A rich and varied history as an English country house, one of Britain’s “100 Best” according to Simon Jenkins of the London Times, came to special fruition beginning in 1965 when Harlaxton Manor began evolving into Harlaxton College.
First known as “Stanford in Britain” when the prestigious California university offered a program here (1965-70), Harlaxton was in 1971 leased by the University of Evansville and operated as “Harlaxton Study Centre.” President Wallace Graves and Trustee Dr. William Ridgway of the University linked educational and philanthropic visions, and Dr. Ridgway ultimately purchased Harlaxton for the University.
As the “Study Centre” first became “Harlaxton College” and then matured in its educational identity, leadership—as always—has been the key:
Evansville’s first Principal at Harlaxton was young Harvard graduate and Evansville professor Jeremy Rusk, who with support of Vice President Larry Jackson on the home campus did wonders in getting an American collegiate program “up and running” on foreign soil, and in very short time.
Dr. Paul Bulger came as Principal in 1973, bringing his considerable experience as Provost at Columbia Teachers College and President of New York’s University of Buffalo to the task of raising community support, notably through the establishment of an Advisory Council of prominent local citizens.
It was under Dr. Graddon Rowlands, graduate of Cambridge and Duke Universities, and his energetic wife Pam Rowlands, that major restoration works were begun at Harlaxton Manor. Dr. and Mrs. Rowlands served Harlaxton from 1977 through 1989. Refurbishments begun by the Rowlands have continued to the present day. Though several of the historic garden structures are in need of serious attention and are in fact listed “at risk” by English Heritage, the Manor itself was first saved from demolition, then has been brought into excellent condition as a unique blend of historic house and modern educational institution. Public state rooms are superb, faculty and student rooms are furnished and equipped to a high standard, and advanced educational and computer technology is pervasive throughout the historic halls—including computer labs and wireless services. In 1986 the generosity of Trustee Mary Kay Powell made it possible that the gracious old stable block, then nearly derelict, be renovated to create rooms for ninety students. At about the same time, the University built a Sports Hall to provide recreational space, and a handsome new Library was established in the area of the Manor’s old kitchens, with shelf space for 25,000 volumes.
Dr. Angus Hawkins, a Cambridge scholar who had earlier taught at Harlaxton, became Principal in 1990 and led in developing a core program in British Studies that has developed into a pre-eminent academic course of its type. Team taught and truly interdisciplinary, it has gathered over the years several academic generations of bright young faculty members who have made it “work.” The course is very “British,” demanding much more in the way of reading, thinking, and writing, of analysis and synthesis, than most American students have experienced in their home universities. But the Americans rise to the challenge and perform well, and they become quite proud of their achievements.
When Dr. Hawkins moved on to a post at Oxford, Dr. Robert Stepsis succeeded him as Principal. From 1992 through 2002, the Harvard-educated Stepsis built on his experiences as Professor and Dean in American universities to further develop the core British Studies model. Dr. Stepsis emphasized high standards in teaching and learning. He also oversaw improvements in the physical plant, including a new heating system and renewal of most roof structures of the Manor.
Then in January 2003, Dr. Gordon Kingsley assumed the Principal’s role and began a broad program of further improvements in the Manor itself, in faculty status and morale, in detailed planning toward the achievement of clear goals, in staff performance, and in openness to the community. President Stephen Jennings of the home university provided his great support; Trustees Rita Eykamp, John Schroeder, Sharon McCarthy, Alan Braun, Mary Kay Powell, and Steve Worthington made important gifts; an immensely gifted faculty created a strong and innovative teaching team; and Harlaxton generated even more vitality. Dr. Kingsley had been Professor, Dean, and President at William Jewell College in America, one of Harlaxton’s first Partner Colleges, and he had been a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge. His wife Suzanne, herself a former collegiate vice president in America, also took a leadership role in a strong administrative cabinet and in planning.
Harlaxton College in the early 21st century emphasizes a powerfully integrated program of teaching and learning, travel, cultural immersion, and experience. Her rubric is Learning: All Together—a slogan which not only describes Harlaxton as a learning community for everyone involved, but also the integration of learning in this small, intense, closely-knit educational environment.
Each academic year over 300 American students have the privilege of living and studying for a semester in Harlaxton College. During the summer, the Manor hosts another 1,000 people pursuing summer school, short courses, or conferences and concerts. In addition, the house is the setting for numerous wedding receptions and special events. More than any time in its history, Harlaxton Manor is alive with the promise and optimism of youth, the kind of optimism a Gregory Gregory must have had when he constructed this astonishing place. Harlaxton is a startling confluence of a Victorian building and a modern university, of things British and of things American, of vibrant youth and graceful age.
"Harlaxton must be seen to be believed and even when
one has seen it, it is not always easy to believe it".
Mark Girouard - The Victorian Country House
Harlaxton Manor was built in the 1830s for Gregory Gregory, a wealthy Nottinghamshire businessman, to replace the original Elizabethan Manor House in Harlaxton Village. Having travelled throughout England and Europe seeking inspiration, ideas and indeed artefacts for this huge house, Gregory employed Anthony Salvin as architect and Harlaxton Manor must be regarded as Salvin's masterpiece. Built in Ancaster stone, it is an exuberant merging of Gothic, Jacobethan and Baroque styles creating an unforgettable and dramatic impact.
Owner and architect had many differences of opinion, however, and Salvin having completed the exterior of the main building was replaced by William Burn who is thought responsible for much of the interior.
Few houses in the country can match the splendid approach to Harlaxton. A straight mile long drive across a bridge, under a gatehouse, past 'the pyrotechnic display of the forecourt gates and screen'* to Salvin's towering facade whether by day or night when the building is floodlit, is in itself a memorable, experience.
More on the history of the house and architecture can be found in the Harlaxton Manor section of our web site.
*Lincolnshire by Pevsner and Harris in the Buildings of England series.
|1837||First section of Manor completed.|
|1851-1855||Gregory Gregory in occupation.|
|1855-1860||George Gregory, an elderly cousin of the above.|
|1860-1892||John Sherwin, later John Sherwin-Gregory, a distant relative of Gregory's at most, and his wife (the husband died in 1869 and his wife in 1892).|
|1892-1935||Thomas Sherwin Pearson, also adopting the Gregory to become Pearson-Gregory, but only a godson of John Sherwin-Gregory's. A widower.|
|1937-1948||Violet Van der Elst; also for a time in 1943 a company of the 1st Battalion of the British Airborne Division. It is from this period that the emblem in the Pegasus Courtyard dates.|
|1948-1965||Society of Jesus (The Jesuits). They actually occupied the house for only part of this time, on two separate occasions.|
|1965-1968||The University of Stanford, California, as 'Stanford in Britain'.|
|1971-Present||The University of Evansville, Indiana, first as theHarlaxton Study Centre, later as Harlaxton College.|
Last Updated: 23/08/2011 4:14 PM