Edith Morley and the Letter to The Times

In my post about the opening ceremony of the Great Hall, I expressed surprise that Edith Morley treated the exclusion of women, including herself, with amusement rather than anger.

Another of these ‘lighter incidents’ that was given similar treatment in her ‘Reminiscences’ (p. 143) concerns her first letter to The Times. Here’s how she starts the story:

‘Nor must I forget ‘my’ first letter to The Times. Mrs [Emmeline] Pankhurst wanted publicity for some aspect of the suffrage question and wrote a letter which she thought my title might get accepted. So signing it with my initials only, I obediently copied and sent it off.’

As a result, on the day of publication a Times journalist turned up at the London Road Campus wanting her opinion on the issue in question. The interview never took place however:

‘When he heard that I was the Professor Morley he had taken so much trouble to track down, his language was not exactly parliamentary: ‘Sold again’ and a bang on the table were his parting shots as he stormed out of the room without troubling to elicit my opinions.’ (p. 143).

1st page enlarged
Title page of the most heavily annotated of Morley’s three original typescripts of her memoir. On this one she has added the subtitle by hand (University of Reading Special Collections)

As well as the way this incident is treated so lightheartedly, it is one of several occasions in the memoir where I am surprised by what  Morley neglects to tell us. Even though she insists that her memoir is not an autobiography, and self-deprecatingly refers to it as ‘these rambling reminiscences of my activities’ (p. 182), I would have expected her to say something about the details of the letter, the year of publication, the precise topic, and (if I have identified it correctly) the reaction that it provoked.

The Times Digital Archive contains all the letters addressed to the editor of The Times during Edith Morley’s lifetime, but I was puzzled by her statement that she had signed it with her initials only. If the published letter only ended with E.( J.) M., how had the journalist identified her so quickly? I searched the archive using both her name and her initials, and the earliest letter that I could find was published on 2nd May 1914. It concerned the Home Secretary’s proposals in The Criminal Justice Administration Bill and it ended with Morley’s full signature:

‘E. J. MORLEY (Member of the Penal Reform Association). University College, Reading, April 30.’

The letter draws attention to alleged flaws in four clauses of the bill. These raised issues concerning women in general and for militant activists in particular. It is, therefore, exactly the kind of topic that Emmeline Pankhurst might have asked Professor Morley to give her name to.

The claims by Morley/Pankhurst are these:

    • Clause 10 enabled fines to be paid from the sentenced persons’ belongings, or from money they had on them at the time of arrest. It was therefore ‘aimed at passive resisters’ because they would be ‘deprived of the right to refuse to pay a fine, the imposition of which they consider to be unjust.’ (NB The numbering of this clause was an error; In the final Act of Parliament Clause 10 dealt with Borstal Institutions; the relevant clause was Clause 4).
    • Clause 13 would allow prisoners sentenced to jail terms of 10 days or less to be held in police cells rather than a prison. The letter argues that such cells were often ‘dark, unventilated, insanitary, and verminous.’ Furthermore, there were rarely women attendants on duty at night, and male officers were in the habit of entering women’s cells, allegedly to prevent suicide.
    • Clause 14 would allow magistrates to deal with malicious damage to property up to the value of £20 (instead of the previous £5), thus depriving  many of those charged of the right to trial by jury.
    • Clause 17 would give the Home Secretary the power to have prisoners subjected to surgical operations without their consent. This had the potential for serious abuse.

The letter ends:

‘Thus under cover of some very necessary reforms, an attempt is being made to smuggle through certain dangerous innovations in what is miscalled “criminal justice administration.”‘

The Home Secretary of the time, Reginald McKenna, was sufficiently provoked by the Morley/Pankhurst criticism that he immediately arranged for a certain S. W. Harris of the Home Office to issue a rebuttal. It is worth noting that women prisoners were a sensitive matter for McKenna; only the previous year he had been savagely mocked by a gruesome cartoon in The Daily Herald that depicted him force feeding an unnamed, bound and blindfolded suffragette, referring to him as ‘Forcible-Feeder-in-Chief to the Cabinet’.

The Harris/McKenna letter appeared in The Times on 6th May 1914, four days after the one signed by Morley. It addresses each of the four points in turn, and accuses Mr. E. J. Morley of having ‘misread the clauses he discusses.’ The letter asserts that:

    • the provision would not apply to “passive resisters” (Clause 4);
    • allowing money to be removed from someone’s person to pay a fine merely corrected a legal anomaly (Clause 4);
    • that  imprisonment would not be in ordinary police cells but in specially certified accommodation like the Liverpool Bridewell with female attendants for women prisoners (Clause 13);
    • the magistrates’ jurisdiction over wilful damage up to the value of £20 was an extension of existing powers and terms of imprisonment for such offences were to be reduced (Clause 14).
    • with regard to non-consensual surgical operations, the claim was denied, stating that the Home Secretary would have no more than the power to authorise removal to a hospital where an operation could be carried out more efficiently .

It will come as no surprise that Morley and/or Pankhurst were less than impressed by these statements; five days later on 11th May 1914, their second letter appeared, again signed E. J. Morley of University College, Reading. I am not aware of the extent of Pankhurst’s involvement, but their arguments were that Harris/McKenna has adopted a much too narrow definition of ‘passive resister’ and the provision would indeed apply to them; that police cells were not ‘suitable places’ for prisoners detained for more than one or two nights; that there was no explicit requirement in the bill for the availability of female attendants; that Harris/McKenna had failed to respond to the matter of trial by jury –  furthermore,  prisoners in magistrates’ courts received convictions based on unreliable police evidence; and that if the Home Secretary was not empowered to authorise operations on prisoners, why weren’t the words ‘with the consent of the prisoner’ included in the bill?

