Whatever happened to the South Cloister? Part 1: 1905-1926

Anyone based at London Road who has had to walk from the Dairy to L22 in the pouring rain must have wondered why no-one had ever thought of building cloisters on all four sides of the Campus.

Not HDR
A dry day in August, 2022:  the path from the Dairy, passing between L16 and L19, and leading to L22

In fact, a complete set of cloisters surrounding the central quadrangle had been planned ever since the occupation of the London Road Campus in 1905. According to W. M. Childs’s memoir it had been part of his vision right from the start. Referring back to ‘Our New Home’ he writes :

‘The time might come when cloister and pavilions would form one side of a quadrangle extending over ground not yet ours, and cloistered the whole way round’ (Childs, 1933, p. 55)

The first cloister to be built was the East Cloister, shown in the image below and on a campus map published in the Students’ Handbook in 1907:

Early image E. Cloister
Early image of the East Cloister showing the sign for the Physics Building, (now L11). The camera must have been situated just beyond L14 and L19 (University of Reading Special Collections)
map
Campus Plan of 1907

As far as I can see, the first indication of a South Cloister in a development plan was in 1911. In it the East Cloister extends as far as the present L16, turns right and forms a straight corridor to the spur of L19. It then continues to the centre of what today would be L22 where it was to join the projected West Cloister.

development plan
Development Plan, 1911 (University of Reading Special Collections)

By about 1917, a cloister leading from the Porters’ Lodge was in place between the Great Hall and what, at that time, was the Rose Garden:

Rose Garden
The Rose Garden, circa 1917 (University of Reading Special Collections)

Note the original curved, corrugated roof compared with the pointed roof in this recent image taken from the same spot:

pointed roof
January 2019: the Cloister and Great Hall looking across the site of the former Rose Garden

The change to the structure of the roof can also be seen in these two images that show the underside of the same section.

sepia
Looking southwards from the Porters’ Lodge (Early Campus postcard: University of Reading Special Collections)
modern
January 2019: looking towards L46 (now the Architecture Building)

The original roof looks suspiciously like corrugated iron, and this is confirmed, somewhat disparagingly, by Elspeth Huxley’s fictionalised autobiography of her time at Reading in the 1920s. She refers to:

‘… lecture rooms and laboratories linked by what were known as cloisters but were merely brick-floored pathways roofed by corrugated iron.’ (p. 47)

Today’s West Cloister leads northwards from L22 to L33. In the  1907 map shown above, the area is described as ‘Horticultural Garden and Glass Houses’.  This is how it looked until 1917 when the Horticulture Department moved to Shinfield and the Glass Houses were demolished (Giles, 2000):

greenhouses
The site of today’s West Cloister. In the background is the Great Hall (University of Reading Special Collections)

Development of this part of the Campus had to wait until University status had been achieved, after which the need for more and improved accommodation became acute.

This will be detailed in the next post.

Sources

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

Giles, A. K. (2000). From ‘Cow College’ to Life Sciences: a chronicle in celebration of seventy-five years and a new name for The University of Reading’s Agricultural Faculty. The Faculty of Agriculture and Food (Life Sciences), University of Reading.

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

Tranter, H. (2010). The architectural development of University College, Reading, 1902-1926. Unpublished Dissertation for the Postgraduate Certificate in Architectural History, University of Oxford.

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

Early Days of Educational Research at Reading

In the 1880s, before the University Extension College became Reading College and before the latter became a University College, research was taking place in the Departments of Science and Agriculture; regular supplements to the College Journal reported the results of agricultural field experiments.

Educational Research

The first records of school-based research did not appear until 1910-11:

‘Mr. Wolters has conducted some interesting experiments at the Demonstration School with regard to Child Study; and Mr. A. W. Seaby tried some experiments with the older boys in drawing and design work. A short experimental study of fatigue in school was made by students preparing for the London University Examinations in Education.’ (Report of the Academic Board, 1910-11, p. 41)

The names Wolters and Seaby will be familiar to readers of this blog. Albert Wolters went on to found the Psychology Department and was Deputy Vice-Chancellor between 1946 and 1950; Allen Seaby became Professor of Fine Arts in 1920, and was Departmental Director from 1911. Both contributed to Teacher Education programmes and had experience teaching children (Wolters had qualified as an Elementary School teacher at Reading).

