The Discipline Book is a bit of a mystery. It can be found at the bottom of a box of papers about women students: documents about the requirement to wear hats, their volunteering for social work, rules in women’s halls, boat racing for women and regulations about contact between the sexes.
The book is an impressive and expensive-looking volume with its embossed crest, gold lettering, and an elegant lock. It bears the name of The University Extension College Reading, and looks as though no expense was spared to record the misdemeanours of its students.
Nevertheless, the contents are a disappointment. Only the first page contains any entries, all dated June 1900. By this time the Extension College no longer existed, having become Reading College in 1898. On this single page are the names of a mere seven students. Five of them had committed the sin of breaking the ‘10.30 Rule’, arriving late at their accommodation; one had failed to sign a register; and a certain Miss Sheppard, the only female, had been reported by Miss Sealey for ‘irregularity and idleness’ (see below for further details).
The only other information is on a loose sheet dated May 1902. It refers to two male students, Messrs Evans and Thomas. The writing is hard to decipher, but lateness was again an issue as well as ‘going out in the evening with girls’. It was feared that this might ‘lead to trouble’.
I don’t know who filled in these entries. Was it the Principal? The Censor? The Vice-Principal? The Master of Method? They do, however, reflect issues of student discipline that remained a concern for staff and students for many years to come.
J. C. Holt’s official history of the University of Reading records the changing nature of the general regulations for students and the specific rules and customs for halls of residence between 1921 and 1973. They deal with matters such as compulsory attendance at Sunday worship, wearing academic dress, smoking, ‘lights out’ and curfews. The 10.30 rule (10.00 on Sundays) was still in force in Wessex Hall in the 1920s. In women’s halls in the 1930s no student was allowed to leave the premises after hall dinner without the warden’s permission, though there were some privileges for ‘senior students’. All visitors had to leave by 6.00 pm and men could not enter student rooms without the warden’s permission. At Wantage Hall in 1930:
‘Guests (men) may be entertained at meals in the Hall or at tea in rooms, if due notice has been given…. Ladies are not admitted to the precincts of the Hall unless the permission of the Warden has been obtained. When such permission has been granted, the visit must terminate before 7.0 pm.‘
Institutions varied considerably and the conflicts in universities and colleges during their early days are documented from a women’s perspective by Carol Dyhouse: confrontations between students and wardens over regulations that sometimes seemed more suited to a boarding school than higher education. In some places, the need for chaperones could hinder women’s access to the library, college societies and even tutorials, and the penalties for contravening rules about contact between the sexes could be severe.
Who were Miss sealy and the delinquent students?
The College Calendar of 1899-1900 lists Miss Sealey as Teacher of Needlework (Diploma, Gold Seal, London Institute, Registered Teacher of Needlework, City and Guilds Institute). Miss Sealey ran an ‘evening’ class that took place on Thursdays and Saturday mornings and was typical of the many technical, commercial and craft courses run by the College at the time. The syllabus consisted of:
‘Cutting out from diagrams and making simple garments. Drawing diagrams on sectional paper. Repairing underclothing and household linen.‘
I assume that Miss Sealey also had other responsibilities which is how she came into contact with Miss Sheppard. The only person with that name in the examination lists is a Daisy Sheppard who studied English Literature while training to be an elementary school teacher between 1899 and 1901. I assume this was in the Day Training section. If this is her true identity, she passed her first year (Division 2) and her second and final year (Division 3) despite her ‘irregularity and idleness’.
As for the male students:
- Mr Judd (10.30 Rule: ‘Excuse: midnight train to Town. twice. no leave‘). Edward Thomas Judd was awarded the Associateship in Agriculture in May 1902.
- Mr Mansfield (?) (10.30 Rule: ‘This the 2nd time. I have sent for him.‘). I can find no record of this student despite trying different spellings.
- Mr John (10.30 Rule: ‘Went for a walk after 10.30.‘). David W. John passed the Board of Education Certificate Course (Primary Division) in 1901. He was successful in College Associate examinations in Fine Art (‘Drawing freehand’ and ‘Drawing with chalk upon the blackboard’), English and History,
- Mr K. C. Johnson (10.30 Rule: ‘Very late: theatrical rehearsals.’). Kenneth C. Johnson passed in ‘Geology and Physical Geography and in Agriculture (Soils and Crops)’ in 1900.
- Mr E. C. Childs (Not signing a register: ‘Forgot.‘). Edward C. Childs was another Primary Education student who qualified in 1901. He passed a wide range of College Associate examinations: English, Mathematics, Fine Art, Greek, Latin, Philosophy, French and Geography. He continued his studies at Reading and obtained an external BA from the University of London in 1902.
- Evans (‘going out in the evening with girls’, etc.). Walter O. Evans went on to complete the Associateship in Letters in (English Literature, History, Geography, Maths, Education) with a Class II, Division ii pass.
- P. Thomas (‘going out in the evening with girls’, etc.). Three Thomases are mentioned during this period, but this is Powell Thomas who passed the Associateship Examinations in 1903 (English & History – both with Distinction, and Education).
I wondered whether Edward Childs was related to William MacBride Childs (then Vice-Principal; later Reading’s first Vice-Chancellor) but I can find no reference to him in Hubert Childs’s biography of his father.
Childs, H. (1976). W. M. Childs: an account of his life and work. Published by the author.
Dyhouse, C. (1995). No distinction of sex? Women in British universities, 1870-1939. London: UCL Press.
Holt, J. C. (1977). The University of Reading: the first fifty years. Reading: University of Reading Press.
Reading College. Official Gazette. No 2. Vol. I. January 3rd 1902.
Reading College. Official Gazette. No 12. Vol. I. August 20th 1902.
Reading College. Reports to the Academic Board, 1899-1900 and 1900-01.
Reading College. Calendar, 1899-1900.
University College, Reading. Official Gazette. No 18. Vol. I. December 24th 1902.
University College, Reading. Official Gazette. No 28. Vol. II. August 26th 1903.
University of Reading Special Collections. Uncatalogued papers relating to women students. Reference UHC AA-SA 8.