Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts, 1939-41

Pamela Downing left Edgbaston High School and after a period in France in Autumn 1938, she commenced studies at the Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts, Margaret Street, Birmingham.

Her first requirement would have been to attend the ‘Lower School’, where she was expected to get a ‘sound groundwork’ in a range of artistic forms. In Jun 1939, she was awarded the ‘Elementary Art Certificate’ signed by the college principal Harold Holden.

City of Birmingham Schools of Arts and Crafts Elementary Art Certificate awarded to Pamela Downing, 1938 - 1939

City of Birmingham Schools of Arts and Crafts Elementary Art Certificate awarded to Pamela Downing, 1938 – 1939

As war broke out she continued to spend the next two years as a student. She appears to have attended the School of Painting, where teachers included Percy Shakespeare, Henry Southgate Sands and Bernard Fleetwood Walker. Later she attended the School of Dress Design in Handsworth.

Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts was a large institution that drew strength from the strong roots of the Arts and Crafts movement based in Birmingham – most notably Edward Burne-Jones. It was more generically called the Birmingham School of Art and that is the name that it is known by today and is part of Birmingham City University.

Pam’s large art folder from this period at college has survived with many examples of the studies and classes that she pursued. The portfolio contains several hundred items covering life drawings, fashion designs, architectural drawings, heraldry and calligraphy.

By July 1941 it was clear that she had to look at doing something more constructive towards the war effort and her father secured an interview for her with the ‘Foreign Office’. This led very quickly to secret war work in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park.

Last updated on 15 July 2020 by JJ Morgan