Wye College

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The College of St Gregory and St Martin at Wye, more commonly known as Wye College, was an educational institution in the small village of Wye, Kent, England, 60 miles (100 km) east of London in the North Downs area.

Founded in 1447 by John Kempe, the Archbishop of York, as a college for the training of priests, in 1894, the school moved to new premises, and the South Eastern Agricultural College was established in the buildings with Alfred Daniel Hall as principal. In 1898, Wye became a School of Agriculture within the University of London. Until 2005, Wye College was a well-known study and research centre in the fields of rural business and management, biological sciences, and the environment and agriculture. The college was officially closed by its then owner, Imperial College London, in September 2009.

Today, buildings that formerly housed Wye College have been repurposed as the Mind Campus in Withersdane Hall,[1][2] a substance abuse rehabilitation clinic, and Wye School, a school for children of year seven and up.[3] The main campus and several other buildings have been owned by Telareal Trillium since 2015 who are developing a masterplan involving some new housing.[4]

Wye College

Academic and learning centre[edit]

The Wye campus developed from 1894 until 2000. It occupies a 3 km² estate, which includes a farm, managed woodland, and ancient grassland for agroecological research. These resources were augmented by glasshouses, climate-controlled growth rooms for plants and insects, and a containment facility for transgenic plants that supported laboratory research. There were dedicated laboratories for plant molecular biology, genomics and gene sequencing, electron microscopy, use of radiochemicals, microbiology, soil analysis, and plant/animal cell culture. Some of these lab facilities were removed by Imperial College. There were student halls and other buildings dotted around the village.[citation needed]

In 2000, Wye had students from 50 countries, 477 undergraduates, 259 MSc and PhD students, 200 on short courses, and an External Programme had 975 mid-career professionals registered from 120 different countries. Its numbers had peaked around 1995 but were sustained; the External Programme was growing[5] Wye College lost its status as a College within the federal University of London and merged with Imperial and was renamed Imperial College at Wye. The reasons stated were a depression in the agricultural industry, affecting this small specialist institution, combined with a failure to grow student numbers sufficiently to support enough income to cover year-on-year cash outflows.[6] Imperial agreed to keep agricultural teaching and research on the campus, although the social scientists and economists were relocated to London[7]

The first Provost of Imperial College at Wye was Professor Tim Clark. Commenting on his new appointment, Professor Clark said: "Wye College has a well-deserved reputation for excellence in teaching and research. I am looking forward to acting as Wye's champion and helping to preserve and build on all that is so special here."[8][better source needed] The second was Professor Jeff Waage from 2001, who resigned in 2004.[9]

The end of Wye College[edit]

In 2004, the new Rector of Imperial, Richard Sykes, announced that the Department of Agricultural Sciences was closing, and that most teaching and research at Wye would end.[10][11] In 2005 it was announced that Wye College would be converted into a large research centre for non-food crops and biomass fuels, with the support, under a "concordat", of Kent County Council and Ashford Borough Council.[12] Up to 12,500 jobs were planned if the research hub developed fully.[13] Villagers were not informed of the scale of the proposals, which included housing, until a public meeting organised by Imperial.[13] Opposition quickly began, and leaks of official documents to a local campaigning website,[14] have shown that the principal aim of the plan, particularly once an industry partner fell through, soon became to raise £100 million for Imperial projects in London by building 4,000 homes, most on 250 acres in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.[13][15][16]

The plan provoked bitter opposition both locally and nationally, and was seen as a test case for other attempts to build in AONBs. In 2006, Ashford Borough Council withdrew its support, and Imperial College abandoned its plans.[16] This decision was hailed as a key victory to preserve the status of the AONB, and it stopped Wye from becoming a much larger town.

In 2007, the University of Kent agreed to run some undergraduate applied business management courses from the college buildings in 2007 for a short time, before transferring them to its main campus.[17]

The College today[edit]

Wye parish church

The Wye College campus was closed in September 2009 and Imperial College sought to develop the estate or to find suitable tenants for it.[18] Most of the college farmland is currently leased to a former student, with other parts to Ripple Farm Organics, The Wooden Spoon, and Michael and Wendy Barnes.[19] An effort by Imperial to sell off Withersdane Hall was first halted with council intervention, but has now been made.[20] A proposal to restore the agricultural college, with accreditation from the University of Buckingham, was advanced in 2010, but was later withdrawn.[21] A proposal for a Wye Free School, initially with an entry of Year 7 students was received in 2012 by the Council and later approved. The school opened to Year 7 pupils in September 2013 in the Kempe Building.[22]

In 2014, the PROMIS Clinics re-purposed Withersdane Hall as a rehabilitation clinic.[1][2]

In 2015, the main College campus and village houses were sold to a large property management and development company, Telereal Trillium.[23] Their intentions for the site are being developed with public consultations on a new website.[24] New housing forms part of the proposals.[19]


Among Wye College's major contributions were the development of a number of new varieties of hops, such as Wye Challenger, Wye Northdown, Wye Target and Wye Yeoman, used in the brewing of beer.[25]

Notable individuals and alumni[edit]

