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A number of Volunteers, being Salisbury people or, indeed, retired teachers who trained here, will have known the museum buildings when they were the heart of a teacher training establishment.

The College of Sarum St Michael, or the Diocesan Training College, Salisbury as it was originally known, was set up in 1841 and moved into the King’s House in 1851. It closed as a teacher training facility in 1978 and two ex-students, Jenny Head and Anne Johns, co-wrote an excellent book about it, published in 2015 and available in the museum shop. Their research formed the basis of a talk, too, given at the museum last week.

Jenny and Anne used the words of the staff and students, gleaned from letters, other documents and from interviews, to tell the story of a place that had clearly been special to many, including the authors themselves. The King’s House itself, has, in may ways, changed hardly at all of course.  Those Volunteers who work in the back rooms (or, more accurately, the attics) will be familiar with the corridor doors  that still retain the numbers of what were bedrooms, as well as offices, from the former era. I am told they could be very cold indeed, back in the day…..

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Photo held at Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre (see website by clicking here)

The more recent buildings, handsome red brick apartment blocks that lie between the King’s House and the river, were originally accommodation blocks for the students, but also music rooms, dance and drama and art spaces and so on. Other buildings in the Close, and beyond, were also used to house students as numbers swelled.

One of things that made the college special was its association with, and proximity to, the Cathedral. One moving story was of a student, in relatively recent times, who, unable to sleep on her last night in college, got up and walked into the Close in the early hours. She found a door into the Cathedral was unlocked and walked up the nave one last time as a student, barefoot and in her pyjamas, full of wonder, as always, in that magical place.

The story of the college was, of course, a story of things changing as time past – a woman’s place in society, the effect of war, how people dressed (for the students it was gym slips to academic gowns to the uniform of jeans and T shirts) but Jenny and Anne had clearly found that in some ways nothing changed at all. Girls came, and left as young women. Most full of hope, making the most of their opportunity, enjoying their time here and going in to the world to do their bit.

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