Tag Archives: University of Bradford

100. Brains for Industry: Dr Richardson’s Campaign for Technological Universities

In 1943, Dr Harry Richardson, Principal of the Bradford Technical College, sensed an opportunity.  Since his appointment as Principal in 1920, Dr Richardson had persisted with the ongoing quest for university status for the College (see Object 49).  However, by 1930, complete discouragement meant he had put the matter aside to await fresh developments.

Dr Harry Richardson with students at Bradford Technical College, from Frank Hill's Lecture on “Careers in the Wool Industry” 1955 (Univ/HIL)

Dr Harry Richardson with students at Bradford Technical College, from Frank Hill’s Lecture on “Careers in the Wool Industry” 1955 (Univ/HIL)

In 1943, the British government was thinking about plans for improving society once the Second World War was over.  Education was key.  The progress of the War had highlighted the need for “brains for industry”: a skilled and well educated workforce who could create and manage new technologies.  This could not be supplied by the existing ramshackle educational system, which was radically overhauled in the resulting legislation, the Education Act of 1944.

Technical education was of particular concern.  Colleges (like Bradford’s) had grown up to train workers in local industries but there was no central planning to enable the country to develop university level technological “brains”.  In April 1944, the Education Minister (R.A. Butler) appointed a Special Committee, chaired by Lord Eustace Percy, “to consider the needs of higher technological education in England and Wales”.

Bradford Technical College Engineer Cadet Course, 10 months, RAF, first group, c1942 (BTC 8/3)

Bradford Technical College Engineer Cadet Course, 10 months, RAF, first group, c1942 (BTC 8/3)  This illustrates how the College was supporting the war effort by providing training.

Harry Richardson was not just concerned with enhancing Bradford’s status.  He understood the growing gap between the needs of industry and what technical colleges could offer while in local authority control.  He argued the best way to improve technical education was for some such colleges to become university colleges, allowing them to specialise, develop their own curricula and form better links with industry.

Cover of correspondence file of Dr Richardson, Bradford Technical College (BTC 1/107).

Cover of correspondence file of Dr Richardson, Bradford Technical College (BTC 1/107).

Special Collections holds Dr Richardson’s files of correspondence and press cuttings documenting his campaigning activity from 1943: writing memoranda and letters to newspapers and contacting key people (the Privy Council, the Ministry, the University Grants Committee, Percy Committee members, such as Dr Lowery of the South-West Essex Technical College).  Crucially, he also nurtured support for his ideas among Bradford businessmen, councillors and the local newspapers.

Letter from Hopkinson of the Bradford Dyers' Association, 1 October 1943, praising Richardson's recent letter to The Times newspaper and agreeing with the need for the country to invest in technological education (BTC 1/107)

Letter from Hopkinson of the Bradford Dyers’ Association, 1 October 1943, praising Richardson’s recent letter to The Times newspaper and agreeing with the need for the country to invest in technological education (BTC 1/107)

The Percy Committee published its report, addressed to the new Minister of Education (Ellen Wilkinson), in 1945.  Among its recommendations, the report called for the setting up of a limited number of technical colleges “in which there should be developed technological courses of a standard comparable with that of University degree courses”.

Ten years later, this proposal became reality: in 1956 following the publication of the White Paper on technical education, a small number of technical colleges which would “concentrate entirely on advanced studies” were designated.  Bradford was one of these eight Colleges of Advanced Technology (CATs).

Percy had argued that advanced colleges would be more adaptable to industry needs if they were not set up as universities.  In practice this caused problems for the CATs: they were universities in all other ways but lacked the power, autonomy and funding that the new “plateglass” universities had from the outset.  The Robbins Committee addressed this concern, reporting in 1963 that the CATs should become “technological universities”; Bradford received its Charter in 1966.