  • Prof. Ernest Stanley Salmon set up the hop breeding programme in 1906 and bred varieties such as Brewer's Gold and Northern Brewer
  • Dr Ray Neve took over from Salmon in 1953 and bred important commercial varieties such as Challenger and Target
  • Dr Peter Darby took over from Neve in 1981 and has concentrated on dwarf hops such as First Gold, aphid resistance (Boadicea) and flavour
  • Prof. Henry Bernstein, agrarian sociologist, Emeritus Professor at SOAS, University of London (Director of the External Programme at Wye College in the 1980s)
  • Prof. Ken Giller, soil scientist, Wageningen University (Wye, 1999)[26]
  • Carolyn Hardy OBE, VMH; BA 1952; Chair National Gardens Scheme 1979-1986 and vice-chair Royal Horticultural Society for 10 years [27]
  • Sir Ronald Hatton, pomologist, director of the East Malling Research Station[28]
  • Prof. David Leaver, Professor of Agriculture at Wye, and then Principal and Chief Executive of the Royal Agricultural College (until 2007).[29]
  • The gardener Christopher Lloyd, BA 1949, and lecturer until 1954.[30]
  • Prof. Michael Redclift, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sociology, King's College London (Lecturer to Professor, Wye, 1973 to 1997)[31]
  • John Seymour, alumnus. Widely published exponent of self-sufficiency and small scale farming.[32]
  • Prof. Eunice Simmons, Deputy Vice Chancellor Nottingham Trent University[33] Vice Chancellor University of Chester from 2019[34] (MSc & PhD Wye, Senior Warden, Withersdane Hall and Lecturer until the mid 2000s)[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Former college site to become rehab centre". Kentish Express. Lexis Nexis.
  2. ^ a b "Whats in a Promise?". Wyeweb.org. 22 October 2014. Archived from the original on 6 April 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Wye School > Home". wyeschool.org.uk.
  4. ^ "former wye college". www.formerwyecollege.co.uk.
  5. ^ Sally Leaver (ed. with a panel of experts) 2010. An inquiry into the factors leading to, and the consequences of, the merger of Wye College, University of London with Imperial College. Wye: Wye College Agricola Club. Pages 11-13.
  6. ^ Sally Leaver (ed. with a panel of experts) 2010. An inquiry into the factors leading to, and the consequences of, the merger of Wye College, University of London with Imperial College. Wye: Wye College Agricola Club. Page 20.
  7. ^ Sally Leaver (ed. with a panel of experts) 2010. An inquiry into the factors leading to, and the consequences of, the merger of Wye College, University of London with Imperial College. Wye: Wye College Agricola Club. Pages 32-33
  8. ^ "Imperial College London - New champion at Wye College". imperial.ac.uk.
  9. ^ "Imperial College London - Wye - a world leader in agricultural sciences". www.imperial.ac.uk.
  10. ^ "Project Alchemy … the legacy". save wye.
  11. ^ Sally Leaver (ed. with a panel of experts) 2010. An inquiry into the factors leading to, and the consequences of, the merger of Wye College, University of London with Imperial College. Wye: Wye College Agricola Club. Pages 33-41
  12. ^ "Imperial College London - New GBP1 billion world-class scientific research centre and facilities planned for Kent". imperial.ac.uk.
  13. ^ a b c David Hewson. 2007. Saved; How an English village fought for its survival and won. Leicester: Troubador Publishing
  14. ^ "Blank Milf... - save-wye.org". www.save-wye.org. Archived from the original on 7 May 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2006.
  15. ^ "wyecommunitylandtrust.org.uk - Registered at Namecheap.com". www.wyecommunitylandtrust.org.uk. Archived from the original on 28 February 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2008.
  16. ^ a b Hewson, David. "Wye and wherefore".
  17. ^ "Imperial College London - Imperial College London and University of Kent join forces to boost education". www.imperial.ac.uk.
  18. ^ TNICHOLS. "Wye Campus". imperial.ac.uk.
  19. ^ a b http://wyeagricolaclub.org.uk/uploads/files/Agricola%20Club%20Journal%202015.pdf
  20. ^ see wsvi "dot" wordpress.com/
  21. ^ "phoenixwyecollege". phoenixwyecollege.co.uk. Archived from the original on 25 March 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  22. ^ "Wye School > Home". wyeschool.org.uk.
  23. ^ "News - Telereal Trillium". www.telerealtrillium.com.
  24. ^ "former wye college". www.formerwyecollege.co.uk.
  25. ^ Wheeler, G, "Home Brewing", CAMRA, 1993
  26. ^ "prof.dr. KE (Ken) Giller".
  27. ^ "Carolyn Hardy, eminent gardener – obituary". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  28. ^ A. F. Posnette (2004). Hatton, Sir Ronald George (1886–1965). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33759. (subscription required).
  29. ^ "Prof. David Leaver". Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. ADHB. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  30. ^ "Christopher Lloyd". Great Dixter House & Gardens. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  31. ^ "King's College London - Professor Michael Redclift". www.kcl.ac.uk.
  32. ^ Girardet, Herbert (21 September 2004). "John Seymour". Guardian News and Media Ltd. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  33. ^ a b "Eunice Simmons Pro Vice-Chancellor Academic". Nottingham Trent University. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  34. ^ "New Vice-Chancellor appointed at University of Chester". University of Chester. 22 July 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2020.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°11′02″N 0°56′20″E / 51.18400°N 0.93893°E / 51.18400; 0.93893