George Lucking and the University of Reading War Memorial

The recent Armistice Day service in the Peace Garden at London Road reminded me of an image I had seen of George Lucking next to the bell of the clock tower. The photograph was probably taken in 1923, the year before the memorial’s dedication, when Mr Lucking was Head Porter at University College Reading.

The Clock Tower Bell (from ‘One hundred years of university education in Reading: a pictorial history’).

What makes the image particularly moving is that Mr Lucking had lost his only son, Walter Thomas Lucking, during World War I. Walter’s name can be seen below on the roll of honour.

The Roll of Honour on the War Memorial showing Walter Thomas Lucking.

George Lucking had worked for many years as a porter at London Road. The photograph below shows him on an early College postcard.

George Lucking (right) and colleague in the North Cloister  (University of Reading Special Collections).
Sources

Smith, S. & Bott, M. (1992). One hundred years of university education in Reading: a pictorial history. Reading: University of Reading.

University of Reading Special Collections, Photographic Archives.

A Day at the Seaside

During part of the 1920s, the Employee Social Club made an annual outing to Brighton by charabanc. Here are members outside the Great Hall on the morning of one of their excursions:

University of Reading Special Collections

I have seen several versions of this image in boxes of photographs in the Special Collections. The labelling on the back is inconsistent, but there is no doubt that the person reclining on the grass at the front is what was known as ‘the letter boy’ (he is variously referred to as Vandenburg, Vandenberg and R. Wallace). 

Maybe ‘boy’ reflected his status rather than his age, but there’s no doubt that before the days of email and the internet, his would have been an indispensable role, delivering the mail, telegrams, memos and parcels across the campus.

The image below, taken on arrival at Brighton sea front, is dated 1927. There’s no explanation as to why a police officer is in attendance.

University of Reading Special Collections

Book early for the next excursion!

Sources

University of Reading Special Collections, Photographic Archives.

 

 

Teacher Education, Albert Wolters and the ‘Criticism Lesson’

It comes as no surprise that Education students experience feelings of apprehension when starting their School Experience (formerly known as Teaching Practice). But at least they no longer have to undergo a form of torture known as ‘the Criticism Lesson‘.

I first learnt of this phenomenon from a short memoir written by Albert Wolters in 1949, part of a volume marking 50 years of Teacher Education at Reading.

Albert Wolters (1883-1961)

The name of Albert Wolters is widely known across Reading University thanks to the Albert Wolters Distinguished Visiting Professorships. These prestigious awards have been held by the following scholars of international acclaim: Ellen Bialystok (2015), Steven Pinker (2016), Noam Chomsky (2017), Elizabeth Loftus (2018), Daniel Dennett (2019) and Alison Gopnik (2021).

Wolters’ many talents and achievements have recently been extolled by Ingeborg Lasser in The Psychologist. He was a pioneer in the field of Psychology and responsible for enabling Psychology to become an independent department in 1921. He was its first head, was made Professor in 1943 and became Reading’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 1947.

Before the establishment of the Psychology Department, Wolters had contributed to the training of teachers following his appointment to University College Reading in 1908. He is listed among the staff of both Education and Philosophy where Psychology was located during this period. His involvement with teachers continued beyond 1921 and he is recorded by Charles Rawson, a PhD candidate, as contributing to the in-service training of teachers evacuated to Reading from London during World War II.

What is less well known is that in 1902 Wolters became a student at Reading’s Day Training College, preparing to be an Elementary School teacher. It is from this time that he recalls the ordeal described below.

The Criticism Lesson

In Wolters’ own words:

One feature of the course was pretty generally disliked. Once a week some twenty children were drafted into the College Hall for a “criticism lesson”. … Then one of us had to stand up and “give a lesson” to that class, while forty students looked on knowing that they had to comment on it afterwards, perhaps to be told that criticism need not be abuse. The children enjoyed it; they were out of school. We sometimes suspected that the Master of Method [J. H. Gettins] enjoyed it in a sadistic moment otherwise quite foreign to his character.’ (p. 19)

According to S. J. Curtis who was an Education student from 1911-14, the assembled staff of the Department and the head of the school were also present:

One ordeal dreaded by every student in the Department was the criticism lesson given before an audience consisting of the staff of the Department, the head-teacher, and, what was worst of all, before one’s fellow students. As one who passed through the fire, I can say that the actual experience was not nearly as terrifying as it appeared in prospect. This was entirely due to the way in which it was handled by Mr. Cooke [see photograph below]. However weak and faltering the lesson, providing the teacher was really serious about the business, Mr. Cooke would always find at least one praiseworthy item in it…‘ (p. 24)

The hall that Wolters mentions was the main hall of the College in Valpy Street (see previous post for map and photo). The events referred to by Curtis most likely took place in the Great Hall on the London Road Campus.