Retirement presentation to Principal Richardson, 1957, of a solid silver reproduction George I coffee service and salver.  Principal Richardson is the central figure (BTC 8/3)

Retirement presentation to Principal Richardson, 1957, of a solid silver reproduction George I coffee service and salver. Richardson is the central figure (BTC 8/3),

Richardson retired shortly after the CATs were announced and died four months before the University came into being.  He had played a vital role in these developments.  He and his colleagues had maintained the high academic standards that were needed for the institution to be recognised as a CAT and his indefatigable lobbying maintained local support and ensured the city’s claim to a University could not be forgotten by those in power.

Sources: “Brains for industry” is a quotation from a Times Higher Education leading article of 10 November 1945 which endorsed Richardson’s call for technical colleges to become university colleges.  McKinlay covers in detail the long and complicated story of Richardson’s campaigns and the development of technological universities.

News Update: two new exhibitions

We’ll be back with the final three Objects soon!  We put them on hold to get our archives accreditation sorted out – and not to mention working on two exhibitions which readers of this blog may enjoy …

Pots Before Words.  Kate Morrell created artworks inspired by Jacquetta Hawkes.  Gallery II, University of Bradford, until 22 May 2014.


Artwork by Kate Morrell, part of Pots Before Words at Gallery II. Credit: Kate Morrell.

J.B. Priestley soldier writer painter – a rare chance to see the fragile surviving objects from Priestley’s time in the First World War trenches.  Bradford Industrial Museum until 19 August 2014.

We’ve also been busy with the Peace Studies 40th anniversary conference. We’re contributing two elements to this international conference: a display (A Concern for Peace) telling the story of the department and a paper about our wonderful collections of peace-related archives.  1-3 May 2014.  If you aren’t going to the conference, you can find similar information by exploring our Objects!


93. Your Starter for Ten: Bradford’s University Challenge

On 28 January 1979 a team of students from Bradford University triumphed against Lancaster University in the final of University Challenge, 215 points to 160.

Bradford University's University Challenge winning team and the reserve

Bradford University’s University Challenge winning team: Watt, Lee (reserve), Bradford, Simkin and Cooter

University Challenge is a notoriously difficult and fast-moving television quiz.  Produced by Granada Television, the original programme was presented by Bamber Gascoigne and ran from 1962 to 1987.   It was revived by the BBC in 1994 with presenter Jeremy Paxman (an honorary graduate of Bradford University) and is still running today.  Contestants are usually university students although there have been series which used different formats.

The Bradford University team of 1979 boasted three postgraduate computer science students (John Watt, Mike Bradford, John Simkin).   The other team members were Maxwell Cooter, an Interdisciplinary Human Studies student, and a reserve, Martin Lee, a postgraduate in Social Sciences.

The dominance of computer scientists apparently “amused and bemused” Bradford’s opponents, though in fact the three were studying conversion courses.  Along with their colleagues, they had excellent general knowledge spanning key subjects such as classical music, literature, sport and art.

The team actually criticised the University Challenge format, which they felt “tested school rather than at university learning” and called for “fast recall of fairly shallow or even trivial knowledge, rather than the analysis or coherent pattern which University education should develop.”   They emphasised that it was no measure of intellectual ability, and might even mislead the public about the nature of students and university life.

Bradford University's University Challenge winning team reunited for a special series in 2002: Lee, Bradford, Simkin and Cooter

Bradford University’s University Challenge winning team reunited for a special series in 2002: Lee, Bradford, Simkin and Cooter

The University of Bradford’s Corp Comms managed to track down three members of the team for a 2002 series celebrating forty years of the programme: University Challenge Reunited.  Bradford, Simkin and Cooter were joined by the reserve, Martin Lee.    The team lost narrowly to their 1979 final opponents, Lancaster, but enjoyed the experience.   John Watt saw the event on television and got in touch later on.

A Bradford University team who took part in the 2003/04 season were less successful, scoring a mere 35 points in their first-round match on 15 December 2003 against Queen’s University Belfast, who scored 280.