The ‘Demonstration School’ was Redlands School, and its three headteachers, including Eliza Chattaway, Head of Infants (see earlier post about the Farm School), were members of the College’s Teacher Education section. Redlands became a convenient focus for research activity, as shown by a report in the College Review under the heading of ‘Educational Experiments’.

Three such experiments were conducted in the Demonstration School ‘and other selected schools’:

    1. Spelling:  the relative success of class teaching versus private study in learning spelling (instruction was twice as effective at all ages).
    2. Imagination:  children were given the beginning of a story that they were asked to complete. It was found that girls tended to describe scenery, whereas the boys focused on actions. We are told that, ‘The London boys occasionally referred to common incidents of life in town, while the provincial children kept exclusively to Fairyland.’ (p. 22).
    3. Memory:  ‘A hundred boys were made to learn a series of twelve numbers, the number of readings required to obtain a correct repetition being noted. It was found that there was great improvement between the ages of seven and ten and practically no improvement later.’ (College Review, 1910, p.22)

The Logbooks of Redlands School show that, following the creation of a Senior Mixed Department in 1929, University Education staff immediately requested further collaboration and, within weeks, a certain Miss Campbell (Lecturer in Education – see below) arranged for her students to administer intelligence tests in the lower part of the school.

Redlands composite
Redlands Primary School, August 2022

Further information about educational research is hard to find. Projects probably took place that never found their way into College documents. I can find no evidence of any ‘experiments’ being published. Nevertheless, according to H. Armstrong’s overview of the history of the Education Department:

‘Investigations in teaching methods by members of the Education Staff were an important feature from the earliest days. It is interesting to record here an example of experimental work done by students themselves. Early in 1923, at St. John’s Schools, students tried out the Dalton Plan.’ (Armstrong, 1949, p. 15)

The Dalton Plan was a progressive scheme of learning designed by Helen Pankhurst in the USA. There was no formal class teaching; pupils worked at their own pace and designed their own timetables. The students at Reading concluded that:

‘…. class teaching must retain its decisive place in school administration, and could not be put aside.’

This and other ‘experiments’ raise questions about the extent to which the students were given free rein, how it was negotiated with the school, what preparation they received, and how parents, children and regular class teachers felt about it! Did anyone think about ethics?

Publications

The first list of staff publications appeared once the original College had acquired the status of University College, Reading. The list was published in the Official Gazette in 1903, and contains just 9 academic publications by 5 staff in the Letters and Science Departments, followed by a set of Technical Reports, mainly from Agriculture (e.g. ‘Practical Buttermaking’ by Mr Edward Brown). But it does also include an item titled ‘Blackboard Drawing’ by Allen Seaby (see above). This is the first record of a published contribution to the field of Education.

Subsequently, lists of publications appear only intermittently with Agriculture figuring prominently (‘The Value of Poultry Manure’ by Edward Brown & W. Brown, 1907).

In 1906, however, Education was represented again: W. G. de Burgh, Lecturer in Philosophy and Classics, published ‘The Development of Individuality in the Young:  an Address to Students of Education’ in the ‘The Parents’ Review’.  (Burgh became Dean of the Faculty of Letters in 1907 and was Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University from 1926 to 1934).

De Burgh wasn’t the only member of the College to publish in The Parents’ Review. In the Annual Report for 1909-10, H.S. Cooke, Lecturer in Education (later Master of Method and Head of Department), was author of ‘The Real Meaning of Children’s Play’.

‘The Parents’ Review’ described itself as ‘A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture’ and, between about 1890 and 1920, was distributed to parents and teachers engaged in homeschooling .

The following is an illustrative sample of  publications relating to Education, set out as they appear in the Annual Reports:

    • 1909-10:  ‘Mr. Cooke:- “School Practice Guide and Instructions” (C. Elsbury, Reading).
    • 1911-12:  The Principal [W. M. Childs] .. .. “The Essentials of University Education.” (Hibbert Journal April, 1912).
    • 1911-12:  Professor de Burgh .. .. “The Use and Abuse of Educational Theory.” (Parents’ Review), March and April, 1912).
    • 1912-13:  Miss Chattaway .. .. “School Nature Rambles.” (Oxford Elementary Schoolbooks, 1912, pp. 221).
    • 1913-14:  Professor Edith Morley  “Teaching as a Profession for Women.” (Educational Times, June, 1914).
    • 1918-19:  Professor Edith Morley … The Teaching of English. A Series of Papers read at a Conference at University College Reading, July, 1918. (Pamphlet 43 of the English Association).

