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Leicester Special Collections

Modest Beginnings

Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland College opened in October 1921 with 11 students and 4 teaching staff. Academic leadership was entrusted to the Acting Principal, Revd Dr R. F. Rattray, Unitarian Minister of Great Meeting in Leicester. Rattray brought academic creditability to the institution, having studied at Glasgow, Oxford and universities in Germany before completing a PhD at Harvard. 

Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland College staff and students, 1922

Original University College Library, c. 1920s

Original University College Library, c. 1920s


An impressive library comprising 5,000 volumes, including donations from local businessmen Harry Peach and Thomas Hatton, was assembled ready for the use of the  first students. Astley Clarke demonstrated another talent by hand making bookcases on  which some of the books were shelved. The first students took classes in English, Latin,  French, Geography and Botany at the College, and attended lessons in other science  subjects at the city’s Technical College.

The Arch of Remembrance

Illustration of ‘The Arch of Remembrance’ by L. P. Jenkins, from The Form and Order of the Unveiling Ceremony of the Arch of Remembrance (Leicester, 1925)

While the College was becoming established, Leicester continued to discuss ways of honouring the war dead. The city’s war memorial was built by public subscription at a cost of £25,000 in Victoria Park, adjacent to the College. It was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, one of three principal architects for the Imperial War Graves Commission, and unveiled on 4 July 1925 by two women who had lost sons during the war. There are no names on the memorial, just an inscription honouring those who died, were injured or otherwise served during the war. The Order of Ceremony for the unveiling explained that, ‘the front approached from the University seemed to call for a special appeal to both mind and spirit’, and it was therefore inscribed with the last verse of Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’:

I will not cease from mental fight / Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand / Till we have built Jerusalem / In England’s green and pleasant land