Then and now: Leeds College of Art

As Leeds College of Art gets ready to celebrate 170 years of delivering art education, we take a look back at where it all began

Founded in 1846 as the Leeds Government School of Art and Design, Leeds College of Art has contributed significantly to the development of art education in Britain and across the world. Today, it remains one of only a few remaining independent art schools in the UK, leading the way as a centre for art and design education.

The Vernon Street Ramblers. Rag week in City Square. C.1950


The College has an impressive history of notable past students, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth were students in the post-war era, enrolling in 1919 and 1920. In later years Damien Hirst, Marcus Harvey, Eric Bainbridge, Clio Barnard and Georgina Starr all studied at the College, known then as the Jacob Kramer College. 

To mark its milestone anniversary, the College is hosting an extensive programme of exhibitions of work from former students and artists from across the UK, which are open to the public and free to attend.

Drawing Exam Students 1920, Leeds College of Art on the Vernon Street steps

Simone Wonnacott, Principal Leeds College of Art, said: “We are extremely proud of our significant history and heritage as a leading specialist art school.

Tyke Day Parade, North Street, Leeds 1963

Our 170th anniversary is an exciting year – as we look to the future with plans for growth, it is important for us to celebrate our talented students, past and present, and our dedicated staff.”

The College will be announcing further 170th birthday events throughout the year. To keep up to date visit


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