Compiled by Tony Rigby
(Student: 1961-64 - Mathematics)
(Click on images to enlarge)
This timeline begins with a consideration of the weekend Reunion Event, which took place from 4th to 6th May, 2007 - three months before the college officially closed down. As will be seen, this special event was the catalyst that enabled alumni to remain in contact with each other, share their special memories of days gone by, and have opportunities to attend further reunion weekends at Bretton, taking place each year.
2007 - May 4 - 6 Reunion Weekend Event
" My role as ‘student co-ordinator’ for the event started in May 2005 and the aim was to celebrate six decades of artistic achievement at Bretton Hall Campus. Many different ideas were initially discussed and gradually the events team grew with Anthony Lowe, Robin Watkinson, Melanie Armitage, Sam Keane and my self creating a leading force to make the weekend a success.
" The project became a massive part of my degree and I have recently found out that the hard work has paid off as I got very pleasing marks! My role leading up to the weekend involved working closely with Peter Jones (China) LTD, choosing the commemorative items and clothing, looking at aspects of marketing the event as well as putting together the logistics of the whole weekend. The student support was incredible with over 150 present students involved either with the fringe events, plays, the art exhibition, performing, backstage, front of house or just talking to the alumni about their days on campus. The weekend exceeded expectations with over 3000 visitors attending, including former students and staff who travelled from as far away as California and Canada. Each day there was a ‘buzz’ on site, which managed to capture the ethos of Bretton. The gala dinners in the evenings, especially the ‘Bretton Brit and Bafta’ night for all the students, helped people celebrate their time on campus with friends including present and past tutors. These events all took place in the massive marquee structure set in the middle of the campus grounds, which became a unique and memorable venue for this very special weekend.
" I would like to thank everybody who came across the weekend; it was an experience which is a highlight of my university life and one which I will never forget. I would like especially to thank Anthony Lowe and Melanie Armitage as well as other members of staff, students and graduates who contributed during the two years of planning. "
Alan Parker was a student at Bretton Hall during the late 1960s. He attended the Reunion Weekend Event and afterwards commented:
"The Reunion of May 2007 was one of the most emotionally provocative events I have ever experienced. To see all those faces from the past, in the most magnificent surroundings, and set against budding trees and flowering plants was really overwhelming.
"The event was well organised and a credit to the staff and P.C.I. students of the College. Probably, the highlight of the weekend was the Alec Clegg lecture given by the ex principal, Dr Alyn Davies, who outlined the vision of Sir Alec and related it to his own shared views of Education."
Alan added that it was:
"Certainly a time for us all to reflect on our educational ideals, particularly, as Dr. Davies put it:
‘We are in the departure lounge’. "
As a direct result of his presence at the emotional reunion, Alan Parker determined that the memories of Bretton Hall as an educational institution should not fade away. He began a process of organising future reunions, opening a Bretton Hall website, and forming a group of volunteers to act as an administrative team.
Dr. Alyn Davies
Dr. Davies was the second Principal of Bretton Hall College from 1968 to 1980. On the last day of Bretton Hall's Reunion Weekend Event in 2007 he delivered a lecture to celebrate and commemorate the valuable contributions of Sir Alexander Bradshaw Clegg to education in general and, in particular, to the development of Bretton Hall College. Sir Alec Clegg's focus was always on children as learners.
The opening sentences of Dr. Davies' lecture surely reflected the tone of the 2007 Reunion:
"This is an extraordinary weekend.
For former students and staff, a celebration of friendships forged,
but also a threnody - a lamentation on the departure of the college from this magical place."
2007 - July 27 Alan Parker's Revisit
After the closure of Bretton Hall, Alan Parker obtained permission to visit the property to take further photographs and record the condition of the buildings since the departure of students and tutors.
After his visit, Alan commented:
“I visited Bretton on Wednesday the 27th July, 2007 to take final images and to have a good ‘scout around’ to see if I could get any insight into what was going to happen after closure.
“Susan Daniels very kindly gave me access to the buildings, and her time to go through what the position of the closure was. Susan also went through much of the appraisal work that had been done, trying to find a viable use for the campus once it was vacated.
“My images are purely snapshots of a very sad situation. They are not meant to be artistic, and were done with a limited timescale.
“I start with one very sad image of a tree planted in the front of the college as a memorial to a past student who sadly died. It represents, I think, how we feel.”
Alan visited most areas and took many photographs, which can be viewed by clicking on the links below.
