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    Birkbeck Places - landscapes of learning?

    Clarke, Richard (2009) Birkbeck Places - landscapes of learning? In: "Putting Education in its Place": Space, Place and Materialities in the History of Education, 4–6 December 2009, Sheffield, UK. (Unpublished)

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    Abstract

    This paper explores the mutuality between the London Mechanics’ Institute (the fore-runner of Birkbeck College), the Birkbeck Schools (launched in the LMI’s Lecture Theatre in 1848) and the Birkbeck Freehold Land Society, Building Society and Bank (which between 1851 and 1885 shared the LMI’s premises and, arguably, saved it from extinction). The 1870 Education Act spelt the end for the seven Birkbeck Schools but the Bank, Land and Building Societies grew (until their collapse in 1911) to become a major constituent of the English property based financial system, playing a significant part in the transformation of London’s (sub) urban landscape. The physical apotheosis of the Birkbeck Bank was its extraordinary edifice designed by the architect of the Birkbeck Schools, T E Knightley. Erected between 1885 and 1902 on the site of the old Mechanics’ Institute, described by Pevsner as a ‘phantasmagoria’, and by the the Architectural Review as ‘the greatest single extravaganza of central London’, Birkbeck Buildings was a major commercial centre. Its dome was bigger than that of the Bank of England and adorned, as was the Bank’s façade, with symbolic bees ‘B’s and busts (including one of Birkbeck himself) signifying industry, foresight and knowledge – an iconographic paean to nineteenth century self-help. The building was replaced in 1962 with the modernist headquarters of the Westminster Bank (which took over the assets of the Birkbeck on its collapse) and what remains of ‘The Birkbeck’ (including its archives) now belongs to the Royal Bank of Scotland. The complex and problematic ideology of ‘useful knowledge’ lives on however. Its echoes can be found in the Birkbeck roads, mews, ways, places and gardens, a railway station, several pubs – and the surviving school buildings – which still feature in the landscape of London.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Birkbeck, London Mechanics' Institution, Birkbeck Bank, Birkbeck Schools
    School: Birkbeck Schools and Departments > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > Department of Geography
    Depositing User: Richard Clarke
    Date Deposited: 15 Apr 2014 07:47
    Last Modified: 15 Apr 2014 07:47
    URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/9590

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