This Sabbath marks 70 years since the relocation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Newbold College of Higher Education from its previous campus in Warwickshire to its current home in Binfield, Berkshire, England.
The Feb. 6 anniversary also coincides with the annual offering for Newbold, which this year will support the college's iconic Moor Close building and gardens.
“As locations that many students and graduates hold dear, it is a fitting project to commemorate the anniversary,” the college said in a statement.
Established in 1901 as what N.H. Knight of the church’s British Union described as a “training school for gospel workers,” the institution first opened its doors as Duncombe Hall College in Holloway, North London, on Jan. 6, 1902. It relocated to Stanborough Park, Watford, Hertfordshire, in 1907, where it was known as Stanborough Park Missionary College and later Stanborough Missionary College (1921) and Stanborough College (1923).
In 1931, principal William “Billy” Murdoch moved the college to Newbold Revel, northwest of Rugby, Warwickshire, and the college adopted the name of its new grounds. Future iterations of the name would include Newbold Missionary College (1946), a reversion to Newbold College (1961), and Newbold College of Higher Education (2013).
In 1941, the Newbold Revel campus was commandeered by the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force. The college found temporary quarters at Packwood Haugh, south of Birmingham, to which students and staff relocated in what Knight described as a “hurried exodus … through a foot of snow” to the college's “temporary” premises, the British Advent Messenger reported in 1946. It was intended that this location be used for a year or two, yet more than four years would pass before the college was to move again.
Pastor Leonard Lane was a member of the advance party that went ahead to Packwood Haugh to get things ready.
“The main task was to erect three huts as boys’ dormitories,” he said in One Hundred Years of Newbold College, a book produced in 2001 to commemorate Newbold’s 100th anniversary.
These inadequate buildings provided primitive accommodation and no sanitation for the men housed in them. Coke-burning stoves tried to heat the huts, which were flooded when rain leaked through the roofs. Four staff families shared a single house, and a fifth family lived in a renovated outbuilding.
Pastor Jack Mahon, who studied at Newbold from 1940 to 1942 and from 1946 to 1949, described the years at Packwood Haugh as “a time of hard work and physical deprivation, with little time for recreation,” according to the book.
In 1945, following the departure of the Royal Air Force from the Newbold Revel campus, Adventist leaders decided that the college needed a more modern campus. The buildings at Newbold Revel were old and expensive to maintain. Facing pressure to vacate its temporary premises, a property in Binfield, a village outside of the then-small market town of Bracknell, Berkshire, was identified and purchased with what Knight described as a “sigh of relief and gratitude to God.”
In December 1945, the British government threatened to occupy Newbold's new and as yet empty buildings in Binfield with war refugees, so principal Murdoch delayed the start of January classes by six weeks, during which time teams of students and staff stripped the college's belongings from Packwood Haugh and sent three vans per day down to Binfield.
Hans and Anita Kohler spent the World War II years at Newbold and experienced three moves — from Newbold Revel to Packwood Haugh and finally to Binfield.
“The years we spent at the college during the war were good,” Anita Kohler said in One Hundred Years of Newbold College. “We were all grateful for security, a good spirit, and friendships that have lasted all these years.”
The college reopened in its new home in Binfield on Feb. 6, 1946. Paul Cumings, the pastor in charge of the Reading district at the time, attended the opening service at the Binfield campus. He described the outfitting of the new campus to the British Advent Messenger as modern, declaring that “no better accommodation could have been planned even if it had been laid brick by brick to our own requirements!”
Pastor H.W. Lowe spoke at the service and recalled the troubles that the college had faced across its lifetime and stressed that, following the college’s recent difficulties, he realized as never before the important place occupied by Adventist education.
“God has brought us through. … We have in this new school home things beyond our expectation,” he told the British Advent Messenger in 1946.
When it opened, the college's Binfield facilities included just Moor Close and Binfield Hall, now demolished. Bartlett Hall was added quickly to form the dining room. Facilities were so cramped in these early days that visitors often asked where the classrooms were.
“There were two small rooms in the kitchen area and sliding doors were put up in the lounges to make three rooms there,”said Roy Scarr, director of music at the college for many years. “These were moved back after the morning classes and the tables hurriedly laid for lunch.”
Pastor Ken Clothier was among the students who joined Newbold in its first year of operation in Binfield, and he studied there until 1952.
“Newbold was a great place to be,” he said in One Hundred Years of Newbold College. “The spirituality of Newbold Missionary College gave us the courage and strength to overcome the obstacles. … How can a man forget his alma mater? It seemed to produce the right basic training for my 46 years of service.”
The college marked its 70th anniversary with a special meeting of staff and students on Feb. 2. Newbold principal John Baildam spoke about the history of the college, and the Roy Graham Library provided a selection of images depicting the grounds in 1946. Staff and students shared a celebratory cake in the shape of the numerals 7 and 0.