The History of the University
With over 170 Years of heritage, tradition and experience, Marjon has travelled a long road
in becoming a University.
Marjon is a Church of England Voluntary University. Its constituent Colleges, St John's
(1840) and St Mark's (1841) were founded to meet an urgent educational need for trained
teachers at a time when government made no direct contribution to higher education.
Battersea College was founded in 1838 by James Kay-Shuttleworth (ne Kay). It was the first
ever teacher training college, later taken over by the National Society in 1841 and renamed
St John’s College. St Mark’s College (aka Stanley Grove College) was founded by the National
Society in 1840 and located in Chelsea. The first Principal was the Rev. Derwent Coleridge, son
of the famous poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In 1926 the two colleges merged on the Chelsea
site to become the College of St Mark & St John, or as the students started to refer to the new
college, Marjon. In 1973 the College of St Mark and St John moved to Plymouth.
Both founding principals were eminent Victorians who developed the first national school system,
and the training colleges needed to train the teachers. Kay–Shuttleworth also established the
first school inspector system. Both did much to devise new methods of teaching, many still
well-known today, including the use of phonics to teach reading. Both were well connected with
Victorian high society of the time, and were known to novelists like Charles Dickens, Charlotte
Bronte, Charles Kingsley, Elizabeth Gaskell and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, and to philosophers
and politicians like T. Carlyle, JS Mill, Gladstone, Earl Grey, and Earl Russell, as well as the
Coleridge circle of poets and writers.
Dickens proposed to establish a ‘ragged school’ with Kay-Shuttleworth, but became critical of his
method of teacher training which he regarded as too concerned with dry facts. He satirised
Kay-Shuttleworth’s views in the novel Hard Times, in the characters of the dour Mr Gradgrind,
and the obsessive Mr M’Choakumchild.
Kay-Shuttleworth was a social reformer as well as an educator (he saw education as the best
way to stamp out pauperism), and was controversial enough to attract the critical gaze of both
Marx and Engels, who wrote about him in some of their most famous publications.
Coleridge stayed in Plymouth 1824-26, in lodgings in Union Street, and it was here he met his
future wife, Mary (nee Pridham). He proposed while walking with her in the countryside at
Greenbank. He later taught in the village school at Buckfastleigh, and became Master of
Helston School 1827—40. Derwent married Mary in St Andrew’s Church, Plymouth, on the 6th
The College archive contains many papers and articles written by both Principals, as well as a
host of other material, from early lesson plans and exam papers to articles written for the
College magazine by old boys serving in the Boer War and the First World War.
In 1991 the College became affiliated to the University of Exeter, which accredited it to run
undergraduate and postgraduate programmes leading to degree awards of the University.
In 2007 Marjon received Taught Degree Awarding Powers which provided it University College
Status and the ability to accredit its own degrees. With this new status, the College was once
again retitled as it is now known, University College Plymouth St Mark & St John.
We received legal confirmation of University title in 2013 and are now officially operating as the
University of St Mark & St John. The first Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the new
University, Professor Cara Aitchison, was appointed in 2013.
Last modified on Wed, 10 Apr 2013 10:01:52 BST by cthomas