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Discover the College's exciting history by exploring the timeline below.



1924

Technical education demand is high

Due to the great demand for technical education in the region, the District Sub-committees recommend the establishment of larger colleges in Essex.

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1929

Two colleges proposed

A new Sub-committee was formed. It proposed the building of two new colleges. One at Gainsborough Road, Leyton and one at Longbridge Road, Dagenham.

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1932

Leyton site abandoned

The proposal for a college on Leyton Road was abandoned and instead, a site was purchased from Walthamstow Borough Council.

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1935

Building plans approved

The plans for South-West Essex Technical College were approved by Essex County Council at an estimated cost of £148,150. The tender of £169,007 by F.R. Hipperson and Sons was accepted. The total cost of the College, including furnishing, came to £240,000. Adjusted for inflation that would be roughly £16.2 million in 2019.

Dr H. Lowery appointed principal
1937

Dr H. Lowery appointed principal

Dr H. Lowery, M.Ed., D.Sc., Ph.D., F.Inst.P. is appointed Principal.
The Master-in-Charge of the Day School for Boys was Dr W. P. Baron.
The Head of the Girls Day School was Miss G. M. Capes.

Foundation stone laid
Thursday 8th July, 1937

Foundation stone laid

The foundation stone located at the front of the main College steps was laid by Country Councillor, Joseph Hewett, ESQ., J.P., C.C., Chairman of the School Buildings and Supply Committee.

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Monday 19th September 1938

Enrolment begins

The College had its first week-long enrolment, with a very healthy 5,802 students enrolled.

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Monday 26th September 1938

College opening postponed

Due to the threat of war, the College opening was postponed for one week.

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College opens to classes
Monday 3rd October 1938

College opens to classes

One week later than planned, the College opens to classes for the first time.

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1938

Students' Union formed

The College’s first Student Union was formed.

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CAOS formed
1938

CAOS formed

The College Amateur Operatic Society (CAOS) is formed as an evening class at the College. The first performance of ‘Patience’ was performed on Thursday 20th April 1939 with a cast of 32 women and 16 men.

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Red Cross classes
1938

Red Cross classes

Soon after the College opened British Red Cross classes were started. This later formed into full detachments that performed invaluable work during World War 2. 

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Official opening
Tuesday 28th February 1939

Official opening

The College was officially opened by, Rt. Hon. The Earl de la Warr, P.C., J.P.

Others who attended the opening were, Principal, Dr. H. Lowery, M.Ed., Ph.D., D.Sc., F.Inst.P., Chairman of Governors, P. Astins, C.A., J.P. and Rt. Rev. The Bishop of Colchester.

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First Open Day
Saturday 4th March 1939

First Open Day

The College held its first and most successful Open Day with 25,000 visitors.

There were special displays in the Art, Music and Domestic Science departments, workshops and laboratories.

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First trip abroad
Easter 1939

First trip abroad

During Easter of 1939, Dr D.C. Collins, invited by the Dutch Education Department, led a group of 60 boys and girls on a trip to the Netherlands.

In May, a second contingent led by Mr L.E. Samuel, BA., BSc. went to Belgium and visited Brussels, Liege and the Ardennes.

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Saturday 26th August 1939

Evacuation instructions

On 26th August 1939, staff were recalled from holiday to help with evacuation plans and to send letters of instruction to parents. 

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Thursday 31st August 1939

Evacuation order given

The order for evacuation was given and the next morning a procession of Day School students from the College were evacuated to Kettering.

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War declared
Sunday 3rd September 1939

War declared

The United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany in response to the German invasion of Poland.

The College had been officially open for less than a year.

A short while after the declaration, a decision was made to shut the College and so it was for 2 weeks. However, it was re-opened for 200 full-time senior and 113 part-time students on 7th October.

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Thursday 11th January 1940

First armed forces personnel arrive

The first contingent of servicemen arrived at the College on 11th January from the Army.

It is worth noting that during the war years the College maintained education and training for both the military and civilians, ofttimes pushing the College’s space to breaking point.

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Royal Air Force arrive
1940

Royal Air Force arrive

Towards the end of 1940 the RAF joined the Army at the College for training in radio mechanics.

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1941

WAAF arrive

From 1941 to the end of the war, members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) were trained at the College.

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Exhibition of War Work
24th October 1941

Exhibition of War Work

The College held an Exhibition of War Work by the four technical colleges in Essex.

First College Journal
December 1941

First College Journal

Issue 1 of the College Journal is released. The Journal included research and papers by staff and students and would reach a worldwide audience.

