The college opened in Birmingham in 1881 as a result of a decision of the WM Conference in 1868 to establish a theological college in the Midlands out of moneys from the Thanksgiving Fund. It opened with 40 students. Its first theological tutor was Frederick W. Macdonald. Other outstanding staff members in the early decades included W. Theophilus Davison and J.G. Tasker.
Extensions to the buildings in 1931, marking its 50th anniversary, included lecture rooms, a common room and a chapel. Links with the University of Birmingham were forged by the strong teaching team of William F. Lofthouse, Christopher R. North, Henry Bett and Wilbert F. Howard, specializing in biblical studies and Pastoral Theology. During World War II the College was taken over by the Public Health Department. After the War George W. Anderson and Philip S. Watson continued its strong contribution to biblical and historical theology. In 1967 the training centre of the Wesley Deaconess Order transferred to Handsworth from Ilkley.
After closure in 1970 the name was transferred to a new residential building for married students in the ecumenical Queen's College, now the Queen's Foundation.The original Handsworth site, now known as the Hamstead Campus, provides accommodation for 600 students studying at local universities. A plaque commemorating its Methodist origins was dedicated in September 2013.