I have been unable to find any further correspondence on the legislation either from Morley, Pankhurst, or Harris. There are, however, letters about the arrest, imprisonment and maltreatment of Sylvia Pankhurst, and in June of the same year S. W. Harris submitted another rebuttal on behalf of the Home Secretary with the title: ‘The militants:  the motive of suffragist crime.’ This again concerned women prisoners and the matter of force feeding. It contained a denial that prison doctors were not willing to do everything possible to prevent the death of suffragettes from starvation.

Post Script

The Criminal Justice Administration Act was passed in August 1914. The introductory text describes it as:

‘An Act to diminish the number of cases committed to prison, to amend the Law with respect to the treatment and punishment of young offenders, and otherwise to improve the Administration of Criminal Justice.’

I have not been able to access earlier drafts of the Bill and cannot therefore give precise details of any changes that were included in the final Act of Parliament. Nevertheless, I can confirm that in the final version, Clause 13 allowed detention in police cells, bridewells and other places, ‘Provided that no place so certified shall be used for the detention of females unless provision is made for their supervision by female officers.’

In addition, Clause 17 appears to presuppose the prisoner’s agreement to hospital treatment or surgical operation by the inclusion of the word ‘consent’.

Thanks

To Charlie Carpenter, Academic Liaison Librarian, who discovered Edith Morley’s second letter and helped me negotiate the Times Digital Archive.

Sources

Criminal Justice Administration Act 1914. (c.58). [Online]. London: HMSO. [Accessed 15 June 2022]. Available from: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/4-5/58/enacted

Harris, S. W. (May 6, 1914). Criminal Administration: Home Secretary’s reply to criticisms of the Bill [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40516, p. 4.

Harris, S. W. (June 17, 1914). The militants: the motive of suffragist crime [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40552, p. 10.

Lawson, M. (June 18, 1914). The case of Sylvia Pankhurst [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40553, p. 15.

Morley, E. J. (May 2, 1914). The Criminal Justice Administration Bill: the Home Secretary’s proposals [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40513, p. 4.

Morley, E. J. (May 11, 1914). The Criminal Justice Administration Bill: the Home Secretary’s proposals [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40520, p. 3.

Morley, E. J. (1944). Looking before and after. Reminiscences of a working life.  Original Typescript, University of Reading Special Collections, MS 938/7/4, Folder 3.

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

Murray, F. & Schutze, H. (March 19, 1914). Mrs. Pankhurst’s imprisonment: a medical statement of injuries [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40475, p. 5.

Women Students and Hats

Our attention has been called to the fact that women students are not infrequently seen in the town without hats. We do not think that this practice brings credit upon the college.’ (Committee Report, 1921).

I first came across this quotation in James Holt’s (1977) history of the first 50 years of the Reading University. It can be found in an appendix dealing with ‘Regulations for discipline and Hall rules’ (pp. 355-62). The extract is taken from the report of a Special Committee of the University College dated 16th March 1921, and is included under a section titled ‘Relations of Men and Women Students’. The report is marked ‘Confidential’.

Even after reading the original in full (see below) I don’t quite see the connection between wearing a hat and relations between the sexes. There is, however, much more obvious relevance in the other paragraphs:

    • ‘The question of men and women students going for walks together’ (male students were expected to request permission from the woman student’s Hall Warden who would use her discretion).
    • ‘The question of motorcycling excursions’ (no pillion passengers allowed; taking a female student on a sidecar excursion required consent from a parent or guardian as well as the Hall Warden).
    • ‘River excursions’ (the committee recommended continuation of the custom that women students in Halls were banned from the river on Sundays).
Original
Opening paragraph of the Special Committe’s Report, March 1921 (University of Reading Special Collections)

Once the College had become a University the matter of hats raised its head again. In October 1926 the Vice-Chancellor, W. M. Childs, sent a private memo to the Hall Wardens reminding them of the requirement that women students were expected to wear caps as well as gowns within the University and as they went to and from the campus:

‘I notice that a large number of students … do wear their caps as well as their gowns, but there are quite a number of women students who do not. It is most desirable that all women students should wear the cap as a matter of course.’

Nevertheless, Childs opted for a softly, softly approach, asking the Wardens to ‘gently remind’ the students without mentioning his intervention.

from VC
W. M. Childs’s memo to Hall Wardens, October 1926 (University of Reading Special Collections)

With all the things that Vice-Chancellors have to worry about nowadays, I doubt whether many of them lose sleep over what students have on their heads. In 1926, however, the University of Reading was in its infancy; I suppose impressions were all important.

Sources

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

University of Reading Special Collections. Papers concerning women students and rules and regulations. Temporary Reference: AA-SAS 1917-1936.

St Andrew’s: from Hostel to Hall

The original University College and Reading University have always been justifiably proud of their student accommodation. They were pioneers in this field. The author and journalist Elspeth Huxley, however, had little time for hall life. In her semi-fictional account of her time as an agricultural student at Reading in the 1920s she counts herself lucky not to get a hall place:

‘Most of the students lived in halls of residence, and I had dreaded going to live in one with its inevitable rules and regulations and herding together. I was lucky; Reading had only two halls for women, and I had applied too late to get a place…’ (Love among the Daughters, pp. 47-8)

Nevertheless, she does admit that, ‘The smart hall was St Andrew’s’ (p. 49).  By the time Huxley arrived in Reading in 1925, the former St Andrew’s Hostel in London Road, that had been set up privately by Mary Bolam, had long since been replaced by St Andrew’s Hall.