2007 - Nov 2 Press Release from Wakefield Council
Wakefield Council issued a Press Release stating that the Council's Committee had decided to grant a lease for Bretton Hall to Rushbond plc, and a similar lease for the Bretton Hall Estate to Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
2008 - Jan 18 - Death of Foundation Tutor
Seonaid Robertson - Head of Art - died nine days before her 96th birthday.
Seonaid Robertson's Obituary appeared in the Guardian newspaper on 18th February, 2008
Extract from Obituary:
"She then became a founder member and art education senior lecturer at Bretton Hall College, west Yorkshire (1949-55). It was one of the happiest, most fulfilling periods of her life - as she passed on her ideas in a college dedicated to the arts, drama and music - while living in a beautiful environment. She was passionate about nature's importance in developing young lives."
2009 - July 15 Death of a Celebrated Alumna
Anne Collins (29 August 1943 – 15 July 2009)
From 1961 to 1963 Anne Collins trained at Bretton Hall College, intending to become a music teacher. Although she successfully studied the cello, she was praised by staff and students alike for the remarkable quality of her untrained singing voice. After leaving Bretton, she undertook further studies at the Royal College of Music, concentrating initially on the cello and then vocal studies.
Anne became a successful and celebrated contralto, and was praised for her versatility in opera performances. Her debut was at Sadlers Wells Opera in 1970. Throughout her professional career that spanned nearly 40 years, she sang a wide range of operatic character roles and other classical pieces. She appeared with most of the major British opera companies and at opera houses throughout Europe.
Celebrated as a particularly accomplished operatic singer and cellist, she performed on a number of occasions playing the cello onstage while singing Lady Jane in ‘Patience’ for English National Opera. She twice performed in the Albert Hall at the 'Last Night of the Proms'.
In Anne Collins' obituary, it is said of her contralto voice: "Collins could use it to its best degree and achieve success equally in drama and comedy, in parts great and small."
Anne Collins died of cancer in Sussex, aged 65.
2010 - Jan 8 Death of Hon. Richard Blackett Beaumont
The Hon. Richard Blackett Beaumont (1926-2010) was the second son of the 2nd Viscount Allendale.
Richard Beaumont's death in 2010 is recorded here because he had at various times taken a particular interest in Bretton Hall College.
It was he who in 1982 donated the line of trees planted on Bretton's main drive, which was renamed Beaumont Drive in his honour.
Of particular interest is the Hon. Richard Beaumont's message in 1989, when he commented about his affection for Bretton Hall as his former home.
2011 - Restoration of Kennel Block for Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Rushbond plc
After the raising of funds by Bretton Hall alumni, Kennel Block was converted by Yorkshire Sculpture Park into a Learning Centre and Café.
After a generous donation by Dr. Alyn S. Davies (former Principal of Bretton Hall College), and funds raised by alumni, the pathways around the lakes and through the woods were restored. Access was once more made available to the public.
2013 May 11 - Visits to Student Hostels
During the afternoon, alumni took the opportunity to visit the eleven student hostels before their scheduled demolition. The event was organised by the alumni, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Rushbond and Wakefield Council.
The official photographers were: Alan Parker (Music 1968-71); David Newland (Dramatic Arts 1984-87, and John Morrisey (Education Early Years 1987-90). In addition, various other alumni provided miscellaneous photographs.
2014 - Jan - Death of Dr. Alyn Davies
Dr. Alyn S. Davies (1936 - 2012)
After beginning his career in teaching, Dr. Davies became an Inspector of Schools in the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1966.
Two years later he was appointed Principal of Bretton Hall College of Education, succeeding the foundation Principal, John F. Friend.
After resigning from Bretton in 1980, Dr. Davies was appointed to the Inner London Education Authority as Chief Inspector for Further & Higher Education. He remained with ILEA until it disbanded in 1990.
2014 - June 4 Press Release from Wakefield Council
On Wednesday, 4th June 2014, the Planning Department of Wakefield Council approved the latest application from Rushbond plc to convert Bretton Hall into a luxury hotel complex.
Permission was granted for
• the conversion of the Mansion House to form a 120-bedroomed hotel with ancillary restaurants, bar, spa, conference, wedding facilities and temporary marquee locations, including erection of three-storey extensions to the north and east wings;
• the partial demolition of later addition extensions to the mansion;
• full demolition of Refectory, Music Block, Ezra Taylor building and hostel/ancillary buildings;
• conversion of the Camellia House to ancillary hotel use;
• conversion of the Stables, Coach House, Theatre, Library and link block to six office units;
• associated new access roads, car parking, infrastructure and landscape works.