ATS training
1942

ATS training

Although the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) had been training at the College already, 1942 was the first year they entered the Engineering Department to train as Welders and Instrument Mechanics.

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Royal Navy and WRNS arrive
April 1942

Royal Navy and WRNS arrive

April saw the arrival of the Royal Navy and the designation of the College as HMS Shrapnel.

It is to be noted that the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) were the only women’s service to be trained alongside their male counterparts with complete equality, attending the same courses and completing the same exams.

By the end of the war, over 2,500 Royal Navy and WRNS personnel had passed through the College.

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July 1942

Engineering degrees

After applying to the University of London for the College to be recognised for engineering degrees in 1941, the university gives the College emergency war-time recognition to last 5 years, after which a review will be made.

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1943

Plastics Committee

A Plastics Advisory Committee was established consisting of representatives of College Governors and people of industry.

The Committee was established in “anticipation of big developments in the Plastic Industry after the war” - Dr H. Lowery, Principal.

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15th & 16th April 1944

Youth Rally

The College hosted a Youth Rally featuring exhibitions and work from youth across the region.

College's Grosvenor House burns down
27th January 1945

College's Grosvenor House burns down

Grosvenor House on Hoe Street, the Commercial Branch of the College, was accidentally burnt down.

November 1945

Emergency Teachers' Training College

After the war, an emergency Teachers’ Training College was formed, called the Forest Training College.

This was a Government scheme to provide entry into the teaching profession for mature students to remedy the anticipated shortage of teachers.

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September 1946

Hostel for students established

A property at 17 Prospect Hill was obtained and used as a hostel for senior students. The hostel initially held 12 students, but "it would be quite easy to fill a hostel accommodating 100 students." - Dr H. Lowery, Principal.

May 1947

Royal Navy leaves the College

Five years after their arrival, the Royal Navy ceased training at the College.

June 1950

Forest Training School closed

After 5 years of training teachers, the Forest Training College closed.

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January 1954

Festival of Arts and Culture

The College hosted a Festival of Art and Culture organised by the National Union of Students.

Students came to the College "to see the best of student art and to share in cultural interests, to discuss the problems of the student community and to strengthen the bond of friendship between students of every country of the world".

There was a concert, a fashion parade, and the BBC came to film the first National Debating Tournament.

County Reception
16th October 1954

County Reception

A County Reception was held, with exhibitions and demonstrations in each department. The Librarian put on a special exhibition on William Morris, and there was dancing in the main hall. The day also served as an Open Event for the College.

Henry Davis Exhibition
16th October 1954

Henry Davis Exhibition

An exhibition on The Henry Davis Collection is displayed at the College. An accompanying pamphlet was produced with a selection of works chosen by Henry Davis.

The Henry Davis Collection comprises almost 900 original bookbindings from around the world created from the 12th to the 20th Century. In 1968 this was donated to the British Library and is now known as the Henry Davis Gift.

1957

Principal petitions for student hostel

Dr Lowery wrote in the Walthamstow Guardian of the need for a student hostel since many students were coming to the College from overseas. The YMCA consequently built a hostel opposite, of which part was to be made available for college students.

New building opens
1959

New building opens

A new building (to be named Lowery Building in the future) was constructed and opened at a cost of £100,000.

New Coat of Arms
1960

New Coat of Arms

In 1960 the College Board applied for and received a new Coat of Arms to celebrate the 21st Anniversary of the College. The Coat of Arms cost £200.

21st Anniversary Celebrations
27th February 1960

21st Anniversary Celebrations

A reception was held at the College to celebrate the 21st Anniversary of the Official Opening of the College.

1963

Dr H. Lowery retires

Dr H. Lowery retires as Principal.

1963

Robbins Report on higher education

The Robbins Report was published and led to the “Plan for Polytechnics and other Colleges” White Paper being formed with the intention of creating institutions to satisfy the higher education needs of the community.

Waltham Forest College is established
1966

Waltham Forest College is established

Waltham Forest Borough is formed in 1965 which leads to the College changing its name in 1966 from South-West Essex Technical College and School of Art to Waltham Forest Technical College and School of Art.

Wednesday 29th November 1967

Memorial for Dr H. Lowery

Dr H. Lowery, first Principal of South-West Essex Technical College, passed away in 1967. A memorial was held at The Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Holborn Viaduct on Wednesday 29th November 1967.

Victoria Line opens
1968

Victoria Line opens

After 6 years of construction, the London Underground Victoria Line opened to the public making the College more accessible to a larger portion of London.

