The Percy Building

Outside view of the Percy Building and the Armstrong Building from the Quadrangle,
NUA/014582/8, Newcastle University Archives, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186

In 1898, in honour of the study of English Language and Literature, Newcastle University (formerly part of the University of Durham) appointed Charles Harold Herford, who was the first chair of English in the College of Physical Science. Before then, English was not a taught subject at the University and colleges taught medicine, science and engineering which were appropriate to local industries.  

The Percy building was therefore built as a means of housing the new departments in the faculties of the arts and economic studies and to separate the English department from the college of physical science. It was officially opened on 14th October 1958 and was named after Lord Percy of Newcastle, the first rector of King’s College between 1937-1952 in recognition of his outstanding work and achievements.  

Opening of Percy Building 1958 depicting Lord Percy (right) alongside Charles Ion Carr Bosanquet, Rector of King’s College (1952 – 1963), NUA/014837/1, Newcastle University Archives, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186

In 1963 when the division of the University of Durham formed the establishment of Newcastle University, those teaching English were apprehensive of this split. Staff feared the loss of library holdings in Durham and worried that the arts in Newcastle would be overwhelmed by other dominant disciplines. Despite this, in the post-war decades English degrees increased in popularity. The school has held its own and continues to teach high numbers of undergraduate and postgraduate students. 

The English department has become home to several outstanding scholars who have made considerable contributions to English Language studies. Allen Mawer from 1909 pioneered the modern study of English place names. Harold Orton, perhaps best known for his first published major work on the ‘Phonology of the South Durham Dialect’ in 1932, represented a huge step forward in the modern history of dialects. Furthermore, the appointed professor of English Language and Linguistics from 1964, Barbara Strang, developed a unique integration of descriptive and historical approaches to the study of the English language which became the hallmark of the University’s English department. 

Visit CollectionsCaptured to see more photographs of Newcastle University campus from the University Archives. 


Booklet for the opening of the Percy Building, 1958, NUA 16/17/1, Newcastle University Archives, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186

McCord, Norman (2006) Newcastle University Past, Present and Future. Newcastle: Third Millennium Publishing. 

Want to learn more about the history of Newcastle University campus? Why not explore all the articles in our Campus Tour blog series.

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