*******

By 1908 it was obvious that the old hostel’s capacity and quality of provision were inadequate. Once again the Palmer family came to the rescue: Alfred Palmer offered the tenancy of his old home East Thorpe on Redlands Road. This large house had been designed by Alfred Waterhouse and completed in 1880. The terms of the lease were generous and came with a promise to add a new wing to double its capacity. On Palmer’s death in 1936 the University inherited the property.

ground floor
Architect’s Ground Floor Plan of ‘East Thorpe’, 1880 (University of Reading Special Collections)

The official opening of St Andrew’s Hall was conducted by Mrs Alfred Palmer on June 10th 1911 and was followed by a garden party. After that things progressed quickly: fees were set; a management committee was appointed; and Allen Seaby, Lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts, designed a bookplate.

Between 70 and 80 women students moved into East Thorpe with  Mary Bolam continuing as Warden. The Hall was now under the direct control of the College rather than a private venture as had previously been the case. Capacity was soon increased from 79 to approximately 120 students through the use of neighbouring houses.

1913
The Hall from the corner of Redlands Rd and Acacia Rd (College Review, 1913).

Fees quoted in the College Calendar of 1911-12 were £32 per annum for sharing a double  bedroom; £36 for sharing a double study-bedroom; and £42 for occupying a single study-bedroom. Rules and regulations, in addition to the general College rules about behaviour, punctuality and attendance, were the same for students in all halls, hostels and ‘Recognised Houses’, and focused on obtaining permission for changing accommodation, overnight absences, leaving Reading before the end of term and staying in Reading after the end of term.

The Calendar advertised that:

‘All studies and study-bedrooms have fire-places. Lighting is by electricity and gas, and hot-water radiators traverse the building. There is complete provision of bath-rooms, lavatories, pantries, cloak-rooms, drying-rooms, and bicycle sheds.’ (p. 100)

Hall
Study Bedroom in St Andrew’s Hall (College Review, 1913).

The St Andrew’s Hall Committee was chaired by Mrs Childs, wife of the Principal, and included Mr and Mrs Palmer, the Warden, and the Principal. Francis Wright, the Registrar, acted as Secretary.

In an Appendix to the College’s Annual Report of 1911-12, Mary Bolam reported that:

‘Everyone has settled down comfortably in the new Hall so that the old days seem far away. The health throughout the year has been excellent.’ (p. 59)

Seaby
The Hall bookplate, designed by Allen Seaby; published in 1911 in Tamesis; with the motto ‘They can because they think they can’.

The architect’s plan of the Palmer household (see above) can easily be related to the layout of today’s building by those who visit the Museum of English Rural Life and the University’s Special Collections.

Enlarged secction

This enlarged section of the ground floor plan shows the three rooms (Morning Room, Drawing Room and Dining Room) that were knocked into one to become the Special Collections Reading Room. The Entrance Hall became St Andrew’s student common room, and is currently hosting MERL’s exhibition ‘Biscuit Town: 200 Years of Huntley and Palmers in Reading’. The room at  bottom right is still referred to by staff as ‘The Study’.

The wall between the original dining room and drawing room had already been removed in 1911, as reported in the Calendar of 1911-12:

‘The former drawing-room and dining-room have been thrown into one, making a spacious dining-hall, fifty feet long, facing the garden and opening into it.’ (p. 100)

The result can be seen in the image below. Here, the wall between the original Drawing Room and Morning Room remains intact.

Old dining hall
University of Reading Special Collections (undated).
today
The Reading Room in January 2022. The wall between the former morning room and drawing room no longer exists.

Other original features have been preserved: the two doorways (blocked by bookcases), the moulding, the fireplaces and the windows (one of them the bay window), looking out onto the gardens.

Childs
View from the Gardens (Childs, 1929).
Concert
The Gardens in July 2013.
Note

Please see The History of St. Andrew’s Hall  for more information.  This ‘Scrapbook’, based on research by Rosalinde Downing and produced by The Museum of English Rural Life,  provides a lot more detail about East Thorpe, its designer and owners; its time as St Andrew’s (including extracts from the Minute Books of the Common Room Committee); the heated controversy over the Hall’s closure in 2001; and its subsequent reincarnation as The Museum of English Rural Life.

Thanks

To Professor Viv Edwards for the Latin translation; and to Emily Gillmor for permission to reproduce Allen Seaby’s bookplate design.

Also to the Reading Room Assistants and Graduate Trainees for help accessing material and with the photography.

Sources

Childs, W. M. (1929). A note on the University of Reading.  Reading: University of Reading.

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

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

Huxley, E. (1968). Love among the daughters. London: Chatto & Windus.

Seaby, A. W.  (1911). Bookplate for St. Andrew’s Hall. Tamesis, Vol. X, Spring Term, 1911. No. 1, p. 94. 

The Reading University College Review, Vol. III, July 1911, pp. 180-81.
The Reading University College Review, Vol. V, No. 15 (Images on p. 252 ff.).

University College Reading, Annual Report and Accounts, 1911-12.

University College, Reading. Calendar, 1911-12 & 1912-13.

University of Reading Special Collections. Photographs in the box: University History, MS5305 Halls, Great Hall.

More about the Great Hall: the Organ

The Great Hall was opened in 1906, but it wasn’t until the summer vacation of 1911 that the organ was installed.

An organ fund had been established, however, and by the end of the summer term of 1911 sufficient money had been raised, or at least promised, for the installation to go ahead. A total of about £500 had been raised by 267 past and present students. Some of the donors (overwhelmingly female) were listed in Tamesis, the college magazine.

donations
Donations to the Organ Fund (edited from Tamesis, Autumn Term 1911, pp. 32-3)

The College’s Annual Report for 1911-12 praised their generosity:

‘The sustained interest of past and present students in their college was signally shown when in October, 1911, they presented the organ which fills the apse in the College Hall. The instrument is an admirable one; it bears a suitable inscription, and the Council are confident that the Governors will not fail to appreciate the generous loyalty which prompted it.’ (pp. 5-6)

In fact, the response had been so generous that there were sufficient funds to add ‘Trumpet and Duciana Mixture Stops’ before the official opening. The organ was built during the summer vacation by J. J. Binns of Leeds, and much was made of that fact that its bespoke case was made of cedar wood from a tree that had once stood on the very site that the organ now occupied. The exact specifications can be found in the College Review of December 1911 (pp. 31-2).

