RETRO: Seat of learning flourished from humble beginning

Sheffield University'Firth Court 1947
Sheffield University'Firth Court 1947
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IT is today one of Sheffield’s biggest institutions with some 32,000 people passing through its 330 buildings every single year. It has an annual turn over of some £400 million.

But 110 years ago this week, the foundation stone of the University of Sheffield had only just been laid.

Sheffield University'Dr Dennis Brown (Industrial Liaison Officer), Sheffield University, and Mr. Keith Alexander from the Department of Engineering and Process Engineering - 26th March 1986

Sheffield University'Dr Dennis Brown (Industrial Liaison Officer), Sheffield University, and Mr. Keith Alexander from the Department of Engineering and Process Engineering - 26th March 1986

The first brick of Firth Court were put down by the Lord Mayor of London Sir Marcus Samuel on June 30, 1903. It would be opened for 114 students by King Edward VII in July 1905.

Now, to celebrate the anniversary, Midweek Retro brings you these pictures from The Star’s archives, capturing the university through its history.

They take in everything from what is thought to be the first Student Council (photographed 1908) to lecturers working with a new-fangled innovation, the computer; from academics sitting exams to youngsters chilaxing, 1968-style, in the union (complete with darts game in the back ground).

“It is a privilege see how far the university has come since its humble beginnings of being, in part, founded by penny donations made by people in Sheffield,” says vice-chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett. “These people made donations from their limited resources, not because giving was easy but because what they aspired to was so important.

“Today our world-class academics and talented students are continuing to make a powerful difference both to our city and the world by playing a leading role in the research and teaching needed to address big issues facing the globe.”

The centre’s roots stretch further back. The uni was developed out of three institutes: the Sheffield School of Medicine (opened 1828), Firth College (1879) and the Sheffield Technical School (1886). The trio merged to become the Sheffield University we know today.

“The first students numbered just 114,” says university spokeswoman Shemina Davis. “They read for degrees in arts, pure science, medicine and applied science. But back then non-degree courses covered topics as diverse as cow-keeping, railway economics, mining and razor-grinding.”

It has been going, as these pictures prove, from strength to strength since.

History of the University

1903: Foundation stone of Firth Court is laid.

1905: Sheffield University is officially opened by King Edward VII. There are just 114 students enrolled the first year.

1909: The Edgar Allen library opens, after a donation by businessman William Edgar Allen.

1930: Student numbers stabilise at some 750.

1959: A series of building projects begin with the new Western Bank Library. In the following decade the Arts Tower, Hicks Building, Alfred Denny Building, Sir Robert Hadfield Building, Chemical Engineering Building, University House, five Halls of Residence and the Union of Students will all open.

1970: The university contributes to developments of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and, later, the Northern General.

1983: The Octagon Centre is built, giving Sheffield its first purpose built conference centre and music venue for decades.

2000: The 21st century signals the start of several huge expansions - over the next decade building projects worth more than £300 million take place.