The Discipline Book

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.

Shows front cover

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.

Shows side view

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).

Shows first page
The first page of the Discipline Book

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’.

Shows the loose sheet
A loose sheet inserted into the Discipline Book

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).
Post Script

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.

Sources

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.

The Day Training College and the Master of Method

In my post about the Normal Department I noted that the origins of Teacher Education at Reading University could be traced to the founding of the University Extension College in 1892. In 1898 this became Reading College, soon followed by recognition as a Day Training College. This extended its field of operations and laid the foundations for what would eventually become today’s Institute of Education.

According to Carol Dyhouse’s ‘Students: a gendered history‘, day training departments in colleges and universities were introduced by the government in 1890 and were responsible for a significant increase in student numbers, particularly of women. Reading and Southampton followed in the steps of 13 other institutions in gaining recognition in 1899.

 

Shows college recognition
Reading College Calendar 1899-1900: Childs was still Lecturer in History & English Literature; he became Vice-Principal in 1900, Principal in 1903 and Vice-Chancellor of the University in 1926

By the time of Edith Morley’s appointment in November 1901, the Day Training College was preparing 80 full-time students for the Elementary Teachers’ Certificate on a course lasting two years. These students formed the bulk of full-timers in the arts and sciences.

The provision was innovative in at least two ways. First, from the outset most students were accommodated in halls of residence (rendering the phrase ‘day training’ inappropriate). And second, thanks to the cooperation of heads of the other departments, they were admitted to degree courses. The latter initiative raised some eyebrows in Whitehall but it seems to have been a success in as far as the trainees became fully integrated members of the student body and helped to secure the future of a group of subjects that became the nucleus of the Faculty of Letters. In other words, Education was at the very centre of academic activity.

A half century later, in 1949, Sir Frank Stenton, the University’s third Vice-Chancellor, paid tribute to the role of this early Education department in helping to overcome fears that the College was doomed to provide little more than technical instruction:

For this, all who are interested in the University of 1949 owe gratitude to the little group of teachers and students who formed the miserably housed and infelicitously named Day Training College of fifty years ago.‘ (p. 4)

Admission to the Day Training Department

Those eligible for admission were:

    1. Candidates who had obtained a first or second class pass in the Queen’s Scholarship Examination;
    2. Certified teachers who hadn’t received 2 years training;
    3. Graduates;
    4. Candidates over the age of 18 who had passed an examination approved by the Government Education Department.

Candidates in categories 2 and 3 only had to complete one year of the course.

Acceptance was subject to a health check conducted by the Medical Officer, Dr J. B. Hurry, and a declaration that it was the candidate’s bona fide intention to teach in a state school.

The College received £20 per student in fees (£10 from the student and £10 from the Government Education Department). Grants for maintenance for Queen’s Scholars consisted of £20 for women and £25 for men. Students not living at home paid a maintenance fee of £15 (women) or £12 (men).

The Course

As the first-year timetable below suggests, students were kept busy six days a week with a combination of subject knowledge and lectures on teaching method. These were interspersed with just four short slots for private study or tuition.

Illustrates timetable
The first published timetable for the Day Training Department (Reading College Calendar 1900-01, p. 119)
The Master of Method

The creation of the Day Training Department also marked the appointment of the first official Lecturer in Education. As can be seen from the first Calendar extract above, this was J. H. Gettins who served as ‘Master of Method‘ until 1907 when he was succeeded by H. S. Cooke.

Professor Albert Wolters, the subject of a previous post on this blog, had been a student in the Day Training Department in 1902. Nearly half a century later, he still had fond memories of Gettins:

The staff consisted of Mr. J. H. Gettins, who, harassed but cheerful, worked from morn to night, giving lectures and supervising school practice, knowing all the time that by reason of the training being concurrent with academic studies his Department was a nuisance.‘ (p. 18)

During Wolters’s time as a student, teaching practice was a mere three weeks per session and took place at the Swansea Road Board School. Further schools became involved later, including Redlands.

The Next 50 Years

In the half century following its establishment as a Day Training College in Valpy Street, the Education Department went from strength to strength and was responsible for a number of key innovations. A previous post has already mentioned the Department’s early contribution to educational research and to the schooling of evacuees during World War II, following which it was fully engaged in the government’s Emergency Training Scheme.

One particular initiative excited wide interest.  This was the University College’s ‘Farm School‘ at Shinfield, an experiment that took place between 1912 and 1926. It was attended by as many as 120 children annually from the borough including pupils from Redlands School (by then the Department’s ‘demonstration school’). Sadly, the scheme was abandoned as priorities changed when the University College became the University of Reading, but the tradition of Outdoor Education is still maintained today through the work of Dr Helen Bilton, Professor of Outdoor Learning at Reading’s Institute of Education.

Post Script

There were Mistresses of Method as well as Masters, though none of the lecturers in education at Reading ever had the title.

In Edith Morley’s chapter on women at universities, she includes training teachers as one of four kinds of opening available to women:

These posts, which are remunerated on about the same scale as other University lectureships are well suited to those whose interest lies mainly in purely educational matters. Girls who have obtained good degrees, but do not wish to devote themselves entirely to scholarship, will find here an attractive and ever-extending sphere of influence.’ (p. 19)

And:

Mistresses of Method are well aware that the ideal type of training has not yet been evolved: they are seeking new ways of carrying on their work and experimenting with new methods at the same time as they are guiding others along paths already familiar to themselves.‘ (p. 19)

During the 50 years between 1899 and 1949 there were 32 full-time Education staff at Reading. Seventeen were women (these figures omit academics such as Edith Morley who were in other departments but contributed subject-specialist expertise to Education courses).
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.

