Blue plaque recognition for historic Durham college building
A Durham college building that has served generations of students for more than a century has been awarded a blue plaque to celebrate its historic significance.
Neville House – which is now part of Durham University’s Ustinov College – was founded by Durham County Council in 1921 as a women-only teacher training college, Neville's Cross College.
Over the following 101-years it changed its role, name and stewardship several times but was continuously used for educational purposes.
It fell into dereliction after New College Durham moved off the site in the early 2000s and it wasn’t until 2013 that an extensive renovation programme was announced.
The building reopened in 2017 as home to Durham University’s sole postgraduate college, Ustinov College, on the Sheraton Park site in Neville’s Cross.
Now the rich history of Neville House has been recognised with a blue plaque unveiled an event that brought past and present college residents together.
Among those was Ruth Rowntree who was a student at Neville House in the early 1960s, graduating in1964 aged 22.
She described her memories of living there as ‘fabulous’, adding: “It was very strict, we had to sign in and out and get permission if we wanted to go down into town or go home, but it was just wonderful.”
Ruth now chairs the Neville’s Cross College Association and said she was delighted to see the building restored to its former glory.
She added: “I’m pleased to see it given a blue plaque; it absolutely deserves it at 101-years-old.”
Ruth’s fellow Neville’s Cross College graduate and Association Social Secretary, Christine Middleton, lived and studied at Neville House from 1959 to 1961 and reflects on her time fondly.
She described the college as a ‘beautiful example’ of Georgian architecture, adding: “It’s nice to see it now because it went through a period where it was derelict, and it was sad to see.
“But it’s just lovely to see it now.”
Joel Lozano, Graduate Common Room President at Ustinov College, represents the latest generation of students living at Neville House.
He said: “I didn’t realise the building had such a long history and it’s nice that people will see the blue plaque and know a bit more about it.”
Professor Glenn McGregor, Principal of Ustinov College said: “It is very important to appreciate how long this building has been here.
“Many people have passed through this building - and its matching sister building that is no longer with us – over the years.
“It has been effective in training many teachers across many generations and the people who have passed through here have influenced very many lives.
“Durham University is pleased to have an association with the site, and Ustinov College will continue that long tradition of education and caring for students.”
Professor McGregor added that the building owners, Lothbury Investment, were very pleased with the award of the plaque in recognition of the importance of the building and the site as a place of education and training for many decades.
The plaque was awarded by Durham Parish Council and its Chairman Alan Doig said: “I think local history is very important and the blue plaques are a nice way of commemorating local history where we feel the people, buildings, or organisations are distinctive to Durham.”
Liz Brown, Parish Councillor and Durham County Councillor for the Neville’s Cross ward has several familial links to Neville House and is pleased to see its civic importance recognised.
She said: “There have been a lot of changes in Durham over the last 100-years and I think a lot of the past has been lost.
“But when you look at a blue plaque, the past comes back again and it’s important to remember and respect it.”