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Our History

At Plymouth College of Art, we are proud of our origins. The original Plymouth School of Art was opened on 21 January 1856.

Over a period of time the School has had various locations, none of them more than a hundred yards or so from the present position (Cobourg Street, the erstwhile Park Street and Ebrington Street), until finally, in 1892, the Jubilee Memorial Science, Art and Technical School was opened in Tavistock Road.

This building was to become a victim of post-war redevelopment some 70 or so years later (many Plymouthians, even those who weren't students there, cherish fond memories of the grand Victorian structure). However, it had long since ceased to house the Plymouth College of Arts and Crafts, which by then had relocated to the former Palace Court School premises.

Plymouth College of Art, Tavistock Place 2016. Photo © Hufton and Crow

This was a temporary measure though, and in 1969, following the creation of Plymouth Polytechnic and the hiving off of the Architecture Department, approval was given to construct a new College of Art and Design on what had been Park Street, where the original Plymouth Drawing School had started more than 100 years earlier.

Designed by the then City Architect H J W Stirling, the new five-storey building was officially opened on 29 March 1974 at a cost of approximately £300,000. Less than thirty years later the building was extended and refurbished, and the cost this time, a reflection of the rate of inflation, was over £5,000,000. With an avowed aim to be the first port of call locally for anyone interested in Art and Design, the College was well set for the future. 

Our Craft, Design and Fabrication Workshops housing state-of-the-art kit and facilities for our students. Photo © Hufton and Crow.

We have continued to invest heavily in our facilities, staff and the Plymouth College of Art campus over the years and we are proud to have, in recent years, built a new contemporary art, craft and design wing, worth over £7.7M which was officially opened by Sir John Sorrell on Thursday 13 November 2014, see photos from the evening here.

PALACE COURT – OUR PRE-DEGREE CAMPUS

Palace Court is now home to five hundred 16-19 year-old students studying arts, crafts, design and media within the progressive continuum of creative learning and practice, from age three to Masters level postgraduate study, that the College is developing in partnership with Plymouth School of Creative Arts, now on three sites in the heart of the city at The Red House, Palace Court and Tavistock Place.

Our work at Plymouth College of Art has been based at various locations since the college's founding, 160 years ago, in 1856. We first occupied Palace Court in 1949, when Fine Art, Art History and Architecture were taught in studios designed to admit high levels of natural light. The college continued in the building until our Tavistock Place campus opened in 1973, bringing all activity together under one roof.

Palace Court, our Pre-Degree campus 2016. Photo © Dom Moore.

In medieval times Palace Court was a monastic foundation, later becoming home to John Paynter, a noted Plymothian, and Mayor of Plymouth in 1487. As future Queen of England and first wife of Henry VIII, Catharine of Aragon stayed there in 1501 after disembarking from Spain.

The original medieval court was demolished at the end of the nineteenth century to clear the way for construction of the Palace Court school, and our grounds still feature a private garden complete with a beautiful protected white mulberry tree, and a historic Grade II listed section of medieval wall and archway — the only surviving remnant of the original monastic foundation.

Palace Court was officially opened by Katie Greenyer, Creative Director for Red or Dead, on Wednesday 2 November 2016 alongside our annual Design to Sell event encouraging enterprise and entrepreneurship in students studying on our Extended Diploma courses.

THE RED HOUSE, PLYMOUTH SCHOOL OF CREATIVE ARTS

Founded in Millbay by Plymouth College of Art in 2013, Plymouth School of Creative Arts is a 4-16 all-through free school that, together with the college, is establishing a progressive continuum of creative learning and practice from age four to Masters level study and beyond, into professional employment within the creative and cultural industries.

The school’s purpose is transformation and can be expressed in just four words – creating individuals, making futures. Children and staff learn through making in all subject areas, across a broad and balanced school curriculum.

The Red House, home to Plymouth School of Creative Arts. Photo © Hufton and Crow 2015

Designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, The Red House was created for pedagogical innovation in creative learning and as a catalyst for community regeneration in Plymouth's Millbay docklands, supporting the transformation of individual life chances and community aspiration in the long term.

The Red House, based in Millbay, is also home to a number of local arts, culture and community groups – including Street Factory Dance Studios, Plymouth Dance, Exim Dance, Plymouth and Devon Race Equality Council and Coco Beams.

The Red House was officially opened By Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate, on Thursday 22 October 2015 – see photos from the evening here.