Bolton College of Art and the Croal Valley.

The classic Art Nouveau Hilden street building

The Hilden Street premises (Pupil Teacher Centre) were built in 1901 at a cost of £9,000 and art classes started in 1903, a temporary arrangement until more suitable premises could be found.  In 1905 art classes were moved to Mawdsley St.  

When the Pupil/Teacher centre closed in 1913 art classes moved back to Hilden Street.

By 1928 a Junior School opened offering full-time education to 13–16-year-olds chosen on a selective basis, such schools were to be found in many towns but they gradually disappeared leaving Bolton Junior School of Art as a unique institution.

The Principal had a dual function as Head of the College and Head of the junior school.

Bolon Mechanics Institute in Mawdsley Street served as the Art College for a short period 1905-13. Bolton School of Art prospectus.

My old Head Mr John Nicholson was appointed Principal in 1951 with Roger Hampson appointed Vice-Principal in 1961 and Principal in 1967 when Mr Nicholson retired.

Sometime around 1980 (?) the college moved to Chadwick Street before later becoming a department of Bolton Institute of Higher Education and even later the University of Bolton. Today, the classic Hilden Street Art Nouveau building houses luxury apartments.

‘Church Street’ by John Nicholson. Three paintings of the Croal Valley by Roger Hampson. ‘Kearsley Power Station’ by John Nicholson.

Roger Hampson 1925-1996

I entered the junior school in 1959 only a couple of weeks after my 13th birthday, I was used to always being the youngest.  The rear of the Hilden Street building gave way to a steep slope planted with trees leading down to the Croal Valley. 

The Croal Valley became our playground and was also the inspiration for art work especially on being promoted upstairs to the college in 1961 !

Images of Church Wharf and the Croal Valley.

Long after I left Hilden Street the Croal Valley ceased to be,  replaced by the St Peter’s Way motorway in 1971, the fond memories remain illustrated by the accompanying photographs.

Work undertaken as a BCA student 1961 – 64 aged 14-17.

1 Lino-cut ‘The Croal Valley’. 2 Lino-cut ‘Church Wharf Looking Towards Folds Road’. 3 Biro pen sketch ‘Church Wharf’. 4 Painted sketch of the Croal Valley. 5 & 6 Painted sketches looking towards Bury Road with the college in the background.

Unfortunately I have no record of my best painting of the Croal Valley, painted age 13 as a junior school pupil.

The painting was presented to the University of Bolton in 2004 and I have no photo record of it.- It was signed on the reverse by my class teacher Lonsdale Bonner as being original and unaided !

I’m still inspired by my old playground today as recent works show:-

Church Wharf, pencil drawing. Croal Valley, pencil sketch. Church Wharf pen and ink.

Related articles :-

Brian Bradshaw (1923-2016).

Bolton ‘Work Town’ survey 1937/38.

Graham Bennison, January 2021.

4 thoughts on “Bolton College of Art and the Croal Valley.

  1. Thank you for writing such a sensitive informative piece on the Holden Street building. I loved the time I attended there from 1976 to 1980 and really didn’t appreciate it until I left. The murals at the top of the stairs are something I remember most of all and would often admire them. I studied on the pre vocational course first so would visit all the buildings Great Moor St, Bridgeman Place and Holden St. I then specialised in Textile Construction mainly in Bridgeman Place. The guidance we received from all the tutors were second to none. Thank you so much for your piece.


  2. Attended between 73 and 76 although i didnt know it at the time, they later became some of tge best years of my life (so far) Mr Kenny very fondly remembered, happy days.


  3. Graduated 2019 in Fine Arts as a mature part-time student. Loved everything. Further development halted by COVID.
    Now limited by Myloma. 8 x 5 weekly course of Chemo. Art is keeping me sane ! Love to all.


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