Spiritual founder of Oxford Brookes honoured with blue plaque

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


An Oxfordshire Blue Plaque has been awarded to John Henry Brookes – the artist, craftsman and inspirational educator after whom Oxford Brookes University is named.

An Oxfordshire Blue Plaque has been awarded to John Henry Brookes – the artist, craftsman and inspirational educator after whom Oxford Brookes University is named.

The plaque was erected at 195 The Slade, Headington, John Henry Brookes’ home of many years, and was inaugurated at a ceremony by the university’s Vice Chancellor Professor Janet Beer.

“John Brookes was an inspirational leader,” Professor Beer told the crowd that gathered at his former home for the ceremony. Among the dignitaries was the Lord Mayor of Oxford John Goddard. “During the preparation of our 2020 strategy we took his educational philosophy as our foundation,” she explained.

The Oxfordshire Blue Plaques scheme exists to recognise people who have made an important contribution to the history and life of the county.

The honour was particularly timely as Oxford Brookes is embarking on a £132 million building programme to construct a new library and teaching building and so continue Brookes’ educational legacy.

John Henry Brookes (1891–1975) was a gifted teacher who was appointed Vice Principal of the Oxford City Technical School and Head of the School of Art in St Ebbe’s in 1928.

He devoted his life to providing an education for all.

He became Principal of the merged schools of Technology, Arts and Commerce in 1934. With courses run in 19 separate buildings across the city it was clear the college had to move to a single site and John Henry Brookes campaigned relentlessly for a home for the college.

Despite experiencing occasional setbacks, land was eventually acquired at Headington and in 1954 the first students arrived on the Gipsy Lane campus officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1963.

Brookes called this the ‘promised land’.

Brookes himself retired in 1956. The institution he had nurtured became Oxford Polytechnic in 1970 and ultimately the university in 1992.

From 1929 he made his home in Headington at ‘The Gatehouse’ along The Slade, which was designed by his friend, the architect Thomas Rayson.

This is the 57th Blue Plaque to be erected by the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board.

The plaque was proposed by Bryan Brown, who is an Honorary Fellow of Oxford Brookes University and author of a forthcoming biography of John Henry Brookes.