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Evening classes in science and art were established in 1846 by the Chance family at the schools attached to their Spon Lane glass-works. An institute formed at the works in 1852 flourished for almost twenty years. John Henderson of the London Works formed a library and reading room in the Cape Hill district and was patron of an institute which met there in the mid 1850s, while a few years later Joseph Chamberlain was fostering adult education at Nettlefold & Chamberlain’s Smethwick works. St. Matthew’s Church had some 140 pupils at an evening school in 1870, and Holy Trinity Church organized evening classes about the same date. Smethwick Institute, formed in 1887, met at the higher grade school in Crockett’s Lane. For a few years after its foundation its activities included evening classes. It closed in the later 1920s. Another institute was meeting at Bearwood in the 1880s. The school board constituted itself a local committee of the Science and Art Department in 1885 and organized evening classes in science and art at the higher grade school in Crockett’s Lane. In 1892 a technical instruction committee was set up consisting of members of the local board and the school board. It took over the management of the science and art classes, forming them into a municipal technical school. The school board members withdrew from the committee in 1898, and from 1899 the whole committee was appointed by the town council.
The technical school continued to meet in the evenings in the higher grade school until 1910, when a technical school building was opened in Crockett’s Lane. By 1913 there was an attendance of nearly 4,000. From 1914 until 1947 the buildings also housed a secondary technical school, and pupils from it continued to use classrooms and laboratories until 1956. Evening classes were still the most important part of the institution’s work in the late 1920s, although after the 1918 Education Act the first day-release students were enrolled, with originally five firms sending workers. The school became Smethwick Municipal College in 1927 and was renamed Chance Technical College in 1945. A block of engineering and building workshops was opened in 1950. Between 1952 and 1966 major extensions were built on an adjoining site in Crockett’s Lane; they enabled the college to accommodate some 3,500 students by 1966, two-thirds of whom attended courses during the day. In 1968 the college was merged with Oldbury College of Further Education to form Warley College of Technology, with the buildings in Crockett’s Lane (Chance Building) housing the main administrative centre of the new college and six of its eight departments.
The original building, extensively renovated, is of brick with grey terracotta dressings, and was designed in a ‘free Renaissance style’ by F. J. Gill. The extensions of 1952-66, designed by W. W. Atkinson and Partners, consist of five main blocks faced with Portland stone and coloured brick. They house workshops, classrooms, laboratories, assembly and recreation halls, and administrative offices.
Major blaze at former college in Smethwick
Firefighters are tackling a blaze at the old Smethwick campus of Sandwell College in Crocketts Lane
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