S. J. Curtis went on to make his mark as Reader in Education at Leeds University where he became a renowned expert on the History of Education and Moral Philosophy.

The Education Department in the time of Albert Wolters

The present Institute of Education at London Road can trace its origins back to 1892 with the training of Pupil Teachers and preparation of Uncertificated Teachers in Elementary Schools for the Certificate Examination (Armstrong, 1949). It was only in 1899, however, when Reading College obtained recognition as a Day Training College, that the real foundations of today’s Institute were laid. Edith Morley recalls that by the time she was appointed in 1901, things were well under way, with 80 full-time students pursuing a two-year course to become Elementary Teachers. In 1902, Albert Wolters enrolled as one of about 40 students in his year group, two-thirds of whom were women.

The photograph below shows the Education Department in the year before Wolters arrived. Many of these lecturers would have been his tutors. Some, like W. M. Childs and  H. S. Cooke,  would later become his friends and colleagues after his appointment to the Department in 1908.

The College Education Department, Valpy Street, 1901
Staff Identified by name in H. C. Barnard’s History of the Department
  1. H. J. Mackinder, College Principal.
  2. W. M. Childes, Vice-Principal; later Reading University’s first Vice-Chancellor.
  3. H. S. Cooke, Headmaster of the Pupil Teachers’ Centre; later Head of Department.
  4. J. M. Rey, Lecturer in French.
  5. Miss Bolam, Education Tutor and Warden of St Andrew’s Hostel.
  6. F. H. Wright, Registrar.
  7. J. H. Sacret, Lecturer in History.
  8. A. W. Seaby, Lecturer in Fine Art; later Professor of Fine Art.
  9. W. G. de Burgh, Lecturer in Classics; later Professor of Classics.
Sources

Armstrong, H. (1949). A brief outline of the growth of the Department. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 9-17). University of Reading.

Barnard, H. C. (Ed.). (1949). The Education Department through fifty years. University of Reading.

Curtis, S. J. (1949). Early days. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 23-5). University of Reading.

Morley, E. (2016). Before and after: reminiscences of a working life (original text of 1944 edited by Barbara Morris). Reading: Two Rivers Press.

Rawson, C. P. (1943). Some aspects of evacuation. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Reading.

Wolters, A. W. (1949). Early days. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 18-20). Reading: University of Reading.

University College Reading. Calendar, 1919-20.

Thanks to:

Dr Gordon Cox for telling me about Professor Barnard’s book and lending me his copy.

Professor Carmel Houston-Price (Head of the School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences) for clarification about the Visiting Distinguished Professorships and biographical information about Albert Wolters.

‘That this House is in favour of Woman’s Suffrage’

In a previous post I mentioned how the Debating Society was one of the initiatives intended to foster a sense of community in the early days of the College.

From the Reading College Calendar 1900-01

Accounts of the debates can be found in the Reading College Magazine. The earliest motions recorded are:

  • ‘That this House views with pleasure the return of a Conservative Government to power.’ (Oct. 13th 1900. Votes for: 46; against: 48).
  • ‘That in the opinion of this House, education in rural schools should have a more direct agricultural bearing.’ (Oct. 27th 1900. The Chairman claimed that, ‘the Ayes have it’ but this was disputed and the House adjourned amid confusion).
  • The previous controversial result was revisited on November 10th 1900 with the Principal (H. J. Mackinder) in the chair. (Votes for: 22; against: 23).
  • ‘That this House is of the opinion that life in large towns is deleterious to National Character.’ (Nov. 24th 1900. Votes for: 38; against: 56).
  • ‘That this House is of opinion that the British Race and Empire at the commencement of the 20th Century exhibits greater promise of national achievement than it did before the commencement of the 19th.’  (Feb. 23rd 1901. Votes for: 28; against: 19).

A letter to the Magazine from a former member of the Debating Society objected to the grammar of the last motion and suggested that members:

‘….are in need of a little instruction, and would suggest that a competent nursery governess be engaged to supply the want.’ (Vol. II, p34).

The motion ‘That this House is in favour of Woman’s Suffrage’ was debated on February 19th 1901. The debate took place in the hall of Reading College, formerly the University Extension College and shortly to become University College Reading. The location was its original site in Valpy Street (see map), some four years before the move to London Road and about nine months before the appointment of Edith Morley. 

Part of a  map in the Calendar of 1905 showing the College in Valpy Street

According to the College Magazine (Vol. II, pp.19-20), the proceedings ran as follows.  The ‘hon. mover’, Miss E. Lawrence, took the view that the case for Woman’s Suffrage was already so well known that there was no point in repeating it. Instead, she addressed four common arguments against. There were:

  1. ‘That a woman becomes unwomanly by taking a part in politics’;
  2. ‘that she is ignorant in political matters’;
  3. ‘that she is intellectually inferior to man’;
  4. ‘that matters of state do not affect her life’.

