Marygate Centre

August 2011

Education Committee sign – Marygate Centre. Photo: Boba Low

Rusted York Education Committee plaque. Photo by Boba Low.

Behind the art gallery are dilapidated buildings seen as an eyesore, with no obvious ‘history’. They are soon to be demolished.

Originally used by the Canadian Air Force, as a service hostel/leave club, these buildings were taken over for use by the York Education Committee. For many years they were known as the Marygate Centre, a base for adult education.

The York City Council minutes show that the buildings were adapted for educational use soon after the war, first used for the ’emergency training’ of teachers.

1946

The Ministry of Education wanted to acquire the ‘Canadian YMCA Hostel’ in 1946, though the Canadian YMCA apparently also had plans for the future of the buildings. By June 1946 it had been agreed that the former hostel buildings were to be used in connection with the emergency training of teachers: ‘so that the necessary teachers will be available in the country for the raising of the school leaving age’.

1947

By 1947 the council minutes record the progress on providing living accommodation for a Matron, in the ‘Emergency Training Hostel, Marygate’, and the Art Gallery Committee ‘have agreed that the site of the Marygate Hostel should be appropriated for education purposes for a period of not less than ten nor more than fifteen years, the site to be reappropriated at the end of the period.’ (This agreement must have been extended, as it takes the date to circa 1962, and the buildings were used for education for some years after that.)

1948 – proposals for long-term use

The minutes suggest that the city council were keen to use the buildings for further education, rather than emergency teacher training, and the Report of the Further and Adult Education sub-committee in July 1948 proposes plans for the use of the ‘Marygate Hostel’ in the future:

‘a) Additional accommodation for the School of Art.

b) Accommodation for the Day Continuation School for Girls.

c) Provision of a basic Catering Course.

d) Daytime classes for women in Housecraft and allied activities.

e) Evening and weekend Adult Education courses.’

October 1948 saw approval of the use of the buildings as outlined, and noted that ‘one of the present dormitories’ should ‘be adapted as supplementary accommodation for the School of Arts and Crafts‘ (aka York School of Art).

The buildings are also to be used ‘for day classes for women and girls in Homecraft and related subjects’.

1949

In January 1949 there’s a suggestion that Miss P M Everitt – Head of the Day Continuation School for Girls – should be offered ‘the residential accommodation in the Tutor’s flat in the Hostel’.

By 1949 the buildings are known as the ‘Marygate Centre of Further Education’, with an emphasis on ‘courses primarily for women and girls’. Council minutes record efforts to improve the Grounds, following the ‘suggestions of the Parks Superintendent’ – who gives initial estimated cost, and an ‘annual maintenance cost of £80′. This was later reduced to a simplified scheme with an annual maintenance cost of £20. (Conjuring visions of an initial scheme inspired by the Chelsea Flower Show, later reduced to a couple of pots of begonias.)

1950s, and after

Things got lively in the 1950s, with a proposal in June 1952 to ‘run a class in Folk Dancing (American Square)’.

So I’ll leave you with that cheerful scene of dancing classes, 10 years after the ‘Baedeker raid‘ of 1942.

Except to say that Elizabeth, who emailed me, remembers dressmaking classes here in the 1970s, and having to queue for them, as they were so popular.

Comment

Interesting, isn’t it, that these buildings were originally constructed to shelter men who were trained to kill, to fly heavy bombers overseas to enemy targets, men who were in the thick of it during the conflict of the Second World War – and that by the late 1940s, through to the 1970s, they were to be occupied mainly by women and girls learning ‘Housecraft and allied activities’ – ‘activities’ fundamentally peaceful and domestic. Quite a contrast.

Postscript/links

The was demolished in 2011-12.

See also:

A history of the ‘hutments’

Sources

York City Council minutes.

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