Blackburn College of Design

One of East Lancashire’s most fabulous landmarks is the old College of Design and Technology, now part of Blackburn College. Dating to 1888 and designed by Smith, Woodhouse and Wiloughby, it is one of the busiest and most intricate of buildings. In a somewhat continental style, it’s constructed of redbrick, reflecting the town’s industrial heritage, but decorated with a contrasting yellow terracotta. It boasts a symmetrical frontage of nine bays with a grandiose central entrance flanked by turrets and a balustraded balcony. The architects enjoyed this job; no artistic flourish or ornamentation was spared. Here is Victoriana at its finest, a civic boast proudly asserting Blackburn’s rise from obscurity to economic powerhouse.

Within thirty years, many of its young male students would lie buried in Flanders. The same God-given intelligence which the college sought to train in its lecture halls and classrooms, was equally adept at designing howitzers, machine guns and mustard gas. Similarly, the beautiful college provided a stark contrast to the slums in which many thousands of the town’s denizens lived. Erected at minimal expense to barely shelter the mills’ labour force, such dwellings were ugly as they were cramped and dilapidated. How can a race which creates a college of beautiful design slaughter itself in a vicious, planet-wide war? How can it construct so splendid a building while many thousands lived in hovels?

We are the best of species, we are the worst of species. We are the cleverest and the most stupid, the brightest and the dullest, the most sensitive and the most stony-hearted. Created in the image of God to enjoy with Him a special friendship, our fallen, spoiled natures render us selfish and rotten. Perhaps it is these juxtaposed natures which render us worth saving. As a rude and rebellious teenaged son might be loathed and loved in equal measure, so our heavenly Father hates our sin while loving our persons.