Miss Lawrence responded by:

  1. asserting that, ‘…the life of Queen Victoria was a sufficient reputation’;
  2. insisting that, ‘The vote would educate and lead women to see that it was their duty to understand the affairs of the nation’;
  3. appealing to ‘a consideration of the work done by women in the scholastic, medical, and other professions’;
  4. pointing out that, ‘the state controlled education, and taxed women’s property’.

The quality of debate was probably not enhanced by the fact that the opposer, Mr J. Pryce, arrived late and missed the beginning of the mover’s speech.

Three assertions by Mr Pryce are recorded:

  1. ‘since woman (sic) could not fight as soldiers they should not vote’;
  2. ‘he pointed out the terrible fuss which would arise if man and wife held different political opinions’;
  3. ‘woman’s interests were so closely bound up with man’s that the man could vote for himself and his wife at the same time’.

A Miss Stansfield supporting the motion countered that, if the interests of the man and woman were so closely connected, the woman could vote for them both. According to the record, Miss Stansfield analytically dismissed Mr Pryce’s three arguments and a Miss Williams pointed out that ‘even a woman might be a formidable foe if armed with a rifle.’

A motion to close the debate was lost and the quality of discussion then declined until the House divided:

Reading College Magazine, Winter Term, Vol. II, 1901, p.20

It appears that the motion’s supporters won the argument but lost the vote. It would be interesting to know the gender of those present and how they voted, but unfortunately this information is not available. 

In consolation, the report confirms that:

‘There was no doubt that the ladies completely vindicated their right to express an opinion on political matters.’ (p.19).

To modern eyes that just adds insult to injury!

The old College buildings in Valpy Street (University of Reading Special Collections)
Sources

Reading College,  Calendar, 1900-1

Reading College Magazine, Autumn Term, Vol. 1, 1900 & Winter Term, Vol. II, 1901).

University College Reading. Calendar, 1905-6.

Thanks to:

Joanna Hulin (Reading Room Assistant) for her help and for accessing material for this and previous posts.

From Magic Lanterns, the Kymograph and Gramophone Records to the Amstrad Portable

London Road, 1987

When I joined the School of Education at London Road in 1987 I was impressed by the resources. Nothing fancy—no interactive whiteboards, no internet access, but overhead projectors, carousel slide projectors, VHS and revolving green ‘blackboards’. There was a Technical Support Unit with a studio, and computers in the Old Red Building with the SPSS statistical package.

Ground-floor Seminar Room, L16, London Road, September 1987 (now the G4 office area)

In July 1988, Dr Bridie Raban (now Professor Raban) organised the distribution of an Amstrad PPC 640 . The 640 was a folding portable computer with two disc drives and a small monochrome screen. It was extremely heavy and came with a rucksack.

The (Magic) Lantern

To the original College staff, all the above would have been a real luxury. In the 1890s and early 1900s Reading College and University College Reading didn’t even have its own magic lantern. The following item appears in the Reading College accounts for the first time in 1898-9:

‘Hire of Hall and Lantern for Popular Lectures’ (£8 7s 6d)

Similar entries were repeated for the College and the University College until 1901-2. The cost varied from a high of £22 1s 0d (1899-1900) down to £1 0s 0d (1901-20).

Lanterns came in many forms. Over time, light sources had progressed from candles to incandescent light bulbs, but we have no way of knowing what kind was in use during the early days of the College. Even though electric sources were available by this time, oil lamps and gas bags for oxygen were still used in the 1880s, as this catalogue shows:

Adverts for (Magic) Lanterns from a Slide Catalogue (Manchester 1881)

The ‘Lime Light arrangements’ refers to applying an oxy-hydrogen flame to calcium oxide. It needed bags of both oxygen and hydrogen.

The slides were usually bought or hired and, for a small additional cost, could be accompanied by a text to be read aloud. Some of the themes make uncomfortable reading nowadays. Presumably academics composed their own text and maybe, in some cases, produced their own slides.

Flier for Lantern Slides, 1884

The only reference I have found to a named person using a lantern concerns Edith Morley. The University College Calendar for 1908-9 announced that she was to give the College Hall Thursday Evening Lecture on Nov 19, 1908:

‘“In Shakespeare’s England” (illustrated by lantern views)’

There is nothing remarkable about this; the use of lanterns in education has a long history. Nevertheless, Morley was certainly no slouch when it came to technology and was even something of a pioneer.

The Kymograph

To see why, we need to jump 20 years from University College Reading to the University of Reading. According to the Proceedings for 1928-9:

‘The Professor of English Language [Prof Morley] reports that a start is being made in the study of practical phonetics. Equipment needed for this work includes a kymograph and a linguaphone and records.’ (p.33)

I wasn’t familiar with kymographs so I contacted Jane Setter, Reading’s Professor of Phonetics, who sent me a link to ‘Jane talking phonetics on the Alan Titchmarsh Show’. The kymograph, a device for measuring air pressure, is explained after 1:55, but the whole 5:40 sequence is well worth watching.

