Bicton owes its name to a sixth-century Saxon Chief, Beocca, who first colonised the area; the word was then coupled with the Saxon word ‘tun’ meaning 'fortified hamlet'.
The present Georgian house was constructed around 1730, and Napoleonic prisoners of war built the magnificent lake that still graces the front of the house. Sir Winston Churchill visited, and George VI, who was a personal friend of the Clinton family (previous owners of the house), spent part of his honeymoon there.
After the Second World War, Bicton House was set up as a Farm Institute to train ex-servicemen and women in agriculture as part of a rehabilitation programme. Academic staff welcomed students of Bicton’s first six-month course in 1947.
1993 brought the most significant event in the College’s history since its foundation. Bicton College was taken out of the control of Devon County Council following the Further and Higher Education Act of 1992 and became a Further Education Corporation and an Exempt Charity with a new smaller Board of Governors.
The range of academic programmes currently offered covers: Agriculture, Animal Care, Arboriculture, Business Studies, Countryside Management, Engineering and Mechanisation, Equine Studies, Floristry, Horticulture, Outdoor Leisure, Sports Studies and Veterinary Nursing.
The College does not have an Art Department; however, accredited art courses began in 2005 within the School of Contemporary Floristry. Watercolours, working with mixed media, encaustic painting and latterly fibre arts (felt-making) have been taught, with a number of students progressing to higher education in art or textiles. An Art Summer School was held in 2007 for the first time and in 2010 the first exhibition of work produced in (residential student) art classes was held. The College grounds, arboretum, schools of horticulture and floristry are inspirational for a diverse range of artists – from botanical to abstract. In 2007, a Final Year Exhibition (Foundation Degree) of Environmental Arts and Crafts took place.
Current oil and acrylic paintings owned by the college include: a George Deakins, 'Village Scene', presented to the College by students in 1967; by A. Debeuf, 'Woodland in Sunset', which is believed to be a scene of Woodbury Common; two large oil paintings of cattle and sheep on loan from the artist, Shannon Miller, that grace the upper grand staircase; and a student contemporary work in acrylic that hangs in the Principal’s outer office. Other commissioned acrylic paintings hanging in the Library and Refectory are the work of the current tutor, Gill Burbidge. Influenced by the work of Reg Cartwright, these colourful, textural canvases were created with young people and a ‘healthy eating’ theme in mind. By the same artist, the oil painting 'Devon Summer' hangs in the staff dining room.
In addition to the above, the College owns a John Piper print 'Wyndham Cathedral, 1972', an Arts and Crafts refectory table and the Grand Entrance is adorned with E. B. Stephens’ 1834 sculpture of Lord Rolle.
We are delighted to be included in the Public Catalogue Foundation’s project and to bring Bicton College, its ancient, rich and diverse heritage, historic house, environment and academies to a wider public appreciation.