Barnard, H. C. (1949). A note on the term “Day Training College. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (p. 8). 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.

Dyhouse, C. (2006). Students: a gendered history. Abingdon: Routledge.

Morley, E. J. (2014). Women at the universities and university teaching as a profession. In E. J. Morley (Ed.), Women workers in seven professions: a survey of their economic conditions and prospects (pp. 11-24). London: Routledge. [Edited for the Studies Committee of the Fabian Women’s Group].

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

Reading College. Calendar, 1899-1900 & 1900-01.

Reading College. Report of the Academic Board, 1898-9 & 1899-1900.

Stenton, F. (1949). Vice-Chancellor’s foreword. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 4-6). University of Reading.

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

Reading’s ‘Normal Department’

Reading has a long and proud history of teacher education and its roots can be traced to the creation of the University Extension College in 1892. At first, courses took place in the ‘Pupil Teachers’ Department‘, but in 1893 it became known as ‘The Normal Department‘ and the name remained until 1897.

The map below, published in the Calendar of 1893-4, shows the location of the Normal Department on the site of the Extension College in Valpy Street. Only a year previously the  department’s premises had been the vicarage of St Lawrence’s Church.

Edited Map of the Site of the University Extension College showing the Normal Department in blue (Calendar 1893-4)
The same issue of the Calendar contains an impression of the view from Valpy Street of the north entrance to the Normal and Science Departments.

 

Until 1899 when it became a Day Training College, the work of the Department was fairly limited in scope and focused on subject knowledge rather than pedagogy. In the first year of the Normal Department it covered three main areas:

    1. Pupil Teachers attended classes on Saturday mornings and on weekday evenings after school. They were entitled to an allowance of 3 hours per week private study at school. Fees of £2 per annum were paid by their schools.
    2. Uncertificated Assistant Teachers attended courses of instruction that included Algebra, Geometry, Arithmetic, English, Music, Geography and History. There were separate timetables for men and women: men were not offered Music and women were offered fewer subjects because they had no access to Algebra or Geometry. The timetables make no mention of science. Participants paid somewhere between 4 shillings and 6 pence and 10 shillings and 6 pence per term, depending on its length and whether or not students attended small-class tutorials.
    3. The College collaborated with Berkshire County Council to provide classes for teachers in rural Elementary Schools. Courses gave technical instruction in areas such as Agriculture and Hygiene over a period of three years. They were held at Didcot, Newbury and Reading.

The duties of the Normal Department were carried out by a staff of six, led by a Superintendant and assisted by a Senior Tutor. They are named in the extract from the Calendar of 1893-4 shown below and include W. M. Childs who was later to become the University of Reading’s first Vice-Chancellor.

Staff of the Normal Department – the Principal was H. J. Mackinder (Calendar 1893-4)

In his memoir ‘Making a University‘, Childs gives an interesting insight into the business of educating pupil teachers:

‘As for the pupil teachers, they almost defeated me … I had been told that until lately all these pupil teachers had been taught on traditional lines by their own head teachers in their own schools, and that herding them into central classes was not popular.’ (p. 3)

The students were prepared for the Queen’s Scholarship Examination by which the thousands of entrants were rank-ordered in order to determine admission to training colleges.

Childs was not impressed, expressing sentiments that would strike a chord in some quarters today:

‘Under this forced draught, competition became nerve-racking, and mental preparation a hot-bed of cram. All teaching was ‘suspect’ unless it ‘paid’ ; and no device of memorizing was deemed too sordid if only it would win marks.’ (pp. 3-4)

Nevertheless, Childs overcame his difficulties with the  ‘genial disorder of the handful of boys‘ and the whispers of the girls. And he claimed that all his teaching skill derived from these early years of struggling to manage pupil teachers’ attention and goodwill.

What was ‘Normal’ about the department?

I had never encountered the use of ‘normal’ in the context of UK teacher education before. I was, however, acquainted with the ‘écoles normales‘ in the French system. Professor Cathy Tissot, then Head of the Institute of Education, told me that both ‘Normal Department’ and ‘Normal School’ had been standard terminology, historically used, in the United States.

A survey of Google Books showed that during the 19th Century and the early decades of the 20th, collocations of both normal+department and normal+school were many times more frequent in US publications than in the UK and that  US usage fell towards UK levels after 1940. Later usages tend to be historical accounts of educational settings.

The Oxford English Dictionary records eight citations of this sense of ‘normal’ but they didn’t explain what was ‘normal’ about a Normal Department. So I sent a query to ‘Grammarphobia’, a blog based in the USA about usage, word origins and grammar run by Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman. They pointed out that the term originally had to do with norms and standards and that the schools, departments, colleges and universities were normal in the sense of providing a model. Their carefully researched reply that encompasses usage in France, Britain and the US can be read in full here.

A future post will look at the next significant stage in the development of Teacher Education at Reading that laid the foundations for what was eventually to become today’s Institute of Education. This was the creation of the Day Training College in 1899.

Thanks

To Prof Cathy Tissot for originally raising this topic.

To Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman for their excellent blog and their speedy response to my queries.

Sources

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

Reading College. Calendar, 1898-99.

University Extension College. Calendar and general directory of the University Extension College, 1892-3.

University Extension College. Reading. Calendar, 1893-4 to 1897-98.

 

A Postcard Home

During the early days of the London Road Campus, a wide range of picture postcards was produced showing scenes of the College grounds and buildings. Many of these have been preserved in the University’s Special Collections and they include views of the cloisters, the front entrance, porters’ lodge and Green Bank. There are also interior shots of student hostels and halls.

Very occasionally a card turns up that has been written on, sent home and, at some stage in its long history, has been returned to the University and retained in its archives.

