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South-Western Polytechnic Insititute, 1895-1922

Housekeepers' course at South-Western Polytechnic, c1900 (Ref: C/PH4/10)Housekeepers' course at South-Western Polytechnic, c1900 (Ref: C/PH4/10)Founded in 1895, one of the principal aims of South-Western Polytechnic Institute was the provision of education for the poorer inhabitants of London. An emphasis on instruction in handicraft, trade and business, together with access to recreational facilities, sought to improve the career prospects and physical, social and moral conditions of the working classes.

This initiative initially took the form of day and evening classes for men and women over fifteen years of age, with the Institute offering well-equipped laboratories for the study of subjects such as mechanical and electrical engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry and metallurgy, in the hope of attracting male students keen to learn a trade and enter industry. Practical training was additionally available in carpentry, brickwork and advanced cookery; whilst classes in economics and commerce offered training in shorthand and typewriting for lady secretaries together with examinations for appointments in the civil service and the post office. Students were also afforded the opportunity to attend lectures in literary arts and to receive instruction in languages.

Secondary Day School for Boys at South-Western Polytechnic, c1905 (Ref: C/PH7/3)Secondary Day School for Boys at South-Western Polytechnic, c1905 (Ref: C/PH7/3)As was common in Colleges of this period, South-Western Polytechnic Institute additionally provided a Day School for Boys and Girls between the ages of thirteen and fifteen. The schools provided practical education and training: concentrating on workshops, manufacturing, building trades and commerce for male students; whilst girls received instruction in domestic subjects, such as cookery, laundry and needlework. All students also received physical training in the Institute’s gymnasiums and were encouraged to take part in school clubs, which included football, cricket and swimming for boys; and tennis, hockey and swimming for girls.

The Day Schools were extremely popular and became heavily oversubscribed, leading to their transfer to London County Council, which constructed a new building used to house the girls’ school from 1908. This was the Council’s first girls’ school to be purpose built, and although used as a hospital during the First World War, it was subsequently taken over by the Day School for Boys, which became known as the Sloane Secondary School for Boys in 1919. The girls’ school, renamed the Carlyle School for Girls in 1914, moved into premises next door and the schools maintained a firm link, sharing the same governing body until 1961.

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