Between 1903 and 1926, the year of the Royal Charter, just six members of staff produced literature on the theme of Education – a total of 17 publications. These were mainly practical guides or opinion pieces. None involved involving data collection and analysis, although Eliza Chattaway’s book is a (probably idealised) record of a year’s nature study with the children at Redlands Infants’ School.

Chattaway book
Frontispiece and title page of Eliza Chattaway’s book

Three of the contributors were based outside the Education Department. Of these, Edith Morley, as the most prolific, deserves a special mention. Over the course of this period, in addition to her research on English Language and Literature, she developed a reputation as an expert on the Teaching of English and organised a conference on the subject that took place in the Great Hall in July 1918. It was attended by over 300 people and was reported in the Journal of Education and The Times Educational Supplement. She edited the Volume of Proceedings that can be seen in the illustrative sample above.

Such was Morley’s interest in English teaching that two years later the Report of the Academic Board reported that:

‘Professor Morley gave evidence before the Government Commission appointed to report upon the study and teaching of English Language and Literature.’ (p. 14).

The outcome of this was the Newbolt Report of 1921 (see note below) in which Morley is mentioned as an Individual Witness.

Reports
The Reading Room at MERL:  Complete sets of Annual Reports and Accounts, 1892 to 1924, from the University Extension College, Reading College and University College, Reading.
On Becoming a University

The University took a more rigorous approach to recording publications. From 1925-6 onwards, the annual Proceedings combined the list of publications across departments and it contained only items that had been approved by the Research Board. The list is in three sections: I. Books; II. Articles embodying Results of Original Work; III. Other Publications. The list is longer than ever before, raising questions about how complete the earlier College lists had been.

We also find the first indication of a research grant for education from University funds:  E. Smith received £20 ‘for travelling expenses incurred in connexion with researches on the history of English education between 1660 and 1714’ (Proceedings, 1925-6).

The following year, Isabella Campbell (see above) was awarded £15 ‘for travelling expenses incurred in consulting literature bearing upon her research on temperament tests’. In 1943 Campbell became the first lecturer in the Education Department to obtain a PhD on  ‘A study of abstract thinking and linguistic development with reference to the education of the child of ‘average’ intelligence.’ In the same year, Charles Rawson became the first Education student to be awarded a doctorate for his work on the WWII evacuation.

Such events had been predicted by an article by Childs in Tamesis in 1926 which considered the implications of becoming a University:

‘Some of [Reading’s degree students] will, I hope, proceed to our higher degrees, Ph.D. and M.A., and the doctorates. Here comes in research, and all I need to say on this topic is that we intend to do our utmost to make our University famous for research and scholarship.’ (p. 86).
Educational Research Today

These humble beginnings may seem a far cry from the achievements of the present Institute of Education.    Nevertheless, thanks to the work of early pioneers, particularly those like Isabella Campbell and Albert Wolters who crossed disciplinary and departmental boundaries, a tradition was established that led to today’s internationally recognised research programme, with its valued contribution to theory and practice across the education, language and learning spectrum.

Toby
Using eye-tracking technology in the Institute of Education, August 2018
Note

The Newbolt Committee and its Report were named after its chair, Sir Henry Newbolt – a historian, novelist, poet and adviser to the Government of the day.

The Newbolt Report was often quoted by educationalists and linguists when Michal Gove, Secretary of State for Education (2010-2014), reformed the English curriculum for Primary Schools and Introduced tests of Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation (SPAG). A particular favourite of those opposed to the reforms was Newbolt’s reference to the unpopularity of grammar as the most hated part of the curriculum – an inspector’s report of 1894 is quoted, stating that, ‘English Grammar has disappeared in all but a few schools, to the joy of children and teacher.’ (Para. 51)

For the benefit of cricket lovers:  in his role as poet, it was Sir Henry Newbolt who penned the famous line, ‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

Sources

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.

Board of Education (1921). The teaching of English in England [The Newbolt Report]. London: HMSO.

Childs, W. M. (1926). Our University. Tamesis, Vol. XXV. No. 7. Summer Term, pp. 83-6.

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

Rooke, P. (1991). Redlands: a hundred years at school, 1891-1991. Reading: Redlands School Parents’ Teacher Association.

The Journal of the University Extension College, Reading, Vols 2 & 3, 1895-96 & 1896-97.