The opening ceremony took place on 21st October 1911. In its report of the occasion, Tamesis announced somewhat pompously that:

‘We have the greatest pleasure in being able to chronicle the metamorphosis of the Organ Fund into the College Organ.’ (p. 32)

A recital was performed by Dr H. P. Allen, Director of the Music Department, who played a programme of works  by Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Schumann, Byrd and Rheinberger.

The organ can be seen clearly in the images below. The first shows the Hall set out for examinations – it is undated but belongs to items catalogued as early 20th Century; as its caption is ‘Reading University’, it would have been taken after 1926.

organ
Undated Postcard (University of Reading Special Collections, MS 5383/9)
organ
Image reproduced in Childs’s ‘Note on the University of Reading’ (1929)

The centenary of the installation of the organ was celebrated in October 2011, exactly 100 years to the day after its inauguration. The recital by Tim Byram-Wigfield, Director of Music at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, included some of the pieces from the original ceremony.

organ
Degree Ceremony, Summer 2012 (University of Reading Imagebank)
Sources

Childs, W. M. (1929). A note on the University of Reading.  Reading: University of Reading.

Tamesis, Vol. XI,  AutumnTerm, 1911, pp. 32-33.

The Reading University College Review, Vol.IV, December 1911, No. 10, pp. 30-32.

University College Reading. U.C.R. accounts and reports, 1911-12.

University of Reading, Special Collections. Postcards in MS 5383/1-12: University Buildings early 20th Century.

‘The Grebes of Whiteknights Lake’

In a previous post about the Great Hall, I included Allen Seaby’s illustration of ‘The Hall by Moonlight’, published in Tamesis in 1910.  His sketch of great crested grebes at Whiteknights appeared in the College Review in the same year.

sketch
‘The Grebes of Whiteknights Lake’ by Allen W. Seaby, published in 1910

It has been estimated that the lake was first colonised by the grebes in about 1885 and a pair was recorded by the eminent ornithologists T. Harrisson and P. Hollom in their national survey, ‘The Great Crested Grebe Enquiry‘, conducted in 1931. Other sightings in the Reading area included Maiden Erleigh Lake and Bulmershe.

Purely by chance I came across Seaby’s sketch just as the grebes’ descendants were hatching their eggs on today’s lake.

BJR
Great Crested Grebe at Whiteknights, April 2022

Allen Seaby had a lot more to say about the Whiteknights grebes in his book ‘The Birds of the Air’, first published in 1931. This volume gives a comprehensive account of bird life of all types in Britain but also includes chapters on exotic birds in zoos and abroad. His field excursions took him from the Shetlands in the north to the Scillies in the south. His chapter on ‘River and Lake‘, however, focuses on the Reading area, the rivers in question being the Thames, the Kennet and the Loddon, and the lake being the one in Whiteknights Park. This was just over 15 years before its purchase by the University of Reading.

The lake I know best is Whiteknights Lake, at Reading. It is an artificial one, but the trees growing on its banks have relieved it of any formality. Under the road [Whiteknights Rd] which forms the dam the surplus water flows, to fall in a cascade on the other side.‘ (p. 35)

He mentions moorhens, coots and the pied wagtail (a ‘dishwasher’), tufted duck, pochard and mallard. But he devotes over six pages, including four illustrations, to a detailed description of the grebes, the behaviour and appearance of the male and female, their courtship and nest building:

Of all the lake birds, the most interesting is the great crested grebe, which may be watched here during the greater part of the year. Elsewhere, especially on the Broads, it is exceedingly shy and difficult to watch, skulking behind tall rushes; but on this lake, as if knowing that it is in no danger, it lives out in the open. One season it nested so close to the road that I have had to threaten an urchin who was throwing stones at the sitting bird. I remember, though, that it hatched out its eggs and brought off its young safely.‘ (p. 37)

Allen Seaby became Professor of Fine Arts in 1920, having already been Departmental Director since 1911.

1920-21
The Fine Arts Department (College Calendar 1920-21, p. 36)

There is a glimpse of Seaby (bearded) in this photograph of the degree procession in October 1928. He can be spotted between H. L. Hawkins (Geology) and Prof Desseignet (French), and appears to be talking to Prof Neville (Dean of Agriculture and Horticulture).

close-up
London Road Campus, Oct 2nd 1928
whole group
University of Reading, Special Collections

An account of his life and work can be found in ‘A. W. Seaby: Art and Nature’ by Martin Andrews and Robert Gillmor, and published by Two Rivers Press. Robert Gillmor was Seaby’s grandson and also an internationally renowned artist and ornithologist.

Post Script

In May 2022 the grebes of today hatched their young, thus repeating the cycle described by Allen Seaby:

After a few days the nest is abandoned, the mother’s back becoming the chicks’ home, although they constantly take to the water.‘ (pp. 40-41)

In the image below it is just possible to make out two striped chicks sitting on the back of the female –  as in Seaby’s original sketch.

chicks
Female Great Crested Grebe with Chicks (May 2022)
Thanks

Thanks once again to Emily Gillmor for permission to use her great grandfather’s sketch. I was very sorry to hear of the recent death of her father, Robert Gillmor.

Thanks also to Andrew Male for an ornithological tour of the Whiteknights Campus in April 2022, and for identifying the grebes’ nest and tracking down the report on the ‘Great Crested Grebe Enquiry‘.

