|Nicholl's Campus of City College - The former Nicholl's
This rather magnificent gothic building on the corner of Hyde Road and Devonshire Street, in Ardwick, is the former Nicholl's Hospital. It was designed by the architect Thomas Worthington and built in 1879. Worthington was the son of a Salford cottom merchant active in the Unitarian Church. He was articled as an architect to Henry Bowman and set up his own practice in Manchester in 1849. I went to school in Ardwick a stone's throw away from his Nicholl's Hospital and I remember it as an ominous black building that seemed to loom over 1950s Hyde Road. Today it can be seen in all its colourful glory.
Worthington competed for the design of Manchester Town Hall loosing out to Waterhouse but he left behind some fine gothic buildings including the Law Courts on Minshull Street and the Albert Memorial.
Nicholls' Hospital was founded by the bequest
Nicholls, millowner, as a "memorial of his son John Ashton
Nicholls. A plaque inside the building declares that John
Nicholls was , "was
had the improvement of the humbler classes deeply at heart and
laboured earnestly to promote it, and whose mother testified her
interest in the object of this institution by a supplementary bequest".
had died in 1859. Benjamin Nicholls became the
Mayor of Manchester in 1887.
In 1952, under the Charitable Trusts Act,
the Minister of Education made schemes for the Nicholls Hospital
Foundation and for the Chetham's Hosptal School Foundation, by which
the Nicholls Hospital School was no longer to be carried on as such,
and the boys were to be transferred to Chetham's Hospital School. The
Nicholls Building was rented by the Education Committee and later
purchased in 1953 to be used as a County Secondary School for Boys. This was the first
change of direction for the building.
Originally, playing space with some form of
hard surface area for football was available at the back of the school
(marked A in the image above),
bordering up to Ardwick Cemetery, but this was taken over by extensions
to the old building. The Ardwick Cemetery itself, covering about 5
acres, had been opened in 1838 when there were no local authority
cemeteries. By 1950, all further burials were prohibitied and the
transferred to the Corporation which was empowered to use the land for
school playing fields or as an open space. A record of the inscriptions
on the tombstones was deposited with the Registrar General, and a copy
placed in the Local History Library of the Central Library. The burial
registers were handed over into the custody of the Town Clerk. It
was decided to develop the land as a playing
field for Nicholls Secondary School, which, according to a brochure
published at that time, thus became the first Secondary School in the
inner area of the city to be extended to bring its accommodation up to
modern standards and to have a playing field on its own site. The work
was carried out in 1963/4 and cost £18,275.
The new school began its life on
1st September, 1967 using all three buildings, known as "H" Building
(former Technical High School); "A"
Building (Ardwick Girls) and "N" Building (Nicholls Secondary
Boys). The Nicholls Building became the administrative centre of
the school. Later buildings H and A were demolished and the
school moved onto a single site. There was another name change
along the way when it was named in honour of a former pupil of Ardwick
Higher Grade School (the precursor of Ardwick Technical High) Ellen
Ellen Wilkinson entered Ardwick
Higher Grade School in 1902. The daughter of Richard and Ellen
Wilkinson of 41 Coral Street in Chorlton-upon-Medlock, Ellen was a
diminuative red-head. As an adult she was only 4 foot 10 inches
tall but she became known as Red Ellen and she had a formidable
The photograph below, shown with the permission of Peter Harden,
shows the young Ellen with her mother and her brothers Richard and
Harold. Clearly evident is the firery red hair that became her
trade-mark. She inherited it from her maternal grandmother who had red
hair long enough that she could sit on it. Ellen had ambitions to
grow hers long too but eventually tired of it and had it cut
She can be see third from the
left on the back row in this photograph of the Ardwick Higher Grade
School Girls' Form taken
sometime between 1902 and 1906.
In 1906 Ellen won a £25 pupil teaching bursary which enabled her to attend the Manchester Day Training College on Princess Street in central Manchester. She attended College for half of the week and in the other half taught at Oswald Road Elementary School. In 1910 Ellen became a student at Manchester University where she developed her interest in socialism and politics. A plaque in her honour was placed in the quad of old university buildings.
In 1912 she joined the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies later becoming a district organizer. She also ran the local branch of the Fabian Society. At the age of 24 she was the women's organiser of the Co-operative Employees, eventually gaining pre-eminence within NUDAW - a shopworkers' union. After being active in the women's sufferage movement she was elected as Labour member of Middlesbrough East in 1924. Identified with the far left, in fact Wilkinson was involved with various forms of labour movement activism. She was a tough character and resilient to jibes as both an orator and hardened union negotiator. She lost her seat in 1931. In 1935 she was elected MP for Jarrow, a seat she held until her death in 1947. In 1936 she was one of the leaders of the Jarrow March.
In 1940 Ellen was appointed
Parliamentary Secretary Minister of Pensions, and Joint Parliamentary
Secretary Ministry of Home Security 1940 - 1945. In 1945 she became
Minister of Education.
So it was appropriate that this
Ardwick School should be named the Ellen Wilkinson High School.
However, once again the winds of
change were blowing in Manchester in 2000 when Ellen Wilkinson was
merged with Spurley Hey to create a new school called Cedar Mount
located in Gorton.
Today the Nicholls Hospital building is the Nicholls Campus of
the Manchester City College. It is the base for sports academies
in football, rugby, cricket and basketball.
The college offers excellent sports facilities including a football
centre with a full size
grassed pitch and synthetic five-a-side pitches, a sports hall and
fully equipped gym. The campuse is also equipped with: IT suites,
science labs, a learning resource centre, a canteen and a student
The Nicholls Hospital building is now 132 years old but it
seems to have found a way iof reinventing itself for succeeding