The School was established in 2002 as a result of reorganisation of the university, but its origins extend back more than a century.
A department of agriculture was founded when funds were allocated from the Northumberland County Council to establish a Chair of Agriculture for the Armstrong College of Science, then part of Durham University. The post was first taken by Professor William Somerville in 1891, from which we can date the establishment of the department. At the turn of the twentieth century the department in Newcastle was one of only five pioneering centres throughout the country providing research and advisory services for the development of agriculture.
Pioneering 19th century government vet Clement Stephenson funded half the cost of building an agricultural department for advisory work in Newcastle. It is that legacy which is still enshrined in the naming of the Clement Stephenson Lecture Theatre. Read more about his achievements in this short article.
It was recognised that a research farm was necessary for the new Agriculture Department and Cockle Park Farm was leased by Northumberland County Council for this use from the Duke of Portland in 1896. The farm remains to this day part of the facilities of the school. As late as the 1930s, it was one of only six experimental farms in the country. The farm is home to the world's oldest continuous grazing and hay cutting experiment on the Palace Leas Meadow, which has remained the same since the experimental plots were commenced in 1896.
This long history is reflected in a special collection within the university library of 350 early documents on agriculture which had as its nucleus the historical library of the late Professor D A Gilchrist, who held the Chair of Agriculture in Armstrong College from 1902 to 1927. The collection is rich in 18th and 19th century reports on farming in many parts of Great Britain.
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