Actress Susan Hampshire took a walk down memory lane when she attended the official opening of Kingston University’s John Galsworthy Building.
The actress, who became a household-name playing Fleur in the BBC’s 1967 television adaptation of Galsworthy’s novel, The Forsyte Saga, was guest of honour at a special event celebrating the completion of the new £20 million teaching and learning facility.
Galsworthy, who was born at Parkfield, in Kingston Hill, in 1867 and whose family later moved to Coombe Warren, near Malden, penned 20 novels and 27 plays, as well as poetry, short stories and essays during the course of his career.
Ms Hampshire, awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education by Kingston University in 1994, described the six-storey complex at the heart of the institution’s Penrhyn Road campus as a fitting tribute to the Nobel prize-winning author and playwright.
“It was an enormous thrill to be asked to visit Kingston University for the official opening to pay tribute to a writer whose talent did so much for my career,” she said.
The 26-episode screen adaptation of Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga, in which Ms Hampshire starred alongside Eric Porter, Nyree Dawn Porter and Kenneth More, was the last major British televised drama to be shot in black and white.
Ms Hampshire still vividly remembers how the series charting the life of the prosperous upper-middle class Forsyte family gripped the nation.
“It was a huge phenomenon and became so successful that times of church services even had to be altered so viewers didn’t miss an episode,” she recalled.
“Galsworthy had the wonderful gift of describing his characters so well that readers could completely relate to each one.
Fleur was quite spoilt and I found playing a nasty character in the BBC adaptation extremely exciting.”
The John Galsworthy Building, created under the guidance of University-appointed architects and designers Arup and John McAslan + Partners, is the largest of three new teaching and learning facilities to have opened at the University this autumn.
The £4 million, three-floor Hawker Wing now provides 10 extra teaching rooms and additional office space for staff and students at the Faculty of Engineering’s Roehampton Vale campus.
Nearby at Kingston Hill, the £5 million extension to the Learning Resources Centre, renamed the Nightingale Centre, provides another 1,500 square metres of study space and boasts a 60-seat learning café.
The chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Professor David Eastwood, praised the University for its commitment to enhancing teaching and learning facilities for its students.
“The John Galsworthy is, quite simply, a signature building, sending a very powerful statement that Kingston University is brimming with confidence about the future and is determined to not only maintain but invest in its record for high quality teaching,” Professor Eastwood added.
Chair of the University’s Campus Development Board Professor Penny Sparke said such significant redevelopment of its estate meant the institution was in a far better position to cater for its students, who were becoming increasingly discerning about the quality of facilities.
“Each of these landmark developments will, without doubt, boost teaching, learning, research and enterprise and reinforce Kingston’s standing as one of the foremost providers of higher education in the region,” she said.
“They send out a strong signal about the University’s stability and long-term aspirations.”