Part 1: The Town Centre
Leek Part 2. More of the Town
Leek Part 3. The Nicholson Institute

Grid Ref: SJ 985 566
9 April 2003, 28 Jan, 9 Feb 2004, Jan 2014, May 2021


Nicholson Institute
Nicholson Institute in winter sun, January 2014


Nicholson Institute   Nicholson Inst
   The Nicholson Institute   The tower of the Nicholson Institute    
Science   Literature
Detail of Window Decoration   Literature
Cookery   Nicholson Inst
Cookery, one of several reliefs by A. Broadbent   View with seven tableaux. Now partially obscured by trees
Plaque   Plaque

The Leek Municipal
Technical and High School
and County Silk School
was opened by
Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria May
on the twenty eighth day of July Anno Domini
one thousand and nine hundred

Robert Wright Chairman of Urban District Council
John Hall, Chairman of Education Committee

Wm. Sugden and Sons, Architects        Thomas Grace, Builder
A. Broadbent, Sculptor.                        K Parkes, Secretary


This Building devoted to the Physical
Education of the Youth of Leek is the gift of
William Carr, a native of the town.
This cornerstone was laid by His Royal Highness
Prince George Frederick Ernest Albert
on the twenty eighth day of July, Anno Domini
one thousand nine hundred

Robert Wright, Chairman of the Urban District Council
John Hall, Chairman of the Education Committee
Wm. Sugden and Sons, Architects        Thomas Grace, Builder
A. Broadbent, Sculptor.                        K Parkes, Secretary


Chemistry and Physics
Physics and Chemistry


The Nicholson Institute was built at the expense of Joshua Nicholson, a local manufacturer, in memory of Richard Cobden. It was opened in 1884. It is a brick-built three storey building designed by the Leek firm of architects W. Sugden and Son. It has a tower, surmounted by a dome and lantern. The reliefs showing different trades and skills were by A. Broadbent. The institute provided a library, art gallery, museum and school of art. The library was free to people living within 6 miles of the town. After three years, the library was supported by the town as the local authority. The library is now run by Staffordshire County Council. In 1900, the building was extended to create a school and silk school. It has ornamental modelling and and lettering by A. Broadbent. On the day that I took most of the photographs shown here, I was fortunate to meet the caretaker, who showed me some of the main features of the interior. In 2021, I found that some of the tableaux are partially obscured by festoons of carelessly placed and dangling wires giving the overall impression of neglect for these outstanding works of art.

Given its position, set back from the Stockwell Street, the Institute is not easy to photograph in its entirety. From the main road, the building is partially obscured by the 17th century stone-built Greystones house. Among the features of interest on the exterior of the building are a set of fine tableaux over the windows depicting activities at the school. Among them are tableaux depicting Science, Physics and Chemistry, Music, Art, Literature, Cookery, Needlework, Dyeing, Manual Instruction, Weaving, Commerce and Agriculture. Inside there is a doorway with decoration over the lintel shown below, reminding students that time is flying. To the south of the main building is a the centre for physical education, added in 1900.

Old Time   Plaque
Old Time is Still a Flying      Plaque on the Extension   


The decoration over the door showing the clock reminds students that time is flying. I have erased digitally the modern red fire bell that spoils the overall appearance of the design. The stone plaque on the extension reads:

These Buildings (in Extension of the Nicholson Institute) are erected for the Leek School of Science and Technology and High School and County Silk School and are devoted in perpetuity to the Cause of Education to the Betterment of the State of all Members of the Community and to the Improvement of the trades of the town. This corner-stone was laid the 24th day of July one thousand eight hundred and ninety nine by Her Grace Millicent, fourth Duchess of Sutherland

On a visit in April 2016, I noticed that there have been some structural changes on the South side, including demolition work. The site has a more open appearance from the South and the plaque formerly on the part demolished has been mounted on a free-standing stone plinth. One can no longer had an uninterrupted view of the seven tableaux shown in my image because of a tree

Leek Part 1.
Leek Part 2.


The Victoria History of the County of Staffordshire, Volume VII, Leek and the Moorlands, OUP, 1996, ISBN 0-19-722786-4, page 153.


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Strolling through Staffordshire
©  Craig Thornber, England, United Kingdom    Main Site Address:  https://www.thornber.net/

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