Whatever the scores though, the programme has provided plenty of entertainment.  As Bradford’s winning team observed,  “It seems that this sort of quiz would be best approached in a mildly egotistical mood, as a load of laughs, proving nothing in particular!”

Notes and queries.  There is some confusion around the years of wins, partly caused by inconsistencies in listing styles by the programme makers.  Bradford’s win is often attributed to 1980, as can be seen in the 2002 image above.   Mr Cooter’s first name is “Steve” in the News Sheet article, but “Maxwell” elsewhere.

Sources. Quotations from News Sheet March 1979 p.3-4 and 21 and News and Views May 2002 p.7.  (also online, the 2002 press release seeking the 1979 team).  I have also found many other sources useful, including the BBC site and sites by enthusiasts Blanchflower (useful on statistics and the issue of the varying years of wins) and UK gameshows.

86. Scientists in the Quest for Peace: Joseph Rotblat, the Manhattan Project, and the Pugwash Conferences

This week, we explore the work of a remarkable scientist and humanitarian who turned away from work on the atom bomb: Professor Joseph Rotblat (1908-2005).

Cover of The Atom Bomb, Social Science Association, 1945

I chose this little pamphlet to introduce Rotblat’s book collection, because it was published in August 1945 i.e. just after the two atom bombs were dropped. Not written by Rotblat, however it discusses the concerns to which he devoted his post-war career and illustrates the range of the collection: science fiction explorations of nuclear issues, alongside pamphlets like this one , reports and textbooks.

A pioneer of atomic physics at the Free University of Poland, Jo Rotblat came to Liverpool University in 1939, drawn by the opportunity to work with James Chadwick and his new cyclotron.  Rotblat caught what was to be the last train out of Poland; his wife, Tola, sick with appendicitis, was due to follow, but was unable to leave in time – she later died in a concentration camp.  Chadwick took Rotblat to Los Alamos in 1944 as part of the team working on the Manhattan Project: developing a workable atomic weapon.

Cover of War and Peace, The Life and Work of Sir Joseph Rotblat

Cover of War and Peace, The Life and Work of Sir Joseph Rotblat. This delightfully personal and informative book from Liverpool University looks at themes in his life and includes memories of those who knew him and lots of interesting images.

However, Joseph Rotblat took the difficult decision to leave the Project later that year.  He had agreed to work on the weapon because of the fear that Nazi Germany would develop theirs first, but he realised that the Allies’ resources put them far ahead in this race.  He was also shocked by the project’s looking towards future conflict with (and use of weapons on) the USSR.

Thereafter Jo Rotblat directed his research towards the beneficial uses of nuclear physics, especially in medicine.  He settled with his remaining family permanently in Britain, returning at first to Liverpool, then becoming Professor of Medical Physics at St Bartholomew’s in 1949 where he worked until his  retirement in 1976.

Above all he encouraged his fellow scientists to consider the social impact of their research and to seek to remove nuclear weapons from this earth.   In 1955 he was one of the distinguished scientists who signed what became known as the Russell-Einstein Manifesto: drawn up by peace campaigner Bertrand Russell and signed by Einstein just before his death, the Manifesto outlined the need for peaceful ways to resolve conflict rather than war given the arrival of weapons which could obliterate humanity and that “we feel that scientists should assemble in conference to appraise the perils that have arisen as a result of the development of weapons of mass destruction”.

Cover of Scientists in the Quest for Peace, Joseph Rotblat's history of the Pugwash conferences

Scientists in the Quest for Peace, Joseph Rotblat’s history of the Pugwash conferences, is an essential read if you’re interested in him or the conferences. It also includes many useful appendices.

The first Conference of Science and World Affairs took place in 1957, at a Canadian village called Pugwash, which gave its name to later meetings.  Rotblat played a key role in setting it up, held many offices within Pugwash, and has often been described as its moving spirit.  His and their work was recognised by the award of the the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995, “for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics”.