The Reading University College Review, Vol. III, 1910, pp. 21-22.

University College, Reading.  Accounts and Annual Reports, 1906 to 1925.

University College, Reading. Official Gazette. No. 31. Vol. II. 10th December, 1903.

University College, Reading. Official Gazette. No. 51. Vol. V. July 3, 1907.

University of Reading. Proceedings of the University, 1925-26 & 1926-27.

A bit of a Miss-tery

In a discussion of changing social customs and forms of address, Edith Morley recalls that:

‘In my undergraduate days, women – even students and colleagues – carefully ‘miss-ed’ each other in public unless they resorted to nicknames. Christian names were used only in private and then only between close friends. Men called each other by their surnames, and little boys at prep schools forbade their parents to address envelopes with their Christian names ….’ (Morley, 1944/2016, p. 94)

I had never encountered the verb ‘miss’ in this sense. I imagined that Morley had coined it herself. After all, who better than the Professor of English Language to do this? A check in the Oxford English Dictionary, however, turned up citations from 1824 and 1863 with the meaning ‘To address as ‘Miss”. The usage is described as ‘obsolete‘.

On the award of her professorship in 1908, her correct title became one of many sources of friction:

‘…. for months after its conferment some of the College clerks, probably with the connivance of their superior officer, persistently refused to use the title on official communications sent to me, until I was forced most reluctantly to take note of the omission.’ (p. 118).

Like all women on the staff, she appeared in the College Calendar as ‘Miss’. This continued even after she became Professor Morley, using ‘Professor’ more as a job description for a Head of Department than a title:

Miss & Prof
University College, Reading Calendar 1910-11

The ‘Miss’ was dropped from the Calendar from 1914-15 onwards, but, unlike male colleagues, her initial was replaced by her first name:

No miss
University College, Reading Calendar 1914-15

In spite of the change of policy for the Calendar, however, the use of ‘Miss’ continued erratically elsewhere in official documents. For example, in 1940 the University Gazette announced her impending retirement, describing her as ‘Miss Edith J. Morley, M.A., Oxford; F.R.S.L.; Professor of English Language.’ (p.11).

It was Edith Morley’s retirement and inconsistencies in the report in the Proceedings of the University, however, that provoked this post in the first place. Note the differences between these two ‘tributes’, both of which are contained in the same volume for 1939-40.

Pres
From the Report of the President of the Council (Proceedings of the University, 1939-40, p.2)
VC
From the Annual Statement by the Vice-Chancellor (Proceedings of the University, 1939-40, p.34)

The first, by George Mowbray, President of Council, uses her professorial title and is a brief, but glowing tribute to Morley’s contribution to the growth of the College and University, her teaching and her ‘researches’ (see note below).

The second, by Franklin Sibly, Vice-Chancellor, is even briefer; her title is ‘Miss’ and it focuses on her length of service with no mention of her academic achievements. It has a distinct air of ‘faint praise’.

I know of no acrimony between Sibly and Morley. In fact, Morley is warm in her praise of him; of Sibly’s retirement in 1946 she wrote, ‘His wise council and genial personality will be sorely missed.’ (p.124).

Nevertheless, retirement was an uncomfortable prospect for Morley and probably caused some friction, particularly as she was aware that her Chair of English Language was to be abolished, and both Language and Literature placed in a unified English Department under Professor Dewar. The extent of her distress at this prospect is expressed in her ‘Reminiscences’:

‘It was a galling and unhappy result of my insistence on my position and one which I could never forget.’ (p. 117).

Postscript

Following her retirement, the University’s Proceedings of 1940-41 recorded that Morley had been awarded the title of ‘Professor Emeritus … in virtue of the conspicuous services rendered by her to the College and University as Professor of English Language.’ (p. 1).

Emeritus
Calendar 1941-42, p. 29.
A Note on ‘Researches’

The plural ‘researches’ in the first tribute caught my attention. Its occurrence as a count noun in formal written contexts is rare nowadays; its use by our international students is often corrected and, together with words like ‘informations’, is a common feature of English in multilingual contexts (English as a Lingua Franca) and of second-language learners of English.

Nevertheless, it is nothing new; the Oxford English Dictionary has citations of the plural from 1748 onwards, two of which are from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Sources

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

Oxford English Dictionary

Reading University Gazette, Vol. XIII. No1. July 31, 1940.

University of Reading, Calendar, 1941-42.