Sources

Harrisson, T. H. & Hollom, P. A. D. (1932). The great crested grebe enquiry 1931 – Part 1. British Birds, 26, 62-92.

Seaby, A. W. (1910). The grebes of Whiteknights Lake [Sketch]. The Reading University College Review, Vol. II, No. 6, July 1910, between pages 200 & 201.

Seaby, A. W. (1932). The birds of the air or British birds and their haunts (2nd ed.). London: A. & C. Black.

University College Reading. Calendar, 1922-3.

University of Reading, Special Collections. Box of photographs:  Processions MS5305.

The College Yeomanry and the Officers’ Training Corps

As far as I can tell, University College Reading published only two editions of its student handbook:  1907-08 and 1908-09. They could be purchased for sixpence (£0. 0s. 6d), approximately £3.20 in today’s money.

Both covers
These are shelved in the Reading Room at MERL (for some reason the apostrophe shifted to the left in 1908)

The handbooks contain notes by the Principal and information about Halls of Residence, College Rules, the Orchestra, College Societies, Biographical Sketches of the Staff, and the words and music of the College Songs.

In addition, both volumes contain an article that amounts to a recruiting poster for The College Yeomanry – two College troops had been formed in 1906. They had 45 recruits by the end of the first term and 68 by 1908. The article points out the many advantages of joining, including free instruction in horsemanship. It stresses that:

…. the yeoman, as he [is] engaged in superior work, receives higher pay than the foot soldier …. Uniform, equipment, horse, instruction, and all ammunition necessary for classification firing are provided free of charge.‘ (1908-9, pp. 50-51)

The final paragraph appeals to the students’ sense of patriotism (see also the note below):

‘Apart from the personal benefits and the advantage to the personal life of the college …. it is the duty of every able-bodied citizen to qualify himself to take part, should occasion require it, in the defence of his country.‘ (p. 51)

According to the Handbook, all departments of the College were represented in the Yeomanry. This image from the 1907-8 Handbook shows the troops by the south-east corner of Acacias at London Road. Despite some relatively superficial architectural changes it is still easily recognisable.

Yeomanry

Modern version
Acacias in April 2022
R. L. Pearson, Officer commanding

Second Lieutenant Pearson is seated front centre in the photograph. He had been seconded from his regiment to command the College Troops and was also a member of academic staff, appointed Assistant Lecturer in Physics in 1905 and promoted to Lecturer in 1907. He remained on the staff until 1948-9 and was the founder and warden of St Patrick’s Hall.

Heading
Part of the Yeomanry’s Calendar entry, 1908-9
The Officers’ Training Corps

By all accounts the College Yeomanry was a success, due in no small part to the leadership of Pearson. According to the College Review of 1908-9:

Much credit was throughout due to their officer, Lieutenant R. L. Pearson, (Lecturer in Physics) for the energy and enthusiasm which he brought to the discharge of his duties.‘ (p. 154-5)

Nevertheless, the College troops had to be disbanded when the Berkshire Yeomanry moved its training camp from the summer vacation to May, a month during which the recruits could not be released from their studies. There was a degree of regret at this, but maybe not from everyone. In the words of Childs:

…there were some who lamented the disappearance of the gay uniforms and capering steeds of the yeomen.‘ (Childs, 1933, p. 107)

The leadership of the College felt forced to consider other ways in which students could contribute to the defence of their country, and an application was submitted to the War Office for recognition as part of the Officers’ Training Corps (OTC) scheme.

The application was successful and the proposal was given a significant boost when Viscount Haldane, Secretary of State for War, consented to explain the scheme to the students. He was accompanied by Brigadier-General Murray (Director of Military Training) and Captain G. S. Clive and Captain R. C. Maclachlan of the Rifle Brigade. The meeting took place in Wantage Hall on 30th April 1909 and was chaired by the College President, J. Herbert Benyon.

Haldane presented the rationale behind the OTC:  the country would rely on the public schools and universities to provide  a reserve of trained officers to supplement those in the regular army in times of war. I don’t know whether the full text of his speech still exists, but the summary in the College Review (Vol. I, 1908-9, pp. 154-7) with its depiction of ‘modern’ warfare fought with vast numbers of men, weapons and transport is, for me, a spine-chilling premonition of the horrors of the Great War, only a few years away, and the termly reports in the Review of members of the College ‘Killed in Action’ and ‘Missing and Wounded’.

The account continues:

[Haldane] concluded with an eloquent appeal for “common science, common ideas, common patriotism,” as a condition of maintaining the position of the British Empire in the world.‘ (p. 157).

The article in the Review recorded that the OTC already had between 40 and 50 recruits. Four years later numbers had risen to 3 officers and over 100 cadets. Over 200 men had been trained and 9 had became officers, 8 now holding commissions in the Special Reserve and one in the Territorial Force.

By now Pearson had been promoted to Captain and successive accounts show the Reading cadets performing well, including a report from March 1913 of field operations at Cookham Common and Greenham Common with 2nd Lieutenants Palmer and Dewar. A later article of December 1913 describes how Wantage Hall had been handed over to the military authorities at the end of the summer term so that 50 cadets under the command of R. Dewar could be instructed in drill, field training and musketry.

I think the instructor was Robert Dewar who had been appointed Professor of English Literature in 1912 (a parallel position to Edith Morley’s Professor of English Language). He certainly fought in the 1914-18 War and the Annual Report of 1918-19 noted his return to the College in February 1919. Professor Dewar later became Dean of the Faculty of Letters (1934-1948).

The campus plan

The existence of the Yeomanry and Officers’ Training Corps explains two features on a campus map of 1912. It shows existing and planned building developments and includes an armoury and ammunition store.

Edited map

    • A:  the original location of the Armoury;
    • B:  the planned new Armoury;
    • C:  the planned location of the Ammunition Store.

