Leicester Cathedral remembers founding of the University

The University's Fielding Johnson Building during its time as the 5th Northern General Hospital

Lecture on University’s origins in the Great War will form part of remembrance events

A lecture dedicated to the founding of the University of Leicester will form part of Leicester Cathedral’s events marking the centenary of Armistice Day.

All are welcome to a free lecture given by University of Leicester Research Associate and PhD student Elizabeth Blood on how the First World War led to the creation and founding of the University of Leicester. The lecture ‘That They May Have Life – The First World War and the University of Leicester’ will take place on Monday 29 October at 6.30pm at Leicester Cathedral.

Elizabeth was the first War Memorials Officer employed by a local authority in the UK, and ran a project on Leicestershire’s memorials for over 7 years. She has also worked as a war memorials Listing adviser for Historic England, as Head of Heritage and Learning at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, and is now a Research Associate at the University of Leicester.

Elizabeth said: “The public appeal fund for starting a University in Leicester was opened by Dr Astley Clarke on Armistice Day, 1918. Not many people realise how the University came into being, but it happened almost a century ago as a result of the voluntary efforts of local residents, educators, and businesses. My talk at the Cathedral will explore who the founders were, and why the idea of a University as a war memorial appealed to them. It will also look at how the former site of the 5th Northern General military hospital was transformed between 1919 and 1921 into a College. We will then find out who the first eleven students were, and what life was like for the first staff, students and governors.

“It has been wonderful to carry out this research alongside my PhD, which focuses on local war memorials. The University scheme was suggested as a war memorial, peace memorial, living memorial and thanks-offering for peace, and we know that the Arch of Remembrance in Victoria Park was intended to be built in association with it.”

The Cathedral is also inviting members of the public to a special service marking the centenary of the founding of the University of Leicester as a memorial to those who served, and too often died, in the Great War. The Service of Remembrance at the Cathedral marking the WWI Armistice centenary takes place at 4pm on Sunday 11th November.

The service will include civic representation including the Lord Lieutenant, the Chair of the County Council and the Lord Mayor of Leicester as well as representatives of the University and of the British, French and German Armed Forces.

The University of Leicester was established through public subscription as a direct response to the lives blighted and lost in WWI to give to future generations the opportunities denied to the war generation. This foundation is echoed in the university’s motto Ut Vitam Habeant (So that they may have life). At the Service of Remembrance, a letter published in the city’s Daily Post newspaper in 1917 calling for a university to be established as war memorial, will be read by University of Leicester President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle.