College History

The history of Bridgwater College can be traced back to 1888, when Bridgwater School of Art opened in George Street in the town. By the 1920s, the School of Art had moved to Blake Street and become part of Bridgwater Technical Schools, later to be renamed Bridgwater Art and Technical Institute.

In the 1950s, the premises expanded within the town to include sites on Mount Street, Queen Street and Broadway, and were renamed again to become Bridgwater Technical College.

It was in 1973 that BTC was established as a tertiary college, with responsibility for providing all post-secondary education in the area, functioning as the sixth form college as well as a general FE college. The next significant change was the relocating of the College to its current site at Bath Road, which was conducted in two phases - in 1979 and in 1983. The official opening was conducted on 7 May 1983 by the Rt Hon George Thomas MP, then Speaker of the House of Commons.

The 80s and 90s brought about significant growth as well as senior management changes at the College, including the appointment of Fiona McMillan in 1992 as Vice Principal. She became Principal in 1994, and was awarded OBE for Services to Further Education in 2005, as well as being appointed President of the Association of Colleges in 2011.

In 1998 the state-of-the-art Automotive Centre was opened, followed by a new purpose-built facility for Early Years teaching and learning in 1999. Both developments were later to be awarded Centre of Vocational Excellence status.

In 2000, the College was presented with the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, and in 2002, the College was awarded Beacon College status. An Ofsted inspection followed that year in which the College was awarded five grade 1s, resulting in it becoming one of only three colleges in the country to receive the grading of an ‘Outstanding College.’

The Heavy Goods Vehicle training facility was added to the Automotive Centre in 2001, as well as another significant new building, the Media & Business Centre., which was officially opened by Margaret Hodge MP.

The much awaited £2 million Construction Training facility was officially opened in 2004 by Dr Kim Howells MP, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Education, as well as the St Marks building for Health and Early Years. The same year brought with it the merger with the local agricultural training provider Cannington College, providing new curriculum and new campuses in Cannington, Yeovil and Paignton, as well as an extensive refurbishment programme.

One of the first projects for development at Cannington, was the refurbishing of Jeanes Hall, one of the halls of residence, providing accommodation for over 50 students, which was completed in 2005. This was swiftly followed by the design and build of the £2 million Animal Management Centre which opened in April 2007.

In 2008, the £7 million new three storey Health & Fitness building was officially opened by sporting celebrity and Olympic medalist Steve Cram MBE. Having started to outgrow their College premises, new facilities for specialist automotive training opened in Wylds Road in Bridgwater the same year.

HRH the Earl of Wessex visited the College in April 2009, to formally open the development of the Walled Gardens of Cannington, which includes tea rooms and a plant shop. A new Activity Centre at Cannington, offering high and low rope challenges, was completed in the same year.

In April 2010, following a £1 million refurbishment programme, Rodway Farm at the Cannington Centre was officially launched by the High Sheriff of Somerset, John Alvis MBE. A new training centre for construction skills also opened in Wylds Road in Bridgwater.

In January 2011, the £8 million Energy Skills Centre was opened by Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne MP, along with the CEO of EDF Energy, Vincent de Rivaz.

Major building works were undertaken to mainly office and classroom spaces at the main Bridgwater Centre during the summer of 2011, resulting in a largely remodelled Learning Resource Centre.

The next significant project for the College is a 350 seater theatre and performing arts centre build, currently estimated to cost £6 million with an estimated opening date of 2014.