St Peter's College

Jack Butcher, an "Old Salt" for provides for us a backdrop to the history of St Peter's College. Jack studied at the College  from 1952-1953 and is now Chair of the Old Salts Association.

Photo Credits: David Whitlock.

It was on the 10th October 1850 that the foundation stone of  Saltley Training College was laid by Sir John Packington, deputising for Lord Lytleton.  The event was mentioned in the Illustrated London News, together with an artist’s impression, the caption of which read: “The site of the building is at Saltley, near Birmingham, upon land given by C.B.Adderley MP…and it is in the style of domestic architecture of the time of Edward III.”

The teachers trained here were originally intended to take up posts in C of E schools in the diocese of Worcester and the building of the college was part of a national movement at that time towards improving the education of the poor.

St Peters College. February 1985

The Old Quad was the 1850 building and by 1852 it housed 25 students who studied: Holy Scripture and the evidence of Christianity; the English language; Writing; Arithmetic; Elements of Mathematics and Practical Science; Geography and History; Latin; Model Drawing; Music; Natural History and the Art and Practice of Teaching.

It was a Spartan life they led and their daily routine was: 5.30am – 7.00am Private Study; 7.00am Prayers; 8.00am Breakfast; 8.30am – 12.15pm Lectures; 12.15pm – 1.30pm Industrial Drill; 1.30pm Diner; then an interval for recreation; 3.00pm – 6.00pm Lectures; 6.00pm – 6.30pm leisure time specifically designed to give opportunity for a game of cricket or gymnastic exercises; 6.30pm Tea; 7.00pm – 9.00pm Private Study; 9.00pm Prayers; 10.00pm Lights Out.


St Peters College. February 1985

Little time, one might think, to brood except during the night when in the “Shants” (the cubicles into which North, East and West wings were divided were known as Shanties), it was so cold that to get warm they took the wooden drawers out of the cupboards and put them over the counterpane. But despite all this, there are many accounts of men who thoroughly enjoyed their time at Saltley.

On a personal note, I can tell you that a 100 years later, the luxury of a heating system in the old "Shants" never produced a tropical heat.


James Chance Lecture Theatre, the Cahpel and the Library. February 1985.

In 1900 expansion of the building took place and the area which is now the Residents’ Lounge in Middle College House, was added.  Then came the Chapel and later the Gymnasium and above it, an Art Room.

World War I had an immediate effect on Saltley when almost the whole college marched out of the gates in August 1914.  Very few were to return.  During the war the buildings were used by the WAAF and the Tank Corps.

When the College reopened in September 1919 there were 37 Second Year students and 59 First Years.  In 1928 building was begun on the South Wing and there was a major alteration to the Old Quad, including reconstruction of the Dining Hall and kitchens.  These three projects cost £20,000.

South Block, TV Room and the Old Block. November 1974

A feature of South Wing was the Hobbis Memorial Library, erected by Old Students to the memory of the man who had been head of the Practising School which was built in Bridge Road in 1869.

During the Second World War, despite being bombed – East Wing received a direct hit – the college remained open although the bulk of the students were evacuated to St.Luke’s, Exeter and later, St.John’s, York.

After the war there was major development again.  The Practising School had been destroyed by bombing and a new hostel block and gymnasium was built on that side of the field near to the workshops which had been erected in the 1930’s and which had given Saltley outstanding, for that time, facilities in the area of Arts and Crafts.

In 1950 the College celebrated its Centenary.  In 1959 it was decided to change the name from Saltley Training College to St.Peter’s College, Saltley.  At the time there were those who had doubts about the change.  Some felt it might encourage more Roman Catholics to apply, whilst others felt that many young men might not realise it was Saltley College about which they had heard such good reports.

In the 1960’s came a further period of expansion.  In January 1961 the foundation stone of the new Library was laid; the North Wing of the Old Quad was extended so that the new Library, the Chapel and the old East Wing now formed a new quadrangle.  A new residential block was also built parallel to Bridge Road.

In the 1960’s too the College experienced its greatest change.  Women were admitted!

Further expansion continued right into the 1970’s but for reasons too complex to go into here, the decision was taken to close the College in 1978.


St Peters College, February 1985

The site was purchased by Aston University who used it first purely for residential purposes but later for some tuition.  Then in 1984 Aston decided it no longer needed the accommodation and it is from this point that the new story unfolds.

In 1985 a group including the former Warden of Aston University, two local MPs, a lawyer and a number of accountants got together to raise funds to buy the site with a view to establishing  an urban village.  Between 1985 and 1991 much work was done converting the properties to residential, commercial and industrial use.  The residential section comprising the Old Quad area and most of the tutorial and student study-bedroom section was converted to one and two-bedroom flats with a section devoted to sheltered housing.  This was given over to be run by the newly-formed St. Peter’s (Saltley) Housing Association Ltd. With the money for conversion, some £6,000,000 , coming at that time from the Housing Corporation.

The remainder of the site has been let to various social agencies, small business start-ups, a community day- nursery, and a  fitness centre.  There is still some student accommodation on the site and this is often occupied by overseas students in the UK for short periods.

The tenants of the Housing Association enjoy a very secure site and are involved in the management of the Association sitting on the Board of Management and having a separate Tenants’ Forum in which they have the opportunity to discuss proposed new policies and procedures before they go to the Board.  It has taken some years but there are strong signs that a real “village” atmosphere is taking shape at St. Peter’s.  This will be further enhanced by the opening of the new allotments for use by the tenants and which were developed with the the help of a National Lottery Grant.

Old Salts often refer to the “Saltley Spirit” – something intangible but nonetheless, real – in the atmosphere of this place; something which makes it easier to make a friend of one’s fellow man.  There is a fellowship born here, which has lasted many for the whole of the rest of their lives – all brothers, all comrades, linked in each others service.  I have a feeling it is still alive in the new enterprise which we are sharing to-day in Saltley.


Principals House, English Dept & Admin Buildings Novemmber 1974

Adderley House and the Craft / PE Block. November 1974

February 1985

Lyttleton House & New Library & Block