Jo Rotblat’s work has a particular resonance at the University of Bradford.  He shared the concern of our first Vice-Chancellor, Ted Edwards, around the social responsibility of scientists and science and was instrumental in the creation of the first Chair of Peace Studies.  These links were recognised by the award of Honorary Doctor of Science in 1973.

Special Collections holds Rotblat’s book collection: works by and about him, works presented by their authors (often with interesting dedications which show the esteem in which he was held) and a huge range of popular and academic works on nuclear issues and the social responsibility of scientists.  He appears throughout our archives of peace and nuclear campaigns, from his involvement in the early days of CND during the 1950s to his support for the 1990s Campaign to free nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu.

Note on sources. In addition to the above titles, Ending War which includes Rotblat’s essay on leaving the Manhattan Project.  Rotblat’s Papers are at Churchill College Archives.  Other useful websites include Pugwash Conferences and the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize page.

STOP PRESS. 76. Into the Seventies: Prog, Punk and More

By popular request, we’ve taken the List of bands at the University of Bradford Students Union up to 1979 (see Object 76 for the 1960s stories).   I’ll write about this in more detail soon and expect updates on the 1980s and beyond later this summer.  Memories, tickets, posters, and corrections all welcome.

84. In Memory of the 56: The Papers of the Popplewell Inquiry into the Bradford City Fire

On 11 May 1985, 56 people who went to watch a football match between Bradford City and Lincoln City at Bradford’s Valley Parade ground were killed by a terrible fire.  Many others suffered horrific burns.   A Committee of Inquiry, chaired by Sir Oliver Popplewell, was set up under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 to investigate the causes of the fire.  Its Interim Report, published in July 1985, concluded that the fire had been caused by a lighted cigarette or match igniting piles of litter under the stand.

Bradford City Fire Disaster Memorial, from Tim Green aka atoach's flickr stream (licence CC BY 2.0)

Bradford City Fire Disaster Memorial, from Tim Green aka atoach’s flickr stream (licence CC BY 2.0)

The account of the start and spread of the fire is shocking: litter had been allowed to pile up for years (a similar pile under Block C contained a 1968 newspaper and a pre-decimal packet of peanuts).   The stand was made of wood and roofed with asphalt, which fed the flames and, melting, caused more injuries.  The fire took hold “quicker than a man could run”: within minutes, the whole stand was ablaze, fanned by fierce winds.  Matters were made worse by inadequate exits and fire extinguishers, and many other practical and managerial problems, concisely outlined by Sir Oliver in his report.  He also covered the fatal riot at Birmingham City’s football ground, which took place the same day as the Bradford fire.

The Committee gathered further evidence, including material relating to the Heysel Stadium disaster of 29 May, and published its Final Report the following year.  Both reports contain important and detailed recommendations on the construction and management of sports grounds.  Sir Oliver donated the evidence gathered by the Inquiry to the University of Bradford in 1999.  The papers  include more information about the three disasters, insights into the work of the Inquiry and the football and sporting cultures of the time.

'Big flag' commemorating the 56 who died in the Bradford City fire 11 May 1985.  Bradford City v Swansea City, Wembley 1985.  From stephoto27's flickr stream (licence CC BY-ND 2.0).

‘Big flag’ commemorating the 56 who died in the Bradford City fire 11 May 1985. Bradford City v Swansea City, Wembley 1985. From stephoto27’s flickr stream (licence CC BY-ND 2.0).

The 56 have been remembered and worldwide audiences reminded of the story in Bradford’s fairytale Capital One cup run this year: the League Two team defeated Premiership sides including the European champions to reach the Wembley final (and at time of writing, the club is in the play-off final for promotion, which would be a wonderful end to the season).

