Explore Your Archive: Women in the Arts

Follow the whole story on storify

Our archives tell the story of the role the Art Schools played in women education.

David Haste, Artist, and ex staff member of the Kent Institute of the Art and Design, and soon to be author of the ‘Art Schools of Kent’ provides general contextual information related to women in Art Schools:

‘Art Schools were first established as Design Schools in the 1840s…they were an immediate attraction to middle class women, particularly so when it was still commonly believed that art was a luxury in education permissible for girls, but quite unnecessary for boys’ – David Haste

‘The Art Schools were important in teaching training. Elementary school teachers were predominantly female and they attended art schools to obtain a proliferation of certificates by which their salary was judged. Towards the end of the 19th century art school were teaching a range of crafts and these like much else carried gender identities. “Masculine craft skills” [were] technical drawing, print furniture etc…”feminine craft skills” [were] needle crafts…embroidery, tapestry, dress/costume design ’-David Haste

Here we focus on Epsom and Ewell Technical Institute and School of Art

19th century
Courses included in the 1896 and 1897 prospectuses were: Shorthand, Drawing, Carpentry, Home Nursing, Cookery and French. Late 19th century, Cookery

Due to lack of Secondary School provision, the Surrey County Council proposed that the Technical Institute should be used temporarily as a secondary school for girls providing accommodation for 160 pupils from September 1921.
Images of women at work in the art school on both the 1921, and 1925 prospectuses suggest the popularity of Art Schools for women.
The timetables were Art Classes, Millinery, English, Cookery, Shorthand (theory and speed), French, Typewriting and Office Routine

Women's Art Class, 1919-1920

1925-1926 prospectus

In classes in the 1932 prospectuses ‘the Cookery and Dressmaking classes are recommended to those interested in Domestic Subjects’, while ‘for boys and young men there are carefully arranged classes that should prove of great value. Their attention is also drawn to the instruction given in Interior Decoration, Architectural Design, Geometry and Perspective in the Art School’.
While Cookery and Domestic classes are not specifically designated for women here, Industrial Classes are specifically highlighted for males
The 1937 prospectus offers courses in Life Wood, General Engraving and Art , Illustration, Elementary Drawing and General Life Subjects, Shop Window Display, Dress Design, Crafts and General Art Subjects. There are no specific classes for males and females

1932-33 prospectus

Domestic and Cookery classes have no mention here. The 1953 prospectus offers National Diploma in Design, Dress Subjects, Graphic and Advertising Design, Painting, Sculpture and Pottery, and Industrial Crafts
There are no specific classes for males and females, although teachers within Dress and Design are all female. There are, however, also women teaching on the Industrial Crafts course

There are no specific classes for males and females. Classes are Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, Design and Crafts, Dress Design, and Graphic Design


David Birch, Landscape Artist, Donation

UCA has received a donation of work that was created by the Artist David Birch. Information on the collection can be found here http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/article/39941/David-Birch-illustration-and-oil-painting-work

David Birch (William Henry David Birch) (1895-1968) was the Principal of the Epsom School of Art and remained in post until 1961. David Birch was born in Epsom, and was also a student of the first Principal William Henry Osmond (1865 – 1943) in the years before The Great War. Birch was a renowned landscape painter and member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters following in the Constable tradition.

Material of David Birch’s will be of interest to Fine Art and Illustration, and is currently in the process of being catalogued

Material we have of David Birch includes:

-Two oil paintings of David Birch’s both showing landscapes, one untitled, one entitled ‘Slate Quarry’. Both paintings were exhibited at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters exhibition. Catalogues are held at the V and A in the National Art Library. Both paintings were exhibited at the V and A

– Book jacket designs, for a number of publishers, including Oxford University Press, satirical cartoon drawings, and proofs and cuttings of book illustrations

– 90 black and white photographs of oil paintings (scenic views, Norfolk, Wye Valley, Black Mountains etc) and 12 images colour-printed for a calendar

This work was created from 1918-1920s

This collection is located in Epsom

Archive of the Month – January 2013, Art School Classes, 19th century

Epsom prospectuses from 1925

Epsom prospectuses from 1925

Archive of the Month – January 2013, Art School Classes, 19th century

Minute note on class recommendations, Reference EPEW/2/4/1/6

January’s Archive of the Month looks at more ‘unusual’ classes taught at Art Schools during the late 19th century.

In the Epsom Technical Institute and School of Art Archive a scrawled handwritten minute note on 1st May 1895 relating to class recommendations makes a quick throwaway note to a ‘Bee Van’ and ‘Dairy Van’, which would not be a usual class today…

Although, not known exactly, a ‘Bee Van’ was thought to be a mobile van, which travelled around and taught bee keeping.

The following relating to the Dairy Van, and education in Art Schools is written for Archive of the Month by Stephen Knott. Stephen Knott, Founder Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern Craft at the Crafts Study Centre, University of Creative Arts, Farnham, is conducting research on the late nineteenth and early twentieth century history of craft and technical education. Research he has undertaken has also been at the Surrey History Centre.

In the years after the Technical Education Acts of 1889 and 1891 (which allowed Local Authorities to use duties collected from alcohol tax for technical education) the town and borough councils of Surrey set up a variety of technical evening class courses for both school leavers and tradesmen looking to complement their existing skills: from Woodwork, to French, to book-keeping, all funded by the Surrey County Council. Among the subjects taught in Surrey there were a large number of agricultural instruction courses on offer, reflecting demand within the country for farming skills to be preserved in the light of rural depopulation. This is reflected in both the correspondence between the Council and the representative of the Department of Science and Art in South Kensington about including things like thatching, ditching, hedging, and dairy farming on the list of approved subjects that the Technical Education funds could be spent on, as well as cross-County plans in the 1890s to set up a horticultural college for Kent, Surrey and Sussex at Wye (Wye Horticultural College).

