The Tamesis Scandal Supplement

In January 2023 I mentioned that in the early 1900s, University College, Reading had a good reputation in some quarters for its treatment of women students. At the same time I pointed out some of the unpleasantness women students faced, and cited examples of misogyny in Tamesis, the official College magazine. The worst of these, though, was not in the magazine itself but in an unofficial ‘Tamesis Scandal Supplement’ published, presumably by male students, in June 1927.

Brief details of its content are in the earlier post but, for the moment, I want to use it as an example of the meticulous preservation work that is undertaken by the University’s Museums and Special Collections team.

When I came across it nestling among the official copies of Tamesis, the four-page supplement was seriously damaged, flaking (see image below), and very fragile. In my post I explained that it has been removed from the Reading Room at the MERL to be repaired.

This work has now been painstakingly completed by Victoria Stevens ACR, Paper Conservator at the University Museums and Special Collections Services.

Before & after
The Tamesis Scandal Supplement before and after repair

Victoria explained to me the process of repairing and preserving this and similar documents. She describes this as a ‘light repair’ with a minimum amount of ‘filling in’ the missing parts:

    • Cleaning with a latex sponge;
    • resizing with methyl cellulose dissolved in alcohol;
    • repairing with Japanese paper made from kozo fibre (a thin, but very strong, long fibre);
    • storing in a folder of acid-free card within a transparent Melinex archival polyester wallet.

The document is still very fragile but available for reference in the Reading Room at the MERL where it can be found in its original location among the 1927 issues of Tamesis (Call No.: University History Collection–TAM).

Unfortunately, the rejuvenation of the supplement does not make the sentiments it contains any more palatable. But more of that and the context in which it appeared in a future post.

Thanks

To Victoria Stevens ACR, Paper Conservator at the University Museums and Special Collections Services, for carrying out the repair and sharing all the details.

 

 

Edith Morley: the ‘Professorship Battle’ (part two)

Whiteknights plaque
Plaque at the entrance to the Edith Morley Building, Whiteknights.

On learning that Edith Morley had become Professor of English Language in 1908 (see my previous post) one might have thought that it was the end of the story. Far from it – and this time she didn’t just threaten to leave, she actually submitted a formal letter of resignation!

1911-12: A risky attempt at renegotiation

By 1911 the appointment of a Professor of English Literature was imminent. A Mr J. E. V. Crofts had recently been appointed Lecturer in English Language and Literature and, according to Childs’s handwritten notes, this new appointment would ease his workload.

In the meantime it is apparent that there had been attempts by Morley to renegotiate her position in the light of the impending appointment. The evidence for this is contained in a typed ‘private’ letter from Childs to Morley of 4th June 1912. In it, he stresses that he is not prepared to consider any change to their previously agreed arrangements, including the wording of her title. He wants her to stay but the half-time arrangement on a salary of £300 will not change. There is no prospect of the money increasing for a half-time contract and there is no chance of her becoming full time. Apparently she has told him that she had ‘prospects elsewhere’.

Further correspondence (Morley to Childs, 4th & 17th June 1912) shows that Morley is still deeply unhappy with the title of Professor of English Language. She has taken advice from elsewhere, however, and will agree to the title even though she regards it as anomalous (in her reminiscences, she refers to English Language as, ‘the branch of my subject in which I was not and had no intention of becoming a specialist’). Furthermore, she will keep to their agreement of 1908 even though her being half-time would compromise the equality of the two professorships.

Up to this point, I have had nothing but admiration for Edith Morley and her achievements, as must be clear to anyone who has read the many references to her in this blog. Nevertheless, even I have to concede that she committed a serious tactical error in a letter of 17th June by including the following statements that, in my opinion, clearly conflict with the 1908 protocol:

‘If the post is given to a man, however promising, whose achievement is at present small, while in standing, teaching & other experience he is much junior to myself, I cannot accept his “authority in (literature) matters which concern us both”, but shall have to resign at once. I do not demand impossibilities, but the field is limited, & everything depends on the candidate selected.’

This apparent attempt to impose conditions on the new appointment did not go down well. In a letter of 18th June, Childs reminds her of their earlier agreement and points out that the College Council has a free hand to appoint any suitable candidate. He complains, ‘You raise fresh difficulties or prospects of difficulties at every turn.’ He feels unable to proceed with a previous arrangement that she is now trying to change and must be free to propose a new settlement.

Realising she has gone too far, Morley penned a retraction on 19th June: ‘My letter seems to have conveyed exactly the opposite impression from that which was intended.’ She insists that she intends to make the conditions of 1908 workable and wants Childs to give up the idea of replacing the old agreement.

The following day (20th June), she again writes that she is happy with the conditions of 1908 and wants this letter substituted for the one of the 17th. Nevertheless, Childs insists on forwarding both sets of correspondence to the Finance Committee.

The dean intervenes

On the same day (20th June 1912), Professor W. G. de Burgh, Dean of the Faculty of Letters, sent out a memo in which he claimed that Morley lacked the qualities necessary to lead such an important department and recommended a revision of the 1908 agreement, something he had never been happy with.

Her recent letters to Childs simply demonstrated her lack of judgement and discretion. He believes she could retain her title but should be unequivocally subordinate to the new Professor. Otherwise there was a danger that she might assume an albeit unofficial leadership of the women members of the College!

Dean
Professor W. G. de Burgh, Dean of the Faculty of Letters from 1926 to 1934 (University of Reading Special Collections)
June 1912: The finance Committee’s verdict

The Finance Committee issued its report on 21st June 1912, and its decision was passed on to Morley in a letter from Childs on the  22nd June. There were three main points:

    1. There should be a ‘fair trial’ of the agreement of 1908; Morley would remain half-time.
    2. If the arrangements did not work they could be modified.
    3. When the College became a university, the Council would have the right to make a single professor responsible for the whole subject of English language and Literature.