Further reading: I recommend Paul Firth’s compelling book about the Bradford fire: Four Minutes to Hell.  As far as I know, this is the only published book about the disaster.  An excellent blog, The Bradford City Fire, brings together information about the fire from many sources, including memories of those who experienced the fire.  It also hosts digitised versions of the two Popplewell reports.

PS The University is also home to the Bradford Burns Unit (now part of the Centre for Skin Sciences), set up by Professor David Sharpe after the disaster to find new ways to help those who had been injured.

83. By Gum! Life were Sparse: Bill Mitchell’s Yorkshire Dales Scrapbooks

This week, we’re back in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, looking at the scrapbooks created by local author Dr W.R. (Bill) Mitchell.   Bill has put these volumes together over many years, using his own photographs plus ephemera and letters, to create unique and very personal records of Dales lives and landscapes.  Here we see a page featuring a campaign to protect a Dales feature very important to Bill: the Settle-Carlisle Railway.

Settle-Carlisle Railway ephemera in Bill Mitchell scrapbook

William Reginald Mitchell was born in 1928 in Skipton, “gateway to the Dales”, to a family who worked in the textile industries and were strongly influenced by Methodism.   He began his writing career as a “cub reporter” on the Craven Herald in 1943.  After service in the Fleet Air Arm, he returned to the Herald in 1948; he was then asked by Harry J. Scott, editor of The Dalesman, to join the magazine’s staff.  Bill later became its editor.  He also edited a sister magazine, Cumbria, after The Dalesman took it on in 1951.  Bill retired from The Dalesman in 1988.

The Yorkshire Dales, from the first issue of the Dalesman magazine

The Yorkshire Dales, from the first issue of the Dalesman magazine

Alongside writing for and editing the two regional magazines, Bill has written over 200 books and numerous articles, not to mention giving thousands of talks to local groups, radio and television.  He often refers to the advice given him by Harry Scott when he first joined The Dalesman: “We are more interested in people than things”.  Bill took this advice to heart: his works are full of the stories and voices of Dalesfolk, their tough working lives and their distinctive humour.

The titles of Bill’s books range from ABC of Lakeland to You’re Only Old Once!  Not to mention Summat and Nowt, and By Gum!  Life were Sparse!  They include folk tales, popular histories and biographies of famous people and local characters: J.B. Priestley, Alfred Wainwright, the Keartons, the Brontës,  Arthur Ransome, Beatrix Potter, Dales farmer Hannah Hauxwell, cheesemaker Kit Calvert, TV vet James Herriot, naturalist Reginald Farrer and many more.

Cover of Men of the Settle-Carlisle, by WR Mitchell

Bill has written thirty books about the Settle-Carlisle Railway, exploring the legendary Ribblehead Viaduct, the building of the Railway, the lives of its workers and their families, and the stories of individual stations: Dent, Hellifield and Garsdale.

Cover of Birds of the Yorkshire Dales, by WR Mitchell

  Bill Mitchell is also a naturalist, hence many works about flora and fauna, especially bird-watching and the Sika deer of Bowland.  Alongside the stories of Yorkshire and the Lakes, there are also glimpses of the natural history of Scotland.

Cover of Mr Elgar and Dr Buck, by WR MitchellMusic is also important to Bill: his research into the friendship of Elgar with Dr Buck of Settle led to the discovery of correspondence and new manuscript music written by the composer.

W.R. 'Bill' MitchellThese wide interests are reflected in Bill’s scrapbooks and in his Archive at the University of Bradford. Our Bill Mitchell Archive came to the University of Bradford after Dr Mitchell was awarded an honorary degree in 1996.  The Archive includes the scrapbooks, letters relating to Bill’s work at The Dalesman, ephemera relating to the Keartons, and audiocassettes of interviews with Dalespeople.

These interviews on these audiocassettes are at the heart of an exciting project led by Settle Stories.  The project aims to make the interviews much more widely accessible, offering new knowledge about Dales lives and work and opportunities for learning and enjoyment for local people.  Find out more about Bill Mitchell and the project here.