th Battalion. Anson’s work received attention from national art critics and he was due to take up a scholarship at the Slade School of Art after the War.


The Leicester Municipal Technical and Art School is renamed as the City of Leicester School of Arts and Crafts and the City of Leicester Technical School.


The Junior Crafts and Junior Technical Schools provide general education (including physical education as seen in this photo) with a strong vocational element for local children aged 13-15.


The Schools open a gift book to record donations of money and objects. The gifts given demonstrate the wide range of subjects taught at the schools, and included art and crafts supplies and equipment; building trade and decorating supplies; casts and animals for life drawing; sanitary appliances for the Plumbing Department; electrical apparatus; hosiery and textiles machinery; flour, margarine and chocolate for the Baking classes; botanic specimens; footwear specimens and materials; diagrams and technical drawings; and a 10 gram sample of 'heavy water' from Norsk Hydro Elektrisk Kvaelstofaktieselskab, Oslo, Norway.


Leicester Technical School becomes one of the first institutions to start classes for women in basic motor car mechanics and upkeep.


The Schools issue a brochure to raise funds to complete the Hawthorn Building by finishing the fourth and final wing. This illustration from the brochure shows the incomplete Hawthorn Building with a Jacobean house in the courtyard. The building so far has been constructed in the gardens of this house, which will be demolished for the final phase of construction.


The Schools change their names to the Leicester College of Art and the Leicester College of Technology, becoming known locally as the ‘Art and Tech’. As the diploma offered by the Colleges is a vocational degree equivalent, it is thought that it will dignify the schools to change their name and confer more status.


The Prism student magazine is launched. It will be the first of several student magazines over the years including Duo, Gemini and The Voice.


The College of Art contributes props and costumes to the Pageant of Leicester, a week-long celebration of the city’s notable past and successful present, held in Abbey Park.


The College of Art annual Fancy Dress Ball is an opportunity for students to showcase their creative talents!


Leicester Colleges of Art and Technology Students' Association issues a pocket-sized handbook for students, including information about welfare, accommodation and leisure.


The Colleges move to a war-footing, including protecting the Hawthorn Building with sandbags in case of air-raids.


Students at the Colleges contribute to the local war effort by painting murals in air raid shelters, making innovative upcycled furniture and equipment for hospitals, and producing posters about civil defence.


Yvonne Vardy attends the Junior Craft School from the age of 13. Listen to her interview about that time.


The City of Leicester Training College for Teachers welcomes its first students. It is the first two-year teacher training college in the country.


It is revealed that the College of Technology has been serving as a top-secret radar training station during the War.


The School of Corsetry is founded, the first course in the country to focus entirely on foundation garments. It will become the prestigious Contour Fashion course.


Rigby Graham contributes artwork for the annual Leicester College of Art Diary. Graham would become a celebrated local artist.


Janet Reger enrols on the Corsetry course. She will go on to form a globally successful lingerie brand.


Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visit Leicester. Staff of the College of Art decorate De Montfort Hall, design the souvenir programme and lunch menu, and design and make a silver rose bowl to be presented to the Queen as a gift.


Computer Science is taught for the first time.


Charles Keene College is opened, taking over teaching of ‘lower level’ courses from the Colleges of Art and Technology. This gave the Art and Tech more of a focus on higher education at degree and postgraduate level, while Charles Keene College taught at a secondary and further education level.


Photography lecturer Gerry Broughton remembers sending students into Leicester to practice street photography. Listen to his interview about that time.


The Fletcher Building is opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. It will house art and design subjects and comprises a ten storey high rise tower surrounded by low one or two storey buildings and an inner courtyard with a pond.


Jimi Hendrix plays in the Hawthorn Hall, one of many prestigious performers to have a gig at the Colleges or Polytechnic.


The Colleges are formally designated as the City of Leicester Polytechnic, an upgrade in status that leads to a concentration on degree and diploma level courses.


The James Went building is opened opposite the Hawthorn Building. Intended to house computing and mathematical subjects, the windows are designed to look like computer punch cards.


The first custom built hall of residence is opened. William Rowlett Hall is situated behind the Fletcher Building overlooking the river Soar.


Leicester Polytechnic Caving and Mountaineering Club visit Øksfjord, Norway, to conduct scientific surveys and enjoy some climbing. Two years later they will visit Greenland on a similar expedition.


Jannette Roscoe, Lecturer in Physical Education, wins a gold medal at the 10th Commonwealth Games as a member of the 4 x 400 women’s relay team.


Leicester Polytechnic students pay their rent cheques on unusual objects to protest at price rises.


The Polytechnic merges with the City of Leicester College of Education and begins operating in a new campus at Scraptoft. The merger brings new subjects including teacher training, social and community work, speech therapy and performing arts.


This map of campus shows the James Went building (number 2), the Stibbe Building on Mill Lane (number 14), the newly constructed Library and Exhibition Hall (numbers 11 and 12), and demountable huts where the Queens Building will later stand (number 8).


