(Re)constructing Bretton Hall College
: Students as the ‘Spaces in Between’ Sir Alec Clegg’s impact on the creation of a community of practice

  • Alison Mills

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores the impact of Sir Alec Clegg during his tenure as Chief Education Officer of the West Riding Authority. It assesses Clegg’s influence at Bretton Hall College (Teacher Training College for the Arts) and on the students who attended. Founded in 1949 by Sir Alec Clegg, the College was a showcase for the West Riding Education Authority for teacher training, developing a strong community of practice that attracted students from around the country to the rural campus. This research seeks to provide a critical lens on Sir Alec Clegg’s role at Bretton Hall College, through collected narratives gathered from a sample of students who studied at Bretton Hall College between 1949 and 1974. The thesis sets out to discover if a direct impact of Sir Alec Clegg on the students is visible through their recollected memories and stories, or if the community of practice that was created at Bretton Hall College emerged out of the students’ own making, with a specific focus on their spatial behaviours at the campus. Sir Alec Clegg provided a condition of possibility for the students at Bretton Hall College, based on his beliefs in arts in education and child-centred education. The college provided a test ground for educational development and was pioneering in its approach to generate a pipeline of specifically art and design trained teachers to work in the West Riding Education Authority schools and wider. These teachers would take with them a fundamental experience that became part of the legacy of Sir Alec Clegg. This research suggests that the students at Bretton Hall College were the spaces in between: the spaces in between Sir Alec Clegg’s beliefs, the timetabled curriculum, and the physical architecture. By engaging physically, mentally and emotionally with the architecture and spaces of Bretton Hall College on a daily basis, the students become the spaces in between these formal structures of the College. These spaces in between (the students) constitute an environment in which a community of practice emerges that belongs to the people who created it, not the person who founded the structures that might once have facilitated its development.
Date of Award26 May 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRowan Bailey (Main Supervisor) & Monty Adkins (Co-Supervisor)

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