One such example is this card posted in 1907 that shows the sender’s room in St Andrew’s Hostel.

St Andrew’s Hostel (University of Reading, Special Collections)

The reverse of the card reveals that it was sent by someone called Alice to a Mrs Knapp in Penarth near Cardiff. 

The written message reads as follows:

Many thanks for letter & “Enclosure”. You will like to have this card of our room. I wish you could see a little more of it, it is rather like the photo on the wall! Did you like the hockey group? You did not mention it in the letter. Thank you for sending the Recorder. The concert went off well last night. I got an encore!!! Your photo is very prominent in the picture is’nt [sic] it!  The Principal has got “influ” – also Miss Morley & M. Salmon. My cold is much better. Much love Alice.’

Alice’s Postcard. The stamp shows Eward VII who ascended the throne on the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. (University of Reading, Special Collections)

The three members of academic staff with ‘influ’ were:

  • The Principal:  W. M. Childs who became Reading’s first Vice-Chancellor in 1926;
  • Miss Morley:  Edith Morley who became Professor of English Language in 1908, the first woman to hold an equivalent position in the UK;
  • M. Salmon:  Professor Amédée V. Salmon, Professor of French.

So who was Alice? It seemed logical to assume that she was writing to her mother or close family member and I was convinced that I had seen the name Alice Knapp somewhere in the College records. 

Lists of graduates were published in the college calendars so it was a simple matter to discover that  Alice graduated in 1907 with a second class honours BA in English and French (hence the references to Edith Morley and Amédée Salmon).

The following year she was made an Associate of  University College Reading (with Distinction) by virtue of her honours degree.

Lists of committee members of College societies in the Calendars show that Alice was a student who enjoyed extra-curricular life to the full.

  • In 1906-7 she was:
    • Deputy-Captain of Women’s Sculling,
    • Lady Lay Member of the Hockey Club,
    • Lady Captain of Tennis,
    • Member of the Debating Society Executive Committe Calendar.
  • In 1907-8:
    • Vice-President of The Women Students’ Union (founded in 1906),
    • President of the Women’s Branch of the Students’ Christian Union.
  • And in 1908-9:
    • Secretary of the Debating Society.

I wondered why she was still on committees after the award in her degree. The answer is in the lists of Education students – she was training to be a teacher, and in 1908 she passed the one-year postgraduate ‘Certificate (Theoretical and Practical) of the Teachers Training Syndicate, Cambridge‘.

ST ANDREWS HOSTEL

With regard to Alice’s accommodation, note that the words ‘My room in Old St Andrews London Rd. 1907‘ above the addressee indicate that Alice was lodging in the original hostel in London Rd rather than St Andrew’s Hall on Redlands Rd (see map below). The site for the latter was offered to the College by Alfred Palmer in 1909 and formally opened in 1911 (see Childs’s memoir, p. 176). Originally called ‘East Thorpe‘, it is now occupied by the Museum of English Rural Life and the University’s Special Collections.

Detail from a Map of 1906 showing St Andrew’s Hostel in London Rd, and East Thorpe on Redlands Rd next to the College campus.

The hostel in London Road was run by Mary Bolam, Censor of Women Students, as shown by the Student Handbook of 1908-9. 

Extract from the Student Handbook of 1908-9 (p. 37)
POST SCRIPT

I don’t know what happened to Alice Knapp when she left Reading. All I can find is the announcement of her BA in The Englishwoman’s Review (see below) under the heading of University and Educational Intelligence. It seems that the Review recorded the academic qualification of every woman graduate.

THANKS

To Professor Viv Edwards for locating the census records of the Knapp family in Penarth.

SOURCES

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

The Englishwoman’s Review of Social and Industrial Questions, Vol. XXXIX, No. 1, January 1908.

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

University of Reading. Calendar,  Issues from 1906-7 to 1910-11.

University of Reading Special Collections, Photos in MS5305: University History, Halls, Great Hall.

The Censor of Discipline

My previous post about the Censor of Women Students noted that Mary Bolam took up the position in 1901. It was not until 1906, however, that a male ‘Censor of Discipline’ was mentioned in the University College Calendar, although W. M Childs appears to have taken on the role in the Extension College and Reading College. I assume that he was responsible for the enforcement of the college’s rules and regulations.

It may be no coincidence that the creation of the post, possibly in imitation of Oxford University, took place in the same year that W. M. Childs and a small group of senior academics began plotting the long journey towards university status.

The position was occupied by Herbert Knapman who had been appointed to the Mathematics Department as Assistant Lecturer in 1903 and promoted to Lecturer in Geometry the following year. Despite being acknowledged as a brilliant academic, Knapman devoted himself to administrative duties rather than research and publication. As this profile from the Student Handbook shows, he combined the roles of Tutorial Secretary and Censor of Discipline: 

Profile of Herbert Knapman, Censor of Discipline, in the Student Handbook of 1908-09

From 1927 he supplemented these responsibilities with the position of University Registrar until his death in 1932.

Knapman was a close ally of the Principal, W. M. Childs, and one of the original band of six academics who from 1906 helped to develop his vision of ‘making a university’, In doing so he served as secretary to committees that investigated the feasibility of becoming a university institution (the Policy Committee of 1909-11) and the committee that prepared the College for university status.

From the start, Childs was impressed by Knapman’s efficiency:

The appointment of Herbert Knapman as Tutorial Secretary in 1906 meant that henceforth a mass of academic detail would be handled with a precision and promptitude never more valuable than in a period of growth and inquiry.‘ (W. M. Childs, 1933, p. 124)

A glowing tribute can also be found in Hubert Childs’s biography of his father, referring to Knapman’s ‘remarkable ability as an organiser’, his reticence, tirelessness, loyalty, humour and public spirit.

