Hornsey College of Art

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Hornsey College of Art (a.k.a. Hornsey School of Art) was a college in Crouch End in the London Borough of Haringey, England. The HCA was "an iconic British art institution, renowned for its experimental and progressive approach to art and design education".[1]


The college was founded in 1880 as the Hornsey School of Arts by Charles Swinstead, an artist and teacher who lived at Crouch End, Hornsey. The college passed to his son, Frank Swinstead, following his death in 1890.[2] During the inter-war years the schools curriculum was composed of Fine Art, Advertising Design and Industrial Applied Art. It continued its day-time classes during World War II and was one of only two London art schools that did not vacate the capital during the blitz.

It became Hornsey College of Arts and Crafts in 1955. It survived until 1973 as a named entity, when it joined Enfield Technical College and Hendon Technical College to become Middlesex Polytechnic. The Polytechnic later became Middlesex University.

The 1968 sit-in[edit]

During 1968, the college was the scene of protests when students occupied the Crouch End Hill site.[3] Students attending the multi-site college convened to discuss the withdrawal of Student Union funds and resolved to sit-in. During this period they effected a temporary administration of the college, and called for major and consultative review of the art curriculum, supported by sympathetic academic staff and visiting artists. They offered a major critique of the education system at the time.[4] Some of these documents were presented as part of a project called The Hornsey Project. The college was repossessed by local authorities at the beginning of the summer break.

Hornsey achieved notoriety because of the scale of the all-night protests and sit-ins, which were copied in similar art schools around the UK. During the six weeks that the sit-in lasted, Hornsey became the focus of debate about the method of art education and teaching in Britain. Hornsey was, and still is, afforded the blame for these disturbances that swept the student fraternity nationwide.[citation needed]

Kim Howells, a student, and Nick Wright, then president of the Students' Union on a sabbatical year, initiated the sit-in.[citation needed] Howells later became a trade union official and a minister in Tony Blair's government. After the protests, Tom Nairn, then a sociology lecturer, was dismissed from the college.[5]

The Hornsey Affair, a book by students and staff at Hornsey, was published in 1969 by Penguin Books.[4][6] A documentary film, Our Live Experiment is Worth More Than 3,000 Textbooks, about the Hornsey sit-in was directed by John Goldschmidt for Granada Television and transmitted in 1969.

Patricia Holland's Hornsey Film "reconstructs the arguments and succession of events that led to the occupation of Hornsey College of Art between May and July 1968".[7]

Part of the Hornsey Archive[8] is currently held at Middlesex University in the Sheppard Library as one of their special collections.

Hornsey Weep In, photo by Nicholas Bechgaard, April 1969
Hornsey Weep In, photo by Nicholas Bechgaard, April 1969

In April 1969 a follow-up mock funeral procession, performed by students of the art school, declared "the death of Hornsey Hope".[9]

Recent use of the building[edit]

Middlesex University vacated the Crouch End building in the 1980s. The building was then used by the TUC as a training and conference centre. Since 2008, the building has been a part of Coleridge Primary School, upon its expansion to four-form entry.

Notable alumni and teachers[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". www.mdx.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Swinstead, Frank Hillyard". www.suffolkartists.co.uk. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  3. ^ "What happened at Hornsey in May 1968 — Nick Wright". Archived from the original on October 6, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Students and staff of Hornsey College of Art (1969). The Hornsey Affair. Penguin Education. ISBN 9780140800968.
  5. ^ "The Crouch End Commune". www.newstatesman.com.
  6. ^ "Hornsey Reunion 2008 - please contribute your oral histories". October 12, 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-10-12.
  7. ^ "Watch The Hornsey Film - BFI Player". BFI Player. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  8. ^ Syratt-Barnes, Marion. "My Subject: Special Collections: Hornsey". libguides.mdx.ac.uk.
  9. ^ Hornsey Weep-In Burial Service, performative play included in the Sheppard Library's Hornsey archive
  10. ^ Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys; Viv Albertine; Faber & Faber 2014, p. 62
  11. ^ Treneman, Ann (14 March 1998). "Profile: Wendy Dagworthy – Mentor a la mode". The Independent. Retrieved 6 April 2014.

Coordinates: 51°38′37″N 0°08′50″W / 51.6436°N 0.1472°W / 51.6436; -0.1472