A central library is opened on campus, named after Archibald Kimberlin who had been a Governor of the Colleges of Art and Technology since 1947. The new building replaces 3 smaller libraries which were spread across campus.


The Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir Society organise a charity collection, including 4 van loads of clothing, to aid Afghan refugees displaced by war.


Textile designer Sue Allen remembers studying Fashion and Textiles at Leicester Polytechnic. Listen to her interview about that time.


"The Fletcher Building, Floor 9. Scary paternoster. Always misbehaving and stranding folk in the basement. Or up above the ceiling. You’d hear them calling for help. See just their lower legs or upturned faces. Nah. Nothing doing till the janitor got there.” - Memory of a student who attended in 1980s


End-of-year fashion shows encouraged industry contacts to travel to Leicester to see the work of graduating students and allowed them to make valuable connections.


Chief Art and design technician, Kevin Holdaway talks about what drew him to Leicester. Listen to his interview.


Membership of the Leicester Polytechnic Student’s Union was an essential part of student life.


RAG events had been held in Leicester since the 1950s. The stunts and pranks aim to raise money for charity. Notable RAG events have included pram races, parades, pretend kidnappings, whitewashing statues, racing home-made rafts on the Soar, three-legged pub crawls and hitchhiking as far as possible.


Leicester Polytechnic becomes an autonomous institution after the Education Reform Act 1988 removes polytechnics from the management of the local authority.


This promotional video features the Leicester and Scraptoft campuses, student accommodation, sports facilities and even a glimpse of the famous paternoster lift in action!


Christian Furr graduates with a First in Fine Art. He will later become the youngest artist to ever paint a portrait of the Queen. Kevin Holdaway remembers teaching him.


A new Milton Keynes Campus is opened by Her Majesty The Queen, after the Polytechnic wins a tender put forward by the Milton Keynes Development Corporation to develop a new higher education campus in the town. The campus will specialise in architecture, business, computing, education, land management, engineering and sociology subjects.


National and civic dignitaries join governors, staff and students at the official launch of De Montfort University, as the Polytechnic is awarded University status. A new corporate image is unveiled, including the lion’s head logo.


The chimney of the Clephan Building, a remnant of the building’s time as a factory, is demolished.


DMU becomes the first university to release a television advertisement, using footage from nature documentary ‘The Trials of Life’ to imply DMU will give students the skills they need to survive at life.


The award-winning Queens Building is opened by Her Majesty The Queen. Housing Engineering and Manufacture subjects, it is specially designed to be environmentally sensitive and reduce energy consumption to the minimum.


The first Leicester Comedy Festival is organised by Arts and Festival Management student Geoff Rowe as his end-of-year project.


DMU merges with the Lincolnshire College of Art and Design and the Lincolnshire College of Agriculture and Horticulture to create DMU Lincoln. The university is now able to offer a whole new set of courses on a 250 hectare arable teaching farm at Caythorpe Court and 240 hectares of grassland at Riseholme


The Bedford College of Higher Education merges with DMU, becoming the School of Humanities, Sport and Education based at two campuses: Polhill and Lansdowne.


This promotional video showcases the four different campuses that make up DMU.


This map of the campus shows expansion into new buildings, including Portland, Elfed Thomas, Bosworth House and the Gateway.


DMU merges with the Charles Frears School of Nursing and Midwifery, forming the School of Nursing and Midwifery within the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.


De Montfort University and the Henry Doubleday Research Association visit Havana, Cuba to obtain an understanding of organic horticulture. The trip includes informal talks at the Ministry of Agriculture, a visit to the National Institute for Investigation into Tropical Agriculture, and visits to tobacco plantations.


DMU Contour Fashion students design a bra in support of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Appeal. The cups are made from rugby balls signed by the England Rugby Union team.


Piece by composer Sally Beamish is premiered by the Schidlof Quartet at the retirement party for Vice Chancellor Kenneth Barker.


The first Leicester Varsity sports event is held, featuring DMU versus the University of Leicester.


Kimberlin Library releases a promotional video to assist students, also featuring the Bedford Campus library.


De Montfort University Students’ Union reorganises following a governance review.


The Hugh Aston building is opened to replace the James Went building. It will house Business and Law subjects. As part of the construction the ring road was redirected and a new square was created around the Magazine Gateway.


The Square Mile student volunteering scheme is launched, with a community project in the Fosse area of the city, a square mile neighbouring DMU’s city centre campus.


Her Majesty The Queen visits the campus at the start of her Diamond Jubilee Tour, watching a fashion show and demonstrations of Indian and Chinese dancing.


The DMU Heritage Centre opens, showcasing the medieval ruins of the Church of the Annunciation, which are situated in the Hawthorn Building.


The Stephen Lawrence Research Centre is opened on campus by Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Chancellor of the university. At the core of the Centre is an archive collection documenting the Lawrence family’s campaign for justice for their son Stephen who was murdered in a racially motivated attack.


DMU celebrates 150 years since the first lessons at the Leicester School of Art.