University of Reading. Proceedings of the University, 1939-40 & 1940-41.

The Young Nellie Eales and her Postcard Home

Of the many postcards produced by University College, Reading, the image below is not the most inspiring view of the London Road campus.

cloister
Used postcard, probably sent in 1907 (University of Reading, Special Collections)

It shows the east cloister looking north towards Acacias and the porters’ lodge. In the distance, behind the Botany Department, is the sign for Zoology and Machine Drawing and, behind that, the sign for Building Construction. This matches a site plan published in the Students’ Handbook in 1907; the original Physics building would have been just behind the photographer.

map
London Road Campus (Students’ Handbook 1907-08). From bottom left to right, are: Agriculture (now L14), Physics (L11), Botany (L10), Zoology & Fine Art (now combined as L4 – Art Education).

There are much better images of the cloisters from this period, but what makes this postcard particularly interesting is that the student who sent it to her mother in Gosport was the young Nellie Eales who went on to work for the College and University for 42 years (retired in 1954), and lived to reach her hundredth birthday in 1989.

pc
University of Reading, Special Collections

The message reads as follows:

‘Thanks for the chemistry apron. It will do very nicely. We shall have to get a new Strasburger [see note below] as it must be up to date. It will come to about 13/6 I expect.’

She continues:

‘Imagine having to run along 3 cloisters the length of this one when you are late. The Chemistry, Physics and Geography Halls are beyond this. The view looks towards the older part of the college. Where the posts occur on the R. hand side are gardens. There are beautiful flowers about still. We had a splendid time on Sat at the at Home. Please keep this p.c. as I want to get a collection of Reading College views.’

Written upside down in the space at the top it says: ‘Love from Nellie.’; and in very faint writing: ‘What about galoshes? It is wet here.’

Nellie Eales combined her studies in Science with Teacher Training. She passed the two-year course for Primary Education students (Class I) in July 1909 and was awarded her BSc (Hons, Pass Division II) in 1910.

Following graduation, she worked briefly for the Marine Biological Association before being appointed Curator of the Zoological Museum at University College, Reading In 1912. The museum had been founded by Professor Francis Cole in 1906. Today the Cole Museum is located in the new Health and Life Sciences Building on the Whiteknights Campus and still contains the skeleton of the circus elephant that figures prominently in the image below.

Cole
London Road Campus: the Zoological Museum (University of Reading, Special Collections, undated).

By the beginning of the academic year 1912-13, the museum’s collection had already been completely catalogued and labelled, and Eales’s duties are described in the College Review of December 1912:

‘The Curator will be employed in the first instance principally in making anatomical preparations to assist students in their routine work, and when this is accomplished she will enter upon the much larger task of making preparations illustrative of the general principles of comparative anatomy.’ (p.21)

During Professor Cole’s frequent absences on military duty between 1914 and 1919, Eales took over the Zoology Department laboratory and covered his teaching. She became Lecturer in Zoology officially in 1919, and in 1921 was the first woman at Reading to be awarded a PhD. This was followed by a DSc in 1926.

Eales
Dr Nellie Eales, left, with H. S. Cooke (Education):  Degree Congregation, October 1928 (University of Reading, Special Collections)

Dr Eales had a highly successful academic career, details of which can be found in Claire Clough’s post on the Special Collections Blog: “Guardian Angel” of the Cole Library: Dr Nellie B. Eales. The post also recounts how, following the death of Professor Cole, she arranged the transfer of his vast collection of rare volumes (The Cole Library) to the University and compiled the printed catalogue. She is also celebrated for donating a valuable Book of Hours from the early 1400s.

One thing that surprises me, given her academic standing within and beyond the University, not to mention her indispensable contribution to running the Zoology Department, is that it took until 1951, only three years before her retirement, for her to be promoted to senior lecturer.

Nellie Eales died in 1989 shortly after her 100th birthday. Her obituary was published in the Journal of Molluscan Studies.

Zoology
London Road:  The Zoology Department in 1945. Front centre is Professor O’Donoghue with Dr Eales to the left. Professor Cole had retired in 1939 (University of Reading, Special Collections)

enlarged

An online exhibition about the Cole Collections, curated by Claire Clough, can be found here.

Note

‘Strasburger’ refers to the Botany textbook by Professor Eduard Adolf Strasburger, originally published as ‘Lehrbuch der Botanik für Hochschulen’ in 1894. An English translation of 1898 was purchased by the University College library under the title ‘Text Book of Botany’ in 1903.

