BACK before it became the present home of Salisbury Museum, King’s House in the Cathedral Close was for almost 150 years a teacher training college for women, first as Salisbury Training College and latterly the College of Sarum St Michael.

The college had its place in literature when Thomas Hardy’s sisters trained there – an experience he drew on for his novel Jude The Obscure. More recently, two former college students, Jenny Head and Anne Johns, have returned to the archives to produce two volumes exploring the college’s history. Following on from Inspired to Teach, this week sees the publication of We Will Teach! (available via, focusing specifically on the college’s links with the Channel Islands, from where many hundreds of would-be teachers came to train.

I caught up with Jenny and Anne last week, at Salisbury Museum appropriately enough, who explained where this specific association came from. Although there had been students from the Channel Islands since the 1860s, it was only at the start of the twentieth century that the relationship was more formalised – an arrangement was struck with Jersey that they would send over a ‘good number’ of students a year. With no teacher training in the Channel Islands, Salisbury was the nearest place for students to study and the numbers started to rise. The result was one of those small but significant pieces of cross-pollination – a large number of the Salisbury students went back to teach on the Channel Islands, but some joined the other newly qualified teachers who ended up teaching in and around the city.

One of the most striking eras the book describes was during the Second World War: with the Channel Islands occupied, the women who came to study in Salisbury were unable to return home. The book captures the stories of many of these women and how they coped in difficult circumstances.

Jenny and Anne talked about their own studies in the 1960s, fondly reeling off a list of cafes and bars, and talking about the student buzz in the city from the combination of their college, Sarum College and the Arts College. But in the 1970s, a reorganisation of teacher training led to the Department of Education closing a number of colleges. Out of the twenty-seven Church Colleges, of which Sarum St Michael was one, only eight survived, with the rest being closed or amalgamated.

In 1975, failed talks took place about merging Sarum St Michael with King Alfred’s College in Winchester. It’s one of those ‘what if’ moments in a city’s life: King Alfred’s survived, diversified and went on to become Winchester University; Sarum St Michael closed and Salisbury lost a little bit of its higher education sparkle.