City and Guilds of London Art School

Founded in 1854 as the Lambeth School of Art,[1] the City and Guilds of London Art School is a small specialist art college[2] located in central London, England. Originally founded as a government art school,[3] it is now an independent, not-for-profit charity, and is one of the country's longest established art schools. It offers courses ranging from art and design Foundation, through to BA (Hons) undergraduate degrees and MA postgraduate courses in fine art and conservation. In addition, it offers the only undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Britain in historic carving: architectural stone and ornamental woodcarving and gilding.[4]

City and Guilds of London Art School
PrincipalTamiko O'Brien
United Kingdom

Birmingham City University, University of the Arts London,

City & Guilds of London Institute

The Art School is housed in a row of Georgian buildings in London's Kennington district,[5] as well as in an adjoining converted warehouse building close to the south bank of the river Thames.


Foundation in the 19th century

The City and Guilds of London Art School was founded in 1854 by the Reverend Robert Gregory under the name Lambeth School of Art.[6] It began as a night school in rooms occupied during the day by a National School in his south London parish of St Mary the Less. With the support of Henry Cole Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, who supplied Gregory with teachers, the school flourished and became a leader in the provision of instruction in applied art and design to working artisans, many of whom were employed by local manufacturing firms, including Doulton's and Farmer and Brindley. The rapid expansion of the school led to the need for new premises, and in 1860 Albert, Prince of Wales (Edward VII) laid the foundation stone for new premises in Millers Lane, built on the site of the Vauxhall Gardens as part of a redevelopment that included St Peter's church. The buildings are still standing, although the road is now called St Oswald's Place.[7][8]

Development under John Sparkes

In 1857 John Charles Lewis Sparkes started teaching at the art school, soon becoming its Headmaster. Under Sparkes City and Guilds of London Art School was at the forefront of opposition to the monopoly claimed by the Royal Academy of Arts on the teaching of fine art practices, particularly drawing from the human figure. An attempt had been made to resolve this conflict in 1852, with the introduction by the British Government of the National Course on Instruction for art and design education, which was in effect a national curriculum for art training. This allowed for some elements of drawing to be taught, but within a broader curriculum that stressed the teaching of techniques to aid workers in artisan manufacturing industries rather than the training of artists.

In the case of City and Guilds of London Art School it was suggested at the time that Sparkes was ignoring the National Course on Instruction and teaching his students to be fine artists, particularly in 1865, when students from the art school won three medals at the annual awards handed out by the Royal Academy of Arts,[9] and again in 1867 when its students won three out of ten of the gold medals for art awarded by the Government, along with four silver medals awarded annually by the Royal Academy of Arts, and a bronze medal at the International Exposition held that year in Paris.[10] Certainly Sparkes and his colleagues at City and Guilds of London Art School ignored the general prohibition on life drawing being taught outside the Royal Academy of Arts, and the success of Sparkes's students at City and Guilds of London Art School in fine art competitions can be traced to this willingness by Sparkes to ignore regulations he believed were wrong.[11]

This radicalism in Sparkes can also be seen in his concern for the art and design tutors working both at City and Guilds of London Art School and elsewhere in Britain. In the 1860s a block grant was given by the British Government to the South Kensington Government School of Design for teachers' pay and this was then redistributed to other art schools across the country. As well as being widely considered an insufficient sum in the first place, the Government School of Design was accused by people such as Sparkes of holding on to too much of the money leading to the payment of what were called starvation wages at other art schools. Sparkes, in particular, was instrumental in campaigning for an increase in these wages, through both direct appeals to parliament and the establishment of the first national union of art teachers, the Association of Art Masters, in 1863.[12]

Connection to Doulton's Pottery

Recognising the limitations of government patronage of art schools, Sparkes cultivated a number of connections between the City and Guilds of London Art School and local manufacturing industries which would lead ultimately to City and Guilds of London Art School attaining the independent status it has today. One of the most notable of these was with Henry Doulton whose pottery factory, later known as Royal Doulton, was located near to the City and Guilds of London Art School.

