The Bromsgrove Literary and Mechanics Institute, which amalgamated with the Working Men’s Club in 1870, was part of a great and valuable movement that swept through Britain in the nineteenth century.
At a time when formal school education was minimal for the children of most people, and when children’s earnings were an important factor in the family budget, there were some who thirsted for more education in adulthood, seeing it as a way to a better life.
This was not easy. Some people regarded education for the working classes to be threatening for political reasons. Time in a working man’s life was in short supply. Despite this there were some who spent their working days in terrible conditions yet even so taught themselves Greek at night in order to read Homer, or who propped Carlyle up against there machines to read while they worked.
The Bromsgrove Institute Trust thus not just owes its existence to funds released from the sale of the original Institute’s premises but carries on its spirit and principles “for the education and development of the people of Bromsgrove”
The Bromsgrove Scientific & Literacy Institute
The Institute and the School of Science and Art in New Road were built in 1894 and 1895 respectively. Both buildings were planned by John Cotton, the Bromsgrove architect who was himself a great believe in self-education. He recalled how, as a young man, he read Ruskin while walking in the country lanes during his time as an apprentice vet.
Knowledge is Power was the motif inscribed on the fireplace in the Reading Room, which was carved with heads of Shelley, Dickens, Darwin and the philosopher Herbert Spence.
At the rear of the new building was an Assembly Room, where gatherings of all kinds were held, from choral concerts to lectures on travel, architecture and politics.
Many Local organisations used the building; there was a flourishing debating society and a drama group, and there was continual contact with the students and staff using the laboratories and art rooms of the college next door.
The great and the good of Bromsgrove supported our Institute, which started its life in the centre of Bromsgrove High Street. In this building were held classes and recreational activities. A library and reading room were built; newspapers and journals were donated; concerts, lectures and travelling entertainments were held there; the School of art used part of the building, and links with the college continued when the Institute moved to its purpose built premises on New Road in 1894.
School of Art
Trustees of the Institute at the end of the century included Thomas Horton and James Yates Holt (both solicitors), John B. Wilson (grocer) and R. H. Milward (of Redditch needle manufacturing fame), and the President was the Right Honourable Lord Winsor of Hewell Grange.
By 1930 the Institute’s worthy activities were less important, for public schooling and further education were available for all. The Trustees regretfully passed the building and land to the County Council, who were to us the building for a Public Library. This ran successfully for many years, alongside the School of Art which continued to be used for further education of a practical nature.
When the new Public Library was built at the end of the 1960’s the Institute was used for a while by various organisations, but less and less as time went on, until the mid-eighties when it was closed and stood empty before being vandalised.