Brighton School of Art Archive

Scope and Content

The archive comprises photographs, curricula and other records that document some of the activities of staff and students throughout the long history of art and design teaching at the School of Art and its successor institutions. It includes both official institutional records and papers from individuals who taught or studied at the School.

Administrative / Biographical History

The origins of the current Faculty of Arts & Architecture at the University of Brighton lie in the establishment of the Brighton School of Art in the Royal Pavilion in January 1859. This in turn stemmed from the 1836 Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Arts and Manufactures that sought to improve the economic competitiveness of British industry by raising the profile of art and design education. A number of art schools were set up under government auspices in the following decades. The Brighton School's fortunes improved with the opening in 1877 of its own building in Romanesque style on the site of the current Faculty buildings in Grand Parade. The foundation stone of this new Brighton School of Science and Art had been laid by Sir Henry Cole, a key figure in nineteenth century art education and moving force behind the internationally-renowned Great Exhibition of 1851. Further expansion of artistic activities took place in the 1890s when the building was occupied solely by the Municipal School of Art.

By 1914 Brighton School of Art had been designated one of the first centres outside London for the Teaching Certificate for Teachers in Schools of Art (renamed the Art Teachers' Diploma in 1933), confirming its national standing. Furthermore, the international reputation of the School was enhanced by the winning of a number of medals at the celebrated 1925 Exposition des Arts Dé coratifs et Industriels in Paris, despite a late invitation to enter.

With the appointment in 1934 of E A Sallis Benney as Principal of the School of Art and Director of Art Education in Brighton, a more internationally oriented outlook was envisaged. He sought to organise activities around three major Schools: Architecture, Design and Painting & Graphic Art. Furthermore, reflecting the considerable importance of the area in the development of early cinema in Britain (link to South East Film & Video Archive), he also sought to establish a department specialising in screen and theatrical training, with courses in cinematography, lighting and set design. Highly significant also were Sallis Benney's efforts to confirm Brighton's status as a first ranking educational institution on a par with the University sector through proposals for the proposed International College of Art to undertake artistic research work and consultancy for manufacturing industry.

In 1947 the School of Art was re-designated as the Brighton College of Art and Crafts. It was considered to be in the top 5 per cent of the 200 or so art schools in Britain and attracted an international as well as national student body. One of the principal constraints for further developments was the spatial restriction imposed by the 1877 School of Art building. However, following a considerable period of debate and controversy a new building was designed by Percy Billington in conjunction with Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall, the first phase of which was opened in 1961. Two further phases were incorporated in 1967 and 1969, the latter including the Art Gallery (now considerably expanded) which has continued to play an important role in the University's profile.

Following a highly problematic decade for art and design education in Britain and the establishment of specialist diploma courses in various aspects of art and design practice, in 1970 Brighton Polytechnic was formed from the Brighton Colleges of Art & Technology. Those concerned with art and design education - not generally duplicated in the University sector - were generally opposed to what they saw as 'low level conglomerations' that placed Schools of Art (as institutions offering degree-equivalent courses) with inappropriate bedfellows.

Nonetheless, the 1970s saw considerable developments in art and design education at Brighton, with the establishment of a portfolio of specialist and often pioneering courses in art and design at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. In order to boost research activity a series of Research Assistants were appointed across a wide range of disciplines from graphic design to the history of design and the first doctorates in practice-centred research achieved. This was followed, in 1979, by the appointment of a Research Fellow in the Department of Graphic Design. Other intellectual underpinnings included the establishment of a Department of Art History in 1976 (building on a distinguished history of programmes of study in historical and critical studies) and the incorporation of the Department of Humanities into the Faculty in 1986.

In 1992 along with many other former Polytechnics, Brighton was formally designated as a 'new' university - the University of Brighton. One important aspect of this change was the opportunity to access research funding from the Higher Education Funding Council, an intellectual underpinning that the 'old' universities had enjoyed for many years. This was also highly significant for art and design education in Britain since, for the most part it resided in the 'new' university sector. In 1998 the Faculty of Art, Design and Humanities became the Faculty of Arts & Architecture, and in 2009, with the incorporation of further subject areas, it became the Faculty of Arts.


The archive is arranged in the following series:

BSA/1 Photographs

BSA/2 Exhibition catalogues & posters

BSA/3 Publicity and presscuttings

BSA/4 Prospectuses and course information

BSA/5 Documentation relating to the Library

BSA/6 Papers donated by former staff

BSA/7 Papers donated by former students

BSA/8 Papers relating to research for the anniversary history of the School of Art

Access Information

Researchers wishing to consult the collection should make an appointment. Telephone 44 (0)1273 643217 or email

Acquisition Information

The core of the collection was transferred from St Peter's House Library in 2005. Specific further information, where known, is in the relevant record for that group of material.

Archivist's Note

Collection level description compiled by Catherine Moriarty, amended by Sue Breakell 2009.

Collection uncatalogued.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission must be sought to publish any material from the collection. Email

Custodial History

This collection is an amalgamation of material accrued by the University's St Peter's House Library with other material donated or transferred by past and present members of staff.

Related Material

Initiated in 1995 by Michael and Sandy Aldrich, the Aldrich Collection at the University of Brighton Faculty of Arts & Architecture comprises about 300 works of contemporary visual art. The vast majority of these have been produced by students and tutors working at the Faculty. See


Woodham, Jonathan M. and Lyon, Philippa (eds.) 'Art and Design at Brighton 1859-2009: from Arts and Manufactures to the Creative and Cultural Industries', Brighton: Faculty of Arts and Architecture, University of Brighton, 2009.

Geographical Names