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