January to February at the Northern School of Music

We’ve been rummaging around in stories and archives to find out what changes and events were happening at the Northern School of Music at various points over the years.

Whilst we compile the school’s timeline, we thought we’d share some monthly markers to give you a flavour of what we’ve unearthed so far. Here we go for January and February!

Actors on stage dressed in renaissance costume as well as a priest and boy dressed as an angel in the centre.

Everyman play, 1961


In 1927, the school set up shop at 260 Deansgate. This was a big deal! It was the first premises they had which boasted an actual concert hall and, more importantly, “cuppa” making capacity. As with the Royal Northern School of Music today, we can’t go long without a cup of tea.

Also in 1927, Ida Carroll becomes school Secretary. Until that point she was mainly a student at the school but this was her first real step in the direction of what would later be a Principal role.

Arriving on a cold morning sometime in January (year as yet unknown) young student Mildred Oldfield describes school as “A Jolly Place” and is “struck by the general hilarity of surging throng” (ref: John Robert-Blunn).

On the 8th of January in 1937, the school held the first Reunion of Former Students event, organised by the Students Social Club.

Then in 1957, a portrait of Hilda Collens was unveiled by Earnest Read, a friend of the school and pupil of Tobias Matthay whose teaching philosophy was the undercurrent of the school. The painting was by Ray Howarth and was financed by a memorial fund for Hilda Collens after she died in 1956.

Also in January 1957 was a jolly evening of 3 short plays, performed by the school’s Speech and Drama Department. The plays were those by George Bernard Shaw and all parts of two of the plays were played by women.


Tobias Matthay, whose approach to playing and teaching piano was the ethos upon which the school was built was born on the 19th of February in 1858. Indeed the Northern School of Music was originally called “The Matthay School of Music, Manchester Branch” after Hilda Collens asked Matthay’s permission to formalise it.

In 1946, the first one-act plays were given by drama department students of the school. They were performed at the Institute of Adult Education on Lower Mosley Street in Manchester.

Also in 1946, Dame Myra Hess, one of the most famous of Tobias Matthay’s students, becomes Northern School of Music’s President after the death of Matthay himself.

A decade later in 1956 a sum of £2,000 (a generous amount at the time) was given to school for a scholarship in memory of Walter Carroll. Walter Carroll was father of Ida Carroll (second principal of the school) and was one of the early supporters of the school. It was used as a Trust Fund in his memory.

Then, on the 13th of February 1961, the draft scheme and formation of the governing body of the “Northern College of Music, Manchester” was accepted by the Northern School of Music. It took over a decade more to become a reality after almost a decade of discussions to even reach this point.

What do you remember?

That’s what we’ve rustled up so far for what the school looked like in the winter time.

What memories do you have of the school, staff, students, performances and building? We’d love to hear about it. Contact our archivist [email protected] to contribute your memories to the school’s legacy.

For images from the archive, head over to our online exhibition with the Manchester Digital Music Archive.