Records relating to the College Extension

  • Reference
      GB 133 OCA/7
  • Dates of Creation
  • Physical Description
      53 items

Scope and Content

The series comprises minutes of the Extension Committee and its sub-committees, 1867-1877 (OCA/7/1), as well as a broad range of documentation relating to the Extension, including reports, subscription lists, correspondence and memoranda etc. (OCA/7/2).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Owens College Extension refers to the programme of activities surrounding the redevelopment of the College at the Oxford Road site. This process lasted from the mid-1860s to the opening of the new College buildings in 1873, and involved not only the physical development of the new site, but revision of the College's legal status and government structure.

By the mid-1860s, the Owens College authorities had concluded that physical expansion of the College at the Quay Street site was not possible. A New Buildings Committee was appointed to explore options for redevelopment. The Committee, in consultation with academic staff, considered future requirements of the College, including establishing a school of medicine, and departments of engineering, astronomy, geology and mining. The NBC also looked at transplanting the College to greenfield sites in Cheetham Hill, Ardwick and various locations on Oxford Street (Oxford Road). In January 1867, a meeting was held of Trustees and supporters of the College to look at how the project could be advanced. This set up a steering committee chaired by Thomas Ashton, a wealthy cotton industrialist recruited to the cause by Henry Roscoe. It included other prominent local industrialists, academics and several of the Trustees.

The committee called a public meeting on 1 February 1867, at Manchester Town Hall, which launched a public subscription campaign for the "Extension" of the College, aiming to raise at least £100,000 for the purpose. The campaign was headed by an executive committee (which replaced the steering committee), chaired by Ashton, which was to report to its subscribers, and which oversaw four special sub-committees for canvassing and finance, site, buildings and constitutional matters. Initial work concentrated on fund raising and finding a suitable site. In March 1868, Murray Gladstone purchased four acres of land on the western side of Oxford Street for this purpose, which was later conveyed to the Executive Committee. The Buildings Committee investigated facilities at other British and Irish universities, and Principal Greenwood and Professor Roscoe visited German universities in the summer of 1868 to survey their buildings, particularly their scientific research facilities. By late 1868, sufficient funds had been raised to appoint Alfred Waterhouse as architect of the new buildings. Waterhouse, already an established architect, had recently won the commission for the Manchester Town Hall. Agreement was reached on the form of the buildings with the main building to be set back from Oxford Street, and the chemistry laboratory to stand behind this building. On 23 September 1870, the Duke of Devonshire, in his new role as College President, laid the College foundation stone, and he returned to open the building in 1872.

Attempts to attract government money for the College failed, and fund raising continued into the next decade, partly to ensure that the new subjects the College wished to develop were properly endowed. In 1871 the Executive Committee was reconstituted as the Extension Committee to oversee this. During 1870-1, attention turned to reforming College's constitution. Until this point the Trustees had complete legal authority over the College's government , with John Owen's will remaining the College's foundational constitutional document. It was recognized that this system would struggle to cope with the planned rapid expansion of the College, and James Bryce, an Oxford jurist, was appointed to advise on a new constitution. Bryce's proposals were embodied in the Owens College Extension Act 1870, which created a new legal entity, the Owens Extension College. A new structure of governance was introduced, with the post of College President being created and a Court of Governors, Council and Senate as governing bodies. The Act removed some of the conditions imposed by John Owens' will and authorised amalgamation with the existing Owens College (which continued to function in parallel) at a future date. In 1871 The Owens College Act completed this amalgamation. The College's new tripartite system of government was to become the model for other British civic universities.

These constitutional changes were not accomplished without dispute; particularly contentious had been the issue of women students. Originally the College had intended to offer women the same rights of admission as men; this was however modified after objection that it involved too great a departure from Owens' original will. It was agreed that Owens could admit women, provided that this did not prejudice provision for male students seeking admission to the College, and that some degree of segregation of male and female students was imposed. In fact, it was not until 1883 that women students were admitted to the College. The success of the new arrangements was confirmed in 1872, with the amalgamation of the College and the Royal Manchester School of Medicine. The establishment of the Owens College Medical School was a major boost in the College's bid for university status. The College also concluded its negotiations to acquire the collections of the Manchester Natural History and Geological Societies, which were to form the nuclei of the Manchester Museum. The Extension programme achieved most of its aims, although despite the generally positive response to fund raising, the Executive Committee was £20,000 in debt at the end of its life.


Divided into the following subseries:

  • OCA/7/1 - Minutes of the Extension Committees
  • OCA/7/2- Reports, memoranda, circulars and related papers.