In 1863 Doulton joined the school's board of management and the following year he gave the school its first commission, for a terracotta frieze for his factory's new extension. Following on from this Doulton was a strong supporter and promoter of the art school's activities, including exhibiting experimental works by students at the 1867 Paris Exhibition and at the 1871 London Exhibition.[13]

From about 1869, Doulton and his staff helped the art school to develop a curriculum that trained students for the pottery trade, and to carry out design work for Doulton. This collaboration provided Doulton's with a supply of higher-quality artwork for its trade, and gave students at Lambeth School of Art employment opportunities, and many noted English modellers and sculptors of the late nineteenth century owe their careers to this partnership.[8][14]

The close connection between the art school and Doulton's meant that the ethos of City and Guilds of London School of Art was based, from very early days, on a belief in a strong connection between the fine arts, craft and design. Consequently, its students and teachers became associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, and to some extent the Art Nouveau movement.[15]

Connection to Mssrs Farmer and Brindley

In addition to Doulton's, Sparkes also cultivated contacts with other local craft trade companies, one of the most notable of which was Mssrs Farmer and Brindley, a Lambeth-based architectural stone carving and terra-cotta company.[16] As with Doulton's, a number of apprentices at Farmer and Brindley augmented their training with study at the Art School. This included the sculptors Charles John Allen (1862–1956), Harry Bates (1850–1899) and Nathaniel Hitch (1846–1936), and others, who became prominent sculptors in the Victorian and Edwardian periods.[17]

City and Guilds Institute and City Livery Companies

In 1878 Sparkes secured funding in the art school of the newly founded City and Guilds of London Institute, and also ran the pre-cursor to Imperial College London.[13] The new backing secured the financial future of the art school without the strings attached to government funding. Under the new arrangement, the art school moved to new buildings in Kennington Park Road in Lambeth, which it still occupies, and was renamed the South London Technical School of Art. In 1932 it changed its name to the City and Guilds of London Institute Kennington and Lambeth Art School, reflecting the historical and continued support of the city of London Livery Companies. This was shortened in 1938 to the City and Guilds of London Art School.[18] The formal link between the parent body, the City and Guilds Institute, and the City and Guilds of London Art School was ended in 1971, when the art school became and independent trust.[19]

20th and 21st centuries

Graduates of the Art School were involved in some of the leading social and political movements of the early twentieth century, including Clemence Housman and Laurence Housman, who co-founded, in 1909, a society for artists who supported the Suffragette Movement, called the Suffrage Atelier.[20] Laurence Housman later went on to found the alternative bookshop, which still bears his name, located in Caledonian Road, near London's King's Cross railway station.

After the Second World War, new restoration and carving courses were established at the Art School to train people for the restoration of London's war-damaged buildings. However, during the 1960s the art school also developed a fine art program, although it still maintained and strengthened its programmes in restoration and carving. This resulted in the Art School evolving into both a school for fine art education, and a unique specialist training centre for the education of restorers and conservators of architectural stone and wood work.

In 1971 the Art School became an independent charitable trust, with the new Deed of Incorporation signed by Goeffrey Agnew (chairman of the art gallery Thomas Agnew & Sons), Sir Colin Skelton Anderson (Provost of the Royal College of Art), Sir John Betjeman (poet), Adrian Maurice Daintrey (artist), Gilbert Samuel (Lord Mayor of London), Charles Wheeler (sculptor and Former President of the Royal Academy), and Carel Weight (artist), amongst others. Support also came from artists such as Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland.[21]

In 1997 and 1998 the Fine Art Painting, Sculpture and Conservation courses were validated at undergraduate BA (Hons) level. In 2000 the MA course in Fine Art was validated by the University of Central England (now Birmingham City University).[22]

In a 2008 letter to the Observer newspaper and Art Monthly by Graham Crowley, former Professor of the Royal College of Art, the City & Guilds of London Art School's Fine Art Department was singled out for its "magnificent job" in "maintaining the transformative power and joy of education through art".[23]

In 2009 Booker Prize shortlisted writer Tibor Fischer became the Royal Literary Fund writing fellow at the City and Guilds of London Art School.[24]

In April 2011 the magazine Modern Painters surveyed art world professionals to create a list of the top ten British art schools, resulting in the City and Guilds of London Art School coming third after the Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy.[25]

Since 2018 art school's undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses have been validated by Ravensbourne.

Current departments

The Foundation Department is led by the artist Keith Price, alongside Foundation Course Co-ordinator Tim Ellis. The department teaches the UAL Foundation Course syllabus to prepare students to make applications to undergraduate art and design programmes at universities and art schools. Other tutors include Katie New, Kim Amis, Gareth Brookes, Niamh Clancy, Lucy Le Feuvre, Alex Hough, Dr. Lucy Lyons, Ian McIntyre, Nicholas Middleton, Emma Montague, Chris Poulton, Sage Townsend, Elaine Wilson, Gary Colclough, Benjamin Cohen, Hannah Birkett and Gabriel Birch.