In Professor Setter’s opinion:

‘it was probably more useful in research, but could be used to train specific features of speaking.’

Let us consider the research angle first. Even though Morley was Professor of English Language, her publications were predominantly in the area of literature and I can find nothing in her annual returns that would suggest practical phonetics as an area of original research. It can’t be ruled out, however. She was certainly engaged in the field of phonetics and phonology: as far back as 1905-6, when she was in sole charge of English, the Report of the Academic Board states that classroom resources for English included ‘A physiological atlas and model larynx help with the study of phonology.’ And phonetics figured in the examination syllabuses for English, largely in connection with the history of language and its application to literary texts. Advised reading included the familiar names of Daniel Jones (‘The Pronunciation of English’) and Henry Sweet (‘The Sounds of English’).

Professor Setter’s suggestion that the Kymograph might also have been used to train features of speaking is consistent with a feature of the English examination syllabuses that appeared in the University’s first Calendar in 1926:

‘All examinations in English will include a test in reading aloud.’ (p.172)

The following year the ‘will’ was softened to ‘may’, but otherwise this wording remained in the syllabus right up to the 1977-78 academic year.

Gramophone Records

The theme of the sounds of English and gramophone records is resumed in the Proceedings of 1934-5 in the Vice-Chancellor’s annual statement:

‘Professor Morley’s proposal to have gramophone records made to illustrate the earlier stages of spoken English has been endorsed by a large number of teachers in British Universities and adopted by the Linguaphone Institute. A beginning is to be made with records of Anglo-Saxon, Chaucer and Shakespeare.’ (p.36)

Two years later we learn of the outcome of the project:

‘Professor Morley reports that the gramophone records of English pronunciation (Anglo-Saxon, Middle English and Eighteenth Century English) to which reference was made two years ago, are now on the market. They are in use in the Department and are proving of great assistance.’ (p.34)

There seems little hope that Morley’s original discs are still around. There is no reference to them in the University Library, the Edith Morley Archive or elsewhere in the Special Collections. If they still do exist they are likely to be 78 rpm, 10 inch (25 cm) flat discs made of brittle shellac.

A Set of Linguaphone Records from the 1930s

The Linguaphone Group did not respond to my enquiries so I contacted Professor David Crystal to see if he had come across anything related to Edith Morley when he joined the newly formed Department of Linguistic Science in the 1960s. (A graphic account of one of his own phonetics lectures at Reading can be found in his memoir ‘Just a Phrase I’m Going through’! pp.113-5). Given his own work on Original Pronunciation, who better to ask? His reply was illuminating and gave me the relevant search terms for the British Library Sounds Archive:

‘I don’t recall any mention of her when we arrived in Reading in 65….Your Linguaphone ref points very clearly to DJ [Daniel Jones], as he was at the forefront of those recordings of Shakespeare etc. They’re in the British Library archive now. But there’s no mention of Edith in the DJ biography I have here, nor in the BL archive.’

As far as I can see, the recordings Morley mentioned belong to the collection, English Pronunciation Through the Centuries: Selected Extracts from Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, and Later English’ published in 1935. Two of the recordings of Shakespearean English can be heard at the  British Library Sounds website. Morley’s exact role in their production, however, remains a mystery.

Sources

British Library Sounds: https://sounds.bl.uk/Accents-and-dialects/

Chapman Family papers: photographic catalogues and advertisements.

Crystal, D. (2009). Just a phrase I’m going through: my life in language. London: Routledge.

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Linguaphone_English_Pronunciation_Throug.html?id=z0uMXwAACAAJ&redir_esc=y (accessed 18 October 2021).

Morley, E. (2016). Before and after: reminiscences of a working life (original text of 1944 edited by Barbara Morris). Reading: Two Rivers Press.

Reading College. Annual Reports, 1898-9 to 1900-01.

University College Reading. Accounts and Reports, 1901-2 & 1905-6.

University College Reading. Calendar, 1908-9.

University of Reading. Calendar, 1926-7 and 1927-8.

University of Reading. Proceedings, 1928-9, 1934-5, 1936-7.

Thanks

To Professor Jane Setter for her advice, and for the link to her appearance on the Alan Titchmarsh Show.

To Professor David Crystal for tracking down the recordings and giving me permission to quote from his emails.

To Adam Lines, Special Collections Academic Liaison Officer, for searching for references to the recordings.

 

From Sanatorium to Health Centre

Previous posts on this blog mentioned the Sanatorium at 20 Shinfield Road and 60 Northcourt Avenue.

A third Sanatorium was located at the bottom of the hill at 16 Northcourt Avenue. The building dates back to 1906, and was known as West View from 1907 until 1928, then renamed Broadfield House under the ownership of a Captain Miller. His sister, Miss Alice Constance Miller, donated it to the University in his memory in 1936.

By 1938 it was functioning as the new Sanatorium with beds for 20 students and it remained in operation until the opening of the present University Health Centre in 1963. In 1939 Miss J. M. Kendon replaced Miss Strange as Matron.

The University’s annual accounts between 1937 and 1949 list the property’s value at £2,000. After this the value of individual buildings cease to be itemised. However, the self-financing status of the Sanatorium mentioned in the 1917 Annual Report (see the post about 20 Shinfield Rd) was not sustained. Accounts for 1950-51 mention the health of its finances for the first time: ‘Excess of Expenditure over Income … [£]482’. Even after support from the Medical Aid Fund, there was a loss of £177, and there is no mention of the Aid Fund during the following years. By 1955-56 it was running at a cost of £1,080.

Today the property still belongs to the University and provides student accommodation for families, couples and single mature students. According to the University’s website it is a large detached house of ‘traditional character’ offering 13 flats and studio rooms on three floors and a ‘small enclosed garden’.

                                    Number 16 Northcourt Avenue Today

Increases in student numbers by the 1960s led to the building of the present University Health Centre on a site where according to Penny Kemp, Northcourt Avenue historian and archivist, cows were milked, horses grazed and residents of the Avenue once played tennis.  

The Centre was completed in 1963 and was accompanied the following year by the appointment of a full-time Medical Officer replacing the previous Consultant Practitioner. Professor Holt proudly records these events in his official history of the first fifty years of the University:

‘By 1974 there were four medical officers and a dental surgeon. The change in title was deliberate. The old Sanatorium was for the recovery of the sick. The new Health Centre also provided for the education and supervision of the healthy. It was a pioneering venture in which Reading was to the fore, just as it had been, nearly sixty years earlier, in the development of halls of residence.’ (p.261)

The Health Centre has its own entry in the University’s Proceedings for the first time in 1979 (pp.270-71). It shows the staff’s contribution to teaching, research and publication. Of course, this more ambitious project entailed additional spending. Details of annual income (£253,855) versus expenditure (£259,414) are first given in the Proceedings of 1981-82. These sums fluctuate considerably in subsequent years.

The locations of the Sanatoriums and Health Centre in Northcourt Avenue are shown below:

 Northcourt Avenue, the Sanatoriums and Health Centre                                                                    (Adapted from ‘Northcourt Avenue: its history & people’, pp.x-xi)
Sources

Holt, J. C. (1977). The University of Reading: the first fifty years. Reading: University of Reading Press.

Kemp, P. (1996). Northcourt Avenue: its history & people. Reading: Northcourt Avenue Residents’ Association.

https://www.reading.ac.uk/ready-to-study/accommodation/accommodation-families-northcourt-avenue-houses (accessed 20/8/2021)

University College Reading, Annual Report and Accounts, 1916-17.

University of Reading. Proceedings of the University, 1936-37 to 1981-82.

University of Reading. Calendar, 1939-40.

Thanks

I’d like to thank Penny Kemp for allowing me to use and edit the map from Northcourt Avenue: its history & people.

 

Community, Unity and Corporate Spirit

On 22 September 2021, an All-Staff Briefing, Path to our Centenary, was delivered by Vice-Chancellor Robert Van de Noort and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Parveen Yaqoob.

A major theme was Community as a vehicle for progress. In the words of Professor Yaqoob:

 ‘When we talk about community we are talking about a diverse and inclusive community of people working towards a common purpose’

Similar aspirations have a long history at Reading. In the 1890s and early 1900s when the future of the original College was precarious, few would have bet on it becoming a university. A priority was to create a sense of unity. This is documented by William Macbride Childs, Reading’s first Vice-Chancellor in ‘Making a University’ and  Edith Morley in ‘Reminiscences of a Working Life’.

Professor Yaqoob’s words could easily be attributed to either of these key figures in the history of the University.

Of the mid-1890s Childs declares (p.24):

Our object was to evoke a spirit of corporate self-respect and unity in an institution which as yet had none….Had there been no missionary effort in 1894 and later, there could have been no University College with a character upon which could be founded a claim for university independence.

Morley emphasises the value of ‘communal life’, ‘corporate spirit’ and ‘a sense of common aims and interest’. She asserts (pp.108-9):

‘The building of a community is….historically, the recognised first step in the evolution of an academic institution. In this view Childs never wavered…’

Typically, Morley is generous in her praise of Childs’s attempts to overcome ‘the lack of cohesion’ that stood in the way of progress; she is silent about her own contribution.