The wording of the postcard is ‘a new Strasburger’, which sounds as though the students had been urged to buy an updated edition. The German original had reached its 8th edition by the time Eales had sent her card, so it is likely that the English translation followed suit.

Sources

University College, Reading. Official Gazette. No. 30. Vol. II, 3rd December, 1903.

The Reading University College Review, Vol. V, No. 13, December 1912, pp. 21-2.

University College, Reading, Annual Report and Accounts, 1908-09, 1909-10.

University College, Reading. Calendar, 1910-11.

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

University of Reading. Proceedings of the University, 1953-4.

The Farm School: an Innovation in Teacher Education

Sometimes referred to as ‘the experimental outdoor school’, the Farm School at Shinfield was set up in June 1912 and continued until 1926. It was the brainchild of Herbert S. Cooke, Master of Method in the Education Department.

The motivation behind this initiative is explained in the College’s Annual Report for 1911-12:  Cooke was trying to counteract a longstanding trend for student teachers to prefer employment in urban rather than rural schools and wanted to impress upon his students the opportunities afforded by education outside the school classroom. The Farm School took place during the weeks reserved for Teaching Practice in the summer term and at first involved second-year male trainees only. Female students were eventually included in the scheme following a suggestion from the Board of Education, although initially their involvement was just for one week, later extended to two.

The first group of pupils consisted of forty thirteen-year-old boys from Redlands Council School, the College’s ‘demonstration school’, who attended daily for two weeks. Lessons took place in the barn which was equipped with desks and teaching materials.

According to Cooke (1913) there had been a growing realisation during previous years that the curricula of urban and rural schools needed to be different, and a Rural Curriculum was devised that centred on nature study and rural science. Pupils engaged in agricultural arithmetic, measuring distance and volume, and studied cattle, crops and soils as well as fruit growing, pruning and grafting in the College’s experimental gardens. They learnt folk songs and dances, studied the architecture of the nearby church at Arborfield and sketched the landscape and barn under the guidance of Allen Seaby and Mr Pearce from the Department of Fine Arts.

Cooperation between the Education Department, the Faculty of Agriculture and Horticulture and the staff of Redlands Council School ensured the success of the venture. Reports in the College Review and Annual Reports give a special mention to Mr Cooke, to Mr Sweatman, the head teacher of the Boys Department at Redlands and Mr Pennington, a Lecturer in Agriculture who became the Farm Manager in 1914.

But perhaps the most telling testimony comes from the Annual Report referred to above:

‘The Board of Education Inspector of Training Colleges paid a special visit to the outdoor school and expressed the opinion that it was one of the best experiments he had ever seen in the training of young teachers for their future scholastic careers.’ (Annual Report, 1911-12, p. 41).

His Majesty’s Inspector of Training Colleges, Mr J. F. Leaf, suggested further that the two weeks be extended to three. This resulted in an extended curriculum where individual topics could be dealt with in greater depth and drew on the expertise of any trainee teachers who had specialist knowledge in relevant areas such as practical geography, plants, animals or gardening.

Two summers later, in 1913, the College Review reported the inclusion of girls as well as boys, and the participation of St John’s School in addition to the Demonstration School. The three weeks were further extended to four. The Farm School was now firmly established:

‘…what was once regarded as an experiment has now become an important factor in preparing the students for their professional career.’ (p. 186).

The scheme went from strength to strength and during its final three years sixty boys and sixty girls aged eleven to fourteen were invited. The children were from the poorer parts of the Borough and had all failed to qualify for secondary (grammar) schools.

The Timetable

Over the years, there was considerable variation in the makeup of the pupil groups and in the format of the school day. And for at least part of the time, the curriculum, number of weeks and transport arrangements differed between boy and girl pupils.

