IVORY HOUSE

ivory houseDuring the period 1973 – 1974 I did a sandwich course, a Diploma in Management Studies (DMS) at Ivory House in Norwich, which at the time was the adult education centre of the City College. There were about 12 of us on the course. There were a few older men; one of them was a Warrant Officer from RAF Coltishall who was soon to leave the service and needed a new career. At the end of the war he had been a Bevin Boy – one of the young men who had been conscripted to work down the mines . He transferred to the RAF, as it was far more congenial occupation than going down the coal mines. After leaving the RAF in about 1975 he eventually got a job as VAT inspector.

I was 24 when I began the course and most of the others were quite young too, although not quite as young as me.  There were no women on the course – quite inconceivable now of course – but we are talking of a time over 40 years ago. There were no women on the teaching staff either, so it was a thoroughly masculine affair. The studying was all quite new to me, not at all like anything I had learnt before. Gresham’s School at that time did not teach management studies, and nor did Oxford University, although they both do so now. The sandwich course worked by having an intensive fortnight’s learning, followed by a return to one’s everyday employment. There was a gap of about six weeks, and then another fortnight, and so on. There were a few evening classes in between.

‘Mission Statements’ had not then arrived in business jargon, but there was a perceived need for something along those lines. You had to ‘state your objectives’ before beginning a project, which amounts to the same thing. Work study and economics were both included in the course, but strangely enough there was very little about the law. Perhaps it was deemed to be too much to handle, and was best studied as a subject on its own. I think what I found most useful was the grounding we had in statistics. I can still remember the ‘bell curve’ – anybody who knows statistics will know what I mean; others may well be mystified. The double-entry book-keeping we did was useful too, but much duller and, unlike the statistics , I have now completely forgotten it.

There was obviously a lot of talk about the management theorists; these were mostly American; their ideas were rather suspect to us (at least they were to me). Nonetheless it was undeniably true that those businesses which followed business theory tended to do rather better than those which didn’t, and it seemed not to matter what the nature of the theory was.

I remember most of my fellow course members and teachers, although I have seen hardly any of them since my course ended. One I did meet several years later; he had taken over a health food shop in White Lion Street in Norwich, and was engaged in selling macrobiotic brown rice and similar ingredients. More yin and yang than anything we had studied on our DMS course, but I am sure he still needed a firm mastery of budgeting.

On Monday October 15 1973 I was woken at 8 by my mother and had a good breakfast before driving into Norwich. I walked round to Ivory House from Surrey Street in the rain. The morning was given over to ‘Financial Aspects’ which we were to be taught by Arthur Ringer. We went through the basics – accounts, partnerships etc – with plenty of comments thrown in. We broke for coffee and then more of the same. For lunch we went to the Chinese Restaurant at the top of St Stephens. Arthur Ringer signed for the meal – when were we to pay for it I wondered? In the afternoon we had ‘Commercial Aspects’ with Geoff Thomson. We discussed economics on an international level, and he showered us with lots of graphs. These revealed that the UK was doing very poorly in comparison with most of the Common Market including France. Later in the week we did quantitative analysis, exponential curves, linear programming and n! factorials with Charles Stratton. For ‘Human Aspects’ we were taught by Bruce Potter. In this subject we did a case study on the introduction of HSS* tools to the Navy in 1908.

thomas ivoryIvory House was built by Thomas Ivory  (1709-1779) in 1771. He was a carpenter by trade turner architect. Built Ivory House as a private residence (altho not his own). It stands in the part of Norwich once called Brazen Gate, where All Saints Green meets Queens Road. It became the Militia Barracks in the 19th century. The Militia evolved into the Territorial Army and I think Ivory House was the TA centre when I first remember it. The adjacent property was the local centre for the Army Cadet Force – which it remains to this day. By 1969 Ivory House was an office building used by the Norwich Co-0p. After they moved out it was refurbished as the adult education centre of Norwich City College in about 1970. It did not remain in this use for long, and was converted into flats. The work was apparently not very well done, and recently the flats have again been upgraded.

*High Speed Steel

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA

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