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.