Early initiatives to develop a corporate spirit include the College Journal, the athletics club, the debating society and ‘staff sociables’, the latter being a failure –  ‘a misfire’ as Childs puts it (p.23).

In 1895 an earlier students’ association was resurrected as a ‘literary and historical society’. This too was a miserable failure. As described by Childs (pp.30-31):

‘Long papers, congested with information from the usual sources, were read to taciturn people who sat in drooping boredom, staring into vacancy.’

Childs replaced it with the Gild (sic) of the Red Rose, essentially a literature and theatre society with historical roots. In the College Calendars, the object of the Gild is stated as:

‘to labour always for the common weal, the increase of humane learning, the honour of this College, and the fair fame of our Gild.’

The Gild appears to have been a great success at the time. According to Childs:

‘Every meeting was a realization of unity’ (p.32).

Edith Morley was an enthusiastic supporter, and had fond memories of its rituals and the festivals known as Janticula. Successive College Calendars show her to have been an active member as one of the Curia (committee members), becoming Clerk in 1904 and then Reeve in 1908.

The Calendar of 1910-11 Showing Edith Morley as Reeve of the Gild of the Red Rose

So why were these steps so necessary? After all, the College was tiny by today’s standards, with no more students than a modern state secondary school. What was the problem? In addition to issues over appropriate accommodation and staffing at least part of the answer lies in the very diversity of the student population, their courses and those hired to teach them.

College leaders were faced with the dilemma of how to create a homogeneous whole when: a) their clientele ranged in age from young pupil teachers and fifteen-year-old ‘actual and intending wage-earners’ to elderly extension students; b) there was a strong reliance on evening students as well as day students; c) the curricula varied from craft skills and scientific and technical subjects to ‘the humane arts’, training elementary school teachers, dairy students and light agriculture for women (referred to by Childs as ‘a feminist experiment’, p.18).

In Morley’s view, a significant contribution to communal life was the founding of a small Senior Common Room in Valpy Street in 1897, followed by the SCR at London Road after the move in 1905. At a time when she was one of only seven female academics, Morley vehemently opposed the suggestion of a separate common room for women:

‘…we determined in no circumstances to avail ourselves of a separate women’s common room and thus to risk gradual exclusion from intercourse with our male colleagues.’ (p.103, footnote).

The emphasis on community explains Childs’s controversial decision to give building the Great Hall priority over such matters as staff accommodation. It was to be a meeting place, ‘a rallying centre of life’ (p.56).

It will be interesting to see how the University’s goals will be met in time for its Centenary in 2026.  What measures will be taken to achieve the ‘diverse and inclusive community‘ referred to above?

I doubt whether, in this day and age, they would include the revival of arcane rules, rituals and pledges of anything like the Gild of the Red Rose, with its Curia, Reeve and extravagant Jantacula. The Gild did survive until the late 1980s, but by this time it had ceased have the unifying effect claimed for its earliest years. Viv Edwards, Professor Emerita at the University of Reading, was a student at Reading in 1968-76.  She remembers that:

‘Jantac, as it was known, was certainly going in our day but we were never involved.’

Sources

Childs, W. M. (1933). Making a university: an account of the university movement at Reading. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

Morley, E. (2016). Before and after: reminiscences of a working life (original text of 1944 edited by Barbara Morris). Reading: Two Rivers Press.

University College Reading. Calendars, 1904-5 to 1908-9.

Thanks

To Professor Parveen Yaqoob for permission to quote from her presentation and for her comment on a previous draft.

To Professor Viv Edwards for permission to quote her and for her support.

A Second Sanatorium and an Insult to the Town of Reading

The Sanatorium in Shinfield Road may have been the first to accommodate students with infections, but it certainly wasn’t the last. A University plan of 1929 shows its successor to be located on the west side Northcourt Avenue at Number 60.

      Part of a plan of the University Area Published in W. M. Childs’s ‘Making a University’

Professor W. M. Childs, Reading’s first Vice-Chancellor, recorded in his memoir that a larger sanatorium was being planned during 1921, and 60 Northcourt Avenue was in operation with 12 beds from 1922 until 1938 when it moved down the hill to Number 16.

Once Reading had achieved university status in 1926, the Calendar contained a regular entry for the Sanatorium that included the name of its Superintendent and its rules and regulations. In 1926, the Superintendent was Mrs Hole and the regulations stated that the wardens of halls could compel students to be admitted, referring rather ominously to ‘detention’. The final rule (Number 7, p.136) asserts that:

‘The University reserves the right to refuse admission of infectious cases to the Sanatorium and to send such cases to the Borough of Reading Isolation Hospital, when all charges incidental thereto must be borne by the student.’

