In 1897 the Leicester School of Art (founded 1870) and the Leicester Technical School (founded 1882) were merged and brought under the control of the Town Council. The new institution was renamed the Leicester Municipal Technical and Art School.
In order to accommodate this new institution a new building was begun in a part of Leicester known as 'the Newarke'. The School building was constructed as one long wing with a grand central entrance. Today this is the part of the building which faces the Hugh Aston building. The foundation stone was laid on 30 March 1896 and the building was opened on 5 October 1897. It soon proved too small and extensions were planned. The first extension was the south wing, now the side of the building which faces along Richmond Street, which was opened in 1909. The west wing opposite the Portland building was built between 1927 and 1928. In order to construct this wing an asylum for orphan girls, which had been founded by the vicar of St Mary de Castro in 1800, was demolished.
The final wing was the north wing, facing Trinity House (at this date still a hospital for the poor). In order to construct this wing, a grand old house, known as Shipley Ellis House after the owner, a prominent industrialist, had to be destroyed. Construction took place between 1935 and 1939. The building is still part of the modern De Montfort University campus, known as the Hawthorn Building.