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.
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.
H. J. Mackinder, College Principal.
W. M. Childes, Vice-Principal; later Reading University’s first Vice-Chancellor.
H. S. Cooke, Headmaster of the Pupil Teachers’ Centre; later Head of Department.
J. M. Rey, Lecturer in French.
Miss Bolam, Education Tutor and Warden of St Andrew’s Hostel.
F. H. Wright, Registrar.
J. H. Sacret, Lecturer in History.
A. W. Seaby, Lecturer in Fine Art; later Professor of Fine Art.
W. G. de Burgh, Lecturer in Classics; later Professor of Classics.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
‘That a woman becomes unwomanly by taking a part in politics’;
‘that she is ignorant in political matters’;
‘that she is intellectually inferior to man’;
‘that matters of state do not affect her life’.
Miss Lawrence responded by:
asserting that, ‘…the life of Queen Victoria was a sufficient reputation’;
insisting that, ‘The vote would educate and lead women to see that it was their duty to understand the affairs of the nation’;
appealing to ‘a consideration of the work done by women in the scholastic, medical, and other professions’;
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:
‘since woman (sic) could not fight as soldiers they should not vote’;
‘he pointed out the terrible fuss which would arise if man and wife held different political opinions’;
‘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:
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!
Reading College, Calendar, 1900-1
Reading College Magazine, Autumn Term, Vol. 1, 1900 & Winter Term, Vol. II, 1901).
University College Reading. Calendar, 1905-6.
Joanna Hulin (Reading Room Assistant) for her help and for accessing material for this and previous posts.