Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Science and Art Institute: Growth and Development


This view from Church Street of the old Science and Art Institute is a familiar one to those of us who remember the old building. It was by no means such an impressive structure when it was first opened in 1864. The early lithograph below illustrates the building as it appeared in the 1860s from Creed Street. It was about half the size of the later building.



In 1880 the local builder Charles Aveline added a porch on Creed Street as a second entrance. The main entrance at that time being on the west side.

At this time another wing was added to the south west, a two storey extension 41 1/2 feet long by 17 feet wide. The top floor was given over to a hall and below a lecture room and an office.
Eleven years later, on October 6th 1891 a much larger extension of the building to the west created the building that we recognise in the top photo. The extension measured 61 ft 9 in in length and was 39 feet wide. The ground level section was reserved for a reading room and served as an important library for the town until the opening of the County branch library in 1949. At this time a central entrance was created on Church Street with a porch. The western entrance disappeared.

Two years later the railway company added a gymnasium, probably the first facility of its kind in Wolverton. It was a lean to building on the south side of the original structure measuring 60ft 4 in by 21ft 2 1/2in. The interior was fitted up with "parallel bars, a horizontal bar, trapeze, ladder, slack ropes, Indian clubs, dumb bells, rings, a vaulting horse, single sticks &c."

Over the new gym they built a chemical laboratory, again a first for Wolverton and for many parts of the country. Chemistry, although we take it for granted today, was very much the coming thing as a new industrial science. Victorian engineering had been largely preoccupied with mechanical sciences,  but Chemistry opened up new possibilities, such as battery cells for carriage lighting.

In 1896 they built a house on the western corner of the property. In later years it was occupied by the caretaker, but its first occupant was Mr Cadwallader, the Insttute librarian.

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