Herbert Knapman at the Degree Ceremony, July 1929 (University of Reading, Special Collections). See below for the full image.

Like Lucy Ashcroft, Knapman is mentioned by name in Reading’s Charter of Incorporation of 1926. On his death in 1932 his obituary was published in the journal Nature.

POST SCRIPT

Knapman must have been something of an amateur ornithologist. He was the one who compiled the list of 30 bird species spotted on the London Road Campus that appears in W. M. Childs’s memoir (p. 52).

THE GRADUATION PROCESSION, 6 JULY 1929
University of Reading, Special Collections

From left to right: Prof H. A. D. Neville (Agricultural Chemistry), Herbert Knapman (Registrar), Leonard G. Sutton (Vice-President of Council), W. G. de Burgh (Deputy Vice-Chancellor), Alfred Palmer (President of Council), the Mace-Bearer, William Macbride Childs (Vice-Chancellor).

According to Holt, This was Childs’s last degree ceremony.

SOURCES

Childs, H. (1976). W. M. Childs: an account of his life and work. Published privately by the author.

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.

N., E. H. (1932). Mr. Herbert Knapman. Nature 130, 426–427.

University College Reading, Student Handbook, 1908-09.

University of Reading. Charter of Incorporation, 17 March 1926. 

University of Reading, Special Collections.  Academic Processions, MS 5305.

The Censor of Women Students

Lucy Ashcroft, Censor of Women Students at Reading, was mentioned in previous posts about Women’s Sculling and women and boat racing. These references prompted an enquiry about the role of the Censor.

My source of information about colleges and universities outside Reading is Carol Dyhouse’s ‘No distinction of sex‘, a history of women in British universities. Dyhouse points out that:

University authorities were in loco parentis, and felt that women needed special protection and chaperonage that could only be discharged by a woman. The 1880s and 1890s were, after all, decades in which controversy still raged over the potentially deleterious effects of intellectual exertion on women’s minds and physiology.’ (p. 59)

Essentially, the Censor was responsible for the welfare of women students, but the title varied between institutions:

  • Tutor (or Senior Tutor) to Women Students
  • Lady Superintendent
  • Lady Tutor
  • Dean of Women Students
  • Advisor (or General Advisor) to Women Students

Details of the role varied too. There were issues about whether the person appointed should be an academic and the extent to which they should be involved in academic matters. Sometimes the duties led to conflict – responsibilities such as the acceptance or rejection of applicants could have unpleasant consequences.

There was scepticism about the usefulness of the position in some quarters, but it was robustly championed by the Headmistresses’ Association, at least partly to appease parents who were anxious about their daughters going on to higher education.

Edith Morley mentions the role as a career opportunity for women in her edited volume of 1914, ‘Women workers in seven professions.’ In one of the chapters she authored herself, ‘Women at the universities and university teaching as a profession,‘ she classifies it as an administrative post but insists strongly that it should be filled by an academic:

This post [Dean or Tutor of Women Students] is usually  and should always be held by a woman of senior academic standing, whose position in the class-room or laboratory commands as much respect as her authority outside. The Dean or Tutor is responsible for the welfare and discipline of all women students, and is nowadays usually a member of the Senate or academic governing body.’ (p. 17)

CENSORS AT READING: MARY BOLAM

Reading had both a Censor of Discipline (male) and a Censor of Women Students (female). As far as I have been able to discover, the first mention of the latter is in a late notice inserted into the Reading College Calendar for 1901-2 after it had been printed:

Late insert in the Calendar of 1901-2 announcing the appointment of Mary Bolam.

Mary Bolam was Censor from 1901 to 1911. From the outset, her address is given as St Andrew’s Hostel and it seems that her position of Censor was inextricably linked with that of Warden. She remained Warden of St Andrew’s until she retired in 1927. In his memoir, Childs recalls that:

Beginning in 1890 with two or three students in private rooms, she [Mary Bolam] lived to preside for many years over one of the largest and best appointed women’s halls to be found in any English university, old or new.‘ (p. 182).

She was clearly a dynamic force, described by Childs as ‘the merciless enemy of the slovenly‘. And Childs devotes a glowing testimonial of nearly a page and a half to Mary Bolam’s personality, skill and effectiveness: 

She had organising genius, strong will, clear purpose, north-country toughness under trial and benevolence of heart.‘ (p. 182).

The image below showing Bolam and Childs in 1901 is an enlarged section of the photo of the Education Department from Professor Barnard’s book of 1949 that was shown in full in my earlier post about the ‘Criticism Lesson’.

Mary Bolam (left) in 1901 seated with W. M. Childs, Vice-Principal of Reading College and the University’s first Vice-Chancellor.

Mary Bolam is also praised in Holt’s history of the University of Reading, though not quite as effusively. He reports that she had been ‘the doyenne of the women wardens‘ (p. 64), that ‘her own students adored her‘ and that ‘She was indefatigable and she was a Tartar’ (p. 65).

Her status was undoubtedly enhanced by being a graduate and having teaching responsibilities. Successive editions of the Calendar record teaching duties in Geography, ‘Preliminary Studies’ and in Primary Education (she had previously been an assistant at Cheltenham Ladies College under Dorothea Beale). Holt notes her membership of Senate as the first ‘statutory woman’ (p. 275). 

LUCY ASHCROFT

I am not sure exactly when Lucy Ashcroft succeeded Mary Bolam as Censor. She is not described as such in the Calendar until 1913-14, several years after Bolam had relinquished the role. 

