Morley College, one of the oldest adult education colleges in the country is still carrying on the traditions of its founder, Emma Cons.
Morley's history dates back to the early 1880s, when visionary, Emma Cons, and her supporters were determined to take action to raise the moral and material standards of the district around Waterloo Road. In 1880 they took over the Royal Victoria Hall, (the ‘Old Vic') a boozy, rowdy home of melodrama, and turned it into the Royal Victoria Coffee and Music Hall to provide entertainment ‘purged of innuendo in word and action' at rock-bottom prices. She supplemented the music-hall turns with opera recitals, temperance meetings, and, from 1882, lectures every Tuesday by eminent scientists.
Local enthusiasm for these ‘penny lectures' led to the establishment in 1889 of Morley Memorial College for Working Men and Women. This was run separately from ‘the Vic', but held its classes and student meetings back-stage and in the theatre dressing rooms. The two split in the 1920's, when Emma's niece and successor Lilian Baylis raised funds to acquire a separate site nearby where Morley College could grow and flourish.
If Emma Cons could see that site and Morley as it is now, she would find much to admire and recognise. The inclusion of ‘Women' in the College title - distinctly pioneering for the 1880s - set a tradition of equality and opportunity for everyone that we are proud and determined to follow.