It was designed by William Larner Sugden in a Queen Anne style. It opened in 1884, and combined a Free Library, Museum, 3 Picture Galleries and premises for a School of Art. The four stone portrait medallions in the front facade were carved by sculptor Stephen Webb (1849-1933).
The free library has been funded by the District Council since 1887.
The School of Art paid a small rent for its rooms in the Institute. Almost half of the cost of the furniture and equipment for the school was raised by a bazaar held in the Town Hall. The rest came from donations, Science & Arts Department grants and the profits of a lecture given by Oscar Wilde.
Moving pictures were shown in the Institute in1898 by Mssrs. Stokes & Watson of Manchester.
A three storey extension also designed by Sugden was commissioned in 1900 to house a high school and a silk school. The ornamental modelling and lettering was created by Architectural Sculptor Abraham Broadbent (1868-1919). In 1938 the control of the school, at the time it was known as The School of Art, Science & Technology, passed from the District Council to the County Council and by 1955 the school had been divided into a college of further education and a school of arts & crafts, both housed in the Institute.
The 2 schools were combined in 1981 to form Leek College of Further Education & School of Art. It had annexes in Union Street and Russell Street, then in 1986 a Technology Centre & Business School was opened in Union Street. In 1992 the College purchased the Carr Gymnasium. The 1900 extension was remodelled in 1994 to provide more study space and better reception facilities.
Leek & District Arts Club was founded in 1948. In that same year the District Council converted the Museum in the Nicholson Institute into a Meeting & Concert Room for the club. In 1949 the room was opened as an Arts Centre, one of the first 6 in the country to be recognised by the British Arts Council. A week of concerts and other entertainments organised by the club in 1977 led to the establishment of the Leek Arts Festival in 1978. From 1990 onwards, the festival lasts for four weeks.
The Nicholson Institute & the college was granted a Grade II listing by English Heritage on 7 June 1972.
Canon EOS 550D & 18-55mm Kit Lens
Feature Image – Exposure 1/125, Aperture f/5.0, ISO 100, Focal Length 18mm
Second Image – Exposure 1/30, Aperture f/8.0, ISO 100, Focal Length 53mm
Third Image – Exposure 1/320, Aperture f/8.0, ISO 100, Focal Length 55mm
Fourth Image – Exposure 1/13, Aperture f/5.0, ISO 100, Focal Length 21mm
Fifth Image – Exposure 1/250, Aperture f/8.0, ISO 100, Focal Length 18mm