Part of the agricultural provision from 1892 was to fund a diary van that would provide instruction to the villages and towns of Surrey for those who would not be able to leave work to attend other intensive agricultural courses the council was offering elsewhere. The Cumberland County Council had already deployed a similar vehicle and provided Surrey County Council with practical advice and information about costs.

This description is direct from the 6th Report of the Surrey County Council Technical Education Committee on 10th May 1892 –

‘[…] the van is furnished with separator, churn, butter worker, boiler, cistern, furnace and other appliances suitable for a six-cow Dairy, and can be drawn from place to place by one horse. When at rest and taken off its wheels it opens out on to a covered shed with a boarded floor (12 ft by 10 ft). The travelling staff consists of a Lecturer, Dairymaid and assistant’.

The plan was to take the diary van to 25 villages, the course lasting for a week in each village. The van was to be run by Miss E Hope Johnstone (with the help of assistant Miss Fleming) who was was from the Irish Glasnevin and Leinster Dairy School.

After a slow start (in Farnham of course, where else!) the Dairy van was a remarkable success. The majority of students’ were farmers’ wives and daughters, or labourers’ wives and daughters. Each week-long course in each village culminated in a Butter-churning competition and both the Van and the students’ work was displayed at the agricultural shows across the County. The Surrey County Council agreed to supply extra funding, and in the next year Kent County Council also employed Johnstone.

Johnstone reports to the Surrey County Council at the end of her first run of course in February 1893 that:

‘At nearly every place the hope was expressed that the Van would return in 1893’.

The van did indeed continue to run, and a later report of the Surrey County Council Technical Education Committee that year stated that the van planned to go to the 1893 Epsom Agricultural Show in Autumn.

I presume that it was both the notoriety of the Van across technical education circles at this time, and the agricultural show that prompted the Chairman or Secretary of the Epsom Technical Education Committee to write “Dairy Van” as one of the subjects they wanted to teach at the Epsom Technical Institute on that paper seen from 1895.

All other Archive Treasures can be seen here

Archive of the Month, November 2012

Art Schools in war time, Epsom School of Art, October 1939

November’s Archive of the Month is a war time letter from the Epsom and Ewell School of Art Archive, which highlights the fate of art schools, and courses taught during war time. This can be accessed here http://bit.ly/QuO2Yl

The full catalogue can be accessed here http://bit.ly/RuHbhz

The history of  creative arts education subject guide can be accessed here http://bit.ly/TZZDF5


Using Special Collection Material in Teaching

This post looks at how lecturers have used special collections in lecturing and teaching in UCA

Freda Sack has donated her and David Quay’s concept graphic design NatWest drawings to the Farnham Campus, which demonstrate ideas in progress and contribute to typography research.

Graphic Design at Epsom have used these drawings to promote discussion of typography, and to inspire students during their lectures

Student using Freda Sach’s concept NatWest drawings

See this link for further information


See this link for further design sources http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/article/37673/Art-and-Design-Sources

Our student art sketchbooks at Rochester from the 1950s, and our fashion sketchbook post 1966. have also been used in MA inductions – these can provide inspiration for future work, and are of interest as they show the trends of the day, and what was popular, and what was regarded as ‘good work’ at that time

See this link for further fashion sources http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/article/37670/Fashion-Sources

Guildford School of Art and Epsom and Ewell Technical Institute Catalogues Online

The Guildford School of Art Archive and the Epsom and Ewell Technical Institute and School of Art Archive have been catalogued and available on http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/article/38026/Guildford-School-of-Art and http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/article/38025/Epsom-Technical-Institute-and-School-of-Art

The Guildford School of Art catalogue contains material regarding the student protest over the quality of art teaching, prospectuses relating to book binding, printing and photography, and press cuttings

Further uses can be seen in the Subject Guide Student Activity and Protest on http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/article/37662/Student-Activity-and-Protests

Guildford School of Art Printing Prospectus 1957-8

The Epsom and Ewell Technical Institute and School of Art catalogue  contains foundation correspondence, finance, and building plans for the formation of the institute, Governors’ Minutes, and academic minutes, visitors’ books, and prospectuses.

Uses can be seen in the subject guides including History of the University http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/article/37664/History-of-the-University-for-the-Creative-Arts, Women in Education (prospectuses) http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/article/37661/Women-in-Education and War Time Education http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/article/37659/War-Time-Education , among others

Contact Rebekah Taylor on rtaylor8@ucreative.ac.uk for further information

Monthly update on project progression


The Guildford School of Art Archive and the Epsom and Ewell Technical Institute and School of Art Archive have been catalogued and available on http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/article/38026/Guildford-School-of-Art and http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/article/38025/Epsom-Technical-Institute-and-School-of-Art


Preservation material including acid free folders, polyester sleeves, and acid free storage have been purchased


A Creative Commons licence has been signed for the potential digitisation of the student fashion workbook

New deposits

We are expecting a deposit related to Graphic Design, and a deposit related to the Kent School of Printing

Archival Guidelines

Guidelines for the appraisal/definition of special collections is currently being drawn up


Canterbury College will have a permanent exhibition of artists’ books in the Beaney Museum for the opening on the 5th September.

Meetings with various heritage institutes such as Epsom Library, Kent University Archives, and Canterbury Cathedral Archives are ongoing. Meetings with marketing in the university are ongoing.

Archives and Special collections website:

The Archives and Special Collections website is available on http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/archives

A design for an invitation to a degree show