Morley College is an adult education college with national prominence and reputation – it has a scale, breadth and diversity of curriculum provision that is designed to meet the learning needs of communities of location and practice, drawing students from all 33 London boroughs, and providing exceptional extension and enrichment opportunities for students and the local community through a programme of exhibitions, performances and events.
The history of the college is intertwined with that of South Bank and Waterloo. In the late 1800’s, visionary and social reformer Emma Cons, in an attempt to improve the cultural environment in the Waterloo area, started to host “Penny Lectures” as part of the ‘morally-decent’ entertainment at The Old Vic (formerly Royal Coburg), which were all about equality, social reform, diversity and pioneering adult education for all.
The lectures became so popular that they soon developed into evening classes, and later contributed to the establishment of the ‘Morley Memorial College for Working Men and Women’ in 1889. By the 1920’s the College had outgrown the accommodation made available to it at the Old Vic and moved to its current location on Westminster Bridge Road. Following bomb damage during WWII, the College was rebuilt and officially opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1958. Since then it has expanded, to include the Morley Gallery and art studios; a large extension to the main building; and the development of a new sculpture studio. Morley’s newest building, the Nancy Seear Building, was opened in 1983 next to the art block.
Morley has a curriculum and expertise in arts, culture and applied sciences, and makes an important contribution to the technical and professional education and training provision for the creative industries across London. Its collaborative and partnership work is extensive and diverse, encompassing projects with – amongst others – Southbank Centre, Centre for Young Musicians, London Schools Symphony Orchestra, Barbican Library, Garden Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, and Transport for London.
Over the years Morley has attracted staff with outstanding reputations. Renowned composer Gustav Holst was Director of Music at Morley from 1907 until 1924, a post that was later filled by Sir Michael Tippett in 1940. Other high profile figures associated with the College have included musicians such as Ralph Vaughan Williams and Alfred Deller, writers such as Virginia Woolf and Margaret Drabble and artists like David Hockney and John Piper.