Not all aspects of the plan were realised:  the south cloister, for example, leading from the present L16 to the L22 Building was never built, and a later map shows the armoury still in Location A. So I don’t know whether a separate ammunition store ever existed. If it did, I wonder whether anyone was concerned about its situation at the closest point to the Abbey School.

Note

Similar patriotic sentiments to those addressed to male students were expressed about women in the College Review in 1913. It was reported that women students had attended lectures on First Aid and Nursing with a view to setting up a voluntary aid detachment of the British Red Cross Society:

‘It is very satisfactory to find that there are many women students in the College who desire, quite as keenly as the men students who join the Officers’ Training Corps, to take part in the work of national defence and to bear their share of patriotic responsibility.‘ (p. 106)

Sources

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

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

The Reading University College Review, Vol. I, 1908-9.

The Reading University College Review, Vol. II, 1909-10.

The Reading University College Review, Vol. V, December 1912.

The Reading University College Review, Vol. V, March 1913.

The Reading University College Review, Vol. VI, December 1913.

University College Reading, Annual Report and Accounts, 1918-19.

University College Reading. Calendar, 1908-9.

University College Reading (1907). Students’ handbook. First issue: 1907-8.

University College Reading (1908). Student’s handbook. Second issue: 1908-9.

The Great Hall: ‘a handsome building’ or an ‘outsize garden shed’

The Times report of the grand opening of the Great Hall described it as ‘a handsome building‘. It is  just as handsome today. It has been well maintained and beautifully preserved, and has been a Grade II listed building since 1987.

Now & Then
The Great Hall in 2019 and 1907 (Students’ Handbook) looking towards the North Window

Architectural details can be found on the Historic England website. Here’s how the College Principal, W. M. Childs described it in his memoir:

A hall was built large enough to seat a thousand people. Externally, it was of a certain solidity; internally, the oak panelling, and the sweeping curves of the roof gave it a handsome and cheerful dignity. It answered its purpose as a rallying centre of life. Speakers and musicians praised it. Examinees found it comfortable and airy; for festivities it was first-rate; and its floor was very perfectly constructed for dancing.‘ (p. 56)

The dances have been described by several past students. Professor Holt reports an interview with Dr Adela Erith who had been a student in St Andrew’s Hall in 1913. According to Dr Erith the Warden, Miss Bolam, monitored the suitability of the men her charges wished to take to the summer ball:  Were they gentlemen? Did they own a dinner suit?

She [Miss Bolam] would not countenance any unseemly behaviour and would not allow the men to swing the women off their feet when dancing the Lancers.‘ (Holt, 1977, p. 66)

Writing in 1949 Ernest Allwood, who had obtained the Diploma in Letters in 1920, wondered nostalgically:

‘How many present-day students can envisage a dance in the Great Hall with men in tails and white gloves and the women students being escorted by their duennas from their Hall of Residence in approved crocodile formation?’ (p. 26)

The one sour note about the Great Hall comes from the author and journalist Elspeth Huxley who arrived at Reading in 1925 to study agriculture. In her fictionalised autobiography, ‘Love among the Daughters‘, she describes the Hall as ‘a sort of outsize garden shed where dances, examinations and assemblies were held.‘ (p. 47).

This is just one of the many barbs she directs at the College and University, its campus and the area round London Road. She too reflects on the dancing and recalls her first Students’ Union dance at the beginning of the academic year. It is a sharp contrast to Childs’s description:

Tickets, so far as I remember, were three-and-six, including supper in the Buttery. The dances themselves were held in the outsize garden shed. The deal floor, rough and splintered and marked with ink stains from the pens of agonized examinees, was sprinkled for the occasion with french chalk which formed treacherous patches on which you were liable to slip and twist an ankle….Between dances, you walked about in cloisters swept by gusts of icy wind that wrecked you hair-do and chilled your bones.’ (Huxley, 1968, p. 51)

She didn’t think much of the supper in the Buttery either! Nevertheless, even the hard-to-please Elspeth Huxley had fond memories of such occasions: ‘And yet, we did enjoy those dances…. At eighteen, they had magic. God knows what one would think of them now.’ (pp. 51-2)

More evocative of my own experience of evening concerts in the Hall is ‘The Hall by Moonlight‘ by Allen Seaby. It was published in Tamesis, the College magazine in 1910. At the time he was Lecturer in Fine Art but became Director of the department in 1911 and Professor in 1920. He was a distinguished and prolific artist, author and ornithologist whose sketches and designs can be found in issues of the College Magazine, the College Review and other publications of the College and University. Further examples of Professor Seaby’s work will be featured in  future posts.

Sketch
‘The Hall by Moonlight’ by Allen Seaby, 1910
2021

The references above mention dances, examinations, festivities, assemblies and concerts. But who would have predicted its deployment as a COVID-19 testing station?

Covid
The Great Hall, January 2021
Post Script

I shall return to Elspeth Huxley’s semi-fictionalised account of her time at Reading in a future post.

Thanks

I am grateful to Emily Gillmor for permission to reproduce ‘The Hall by Moonlight‘.

Sources

Allwood, E. F. (1949). 1919-1920. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 26-7). University of Reading.

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

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1248715?section=official-listing

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

Huxley, E. (1968). Love among the daughters. London: Chatto & Windus.

Nicholls, C. S. (2002). Elspeth Huxley: a biography. London: Harper Collins.

Seaby, A. W. (1910). The Hall by moonlight [Sketch]. Tamesis, Vol. X., Autumn Term, 1910. No. 1, between pp. 19 & 20.

University College, Reading. Speech by Mr Haldane. (1906, October 29). The Times, p. 3.

University College Reading (1908). Students’ handbook. Second issue: 1908-9. Reading: UCR.