The most detailed account of the Farm School is to be found in an article by H. S. Cooke published in the College Review in 1913. From this and other sources such as Isabella Campbell’s and Albert Wolters’s retrospective accounts written in 1949, we can reconstruct an approximate format of a day for the boys. I can’t claim this to be a ‘typical day’, but it is certainly a possible one:

    • The children walked or cycled from Silver Street in town. Some arrived as early as 8.30 and took part in what Isabella Campbell referred to as ‘much intensive cricket practice’ (p. 34).
    • 9.30:  School opened.
    • 9.45:  Assembly at the barn, prayers and exercises.
    • 9.50:  Each pupil recorded weather observations.
    • 10.00:  Pupils divided into groups for Farm Arithmetic.
    • 10.55:  Break.
    • 11.10:   Outdoor geography, nature work, e.g. walk to the River Loddon to measure variations in the speed of flow and the reasons for them (on one occasion a child had to be fished out of the river!).
    • 1.00:  Midday break – the College Farm provided milk; lunch was eaten under the trees; the students organised games of cricket and football while College staff congregated in the ‘Black Boy’ (now the ‘Shinfield Arms’) where they conducted what Albert Wolters referred to as ‘vigorous and animated discussions’!
    • 2.15:  The trainee whose turn it was to be Headteacher blew the whistle and pupils and students moved to the farm for lessons on topics such as soil, cattle, fruit trees, pests, ploughing, farm implements, etc.
    • 4.15:  Tidying up, prayers and a hymn.

The curriculum for girls appears to have concentrated more on areas such as dairy produce and poultry keeping, together with training in first aid. There was daily folk dancing.

Sadly, the Farm School was discontinued after the transition from University College Reading to the University of Reading in 1926. The priority for the Education Department moved from primary schools to postgraduate secondary training, and for practical reasons teaching experience could no longer be delayed until the summer term.

Writing in 1949 to celebrate fifty years of Teacher Education  at Reading, Professor Albert Wolters, by then Head of the Psychology Department, described the Farm School as ‘our greatest experiment‘. Quite an accolade from one of the most distinguished scholars in the University’s history!

Composit
Plan showing the London Road Campus in relation to the College/University Farms (Edited from Childs’s memoir, pp. xii-x).
On Reflection

I am struck by the coincidence that, as well as being the beginning of the Farm School, 1912 marked the publication of Eliza Chattaway’s ‘School Nature Rambles’. At the time, Chattaway was head of the Infants  Department at Redlands Council School and had already been taking pupils on educational visits to the Shinfield Farm, details of which are documented in her book.

In the preface she gives thanks to H. S. Cooke for checking the proofs and I can’t help wondering to what extent Cooke was inspired by this pioneer of outdoor learning in developing the concept of the Farm School.

The compilation of a first academic biography of Eliza Chattaway is currently being supported by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) under the leadership of Dr Rhianedd Smith (University Museums and Special Collections Services). The research is being conducted by Leah Rashid. On completion, the biography will appear on the website of the Berkshire Record Office.

I can’t guarantee that the images below of Eliza Chattaway with her pupils from Redlands School were taken on the College farm, but it seems likely.

Eliza on farm
Eliza Chattaway (second adult from the left) with children from Redlands Infants School (reproduced with permission from the Berkshire Record Office).
Eliza at farm
Eliza Chattaway (front centre) (reproduced with permission from the Berkshire Record Office).
Note

There is a discrepancy about the continuation of the Farm School during World War I –  the Redlands School logbooks show it to have been suspended between 1915 and 1918, whereas H. Armstrong of the College states that it took place every year except 1918. This inconsistency might be explained by the fact that Redlands was evacuated in 1915 when its buildings became a temporary military hospital. Presumably the Farm School continued with pupils from elsewhere during this period; the College’s annual report for 1916-17, for example, states that:

‘The outdoor school was held in June on the College Farm. A new feature of this year’s work was the preparation and cooking of the midday meal by the students and school-pupils.’ (p. 20).

Thanks

To Dr Rhianedd Smith (University Museums and Special Collections Services) and Mark Stevens (County Archivist, Berkshire Record Office) for their help.

Sources

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.

Campbell, I. E. (1949). The farm school, 1912-1926, and the development of courses in rural science for intending teachers. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 33-6). University of Reading.

Chattaway, E. (1912). School nature rambles. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

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

Cooke, H. S. (1913). An outdoor school. The Reading University College Review, Vol. VI, No. 16, pp. 56-66.

Curtis, S. J. (1949). Early days. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 23-5). University of Reading.

The Reading University College Review, Vol. IV, August 1912.

The Reading University College Review, Vol. VI, No. 18, Aug 1914.

Rooke, P. (1991). Redlands: a hundred years at school, 1891-1991. Reading: Redlands School Parents’ Teacher Association.

University College Reading, Annual Report and Accounts, 1911-12, 1912-13 & 1916-17.

Wolters, A. W. (1949). Early days. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 18-20). Reading: University of Reading.

 

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.