Bilston Science and Art School

by Bev Parker

The school was once very important to Bilston, and has had an interesting history. The Technical Instructions Act of 1893 made money available for the education of children in technical skills, science and arts & crafts. Bilston soon decided to obtain some of this money and the project began. The town engineer, Captain Wilson had to turn into an architect to produce the building for the town. He is said to have gone to see a suitable building that had just been completed in Glasgow. 

The building was exactly what Bilston needed, and so as the story goes he "borrowed" the plans and returned to Bilston with them. It is again said that this caused alarm amongst his colleagues when they discovered that the Glasgow building was designed for a site that sloped from back to front. Captain Wilson again rose to this new challenge and had the site suitably contoured before work began. Construction started in 1896 and the school opened its doors in 1897.

The college was very successful, and provided laboratory facilities, workshop facilities, pottery classes and art studios for the students. It also contained an examinations room and a museum. Local industry greatly benefited from the engineers who started their careers here. Many distinguished local personalities were involved in its running, including industrialists, J. W. Sankey and Sir Alfred Hickman. Councillor William Jordan became Chairman of the first Management Committee.
A close up of the fine terracotta tiles on the front of the building.

The fine figure work above the entrance.

The building was extended in 1951 to cater for evening classes, but the demand was too great and so local day schools and church schoolrooms had to be used for the overflow.

The new Westfield College opened in 1966 and the old Science and Art School became just an annexe. It remained in use until a few years ago when reorganisation led to its closure.

The three fine heads shown here are on the sides of the building.
Its very sad to see the building today in its boarded-up state.

It was locally listed on 16th March 2000 and is included in the locally listed buildings section.

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