Royal Manchester College of Music Archives, 1893-1973

Scope and Content

Official records of the the Royal Manchester College of Music covering its entire history from foundation to amalgamation with the Northern School of Music to form the Royal Northern College of Music. Includes correspondence and minutes of the meetings which established and raised funds for the College, and of official bodies including the General Committee (comprised of subscribing members), Council, and Board of Professors.

Records include minutes and correspondence, financial materials, prospectuses and annual reports (incomplete series), a few examination papers, press cuttings and notices, programmes of concerts given by students, some selected student files from 1948 onwards, general correspondence of the Principals and Registrars, photographs and recordings.

Administrative / Biographical History

Foundation and constitution

Sir Charles Hall had founded his orchestra in 1858, and in December 1891 raised the idea of a College of Music in Manchester. An appeal was launched and an executive committee formed in May 1892 to gather subscriptions and raise support. The hon. treasurer, Charles Lees, presented a building on Ducie St/Oxford Rd. In February 1893 the executive committee made is final report to the Mayor, and a Council was formed on March 1st 1893, Hall being appointed Principal. A teaching staff was assembled, and the Queen conferred the title 'Royal' before October 1893, the College being opened on October 3rd 1893 following an entrance examination after which 80 students were accepted. This number had risen to 117 by the end of the first year.

An unsuccessful petition was made in 1893 for incorporation by Royal Charter, which was opposed by the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music; accordingly Trustees were appointed - Charles E. Lees (formerly the hon. treasurer) and Gustav Behrens. A Royal Charter was again sought during 1921, and was granted on May 5th 1923.


Initially funded by individual subscriptions, representations were made to the Education Committees of Lancashire and Cheshire for the foundation of county scholarships. In 1898 a further round of 5-year subscriptions was sought. The Education Act 1902 enabled the College to apply for grants in aid from the Education Committees within whose administrative areas the students lived - Manchester, Salford and Oldham were successfully approached. Students paid fees (either directly, or in time through grants from their local educational authority). Annual subscriptions were paid by 'members', entitling them to attend the AGM of the 'General Committee'.

Following the report of the Departmental Committee on Advanced Musical Training and Education (April 1944) the College also received annual grants from HM Treasury.

Throughout its life the College benefitted from the generosity of former members and from tributes to its illustrious former students and staff: on its closure in 1973 the RMCM held trust funds of around 200,000 (equivalent in 2001 to 1,990,987) from bequests, appeals and gifts.


Members of the Hall orchestra were among the earliest members of the teaching staff, but Hall himself as the founding Principal attracted a number of notable musicians to Manchester and to the RMCM. His successor in 1895 as Principal, Adolph Brodsky, was one such. Brodsky was appointed as Violin Professor and Conductor of the Orchestra, but was immediately made Principal on Hall's death and remained in the post until his own death in 1929. He was succeeded by Robert Forbes, who in contrast to his predecessors had spent most of his life at the College and in Manchester. He was a fine administrator, and steered the College through difficult financial times. Frederic Cox was appointed in 1953, having joined the staff in 1949, and was responsible for a period of consolidation and protracted negotiations with the Northern School of Music for the amalgamation of the two institutions (see below). On Cox's retirement in 1970 John Wray was appointed Principal for the last months of the RMCM's separate life.

Notable Professors included Sarah Andrew (singing), Wilhelm Backhaus (piano), Claud Biggs (piano), Arthur Catterall (violin), Paul Cropper (viola), W.H. Dayas (piano), Iso Elinson (piano), Carl Fuchs (cello), Geoffrey Gilbert (flute), Willy Hess (violin), Max Mayer (piano), Kathleen Moorhouse (cello), Egon Petri (piano), Thomas Pitfield (composition), and Evelyn Rothwell - Lady Barbirolli (oboe).

The Honorary Fellowship was created 1923, following the 30th anniversary and grant of the Royal Charter.


The first diplomas offered were for those specialising in performance or teaching, and those gaining a diploma became Associate of the Royal Manchester College of Music (ARMCM), elaborated by performer or teacher. By 1958, after discussions with the Burnham Committee and the Ministry of Education over teacher training, an additional ARMCM in School Music was offered, and a higher level diploma introduced. Holders of the new Graduate of the Royal School of Music (Manchester) diploma (GRSM (Manchester)) had graduate-equivalent status.

Notable students included Harrison Birtwistle, Arthur Butterworth, Rodney Friend, Elizabeth Harwood, John McCabe, John Ogdon, Alan Rawsthorne.A junior department providing special tuition on Saturday mornings was established in 1954.