September 1970

NELP takes over HE provision

As a direct result of the Robbins Report from 1963, the North-East London Polytechnic was designated, taking over all the higher education work of the College. The decision to remove the higher-level work was unpopular as the College had offered general degrees in physics and chemistry, and external degrees of the University of London, with excellent results.

1972

New building proposal rejected

In early 1972, proposals were put forward to the Department of Education and Science for a new building to provide single site accommodation for the College. This would have provided a new building on the site behind the present building, at a cost of half a million pounds. This, however, was rejected by the Department of Education and Science.

As a result, the North-East London Polytechnic was scheduled to withdraw from the College, thus providing more space.

Mallinson Room opened
21st October 1977

Mallinson Room opened

The Mallinson Room (later Mallinson Restaurant) training restaurant opens and is attended by Sir Stuart Mallinson. The opening menu was Filet de Limande Lydia, Roast lamb and Marignans aux rhum.

1970's

First Access courses begin

The College started to run one of the first Access courses in conjunction with Middlesex Polytechnic during the 1970’s.

This provision expanded through the 70’s and 80’s with the College offering courses in nursing, computing science, health science, construction, business studies, law and social science.

1981/2

NELP pulls out of college

Ten years after the proposed withdrawal, the North-East London Polytechnic pulls out of the College.

1983

Youth Training Scheme

In 1983 the College ran the first Youth Training Scheme in North-East London – the first in a further education college.

Pilot programmes had been run with industrial sponsors and, in close co-operation with Waltham Forest Chamber of Commerce, the College offered a large range of courses to meet the needs of industry and the unemployed.

1986

The Open College

The College began local development of the Manpower Services Commission’s training initiative, “The Open College”.

Originally conceived as “The Open College of the Air” it was intended as a chance for adults to study or retrain from home or in the workplace.

The College’s bid was accepted in 1987. By July, an Open Learning Coordinator was appointed, and the first Open College student was enrolled in September 1987.

4th-6th October 1988

50th Anniversary Celebrations

The College celebrated its 50th anniversary with an exhibition in the main hall and a reception attended by past staff and students. The College Amateur Operatic Society and the Forest Philharmonic Orchestra (also celebrating 50th anniversaries) presented a performance.

1995

CAOS moves out of the College

The College Amateur Operatic Society moved from the College to Kenneth More Theatre (KMT) in Ilford.

Reasons for the move consist of a combination of lack of backstage space, meaning the actors had to dress on the stairs, combined with new fire regulations and the evening class no longer considered vocational and no longer eligible for funding.

Despite this, the Society continued to make use of the College facilities for rehearsals.

The Queen visits Waltham Forest
9th May 2002

The Queen visits Waltham Forest

Her Majesty The Queen visited Waltham Forest as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations. The 50 years of Fashion show featured designs made by the College’s Fashion students from 1992-2002.

College merger discussions
2016

College merger discussions

Discussions were held between CONEL, Barnet and Southgate College and Waltham Forest College about a proposed merger. CONEL pulled out towards the end of 2016 before the whole merger was scrapped in 2017. A Joint statement at the time said, “Following lengthy and detailed discussions Barnet and Southgate College and Waltham Forest College have decided to continue their collaboration as partners and not to continue to a full merger at this stage.”

STEM Centre officially opens
December 2017

STEM Centre officially opens

The College's STEM Centre was officially opened by Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor of London. The unofficial opening in September brought all College provision onto one campus for the first time since the College's opening week.

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Ofsted Grade 2
2018

Ofsted Grade 2

For the first time in its history the College was awarded Grade 2 ‘Good’ status by Ofsted.

Success continued when the College was voted London’s number one college for learner satisfaction, placing it in the top 3% of colleges in the country, in the NICDEX league table.

In 2019, the College retained the title, number one in London, but climbed to be in the top 1.3% of colleges in the country.

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80th Anniversary Celebration
2018

80th Anniversary Celebration

At the end of the academic year, staff held a small celebration BBQ in the East Quad to mark the 80th anniversary of the College.

March 2020

Covid pandemic leads to lockdown

In March 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the College was shut down with lessons continued from home via digital platforms.

The College re-opened at the start of the new academic year in September with social distancing measures allowing for a mixture of online and on campus learning.

College steps painted
September 2020

College steps painted

The College steps were painted as part of the William Morris Design Line. The design, created by artist, Fandangoe Kid, in collaboration with students from the College, explores themes of unity, change and design as a form of activism.

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