Oxford Brookes turns 150

Oxford Brookes University celebrated its 150th anniversary this week. In 1865, the Oxford School of Art was established by John Brookes – thus starting a long journey for the university; from relative obscurity, to the establishment of it’s own identity in the city of dreaming spires. Celebrations were prepared, and on Friday alumni, guests and friends of Oxford Brookes came together to mark the occasion, with local theatre production company Flintlock Theatre putting on a special play, “Educating Oxford”, to celebrate the university’s history.

Other celebrations included an exhibition in the Ashmolean Museum in March, a ‘back in time day,’ and the brewing of a special IPA beer, named after the institution’s former principal and ‘spiritual founder,’ John Henry Brookes. Ed Murray, former graduate, and brewer: “We decided to recreate an authentic 1865 recipe so the beer would reflect what beer tasted like when Oxford Brookes was founded.” Mr. Murray now runs Shotover Brewing Company, in Horspath.

Brookes University began as the Oxford School of Art on the ground floor of the Taylor Institution, now home to Oxford University’s library for the study of European Languages. In 1934, the School of Art and the Technical School were merged, and by 1950, the college was renamed ‘Oxford College of Technology.’ The University became Oxford Polytechnic in 1970, seven years after relocating to Headington, before finally becoming Oxford Brookes University in 1992.

Brookes’ oldest surviving alumni Phyllis Timbs and Doris Simms, both 96, were among those commemorating the occasion on Friday. The pair were pre-war classmates at the Oxford School of Technology, Art and Commerce – another incarnation of what would become Oxford Brookes – in 1935.

Chancellor Katherine Grainger and Vice-Chancellor Alistair Fitt were on hand to greet the esteemed guests. Mr Fitt said: “The event marks a significant day in Oxford Brookes’ history. I am particularly pleased we are able to celebrate our anniversary in the very building where it all began 150 years ago in the Taylor Institution.”

Oxford University has since had a long history with Brookes, with a tradition of sporting rivalries, access of the University of Oxford’s libraries for Brookes’ students, and an acceptance of Brookes students into the Oxford Union. Rising from its modest beginnings in central Oxford, the University now sits at 35th on the Guardian University League Table, with top level courses in architecture and history.

Photo/Charlotte Wood