The Fine Art Department is led by artist Robin Mason and consists of the BA (Hons) Fine Art course and the MA Fine Art Course. A range of contemporary artists teach at the Art School including Andrew Grassie, Amikam Toren, Reece Jones, Frances Richardson, Kiera Bennett, Tim Ellis and Hugh Mendes.

The Historic Carving Department consists of BA (Hons) Historic Carving: Woodcarving & Gilding, BA (Hons) Historic Carving: Architectural Stone, Graduate Diploma Arts: Carving and PgDip/MA Carving. The Department is led by Master Carver Tim Crawley who works with professional carvers in stone and wood including Nina Bilbey, Peter Thurling, Dick Onians, Paul Jakeman, Richard Kindersley, Robert Randall and Saena Ku alongside Kim Amis who teaches modelling and Diane Magee who runs the Drawing Studio.

The Conservation Department led by Dr Marina Sokhan, comprises BA (Hons) Conservation Studies and MA Conservation. The Department has a number of specialist tutors ranging from Gerry Alabone (who is also Head of Frame Conservation at Tate Modern) and gilder Rian Kanduth. Jennifer Dinsmore heads up stone conservation with Eric Miller and Urushi specialist Keiko Nakamura also teaches in to this course that specialises in the conservation of three-dimensional cultural objects made of wood, stone and related materials. From September 2020, the Department will also teach the conservation of Books & Paper.

The Art Histories Department is led by Thomas Groves and is home to MA Art & Material Histories as well as providing art historical, contextual and theoretical instruction to students in all the practical departments at the Art School. In addition to Thomas Groves, tutors include John Goodall, Susan Jenkins, Elizabeth Johnson, Vivienne Lawes, Nigel Llewellyn, Dr Michael Paraskos, Harrison Pearce, Paolo Plotegher, Matthew Rowe, Dr Jon Shaw and Rachel Warriner.

The Art School works with a network of institutions and individuals, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of London, the British Museum and Tate Modern.

Notable alumni

Notable teachers and lecturers


  1. University of Glasgow Mapping Sculpture Project
  2. College listed age in (accessed 5 April 2009) Archived 2 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Stuart Macdonald, The History and Philosophy of Art Education (Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 2004) p. 383
  4. Courses listed on school's website (accessed 25 March 2010 Archived 2 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Artist describes location at (accessed on 5 April 2009)
  6. describes potter John Sparkes leading the college in 1856 (accessed 5 April 2009) Archived 5 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Streatham, St Peter - Lambeth, South Deanery Archived 27 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  8. "South London Technical School of Art (also Lambeth School of Art and City and Guilds of London Art School)". Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951. Glasgow University, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Henry Moore Institute. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  9. The Athenaeum, vol. 1991, 23 December 1965, p. 894
  10. 'Lambeth School of Art' in The Art Journal, February 1866, p.45
  11. Stuart Macdonald, The History and Philosophy of Art Education (Cambridge, James Clarke and Co Ltd, 2014). p. 176
  12. Stuart Macdonald, The History and Philosophy of Art Education (Cambridge, James Clarke and Co Ltd, 2014). p. 216
  13. Wardleworth, Dennis (2013). William Reid Dick, Sculptor. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 9781409439714. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  14. McKeown, Julie (1997). Royal Doulton. Osprey Publishing. p. 10. ISBN 0747803382.
  15. College timeline at (accessed 8 March 2009) Archived 28 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  16. Emma Hardy, 'Farmer and Brindley, Craftsmen and Sculptors, 1850-1930' in The Victorian Society Annual 1993, pp. 4–17
  17. University of Glasgow Mapping Sculpture Project
  18. Jennifer Lang, City and Guilds of London Institute Centenary 1878-1978 (London: City and Guilds Institute, 1978) p. 94
  19. Jennifer Lang, City and Guilds of London Institute Centenary 1878-1978 (London: City and Guilds Institute, 1978) p.138
  20. Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (London: Routledge, 1999) p. 662
  21. Companies House, London, Articles of Association, reference no. 00992490
  22. Birmingham Institute of Art and Design validation at (accessed 5 March 2009)
  23. Thorpe, Vanessa (10 February 2008). "Low morale devastates art colleges". The Guardian. London.
  25. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. Sir George James Frampton's entry at the Royal Academy Collection web site
  27. Cannon, Michael (1979). "Brodzky, Horace Ascher (1885-1969)", in Australian Dictionary of Biography online, accessed 28 September 2015.
  28. Biography of Stephen Wiltshire in The Independent
  29. Michael Renton's obituary in The Independent
  31. Guardian Obituary
  33. John Charles Lewis Sparkes

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