Extract from the Sanatorium Regulations (University of Reading Calendar 1926-27)

Number 60, The Barn, has an interesting history that has been thoroughly investigated by Penny Kemp, historian and near neighbour. The house was built in 1906, leased to the University College in 1919 and purchased by Reading University in 1933. In the annual accounts for 1932-33 it is listed among the University’s assets as having a value of £2,525. By the following year this had risen to £2,556/10/6d where it remained until 1937 when it was sold to Mrs Agneta Clark, a local artist, for £3,000.

The University’s Calendar for 1935-36 shows that the post of ‘Superintendent’ had been upgraded to ‘Matron’ and was occupied by Miss R. E. Strange.

In her history of Northcourt Avenue (pp. 16-17), Penny Kemp describes how, three years after its construction, The Barn was featured in Country Life in an extraordinary feature that speaks almost contemptuously of both the house and the town of Reading. Of the house, it declares:

‘… The Barn, a modest house illustrated in these pages, is generally held in the locality to be a highly inartistic production. We confess with pain that it lacks many elements of distinction common to the neighbourhood.’

And of Reading it is claimed that:

‘Over the suburbs there has spread a red rash of buildings mostly compounded of vulgar vagaries….It is not too much to say that Reading serves as a compendium of what to avoid.’

Number 60 is no longer The Barn; its new name is Three Oaks. In the mean time it has undergone substantial alterations.

                                               60 Northcourt Avenue today
 
Sources

Childs, W. M. (1933). Making a university: an account of the university movement at Reading. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

Kemp, P. (1996). Northcourt Avenue: its history & people. Reading: Northcourt Avenue Residents’ Association.

University of Reading. Calendar, 1926-27 & 1935-36.

University of Reading. Proceedings of the University, 1932-33 to 1936-37.

Caroline Herford MBE (1860-1945): a Landmark Appointment and the Origin of this Blog

In 2018, I was in touch with Lady Barn House School, a mixed independent school in Cheshire. It was the school my father had attended in the 1920s, and my contact was the Deputy Head, Dan Slade, a historian and the School’s archivist.

Apparently, one their Head Teachers, Caroline Herford, had once lectured at a college in Reading. Maybe it was University College Reading. I promised to see whether there was any mention of her in the University’s Special Collections, a search that made me aware of the wealth of material they held about the London Road Campus and early academic life there, material that led to the creation of this blog.

Caroline Herford did indeed figure in records for the academic years 1909-10 and 1910-11. She was a colleague of Edith Morley, her neighbour in Morgan Road, and a fellow suffragist. Her first cousin, Professor Charles Herford (1853-1931), had been Morley’s examiner and later her colleague at King’s College, London.

  Calendar for 1910-11 showing entries for Caroline Herford and Edith Morley

By the time she arrived in Reading, Caroline Herford had already spent 21 years as Head of Lady Barn House School and had been one of the founders of Withington Girls’ School in Manchester.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography dismisses Herford’s time at Reading in a few words:

 ‘After [her father’s] death, she was briefly a lecturer at University College, Reading.’

In her five terms here, however, she certainly left her mark. In fact, hers was a landmark appointment; she was the first Lecturer in Secondary Education at Reading and set up the forerunner of Reading’s Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). It was for women only, starting with a class of 6 – a modest enterprise compared with current recruitment of 246 students – and bore the grand title of ‘Postgraduate Course for the Training of Secondary Teaching (Women).’

Students were entered for the Cambridge Postgraduate Certificate and, like today, it was a one-year course. Fees were £20 per session, reduced to £15 for residents of Reading and the surrounding counties. Students spent three mornings a week in a girls’ school and paid observational visits to other schools.

As the only Secondary Lecturer she had to pull together an interdisciplinary team from outside her department to provide short courses on the teaching of specialist subjects. This included:

  • Professor Childs (College Principal and Reading’s first Vice-Chancellor):  History
  • Professor Morley:  English
  • Professor Keeble:  Elementary Science.

Other courses dealt with Maths, Geography and Drawing, and lectures on Plato’s Republic and the Philosophy of Education were delivered by Professor de Burgh (Dean of the Faculty of Letters).

Caroline Herford left Reading in 1910 for a Lectureship at Manchester University where she remained until 1918. During the War she was a Commandant for the Red Cross in Lancashire, for which she was awarded the MBE in 1919. She was one of the founders of the Manchester University branch of the British Federation of University Women and a member of the Manchester Society for Women’s Suffrage.

     Miss Caroline Herford, oil painting by Francis Dodd
         (Image Courtesy of the Manchester Art Gallery)

During her lifetime she made a valuable contribution to the field of education as a lecturer, teacher and headteacher. She was an advocate of mixed education during a period when it wasn’t popular, promoted cricket and lacrosse for both sexes and campaigned for women’s rights in education. She served on the Manchester City Council’s Education Committee, was a magistrate, school governor and later a member of the Somerset Education Committee.  