Like Bolam, Ashcroft was a graduate with teaching experience in schools. She first appears in the College Calendar of 1907-08 as Assistant Lecturer in Mathematics. A brief profile (including her address) can be found in the Student Handbook of 1908-09:

Lucy Ashcroft’s qualifications and experience published in the Student Handbook of 1908-9, p. 70

Given her experience of teaching mathematics in schools, it is not surprising that the Calendar of 1913-14 lists her not only as Censor of Women Students but also Lecturer in Secondary Education, following in the steps of Caroline Herford, the first holder of that position. Between 1921 and 1922 Ashcroft was also acting Warden of Wessex Hall. 

Lucy Ashcroft is mentioned by name in Reading’s Charter of Incorporation (1926). The position of Censor entailed membership of the University Court. She remained in post until she retired in 1942.

The above has focused on women censors at Reading. My next contribution will be about the male Censor of Discipline, Herbert Knapman.

POST SCRIPT

According to the Ashcroft family,  Lucy was the aunt of the actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft (1907-1991) – my thanks to Sharon Maxwell for this information.

SOURCES

Barnard, H. C. (Ed.). (1949). The Education Department through fifty years. University of Reading.

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

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.

Morley, E. J. (2014). Women at the universities and university teaching as a profession. In E. J. Morley (Ed.), Women workers in seven professions: a survey of their economic conditions and prospects (pp. 11-24). London: Routledge. [Edited for the Studies Committee of the Fabian Women’s Group].

Reading College. Calendar, 1901-02.

University College Reading, Calendars, 1902-3 to 1913-14, and 1921-22.

University College Reading, Student Handbook, 1908-09.

University of Reading. Charter of Incorporation, 17 March 1926. 

Evacuees and Reading’s first PhD in Education

THE EVACUEE ARCHIVE

The University of Reading’s Special Collections contain a wide variety of material relating to World War II evacuation. In addition to books, interviews and documents, the archive includes 25 boxes of memoirs collected by Dr Martin Parsons, formerly Senior Lecturer in History Education at Reading and Director of the Secondary PGCE Programme. 

Currently a team of volunteers led by Joanna Hulin, Reading Room Assistant at MERL, is assisting with the cataloguing process in order to make the content of these memoirs more accessible to readers.

The memoirs contain many recurring themes, but one which is particularly striking to anyone who has worked in Education is the disruption to schooling experienced by children of all ages. Colin, for example, who was evacuated from London to Essex in September 1939, had no schooling for a month after his arrival. His Geography teacher gave him and fellow pupils the task of mapping the village to keep them out of mischief (D EVAC A/1/488).

The lack of suitable school premises meant that, on arrival, many classes had to be held in the open air.  And the severe winter of 1939-40 further disrupted attendance. Frequently school buildings had to be shared between local children and evacuees on a half-day basis. Sometimes, homesick children returned home early only to find that their schools had closed. In the Liverpool area alone it was reported that thousands of children went without lessons for 10 months.

Nothing speaks more poignantly of the plight of some of the children, however, than this comment from an anonymous respondent (D EVAC A/1/546) who had been evacuated from London to Somerset:

University of Reading Special Collections
THE UNIVERSITY’S FIRST PHD IN EDUCATION

It was interesting to discover, therefore, that the first Education PhD listed in Professor Barnard’s history of the Education Department at Reading addressed some of the issues referred to above. What made it even more interesting was its focus on the town of Reading and, in particular, that it was a contemporary account or an investigation conducted while the evacuation was still in progress.

The thesis by Charles Preston Rawson was completed in 1943 and has the title ‘Some aspects of evacuation.’ Its structure and presentation is very different from any thesis I have seen before. And the format is not what would be expected in the Institute of Education today. However it contains a wealth of detail, documentary analysis, a questionnaire survey and an account of an intervention conducted by the author himself. It also presents a considerable amount of raw data.

In total, there are five volumes plus an envelope of supplementary material.

Rawson’s thesis (available from the Whiteknights Library off-site store)

I believe this to be a valuable resource for historians of the period, so it is worth saying a little more about the content.

  1. Volume 1:  deals with ‘Preparations for Evacuation’. Following a detailed analysis of official documents, Rawson concludes that, ‘It may be that I have shown the meaning of “Schooling in an Emergency”‘ (p. 11). There is also a case study of Springfield School (in Hackney?) consisting of a detailed diary of events leading up to evacuation.
  2. Volumes 2, 3, & 4:  provide the results of a survey consisting of 19 mostly open-ended questions about ‘conditions in the London reception area up to Midsummer 1941.‘ The questionnaire went out to 112 evacuated schools and 104 were returned – an impressive response during a national emergency. For two years, Rawson also maintained close contact with 77 evacuated schools that were housed in or around Reading. He reports that, during this period, the school population of Reading increased by 55%.
  3. Volume 5:  reports what is referred to as ‘The Reading Experiment.‘ This intervention was a personal initiative by Rawson conducted with the approval of the London County Council Inspectorate.  It was an ambitious project that bypassed the problem of shared school premises and half-day education by hiring accommodation and borrowing equipment.
  4. Supplementary Materials:  include spreadsheets, statistics, maps, graphs and diagrams meticulously produced by hand using different coloured inks.
Rawson’s Thesis with the Supplementary Materials

The schools surveyed are not specified by name in the description of the sample which simply tabulates the type of school, the name of the head teacher and the area to which it was evacuated. However, they are identifiable because they are all named in the handwritten spreadsheet of school rolls (see below), and many are mentioned by name in the results section. Given the large size of the sample of London schools, it is inevitable that they would include some of those mentioned in the Special Collections’ evacuee memoirs.

