112 Years of College History - 1899 to 2011

What’s in a name?

Sparsholt College takes its name from the neighbouring village and the parish in which it is situated.

Pronounced Spar - sholt (not Spars - holt), the name derives from two old English words:

  • Spar - a straight timber for making spears, roof timbers, etc.
  • Holt - an area of managed woodland.

The name suggests Sparsholt has always been home to rural industry, a tradition continued in its modern form by the College.



Hampshire County Council was the fourth in England to commit bricks and mortar to agricultural training and the county’s first Farm School was opened in November 1899 at Old Basing, near Basingstoke.

Its aim was 'to provide instruction in the science and practice of agriculture and gardening, but particularly to make the practical side approach as nearly as possible to business conditions, consistent with educational purposes and to provide a centre for domestic work in the county'.

In September 1914, the Farm School was transferred to the 400 acre (158 ha) Westley Farm at Sparsholt, specially bought for the purpose by the County Council. Staff and students made do with huts, barns and the Westley farmhouse until 1926, when a new College building (now the administrative centre) was opened.

Numbers of students remained in the 30s and 40s for many years, with the development of farm and horticultural buildings in line with modern practice of the times.

Between 1970 and the present time, other College educational buildings have developed to accommodate a rapid growth in student numbers as the breadth of land-based subjects was expanded and the depth of academic progression reflected up to six levels of course qualifications.

Higher Education at the College began in 1983, with the introduction of an HND in Fishery Studies. Since then, HE courses have multiplied. The College is directly funded for its Higher Education courses, not as a subsidiary of university-based courses.

In common with all colleges of further education, the College became independent from the County Council in 1993 and is now funded, for Further Education courses, from central Government through the Learning and Skills Council.

The present day College has excellent teaching and training facilities both for theory and practical classes. A superb library and four computer suites reflects the need to keep pace with new methods of learning, while ongoing additions of superb new training resources (see individual sections’ facilities) keep pace with rapidly developing industrial technology.

More than 1,400 full-time students and 6,000 part-time enrolments have increased the demand for new teaching space and, to this end, the Sainsbury building, incorporating classrooms, lecture theatre and laboratories was opened in December 2000.

Many students use the highly developed residential, social and sports facilities at the College (over 400 single study rooms on site, most of which are en-suite). Over its 100+ year history, Sparsholt College has become one of the largest colleges of its kind in the country and, with highly rated educational standards, one of the best regarded.

As with all Further and Higher Education institutions in the United Kingdom, Sparsholt College Hampshire is subject to government standards and inspection processes.

Graded results from the last three inspection reports and recently awarded Centre of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) status show the College to be in the highest league and should give every prospective student full confidence in the quality of their course provision.

A reputation alone does not a college 'make', nor do familiar buildings and top class resources; it is also the commitment of a dedicated staff and the motivation of the students which contribute to that 'something special' which is Sparsholt College.

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Sparsholt College
Westley Lane
SO21 2NF
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