In an earlier post about Community, I commented on Edith Morley’s opposition to the idea of a separate Common Room for women. In her Reminiscences this is how she describes the SCR at Acacias following the move to London Road in 1905:
‘An excellent and most attractive Senior Common Room could at once be established, opening on to delightful lawns which were reserved for the use of its members. …members of all faculties and departments, of both sexes and every status meet together, cement friendships, thrash out problems, argue, discuss and hear each other’s point of view. …everyone meets his colleagues naturally and on equal terms.‘ (pp. 102-3).
It seems that she carried the principle of non-segregation into her teaching. S. J. Curtis recalls the experience of her English class when training to be a teacher in 1911-14:
‘Special Method lectures were then given by members of the academic staff. Certain highlights of those times still stand out clearly in my mind. There was Professor Edith Morley who in her course on the teaching of English intensely disliked seeing the men occupying one side of the lecture room and the women the other, and who literally produced a mix-up by her injunction for the sheep and goats to mingle themselves. I have never been quite sure in my own mind as to which sex each epithet applied.’ (p. 23).
As noted in a previous post, S. J. Curtis went on to become Reader in Education at the University of Leeds and a distinguished expert on the History of Education and the Philosophy of Education. His textbook on the ‘History of Education in Great Britain‘, first published in 1948, ran to seven editions.
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.
University of Reading Special Collections, Photographic Archives.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’