Rolls of Evacuated Schools (Supplementary Material Accompanying Rawson’s Thesis)

One area addressed in the survey is ‘Has it been possible to carry on normal full-time education?‘ (Q7a). The answer is complex: by 1943 the situation had stabilised and, at least in terms of the number of hours of education, most schools were providing an equivalent of whole-day schooling. With regard to the combination of quantity and quality of the curriculum, however, there were reservations expressed by nearly half the schools in the sample.

THE UNIVERSITY OF READING AND THE EVACUATION

It is worth noting that the University of Reading has a number of other connections to evacuees and evacuee studies. Towards the end of Volume 5 of Rawson’s thesis there is a tribute to the University’s provision of courses of lectures and field excursions for evacuated teachers. These were co-ordinated by Reading’s Education Department and contributions were made by professors and lecturers from across the University. According to H. Armstrong’s account of the Education Department, students still in training also did their bit by helping out in local schools that were struggling with overcrowding and staff shortages.

Following her retirement in 1940, Edith Morley spent a year as a billeting officer in Reading. This is how she describes her role:

…I helped with work among the evacuees, taking children to their billets, visiting the billetees and their hosts, distributing dinner tickets and doing odd jobs of clerical work at a community centre and the like.‘ (p. 161).

Following this, she devoted her attention to helping refugees where she could make use of her foreign language skills.

 It is also interesting that, prior to her appointment at Reading, Magdalen Vernon, pioneering experimental psychologist who became the first female Head of Psychology at Reading, conducted a study of the consequences of evacuation for adolescent girls. The investigation includes the effects on academic working habits, social relationships, leisure activities and attitudes to careers.

FINALLY

It would be neglectful to conclude this post without mentioning a second Education PhD that was completed in 1943. This was Isabella Erskine Campbell’s investigation into abstract thinking and language development in children of ‘average intelligence’. 

Campbell’s thesis, set out in a format more like that of today, was written in the context of secondary school reorganisation. The results have implications for issues that are still relevant: selection at eleven plus,  testing and examinations, curriculum, equal opportunities and the place of vocational education.

This PhD is a landmark because Isabella Campbell was a lecturer and tutor in the Department of Education, and the first member of staff in that department to be awarded a doctorate by the University of Reading.

PS

Sadly, I can find no record of Charles Rawson publishing his research.

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.

Barnard, H. C. (Ed.). (1949). The Education Department through fifty years. University of Reading.

Campbell, I. E. (1943). A study of abstract thinking and linguistic development with reference to the education of the child of ‘average’ intelligence. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Reading.

Evacuation – a mammoth operation to move 200,000 to safety. (1957, November 19). The Liverpool Echo, p. 8.

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

Rawson, C. P. (1943). Some aspects of evacuation. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Reading.

University of Reading Calendar 1939/40 to 1943/44.

University of Reading Special Collections, Memoirs of Evacuated Children during World War 2 – D EVAC A .

Vernon, M. D. (1940). A study of some effects of evacuation on adolescent girls. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 12, 114-134.

Women Students and Boat Racing

The women’s FA Cup final on December 5th 2021 was a reminder that the Football Association had effectively banned women’s football a century earlier by denying access to its pitches, a ban that remained in place until 1969. Football was felt to be an unsuitable activity for females.

It was thanks to the social historian Carol Dyhouse, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Sussex, that I became aware of a related sporting controversy at University College Reading. It concerned women and boating.

Dyhouse, who had been an undergraduate at Reading, included the College/University in her sample of higher education institutions for her book ‘No Distinction of Sex‘ (1995), an analysis of the place of women students and academic staff in British universities between 1870 and 1939. This in-depth research draws on an impressive range of sources including the archives of colleges and universities across England, Scotland and Wales.

In a section titled ‘Boat-racing, women and sport‘ (pp. 202-6), Dyson recounts how in 1917 W. M. Childs, Principal of University College Reading, set up a committee to investigate whether racing in boats was an appropriate activity for women students. Her account was so intriguing that I asked the Special Collections staff if they could track down the sources. Dyhouse’s original reference (Box no. 253) was no longer active but Sharon Maxwell, Archivist at MERL, discovered its location.

The first relevant document is an undated memo containing an extract from the minutes of the Academic Board of July 2 1917. It stated that a motion had been passed concerning boat racing and women students:

That a Committee be appointed to inquire into conditions which obtain in other colleges, as to the practice of rowing, racing and sculling, and as to the safeguards which are adopted in those Colleges in the interests of women students.

The Committee was to consist of:

  • Edith Morley, Professor of English Language;
  • Mary Bolam, Warden of St Andrew’s Hall;
  • Lucy Ashcroft, Censor of Women Students.

The first step was an explanatory letter and questionnaire from Professor Childs seeking opinions from eight colleges and universities. The letter, which I referred to in my previous post about the Women’s Sculling section, worded the issue as follows:

The question has arisen here as to whether our women students should be allowed to have rowing races. …. This is a question which obviously is not free from difficulty and about which more than one opinion has already been expressed.‘ (Dated 19th October 1917)

Among other things, the accompanying questionnaire asked:

  • whether women students were allowed to take part in rowing (as opposed to sculling or boating);
  • whether they were allowed to race;
  • if forbidden, for what reasons;
  • if permitted, whether medical certificates, certificates of swimming proficiency or ‘a special costume’ were required;
  • whether the boats had sliding seats;
  • the length of the course;
  • whether there were competitions against other colleges;
  • whether there was any annoyance from attendance by the general public;
  • and, finally, ‘whether in your opinion rowing or racing by women students is, or would be, prejudicial to health and welfare.

A memo from the Principal of 2nd November 1917 summarised the responses. Of the eight institutions canvassed, four were  positive and four were negative.

