The Partnership College

Dial Close interior, 1946-7
Dial Close interior, 1946-7

Not many Partners will be aware that the Partnership ran, for a short time, its own College.

The idea was first formulated by Spedan in the early 1940s. It was set up under the auspices of the Education committee and it was primarily meant to serve:

“those who have come to regret, as the years have passed since their formal education ended, that it did not give them that background of general knowledge essential to a full understanding of our complicated world society.”

It was decided, as plans unfurled, to recruit a Warden to supervise the selection of students, organise the courses and generally oversee the running of the College.

Mr. R.L. James M.A. (previously a lecturer at the University of Bristol) was appointed to the position in September 1945 and, prior to the opening of the College, he ran evening classes for Partners on a variety of subjects.

The first courses were held at The Grange, Winter Hill, Cookham and consisted of groups of 20-25 Partners who “lived in” and studied for two 6-week terms. The courses included visiting lecturers who not only taught the basic topics but also arts and crafts, natural history and sports.

Two courses were held per year with students returning to work in between terms but given a reading list to continue their studies!

The College also ran Junior Summer Schools where students were given tuition on the Partnership, its democracy, Constitution, trading structure and policy. Talks were given by eminent Partners and time was spent on sports, trips and picnics.

In 1946 the college moved to Dial Close, Winter Hill, which was purchased to house both the College and its library. This enabled the range of courses to be increased, with week and week-end courses planned on a wide range of subjects such as painting and music and a Summer School for “Seniors” was planned for 1947.

The cost of the College was borne in part by the Partnership but with students contributing 20 shillings (£1). This included board, lodging and tuition fees and also free travel to and from the College. In 1947 the cost per student was changed to half a day’s pay (up to 21 shillings) for each day’s residence.

However, by 1948 the Warden told the Education Committee that, as result of ill health, he would not renew his contract and in view of this, and the tremendous financial cost of running the College, the partnership decided to close it on a temporary basis but sadly it never re-opened.

The house then entered a very interesting part of its history. Hammer Films, synonymous with horror films, started its film making at Dial Close. The whole house was used as a studio with various parts of it making perfect sets. The company planned to extend its use of the property but, after complaints from neighbours about all the activity taking place, the District council refused planning consent for Hammer to use the property for its future plans.

In the middle of 1949 hammer moved a few miles down the Thames to a huge, turreted mansion, Oakley Court, which is now a luxury hotel.

Dial Close has now been divided into smaller holiday units which can be rented out.

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