Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams and others to the Editor of The Times

Letter No.: 
[Monday July 30 1951]

We are distressed to hear that the Ministry of Education has rejected a request by the London County Council to be allowed to include in their building programme for 1952-53 the restoration of the war-damaged portions of Morley College. From the moment of its foundation within the Old Vic in the middle eighties, Morley College quickly built up a tradition of adult education of exceptionally high standing. Among other features the college, largely through the work of Gustav Holst, gained a national reputation in music - a reputation sustained to this day in spite of all difficulties. Above all, Morely developed a community spirit so notable as to become its most precious asset. This in turn gave (and still gives) the college a unique atmosphere - an atmosphere invariably remarked upon by the many foreigners who visit Morley, often at the suggestion of the British Council, the Institute of Education, or the Ministry itself.
Since the bombs of the enemy destroyed three-quarters of the college in October, 1940, all this great achievement has been weakened and endangered by inadequate accommodation. By heroic efforts large numbers of the classes have been maintained in various places far from the parent building; but this dispersal makes it intensely difficult to preserve the old community spirit. In the college building as it stands there are only eight classrooms, a library, a makeshift canteen, and a chamber-music room; there is no hall, no gymnasium, no common room, no principal's room, no office or storage accommodation, and the sanitary accommodation is appallingly insufficient. It is not surprising that several classes (notably those needing laboratories or considerable space) have had to be closed down, and that the student roll has fallen from 3,300 in 1938-39 to 2,600 in 1951 - and this in a period during which adult education in London as a whole has been expanding.
The Ministry's refusal to sanction the rebuilding of the college is apparently based on a ruling that no part of the building allocation for further education may be made available for education which is non-vocational. Under this ruling, Morley College could be rebuilt only if it were producing technicians. We do not, in the present national circumstances, contest the fact that some such general ruling as this may be necessary for entirely new building; but we do wish to put forward an earnest plea that any such ruling should not be applied so rigidly as to preclude restoration of war damage at an existing college of the status and proved achievement of Morley. In sum, we maintain that Morley College is as much a part of the living cultural tradition of London as the Old Vic from which it springs. If, by refusing the comparatively modest degree of succour which the college needs, we allow that tradition to wane and die, we shall be guilty of a neglect which future generations will not easily forgive.
Yours faithfully,
Ammon, Edward Bowden, N. Bentwich, Elizabeth Bowen, H.F. Chettle, Edward J. Dent, Tyrone Guthrie, Percy A. Harris, R.W. Livingstone, Eveline M Lowe, J.J. Mallon, Albert Mansbridge, Gilbert Murray, Harold Nicolson, O.E. Niemeyer, Russell, Arthur Salter, J.T. Sheppard, Mary Stocks, Michael Tippett, Ralph Vaughan Williams, William Walton, Magnus Wechsler.


General notes: 

Printed in The Times newspaper, Monday, July 30, 1951, p. 5.

The Times (no. 52066), Monday July 30, 1951, p. 5