University of Reading Special Collections, MS 5383/1-12 (Postcards): University Buildings, early 20th Century.

The Great Hall: The Opening Ceremony

Lord Haldane, Secretary of State for War, performed the official opening of the Great Hall on the 27th October 1906. Most women were banned from attending for fear of disruption by suffragettes.

In an account  of women’s suffrage, The Fabian Society and her own feminism, Edith Morley explains her position on acts of violence and illegality. While she disliked these on principle, she concedes that, without them, the struggle would have taken much longer. She points out that the violence was not one-sided and that  women ‘suffered much worse than they inflicted or could inflict‘ (‘Reminiscences, p. 142).

Having dealt with serious matters of such significance, it seems strange that the following paragraph labels her exclusion from the opening ceremony of the Great Hall as one of ‘Several lighter incidents‘ instead of railing against the injustice of it. This is all she has to say on the topic:

In the thirty-nine years of my active connection  with Reading College and University, once – and only once – was I absent on an important ceremonial occasion. This was when Lord Haldane, the Secretary for War, came to open the Hall in October 1906. He consented to officiate on condition that no woman, whether staff or student, was present at the ceremony; for no Minister at that time felt safe from suffragette interruptions.‘ (p. 142).

In fact, not all women were excluded, but those who did attend belonged to a certain level in society or were connected by marriage to the college – among others:  Lady Wantage, Lady Saye,  Lady Elliott, Mrs G. W. Palmer and Mrs Childs. A lowly English lecturer, or run-of-the mill members of staff or the student body were clearly too much of a threat!

Extract
Extract from a  map published in the Students’ Handbook (1907-8) showing the location of the Hall

The occasion was reported at length in The Times in an article that runs to well over 2,000 words. Haldane’s speech praised the College, the Hall and the new London Road site. Much of it was reproduced verbatim. Major themes were the inter-relationships between science and industry, wealth and the humanities. Speaking as a Minister of the State, he was concerned with the ‘Educational Needs of the Army‘.

Following his speech Haldane was presented with an inscribed silver inkstand by the architects, Messrs Ravenscroft and C. S, Smith. This was followed by a vote of thanks from the Principal, W. M. Childs, during which he announced to cheers that Lady Wantage had agreed to supply a Hall of Residence for male students.

This is how the article refers to the Great Hall:

The scheme of the new college embraces buildings both old and new. The principal feature of the new buildings is the great hall, the foundation-stone of which was laid by Lord Goschen last year. It was in this hall that the ceremony took place on Saturday. It is a handsome building, and will hold 1,000 people. A range of seven cloister buildings, which will later on be connected with the hall by other buildings, has also been erected.’

South side
The south side of the Great Hall (University of Reading Imagebank)

Two things are missing from The Times report – any mention of the exclusion of women, and Haldane’s predication that in fourteen years time the College would become the University of Reading.

Notes

1.  Wantage Hall was opened in 1908 and provided accommodation for 76 male students. In their book ‘Reading’s Influential Women‘ Terry Dixon and Linda Saul inform us that Lady Harriet Wantage was ‘a prominent anti-suffragist, active as president of the North Berks Anti-Suffrage League.‘ Of Lady Wantage and Edith Morley they note that, ‘We assume they weren’t friends.‘ (p. 16).

2.  This wasn’t Haldane’s only visit to the campus. He returned on 30 April 1909 in his official capacity as Secretary of State for War in order to address the male students about forming a College branch of the Officer Training Corps (more about this in a future post).

Sources

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

Dixon, T. & Saul, L. (2020). Reading’s influential women. Reading: Two Rivers Press.

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

The Reading University College Review, Vol. I, 1908-9, pp. 154-7.

University College Reading,  Annual Report and Accounts, 1905-6.

University College, Reading. Calendar, 1910-11.

University College, Reading. Speech by Mr Haldane. (1906, October 29). The Times, p. 3.

University College Reading (1907). Students’ handbook. First issue: 1907-8. Reading: UCR.

Building the Great Hall

In November 1905, just over five months after the foundation stone had been ‘well and truly laid‘, the College Gazette reported:

The work of erecting the Hall is proceeding satisfactorily.‘ (p. 129).

The previous May, the New Buildings Committee had reported that the cost of the Hall would be £8,143 with an additional £550 for heat and light. This did not include the cost of the ‘heating chamber’. By November, however, the estimated total total had risen to £10,000.

What I find extraordinary is the speed with which the project progressed from the laying of the foundation stone on June 7th 1905 to the grand opening on October 27th 1906. – and all, apparently, without JCBs, sophisticated cranes or much in the way of mechanical assistance.

In a photograph that probably dates from early 1906, the construction team can be seen below.

Builders
University of Reading, Special Collections

I suspect that the figure at the front on the right, wearing what looks like a bowler hat, is the foreman. He also appears in a lesser known image from the same period:

Full frame
University of Reading, Special Collections

He is easy to miss, but in close-up you can make him out perched precariously on a narrow plank.

Close-up
University of Reading, Special Collections (edited extract)

The perilous nature of the construction of the roof becomes clear from the next image of tiny figures silhouetted against the sky.

Shows skeleton of roof
University of Reading, Special Collections

Ropes and pulleys, rickety scaffolding and stepladders, and a head for heights were the order of the day. As far as safety is concerned, there is no evidence of hard hats or safety railings, let alone hi-vis vests or jackets. One hopes that there was no human cost to the Hall’s completion.

Sources

University College, Reading. Official Gazette. No. 42. Vol. IV. 27th May, 1905.

University College, Reading. Official Gazette. No. 44. Vol. IV. 14th November, 1905.

University of Reading, Special Collections. Photographs relating to the History of the University, Box MS5305 (Halls, Great Hall).