Even those expressing positive attitudes often required safeguards such as medical inspections (Bedford College) or other knowledge of the student’s good health (Westfield College). Westfield and Bedford Colleges sculled on Regents Park Lake which was so shallow that swimming proficiency was said to be irrelevant. A positive reply was received from University College, London that concluded, ‘..there is nothing prejudicial to their health or general welfare.‘ All three of the above colleges favoured shorter courses for women.

The most reassuring reaction, however, was from Dr Aldrich Blake, Dean of the London School of Medicine who pronounced rowing healthy and harmless and suggested that rowing clubs should be trusted to decide their own regulations.

The views of those opposed to racing included:

  • sculling and punting were fine, but for recreation only – attaining competitive standards would be bad for women (Royal Holloway College);
  • rowing is acceptable but, ‘I am inclined to think that rowing racing might occasionally be prejudicial to the health of women students’ (the Principal of Somerville);
  • rowing is allowed but, ‘racing would be prejudicial to the health and welfare of women students‘ (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford).

Of the negative responses, a supplementary letter (see below) was returned by Sir Isambard Owen, Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University, using his status as a physician to reinforce his opinion that female students should not be racing in boats.

Reply from the Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University, 12th October 1917 (University of Reading Special Collections)

At this point, the papers from 1917 concluded without any indication of the final outcome (no doubt a record exists somewhere but I haven’t found it). Nevertheless, if we jump to 1921, a letter to the Principal from an E. Verity, Secretary of the Women’s Sculling Section, provides some clues. In it she requests ‘permission for us to include racing amongst the other activities of the section.’ The key section is as follows:

We understand that in 1917 this was refused by the Academic Board but we beg to ask that this decision be reconsidered. We are not aware of the grounds upon which the previous refusal was based….‘ (Dated 28th February 1921)

The letter produced an unambiguous result: two months later a memo was circulated headed ‘Boat Racing for Women Students. Regulations of the Academic Board.‘ Written in pencil on the copy in the Special Collections is, ‘Copy sent to Miss Verity‘. The requirements in brief were these:

  1. A medical certificate attesting fitness for such exercise.
  2. Written permission from parents or guardian.
  3. Competing against a male crew was forbidden.
  4. The racing course for women should be no longer than half a mile.
  5. The certificate and written permission were to be submitted to the Censor of Women Students (Lucy Ashcroft) who would notify the relevant hall wardens.

These regulations, formulated during the era of the University College, were still in place after the Charter had been granted. Thus in 1931 Franklin Sibly, who had succeeded Childs as Vice-Chancellor, felt obliged to remind women boaters of the first two rules in a memo addressed to the Secretary of the Women’s Sculling and Rowing clubs and copied to the wardens of women’s halls. According to the final paragraph:

These conditions must be strictly observed. The rowing and sculling captains in each Hall will in future be responsible for collecting the certificates and permissions, and for handing them to the Warden of the Hall.‘ (Dated 11th November 1931)

The suggestion of hall teams in this extract is reveaIing. I don’t know when inter-hall competition started, but the image below of the St David’s crew shows that it was in place by 1924. According to Smith and Bott’s pictorial history of university education at Reading, St David’s were narrowly defeated on this occasion by Wessex Hall in the final of the Challenge Fours.

St David’s Women’s Rowing Crew, 1924 (University of Reading Imagebank)
SOURCES

Dyhouse, C. (1995). No distinction of sex? Women in British universities, 1870-1939. London: UCL Press.

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

University of Reading Special Collections, Uncatalogued papers, Reference UHC AA-SA 8.

Rowing and Sculling: a Difference of Gender?

When I bought my copy of Edith Morley’s reminiscences from Two Rivers Press, I never expected it to contain so much humour. Among the most amusing anecdotes are tales of Morley’s early sporting experiences playing hockey or ‘bicycling’.

This is yet another area in which Morley was a pioneer –  the 1890s was still a time when women were discouraged from taking part in sport or vigorous exercise. As she said herself:

‘[We] were … perpetually instructed that women’s bodies were not adapted by nature to strenuous exertion. Nor had it altogether ceased to be considered a mark of refinement to be “delicate” and to possess feet and hands that were disproportionately small and correspondingly useless…’ (‘Before and After’, pp. 60-61).

Although Morley gives an account of her membership of the King’s College Hockey Club and the Bicycle Club, she never mentions boating in any form, whether rowing or sculling. So when I noticed in the College Calendar of 1905-6 that the Secretary of Women’s Sculling was a certain Miss Morley, I doubted whether it was THE Miss Morley. But the following year initials were included (see image) and there was no mistaking her. Further investigation revealed that she held the post from 1904 until 1907.

The College Calendar 1906-7, p. 267, showing Edith Morley as Secretary of Women’s Sculling.

But why in the above extract is rowing for men and sculling for women? Surely the difference lies not in the matter of gender, but in whether a single rowing oar or two sculls are used to propel the craft.

Reports from the Athletic Club submitted regularly to the  College Magazine show that, while the men’s rowing reports between 1904 and 1908 gave lengthy detail about names and weights of crews, training, technique and competitions, the corresponding Women’s Sculling Section had extremely brief entries containing none of the above. Rather, they were preoccupied with membership, swimming tests and even picnics by the river. There is even a mention of punting.

