College for Distributive Trades

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The College for the Distributive Trades was a technical training college in London. It was founded as the Westminster Day Continuation School in 1921. In 1986 it became part of the newly formed London Institute. In 1990 it was merged with the London College of Printing to form the London College of Printing and Distributive Trades, which in 1996 was renamed the London College of Communication.[1]

107 to 109 Charing Cross Road

In 1938 the College moved to new purpose built accommodation at 107 Charing Cross Road. The building was designed and built as a technical institute and art school, by the London County Council (LCC), architect E P Wheeler. It was a significant architectural statement by the LCC in a key thoroughfare in London about its commitment to vocational education and training in the inter-war period. When it opened, CDT occupied the first four floors of the building and St Martin’s School of Art the area above. It continued in this form until the 1980’s when the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) was disbanded and vocational education institutions were reorganized. CDT and St Martin’s formed part of the new London Institute and moved to new accommodation, the building was eventually sold for redevelopment. Today Foyles Bookshop now occupies the area one used by CDT, the St Martin’s Lofts apartments the area of the art school above, accessed through the entrance at 109 Charing Cross Road. .

CDT | Display Department

When the marketing and business courses at CDT moved to 30 Leicester Square (previously the Arthur Murray School of Dancing) in the 1960’s, the Display Department of the College was able to expand and offer a range of full and part-time vocational Diploma and Certificate courses in display, exhibition and later, retail design. Students were drawn from London and the Home Counties, interested in developing vocational skills for employment in the retail sector. The curriculum included studies of history of art and design, technical and design drawing and skills in model-making and prop-making. The period from the mid 1960’s to early 1980’s, was when the Department was at its most productive.

The Department was a unique organisation staffed by specialist display tutors, who had previous and current experience in the display departments of most of the major (at that time) London Department Stores. The 1960s and 1970s were very much the era of 'Swinging London', full employment and large display departments, particularly in the department stores. Whilst stores such as Selfridges and Harvey Nicholls have continued (albeit in quite different forms), household names of the period, such as Swan & Edgar, Bourne & Hollingswoth, The Civil Service Stores, Barkers, Derry & Toms and Pontings are now names of the past, consequently, opportunities for employment and work experience for display students gradually diminished.

As consumer demands changed in the early 1980’s, so the courses in the Department evolved to reflect a growing trend towards the design and presentation of merchandise throughout the shop, rather than just the windows (visual merchandising). From 1985 courses in retail design with support from design companies, were developed within the higher education environment of the London Institute. The Display Department moved out of Charing Cross Road in 1989, to new premises in Back Hill.

CDT Retail Design

Whilst CDT has now been incorporated into the London College of Communication, the ideas and ethos of the design courses developed at Charing Cross Road, continue to evolve and inform new degree courses in Interior, Spatial and Branded Spaces.


  1. ^ Robert Baxter (2001). GB 1574: London College of Printing Archive. AIM25: Archives in London and the M25 area. Accessed August 2013.