The Great Hall: Laying the Foundation Stone

On the 7th June 1905 Viscount Goschen, Chancellor of Oxford University, laid the foundation stone of the Great Hall. The event was attended by the dignitaries of the town as well as the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire and the High Sheriff. It is no exaggeration to describe the ceremony as an extravaganza.

It is also possibly the first event of the College or University that involved the use of electric vehicles!

Why start the new campus with the hall?

Resources had been limited when the move from Valpy Street to London Road began. There were ambitious plans for the site (see Architects’ sketch below), but the Principal gave priority to building a ‘hearth and home‘ in the form of the Great Hall. His reasoning was as follows:

Should it [the hall] be built now or later? The answer depended upon our conception of our undertaking. If the College was to be no more than a mechanism to produce teaching and research, it could do without a hall. If it meant to be a real society, an association of comrades, a hall was a necessity.‘ (Childs, 1933, p. 56)

The decision was not universally popular, as shown by Edith Morley’s account:

Money was, as always, very short, and it was necessary to balance conflicting claims. To many it was an unexpected decision to begin with a Great Hall which could become a central meeting place for the whole college. There were many criticisms from disgruntled teachers in cramped and unsuitable quarters, but there can be little doubt that the plan of campaign adopted showed strategic wisdom.‘ (Morley, 2016, p. 109)

Shows ambitious plan for campus
The architects’ ambitious concept of the future campus including a driveway for carriages opening onto London Rd
The Order of Proceedings

The booklet containing the programme for the ceremony was in keeping with the extravagance of the occasion itself.

Front cover

Among its contents were:

    • The architects’ drawing shown above.
    • A map of the best route from Valpy Street to the new site.
    • A detailed plan of the seating arrangements.
    • The programme of events.
    • A note on the buildings, the Palmer family and the design of the Hall.
    • Train timetables to and from Reading.
The Sequence of Events

In total, activities lasted for over four hours. They were planned with military precision, beginning with the arrival of Viscount Goschen:

    • 1.08:  Official reception at the railway station.
    • 1.00-1.30:  Reception in the town hall.
    • 1.30:  Luncheon at the invitation of the Mayor and Mayoress accompanied by a programme of musical items performed by the Scarlet Viennese Band (Conductor R. S. Coates). Toasts and speeches follow.
    • Following luncheon, guests progress to Broad Street where ‘special Electric Cars‘ are waiting to take them to London Road.
    • 3.30-3.55:  THE ASSEMBLY – Guests take their places according to the colour of their tickets.
        • 3.55:  Procession of the dignitaries from the Main Entrance to the Academic Platform.
        • Trumpets.
    • 4.00:  THE CEREMONY
        • Speeches.
        • The architects (Messrs.Ravenscroft & Smith) hand the Chancellor the Trowel and Mallet.
        • The Registrar reads out the inscription on the stone.
        • The College Treasurer deposits a vessel containing Records.
        • As the stone is lowered, the Students’ Choir sings ‘O God, our help in ages past‘ (conducted by J. C. B. Tirbutt).
        • The cement is borne by the builders (Messrs. T. H. Kingerlee & Sons).
        • The Chancellor sets the stone, ‘testing it with the Level and Plumb Rule‘.
        • The Chancellor declares ‘the Stone to be well and truly laid.’
        • Prayers, speeches, signing of the Record of Proceedings.
        • The Chancellor and his Procession leave.
        • Trumpets.
    • 4.45-5.15:  THE GARDEN PARTY
        • Reception on the lawn of the College Garden.
        • The Reading Temperance Prize Band performs a selection of music.
        • GOD SAVE THE KING
        • Guests are invited to view the Horticultural Gardens, the College Library in the Acacias Building, and the Old Red Building.
Show the Assembly
The Ceremony (University of Reading, Special Collections)

Did all this go according to plan? I was only able to find one eye-witness account of the ceremony – an anonymous article in the College Magazine.  In spite of bad weather, the ceremony was clearly a success and a milestone for the College:

When Viscount Goschen laid the foundation stone of our new buildings he did not merely inaugurate a new home for the College, but also wrote the opening words of a new chapter in its history.’ (p. 4)

And:

The heavy stone was raised to allow of the mortar being spread beneath it, then re-lowered to the place it is to occupy for so long, covering and guarding the vessel containing the records of the ceremony. Lord Goschen tested it and declared it to be “well and truly laid.”‘ (p. 6)

Shows stone today
The foundation stone on the north wall in 2022

While preparing this post I couldn’t help reflecting on the contrast between the magnificence of this event – the obvious importance of the College to the town of Reading – and Edith Morley’s comment about the College on arriving for her interview at Valpy Street:

When I arrived at the station no-one was able to direct me to the College, so insignificant and unknown it still was to the man in the street.‘ (p. 97)

So either the College had come a long way in the four years since Morley’s arrival, or her account was tainted by the embarrassment of arriving late for her interview. Maybe a little of both. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that when the extension to the buildings in Valpy Street were completed in 1898, they had been opened by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) to the accompaniment of much street decoration and flag waving.

Post Script

The booklet of the Order of Proceedings is held by the University Library. It is available on request from the off-site store (R.U. RESERVE–378.4229-UNI).

Sources
Childs, W. M. (1933). Making a university: an account of the university movement at Reading. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.
Morley, E. J. (2016). Before and after: reminiscences of a working life (original text of 1944 edited by Barbara Morris). Reading: Two Rivers Press.

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

University College, Reading. The Magazine. 1905, Vol IV, Spring Term. no. 3.

University College, Reading (1905). Order of the proceedings at the laying of the foundation stone of the new buildings of University College, Reading, by the Right Hon. Viscount Goschen, D.C.L., F.R.S., Chancellor of the University of Oxford, 7 June, 1905. Reading: Holybrook Press.