According to the website of Withington Girls’ School where she taught Biology:

‘Miss Herford enjoyed the reputation of being a redoubtable woman, vigorous, forceful and a splendid teacher. For the most part her pupils admired and stood in awe of her, though there is no doubt she also had the power to intimidate.’

Brian Richards, 14/09/2021

Sources

Lady Barn House School, Cheadle

Morley, E. J. (2016). Before and after: reminiscences of a working life (original text of 1944 edited by Barbara Morris). Reading: Two Rivers Press.

Oxford University Press (2004). Oxford dictionary of national biography. Oxford: OUP.

University College Reading. Calendar, 1909-10 & 1910-11.

Withington Girls’ School, Manchester

Thanks to

Dan Slade for sending me his notes and Powerpoint presentations about Lady Barn House School and Caroline Herford’s part in its history.

John Peel of the Manchester Art Gallery for permission to use the image of Caroline Herford.

 

Measles, Epidemics and a College Sanatorium

The COVID-19 crisis isn’t the first time that academic work at Reading has been disrupted by an epidemic. In 1917, University College Reading and its campus at London Road were closed due to an epidemic of measles.

The Annual Report and Accounts for 1916/17 reads as follows:

‘An outbreak of measles, which occurred during the Session, necessitated the closing of the College a fortnight before the end of the Lent Term. The inconvenience thus caused led to the consideration of a scheme for establishing a College Sanatorium. The Council have accordingly rented a house, No. 20, Shinfield Road, which has been opened for the reception of students. A small additional fee charged to each student in residence will, it is hoped, make this Sanatorium self-supporting.’  (p.3).

The Report of the Council the following year confirms that the scheme had gone ahead:

‘A sanatorium for the use of students in halls of residence and recognized houses has been provided, and has proved of great service in times of epidemics.’  (p.4).

One wonders just how many epidemics had occurred between 1917 and 1918. Spanish flu springs to mind but I have found no mention of this in the Calendars or Annual reports. Nevertheless, epidemics including Measles and Spanish flu were common in Reading as documented by Margaret Ounsley in her chapter on ‘health, medicine, illness and death’ in the Coley area: child fatalities from measles were frequent, and Coley School had to close twice in 1918 because of Spanish flu. There are papers in the University’s Special Collections that deal with a proposal for students to do social work in Coley, and there were fears about students bringing infections to their hostels despite the fact that Education students were already doing teaching practice in Coley.

Interestingly, the ‘small additional fee’ mentioned above must have been very effective because the accounts for the following year include this item:

‘The College Sanatorium—Suspense Account .. £193 3s 5d.’  (p.17).

According to the Bank of England’s Inflation Calculator that could be as much as £12,000 nowadays.

                                                                     20 Shinfield Road Today

University College Reading continued to rent the house until 1922 when premises for a new sanatorium became available at 60 Northcourt Avenue.

So what happened to the original sanatorium? The house is still there, opposite Queen’s Drive. But for how much longer? At the time of writing, 20 Shinfield Road is the target of a planning application that could mean its disappearance:

‘Demolition of existing house and erection of a new, detached building to provide 4 x 3 bedroom apartments, together with associated car parking, bin and cycle storage, access and servicing arrangements, and landscaping improvement.’ (Planning Application No. 201879).

Local residents are fighting the proposal. One of the many reasons given in comments from the Northcourt Avenue Residents’ Association is its historical significance:

‘This house is a direct link to the early history of Reading University — and in a curious twist of fate at a time of an epidemic similar to current events. Demolishing the house would break yet one more link to Reading’s heritage in a direct assault on Reading’s Local Plan which emphasises the importance placed on the protection of the historic environment.’ (Letter to the Planning Dept).

20 Shinfield Road was the first of three sanatoriums at Reading that were the forerunners of the current Health Centre.  These will be the subject of future posts.                                                     

Sources

Holt, J. C. (1977). The University of Reading: the first fifty years. Reading: University of Reading Press.

Northcourt Avenue Residents’ Association. Letter to the Planning Department, Reading Borough Council, 19th June, 1921.

Ounsley, M. (2021). Coley talking: realities of life in old Reading. Reading: Two Rivers Press.

Reading Borough Council. Planning Application No. 201879.

University College Reading, Annual Report and Accounts, 1916-17 & 1917-18.

University of Reading Special Collections. Uncatalogued papers relating to women students. Reference UHC AA-SA 8.

The header image of the University College in London Road is from the University of Reading Special Collections Photographic Archive (History of the University: London Road architecture).

Thanks

I am grateful to Simone Illger, Chair of the Northcourt Avenue Residents’ Association, for allowing me to quote the extract from correspondence with the Planning Department of Reading Borough Council.

Thanks also to Sharon Maxwell, University Archivist, for tracking down the material about women students and social work, and to Margaret Ounsley for information about epidemics in Coley.