Growing Up to a Fuller Life

In a recently obtained article printed in the Kentish Times of 20 December 1957, HBH (no other source of the author given) writes a flattering appraisal of the Beckenham School of Art following a series of visits to various schools entitled Growing Up to a Fuller Life -15.


To me, the schools visited possessed one small but distinctive feature. I am no apiarist, but I understand from beekeepers that they are enabled to distinguish the progress and life of a hive by the nature of the sounds made by the busy inhabitants. That feature, and I am speaking in all seriousness, I noted in each one of the centres of learning. Each have their particular note, which not only varies, but has come to indicate in no uncertain way, the nature, approach and atmosphere of each.

Beckenham School of Art was no exception. There was a steady, industrious but leisurely hum pervading the place when I stepped inside to have a few words with Mr. John Cole, the principal.


The school devotes its time primarily to the development of training in practical art and industrial design, and it will only be possible here to take note of the full-time day students’ work, for there are in addition a large number of part-time and evening classes in varied subjects dealt with by them.

The work ranges from furniture design and manufacture – in all its stages from observational drawing to the finished product – and graphic design and its extension to all forms of visual expression: lithography, etching, drawing, painting, typography, lay out, commercial design and printing, advertising and poster work. In fact, in all work to which creative art can be applied in our everyday life.


I learned that the school was the only centre in North Kent by which the Ministry of Education’s National Diploma for Industrial Design can be obtained, also that during the past 10 years there have been more students from Beckenham School of Art passing into the Royal College of Art than from the whole of the rest of the county. Although intensely practical work is being done, as the pictures will show, the art of painting qua painting, is developed side by side with the material approach, and the standard reached for many years past has been of a very high standard in every branch. And this, in a building which was put up as a temporary structure before the First World War and is only kept from falling down by faith and works.

The painting side, I learned, falls into two categories; the first for those who wish to ultimately to teach art; and the second for those who wish to make art their vocation, or desire to develop a most attractive and satisfying hobby. The number of full-time students at present at Beckenham number between 80 and 90.

On our tour round the school, the prophetic “hum” which I sensed when I entered was duly confirmed. Everywhere I went there was in classrooms and workshops visited, the atmosphere of leisurely, considered industry, and keen and interested concentration in all sections, and abstraction to the world outside. Kipling’s lines came back to me

…and no one shall work for money,
And no one shall work for fame.
But just for the joy of the working,
And each, in his separate star
Shall paint the thing as he sees it,
For the God of things that are.