The early ups and downs of Women’s Sculling can be traced in the Magazine like this:

  • 1904, Spring Term, Issue 1, p. 17:  Edith Morley records the founding of the Women’s Sculling Section. She notes that, ‘Regular practices will begin as soon as swimming tests have been surmounted, and schemes for picnics and river parties are also under discussion.
  • 1904, Spring Term, Issue 3, p. 18:  Morley complains that, ‘There has been so much slackness about submitting to the swimming test, that the captain is beginning to have doubts whether the proposed picnic will be able to take place this term.’
  • 1904, AutumnTerm, Issue 2, p. 16:  things are looking up! There are now 18 members and Morley states that, ‘some pleasant pulls have been had on Thursday afternoons.
  • 1905, Winter Term, Issue 2, p. 22:  between 10 and 12 women turn out every week. However, ‘It is rumoured that many people would like to join the club, but are unable to swim.‘ Swimming tests are planned for early next term (this entry is by B. M. Willmer, the Captain).
  • 1905, Autumn Term, Issue 1, p. 23:  a large number of students sign up for the club but unfortunately few can swim. Prospective members are urged to learn as soon as possible.
  • 1906, Winter Term, Issue 2, p. 23:  ‘The club has been unable to meet this term on account of the rule that members must pass a swimming test….’ The rule is amended so that a letter from ‘someone in authority‘ can attest to swimming prowess.
  • 1906, Spring Term, Issue 3, p. 24:  a successful swimming test has taken place and there are now ‘twelve quite enthusiastic members‘.
  • 1907, Spring Term, Issue 3, p. 21:  a daring development! ‘Some members are to vary sculling by occasional punting. This will prove a lively diversion as no one is efficient at present.
  • 1907, Autumn Term, Issue 1, p. 32:  the Sculling Section welcomes a Miss Ashcroft as a member. As no other new members were mentioned by name, I believe this was Lucy Ashcroft, Lecturer in Mathematics, who became the Censor of Women Students in 1911.
  • 1908, Spring Term, Issue 3, p. 30:  progress! There are now 30 members. Flooding of the Thames is the only problem.

From the above, which includes all the references to the Women’s Sculling up to Spring 1908, it is clear that racing played no part at all in the early days of women’s boating at Reading. This was confirmed nearly a decade later by a letter from Professor Childs to fellow college principals and vice-chancellors in which he wrote that, ‘such competitions as have taken place among women have been confined to tests of style and general efficiency‘.

Surprisingly, there is no mention of the ability to swim or of swimming tests in the notes from the Men’s Rowing Section!

In the next post I will show how Edith Morley’s expertise in this area was put to good use a decade later when the Principal set up a Committee of Inquiry into whether boat racing was a suitable activity for women students.

By Contrast:  Sculling in 2011 (University of Reading Imagebank)
SOURCES

Childs, W. M.  Letter to college principals and vice-chancellors, 9th October 1917. University of Reading Special Collections, Uncatalogued papers, Reference UHC AA-SA 8.

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 Magazine of University College Reading, issues from Spring Term 1904 to Spring Term 1908. 

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

University College Reading. Calendar, 1905-6, 1906-7 & 1910-11.

The College Boat Club at Reading 1902-3

The recently published booklet ‘A History of Sport at University of Reading 1992-2018‘ was designed by Chris Lewis with research by Dr Margaret Houlbrooke. It records the foundation of the College Boat Club in 1895 that later became the Reading University Boat Club, and documents outstanding achievements in rowing and sculling by its many distinguished members, male and female.

As this and the following two posts will show, the history of boat racing at Reading was a gendered one from which women were excluded for many years. For the men, on the other hand, the foundations of competitive success were in place relatively early, although sometimes it may have been necessary to provide a bit more motivation.

In the ‘Spring’ Term of 1902 (our Summer Term: see note below), the section of the Reading College Magazine devoted to men’s rowing lamented:

‘Where are the Wet-bobs of the College, those who urged the need of a Rowing Section, and gave the scheme real support? Four boats—a Four, two Pairs, and a Tub-pair, are at the service of all who aspire to aquatic fame, and yet some half-dozen is the total of those who register the attendance at the river, and, to some of these, a slight cold, the prospect of a shower, or a little stiffness in the joints is sufficient excuse for shirking.’ (p. 17)

By the following autumn things had obviously improved because the newly titled ‘Magazine of University College Reading’ reported (p.17) that there was a prospect of a viable ‘four’, and that:

‘a goodly muster of enthusiastic men pay their tribute to Father Thames.’ 

‘Rowing Notes’ for Spring 1903 mentioned that a Coxed Four was in training and making good progress. Competitive events were planned and there were hopes of obtaining a coach from Oxford. Progress continued in the Summer Term with the news that coxed pairs and coxed fours were now racing, and culminated with the publication of the image below.

From the University College Magazine, Summer Term 1903 (final page)
  • Back Row:  W. H. Fearis (Hon. Sec.); J. H. Sacret (Coach)
  • Middle Row:  G. Canham (Captain) (Bow), 10 st. 1 lb.; C. H. Laver (Stroke), 11 st. 3 lbs.; T. M. Forster (no. 3), 11 st. 12 lbs.; A. F. Sandys (no. 2), 10 st. 4 lbs.
  • Front: H. Lloyd (Cox).

The next post will take a look at women’s boating at Reading at the beginning of the 20th Century.

NOTE

Reading College documentation divides the academic year into the Autumn Term, Winter Term and Spring Term (the Autumn, Spring, and Summer Terms of today) .

University College Reading officially adopted the modern system, but there are some documents that still use the original classification.

This has caused me some confusion.

SOURCES

University of Reading (2021). A history of sport at University of Reading 1892-2018.

Reading College Magazine, 1902, Spring Term, Vol. III.

The Magazine of University College Reading, 1902, Autumn Term, Vol III.

The Magazine of University College Reading, 1903, Spring Term, Vol I.

The Magazine of University College Reading, 1903, Summer Term, Vol II.