The College building in Ducie Grove was problematic from the first, with noisome smells and poor sound-proofing affecting the daily lives of the inhabitants. Additional buildings in Oxford Road During the 1940s Manchester town planning aimed at an educational precinct on Oxford Road, with the University at its centre. It was recognised that this would take a number of years to achieve, and permission and financing for temporary buildings was granted by the City and Ministry of Education. Neighbouring buildings were leased and adapted to ease the cramped conditions, and concerts were given in the Free Trade Hall, or the Whitworth or Houldsworth Halls of the University.


In 1947 the RMCM was invited to join the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (along with the Royal Scottish Academy of Music).

Earlier a scheme for a joint course leading to a BMus from the University had been started, leading to close co-operation with the Faculty of Music. During November 1954 the question of amalgamation with the Northern School of Music first arose; very slow progress was made in exploring the possibilities until September 1960 when a subcommittee had brought forward proposals for a site, title and constitution. The need to abandon the Royal Charter was recognised. After a number of years of negotations and detailed work mediated by the University of Manchester and Manchester City Council, the RMCM finally approved the scheme in March 1966, and the Joint Committee of the new College was established.

The Joint Committee

The Committee was composed of 34 members, representatives of the County Councils of Lancashire, Cheshire, Manchester and Salford, of the College and of the NSM, of the University, and co-opted members from the Arts Council, BBC, Hall, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Granada. The Joint Committee accepted the responsbility for the RMCM and the NSM from 1st September 1967, and the Ministry of Education assumed the financial responsibility. Architects' plans were published for the proposed new building, but owing to the financial constraints on the national economy the building was excluded from the 1968-9 programme for Further Education building. Work finally began in November 1969, and the new College building and organisation opened as the Northern College of Music in September 1973. The title 'Royal' was granted by the Queen in October 1973.

A full history of the RMCM (to 1970) can be found in Michael Kennedy The History of the Royal Manchester College of Music(Manchester University Press, 1971), which makes extensive use of the RMCM archive.


Order has been imposed, as the state of the records was extremely confused when cataloguing work began in 2003 and original order was impossible to ascertain owing to the moving of the records between locations in the 30 years between the closure of the RMCM and the cataloguing of the archive.

The arrangement is made by the following sub-fonds:

  • A - College of Music Committee (established the College; absorbed into General Committee)
  • B - General Committee (formed from the College of Music Committee; all subscribers were members)
  • C - Council
  • D - Board of Professors
  • E- Registrar
  • F - Finance

Access Information

Some records are closed in line with the Data Protection Act 1998 (chiefly student files and general correspondence). With preparatory work to protect closed material these records may be made available for topics of research other than into living individuals. Please consult the Archivist for details.

Acquisition Information

Royal Manchester College of Music


Description by M Sarah Wickham

Other Finding Aids

Royal Northern College of Music Archives Catalogue (CALM). Includes details of indexes and other finding aids which form part of the archive.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright in official records produced by the RMCM and its employees rests in the Royal Northern College of Music. Copyright in other records is subject to the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1984.

Appraisal Information

The archive is incomplete owing to the rescue of records from a number of locations during the course of various moves between buildings. Significant gaps include the general correspondence files; Students open practices proposals book no. 3 (1956-1965).

Student files appear to have been selected (during the late 1970s??) on the basis of fame of their subject, and cover the period 1948-1977 without regularity of sampling.

During cataloguing in 2003 the entire surviving archive was appraised, and the following items of limited continuing value destroyed:

  • duplicate published materials (prospectuses, annual reports, Royal Charter)
  • Analysis ledger 1950-64 (1 vol)
  • Summary income ledger 1956-67 (1 vol)
  • Summary expenditure ledger 1961-67 (1 vol)
  • Scholarship accounts book 1967-8 (1 vol)
  • Bank pass books for general account with The Manchester and County Bank Ltd 1935-40 (2 books)
  • Bank pass book for Dayas medal account with The Manchester and County Bank Ltd 1906-28
  • Petty cash books Oct 1948-Dec 1970 (4 vols) [badly damaged]
  • Petty cash receipt book Jan-Dec 1971 (1 vol)
  • Caretaker & cleaners weekly wage books Apr 1961-Dec 1967 (4 vols) [badly damaged]

Custodial History

Records of the RMCM were retained in the buildings of the College and transferred to the Royal Northern College of Music as the successor body during 1973.


Archive is closed.

Related Material

Adolph Brodsky PapersNorthern School of Music Archive