The Clephan Building was first constructed as a hosiery factory and warehouse for I&R Morley Ltd, a leading Leicester manufacturer. The first section was built in 1885 along Oxford Street. This was soon extended to the rear in 1888 – this is the part which stretches back to the Philip Tasker Building. The Oxford Street section was expanded in 1901, including decorations of terracotta sunflowers. The final extension in 1914 was on the corner of Oxford Street and along Bonners Lane. Inside the building thick cast iron columns and large timber beams created large open spaces for machinery.
The factory closed in 1967 and the building was sold to the local education authority. Initially intended to house the South Fields College, in 1968 it was instead transferred to the Leicester Colleges of Art and Technology in anticipation of their need for more space when they became a Polytechnic. It was decided to use the building to provide accommodation for the Schools of Architecture and Building. Refurbishment was completed by summer 1970.
The studio in the courtyard was originally constructed in 1987 as the Design Technology Unit of the School of Architecture, known as the Atelier. Before that the space was used as a workshop for students to practice practical building skills.
Further refurbishment of Clephan took place in 1993, when the entrance canopy was added, and in 2000 with new lifts and windows.
It was Alderman Charles Keene who suggested that the building be named after the Clephan family. Edwin Clephan (1817-1906) was the son of a Stockton baker. He moved to Leicester where he became a bank clerk and eventually bank manager. He was involved in many local causes such as the Literary and Philosophical Society, Leicester Society of Artists and the Art Gallery Committee. He was a Justice of the Peace and an active Presbyterian who served on the Vestry for 56 years. Clephan was a member of the Leicester School of Art Committee from 1882 till 1905, steering it through the transition from independent organisation to Council control and seeing the construction of the first wing of the Hawthorn Building. Edwin's daughter Annie (1854-1930) was also a leading member of Leicester society. She was particularly involved in the School Board and devoted herself to establishing better care for deaf, dumb and mentally disabled children. She was also a member of the Leicester branch of the National Council of Women. Annie sat on the Technical and Art Schools Committee from 1903 till 1929, and on her death left £500 to establish a scholarship. Annie's sister Helen was married to Alfred Henry Paget, an architect who was also a member of the Technical and Art Schools Committee. Helen too left £500 to the institution for a prize fund in memory of her father. The building name therefore commemorates a prominent and generous Leicester family.