About the St Matthias history project

Editorial note on the history project for Remembering St Matthias Campus.

Background to the project

In June 2014, University of the West of England, Bristol's St Matthias Campus closed. The campus had been home to humanities subjects at the University for 26 years, forming only a relatively short period in the history of the College as a site of teaching and learning since 1853.

This project sought to celebrate and record 150 years of the College's history. The campus will be remembered for its impressive neo-Gothic architecture and picturesque gardens, but its human past is equally noteworthy. It was established as one of the pioneering institutions for women's higher education as a teacher training school.

As part of Bristol Polytechnic, and latterly the University, the college continued to develop innovative educational programmes and open access to a wide range of students. The compact nature of the campus, coupled with the historic emphasis on progressive teaching, has fostered a strong and lively student and staff community.

Remembering St Matthias Campus online

The Remembering St Matthias Campus story wall features a wide range of material including historical and contemporary perspectives, individual portraits of student life across its 150-year history, and interviews with staff and alumni. The project aimed to bring together these perspectives, and record the voices of those associated with the college, enriching UWE Bristol's organisational memory.

The farewell party

Many of these memories were recorded at the St Matthias Farewell Party held at the College at the end of its final term. The three-day event was jointly hosted by the University and the UWE Bristol Students' Union. The SU bar was open all weekend for old friends to gather over a drink; there were children's games and a bouncy castle, as well as live music and performers, including former staff and students.

Sunday was opened with a talk on the campus' history and its significance by Dr Madge Dresser, followed by guided campus tours, a treasure hunt, and the last Students' Union quiz. The festivities drew to a close with a charity auction of St Matthias memorabilia, kick-starting the fundraising for the St Matthias Bursaries, which will provide support for students facing financial difficulties. The auction raised more than £1,000.

The diary room

During the farewell party, UWE Bristol historians and Hub Radio opened a diary room where students, alumni and staff recorded their memories of the college. The videos featured on the Remembering St Matthias Campus story wall are just a few of the films recorded over the course of the weekend. The films highlight the range of experience at St Matthias, offering glimpses into campus life from its time as a teacher training college in the 1960s through to the current day, and what studying there has meant to all its students.

Acknowledgements

We are grateful for the generous financial assistance provided by UWE Bristol to support the farewell party and this project.

For all the hard work, encouragement, and for giving St Matthias the send off it deserved, we would like to thank: Rita Abrahams, Josie Alford, Sarah Bailey, Roger Buck, Samantha Benson, the Campus Support Officers at St Matthias, Alison Charlton, Mark Daley, Madge Dresser, Paul Dingley, Tiffany Francis, Ade George, Hub Radio, James Lee, Beth Middleton, Daniel Minty, Damien O'Donavan, Steve Poole, Richard Perry, Thomas Renhard, Roz and all the staff at Traders, Erica Toms, Jane Seymour, the SU staff at St Matthias, the Student Ambassadors and the Tour Guides.

Project editors 

UWE Bristol graduates Rose Wallis and Victoria Barnes were the lead project editors. Both Rose and Victoria studied at St Matthias and worked in the History department.

Rose is a doctoral candidate and an Associate Lecturer in History at the University. She is currently contributing editor for new work on South Gloucestershire for the Victoria County History.

Victoria is a doctoral candidate in Law at the University of Reading, and Associate Lecturer in History at UWE Bristol.

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