Designed by the town’s surveyor, Absalom Reade Wood, the Jubilee Buildings, in the Boulevard and Greengates Street, gave Tunstall a public library, an art school, a tecnhnical college, a swimming pool and a fire station.
Built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, the complex was constructed in two stages. Its main building, the Victoria Institute, in the Boulevard was opened by Sir Smith Child on October 29th, 1891.
Still occupied by the library, the Victoria Institute cost £4,500. Apart from a small grant of £970 from the government, all the money was raised locally.
There were bazaars and fetes. Pottery manufacturers made donations and workers organised collections. Employees at Alfred Meakin’s pottery raised £50. Miner’s at Clanway Colliery gave £16 while workers at Booth’s Church Bank Pottery collected £12.50.
The three storey red brick and terracotta building, with Runcorn red sandstone facings, had wrought iron gates at the main entrance. When it opened, the library, which contained 2,000 books, was on the ground floor. The art school was on the first floor and the technical college was on the second. There were 100 students attending classes at the art school. It had scholarships for local elementary school pupils who wanted to become pottery designers. Student’s studied ceramic technology, painting drawing, modelling and design. The number of students increased and new courses including dress-making, embroidery, jewellery design and wood carving were introduced.
Smaller than the art school, the technical college trained students for careers in mining, engineering or commerce.
The Victoria Institute was extended in 1897. These extensions included a museum and art gallery, a domestic science school and pottery studios for the art school.
Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2011