2015 - Jan 25 Re-visit to the Mansion
Tony Rigby, who had recently joined Alan Parker’s administrative group, sought permission to visit and photograph the inside of the mansion eight years after its closure.
Thanks to the support and influence of Anna Bowman – Senior Archivist in charge of the NAEA – permission was granted for a visit on 25 January.
2015 - Mar 23 - Decay of Buildings
After the closure of Bretton Hall as an educational institution in July 2007, it was not unreasonable to assume that renovation, alteration, demolition, restructuring, and all the other functions involved in the conversion of the relevant buildings into a luxury hotel, would begin reasonably promptly.
Unfortunately, this was not the case at Bretton.
Immediately after the doors had been locked on that final day, Wakefield Council provided site guards who regularly patrolled the vicinity of the buildings to ensure that there were no trespassers.
Time passed! When would activities begin? No-one seemed to know.
The atmosphere was one of desolation; it was tempting to imagine that Alan Parker's 2007 comment about an "eerie silence" now echoed around the site.
The reality of the situation was that in 2015 - eight years after closure - the buildings were still isolated, with no obvious activity. Decay of all structures was now clearly and visibly established.
On 23rd March of that year, Tony Rigby returned to the site to photograph the evidence.
2016/17 - Renovation
Grade ll Listed Buildings
Due to the fact that, among others, the Mansion and parts of Stable Block are designated Grade ll * Listed buildings, particular care has to be taken that renovation, conservation and restoration are undertaken in accordance with the Government’s “Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance”.
Work began in 2016 on the exterior and interior of Stable Block and the Mansion, and continued throughout successive years. At the time of writing (2020), work continues.
January 2016 - Isolation of Site
Once it became clear at the start of 2016 that maintenance of the Mansion and Stable Block was about to begin, it was necessary to isolate the site, ensuring the prohibition of the public to all grounds close to the old College campus. It was expected that the restrictions would continue until the completion of the conversion of Bretton Hall into a luxury hotel.
In support of the administrative group of the Bretton Hall website, an exception was made for one person, who would be allowed to enter the site, as and when required in order faithfully and accurately to record the renovation of the buildings, and subsequent demolition of certain structures. Tony Rigby undertook this responsibility. After appropriate training in health and safety requirements, he visited the Bretton site regularly throughout a period of 18 months during 2016 and 2017.
Images of the restoration processes during 2016/17 are available by clicking on the relevant links below.
2017 - Feb to July - Restructure 1 - Demolition
In order to proceed with the conversion of Bretton Hall into a luxury hotel, Rushbond plc demolished buildings that would no longer be required. The necessary structures were the majority of those built in the 1960s and thereafter. The demolition of the appropriate buildings took place in 2017 between February and July.
For Demolition Images click on links below
2017 Feb - July - Restructure 2 - Conservation
During the building programme of the 1960s onwards, the architects added a number of antique artifacts to various structures as enhancements. Most were carved during the 18th century, but one was known to have originated in 1588.
It was determined that the carvings be conserved, and four remain on site. The remaining eight were carefully removed during the demolition of buildings, and placed in storage to be included in strategic positions during the building of the new luxury hotel.
2017 - July 3 - Restructure 3 - Aftermath of Demolition
After the conclusion of Tony Rigby's official visits to Bretton in 2017 to record the processes of demolition, he returned once more on July 3rd to see what remained of the structures planned for removal. Only one of the relevant buildings was still standing - Grasshopper Hostel - which, in its basement, contains vital equipment that serves to supply water and electricity to the main buildings, and deal with waste disposal requirements. It is anticipated that this structure will remain and be used as part of the proposed luxury hotel complex.
Perhaps the more significant object remaining on site is a column, supporting an astrolade.
This object stands on a spot, which was formerly the forecourt adjacent to Wentworth, Dearne and Beaumont Hostels.
Before the modern building programme began in 1962, the column had been standing inside the old coach house of the Stable Block since the early 1840s, serving as one of a number of supports for an upper floor.
When the hostels were built, the pillar (complete with an astrolabe installed on the top) was used as a decorative item, which soon came to be accepted as an icon. May it so remain!
2017 - August - Icon
2019 - Sept 4 - Press Release
Appointment of ARTFARM as Operator-Partner for the Transformation of Bretton Hall