University of Essex History

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University of Essex History

University of Essex History

History:

Founding

Albert Sloman Library

In July 1959, Essex County Council accepted a proposal from Alderman Leatherland that a university be established in the county. A University Promotion Committee was formed chaired by Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Sir John Ruggles-Brise, which submitted a formal application to the University Grants Committee requesting that a University of Essex should be established. Initial reports suggested that the Promotion Committee had recommended Hylands Park in Chelmsford as the site for the new University, however in May 1961, the foundation of the university was announced in the House of Commons with Wivenhoe as the preferred location and in December of the same year, Wivenhoe Park was acquired for the new university. In July 1962, Albert Sloman, Gilmour Professor of Spanish and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Liverpool, was appointed as Vice-Chancellor and the Rt. Hon. R. A. Butler, was invited to be Chancellor, with Anthony Rowland-Jones appointed as Registrar.

The first Professors were appointed in May 1963: Alan Gibson in Physics, Peter Townsend in Sociology, Donald Davie in Literature, Richard Lipsey in Economics, Ian Proudman in Mathematics, Jean Blondel in Government, and John Bradley in Chemistry. With its first staff appointed, a development plan for the university was published and a £1million Appeal Fund was launched. Within six months the Appeal Fund had exceeded its £1million target with The Queen Mother and Sir Winston Churchill among contributors, while work began on clearing the site for building work. In Autumn 1963, red was chosen as the University colour and the first prospectus was prepared and work began on the first permanent buildings; the science block and boiler room next to Wivenhoe House. In January 1964, Hardy Amies designed the university’s academic robes and temporary teaching huts had to be erected close to Wivenhoe House, while in March Sir John Ruggles-Brise was appointed the first Pro-Chancellor and Alderman Leatherland the first Treasurer of the University. Two months later the university’s Armorial Bearings were published, with the motto “Thought the harder, heart the keener”.

Square 5 seen from outside the library

Expansion

In October 1964, the first 122 students arrived with 28 teaching staff in three schools: Comparative Studies, Physical Sciences and Social Studies. Departments of Chemistry, Physics, Government, Sociology, Literature, Mathematics and Economics open along with the Language Centre (later the Department of Language and Linguistics) and the Computing Centre (later the Department of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering) with Denis Mesure elected as the first President of the Students’ Council. Work started on the first residential tower, Rayleigh, in December with The Queen approving the grant of Charter to take effect from 11 January 1965.

1965 brought 399 students enrolling for the start of the new academic year; the number of academic staff more than doubled to 61; and the first degrees, five MSc and five MA degrees were awarded. The Physics building opened and the first six floors of Rayleigh tower were ready for occupation, while work began on the Albert Sloman Library. The first female lecturer was appointed: Dorothy E. Smith in the Department of Sociology. In December, University Court met for the first time with around 500 members. Six months later, work started on the Lecture Theatre Building, plus the ‘Topping out’ of Keynes tower.

In October 1966, the Hexagon Restaurant and General Store opened, with the number of students reaching 750. Lord Butler was installed as Chancellor at a ceremony held in Colchester’s Moot Hall in 1967 and the first Honorary Degrees were presented, the University’s Mace was carried for the first time, while the first annual Degree Congregation saw 135 degrees conferred in July. At the start of the next academic year, the departments of Computer Science and Electronic Systems Engineering accepted their first students, the SSRC Data Bank (later renamed the UK Data Archive) was established and the Lecture Theatre Building and Library opened along with the first phase of the Social and Comparative Studies building, while work proceeded on Tawney and William Morris residential towers.

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