Victorian London - Education - Professional/Technical Colleges - St. Bride's Institute

A Printer's Polytechnic

Technical Education for Compositors - Typographic and Lithographic Schools. From Printer's Devil to Master Printer.

No mechanic has now cause to complain that facilities are not offered to him for improving himself in his craft. The enterprise that has been exhibited by technical authorities throughout the country in catering for all sorts and conditions of workmen in their area has been really remarkable. No effort has been spared to foster local industries, and often large sums of money are expended in laying down expensive plants of machinery. For instance, in Nottingham classes have been established to revive the lace industry, and in Cheshire dairy farming is being fostered. At Northampton,  the boot making centre, trade classes are now in full swing; at Rochdale weaving is taught in the schools; at Coventry instruction is given in cycle making; and even in the fishing villages of Cornwall and Devonshire the old fishermen are taught how to fish more effectively, and how to improve their fishing tackle.
    Fleet-street, which has always been the capital of newspaperdom, has now its printing schools. The London Technical Education Board maintains a school in a narrow court at the back of the one of the great daily newspaper buildings, where students are trained in the art of illustrating newspapers and periodicals; while at St. Bride's Institute, not a stone's-throw away from the offices of Mr. Punch, is one of the finest typographic schools in the country. There is also a department for lithographic work and collotype printing, and even the Linotype machine has a place in the school work-rooms. There are close upon 300 students in attendance, drawn for the most part from the great printing establishments round about Fleet-street. In the evening apprentices and journeymen alike make their way to the school after their day's work, in order to obtain proficiency in their craft. The classes are by now means confined to young men, and the energetic management Mr. Charles Harrap, recently informed a Municipal Journal representative that the pupils include journeymen, whose ages were considerably above forty.
    The classes are divided into three grades - elementary, advanced, and honours. The elementary consists entirely of apprentices, the majority of whom have been about two years at the business; whilst the advanced is composed of apprentices in the last year of their "time," and journeymen. The honours class consists of those who have passed the advanced examination  under the City and Guilds of London Institute.
    While technical education in the printing trades forms the main purpose of the St. Bride Foundation, the Institute has other special features. It has, for instance, an excellent technical library, containing books relating to printing, paper-making, bookbinding, and allied trades. The Institute acquired a unique collection of books and pamphlets dealing with typography from the library of the late Mr. William Blades, which now forms the "William Blades Library," containing nearly 3,000 works, relating to the art of printing. In an adjoining room is the reference library, consisting of modern works, presented by Mr. Passmore Edwards. There is also a general library, containing about 6,000 volumes, which is free to all members of the Institute, and also persons resident or employed in a defined area in the western part of the City, bounded by Chancery-lane on the west, by Old Bailey on the east, and by Holborn-viaduct on the north, This is one of the few really free lending libraries, as no rate or subscription is required for its support.
    Another valuable feature of St. Bride's is the swimming bath. The need for a swimming bath in the City has long been felt, and the way in which the St. Bride baths have been patronised has fully justified the Governing Body in their enterprise. Last year about 40,000 persons patronised it, in addition to school children, numbering about 1,800 a week. There are also washing baths, which were used by over 18,000 people. A well-equipped gymnasium is another feature of the Institute which is well attended. This department is also reserved for females on Wednesdays, and on every occasion when it open instructors are in attendance.  The Institute offers facilities for social classes and societies connected with it. The hall is licensed for dancing and music, and largely used for lectures and entertainments. It was here where an exhibition of posters was recently held. Connected with this recreative side of the Institute are the Cricket Club, the Harriers, a Rowing Club, Tennis Club, and the Musical Society, which provides social evenings and concert. 

Municipal Journal and London, October 13, 1899