Morley immediately sought clarification of the third point (22nd June), but Childs insisted that it spoke for itself and refused to elaborate (24th June).

July 2012: Professor R. Dewar is appointed

The appointment Robert Dewar as Professor of English Literature was made in July 2012; Morley was not impressed:

‘I abstained from voting for Mr Dewar because I object in principle to the appointment to so important a post, of a man who has not yet proved himself.’ (Morley to Childs, 19th July).

In the belief that she would lose her position when the College became a university she enclosed a formal letter of resignation. She says she intends to apply for a Readership at King’s College for Women and asks Childs for a reference.

Subsequent events unfold as follows:

    1. Childs protests about her taking such drastic action, claiming that she has made an ‘unauthorised’ and ‘unwarrantable assumption’ about Point 3 of his letter of the 22nd June. He is returning her resignation letter and advises her to await the outcome of her King’s application before finalising her decision (19th July).
    2. In a letter from Morley to Childs on the 24th July she has changed her mind and states that she has ‘definitely decided not to stand for King’s.’
    3. In a reply dated the 25th, Childs is glad she is staying but fears there may be future conflict. She must therefore commit herself wholeheartedly and ignore the setbacks. If she can’t do this she should go to King’s.
    4. In a response of 26th July, Morley agrees that she had misconstrued Point 3 of the Finance Committee’s decision, mistakenly believing she would be forced to leave when the Royal Charter was granted. She will accept the risk and hopes to stay on permanently.
    5. Morley to Childs on the same day: Childs has now returned her resignation letter. She will forget her grievances, she says, and affirms that: ‘I think you will agree that my decision to give the new conditions a trial after all that has passed, is the best proof I can offer that I am putting my “dignity” on one side.’
The New English Department

At the beginning of the autumn term 1912, the College calendar displayed the full complement of the English Department: two Professors – one for Language and one for Literature, and one Lecturer in both Language and Literature (see below).

As had been requested by Morley in 1908, her title is no longer Professor of English Language and Lecturer in English Literature but simply Professor of English Language. This, she believed, would remove any impression that she was subordinate to her new colleague.

Calendar
University College, Reading Calendar, 1912-13, p. 51.

Professor Dewar and Mr Crofts were soon to join the armed forces, returning from WW1 as late as February 1919. Presumably Professor Morley kept the department going during their absence. In 1934 Dewar succeeded W. G. de Burgh as Dean of the Faculty of Letters and held that post until 1948.

Sources

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

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

University of Reading, Special Collections, MS 2049/50: File of correspondence between William M. Childs & Edith Morley, including a memo from W. G. de Burgh.

University of Reading Special Collections, MS 5305: Photographs – Portraits Box 1.

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

University College, Reading. Calendar, 1912-13.

 

Edith Morley: the ‘Professorship Battle’ (part one)

By the end of my previous post, the saga of Edith Morley’s chair had reached the stage where she was the only head of a department not to receive a professorship. Despite her reservations about her own academic prowess, she was so disturbed by the way the matter had been conducted by the College, and the low calibre of some of those who had been promoted that she decided to take the matter further.

Correspondence between Morley and the College Principal, W. M. Childs, about her professorship is held in the University’s Special Collections at the MERL. Morley’s handwritten letters, with their spontaneity and their insertions and deletions, tell us much more about the controversy and her own conflicted feelings than the carefully curated prose of her own ‘Reminiscences’. The sequence of events she narrates in just a few brief lines on page 116 is this:

    1. she offered her resignation;
    2. she was persuaded to remain and try out the new system;
    3. she found the situation intolerable during the 1907-8 academic year;
    4. she refused to stay on unless she was granted the title;
    5. she was nominated Professor of English Language.

In fact, and as the correspondence shows, the negotiations between Morley and Childs were complex and lengthy, occasionally embarrassing, but generally polite and mutually respectful. It may have been a battle from Morley’s perspective, but at this stage it was a relatively civilised one (later events in 1912 are a different matter and will be the subject of my next post).

The business was treated as confidential, with only the Dean of Letters (W. G. de Burgh) being fully informed. Several of Childs’s letters are marked ‘private’. On one occasion Morley was rebuked (Childs to Morley, 2/3/1908) for discussing the wording of a possible professorial title with her friend Miss Lilian Faithfull (formerly Vice-Principal of King’s College Ladies Department and from 1906-22 Headmistress of Cheltenham Ladies’ College). For this, Morley was extremely apologetic (Morley to Childs, 3/3/1908) but claimed that she had understood any such injunction to apply only within the College.

The correspondence is not complete – there are references to missing letters and to private conversations whose contents we can only infer. Some of those from Childs are handwritten drafts with no copy of the formal typed version. Others are carbon copies from which the colour has faded. Nevertheless, the section of the archive for 1908 contains 13 legible letters (7 from Morley, 6 from Childs) written between February and March, and two sets of Childs’s personal notes. From these we can establish the following rough chronology:

    • in 1907 Morley was not made professor because in Childs’s firm opinion, ‘she had not the requisite qualifications for a Professorship in English Literature.’ (Childs’s retrospective notes, probably 1911). The College wished to appoint a male Professor of English or English Literature at a later date.
    • She threatened her resignation. According to Childs’s notes, ‘Miss M. agitated.’ 
    • In July 1907 Morley suggested that in return for her professorship she would receive no increase in stipend, nor any change in her rights. She would also accept the College’s power to appoint ‘a special professor’ to cover those areas in which she was less qualified (Childs quotes this back to her in a handwritten draft of 2 March 1908).
    • Events between July 1907 and February 1908 are unclear, but according to Childs, during the summer of 1907 Morley had requested a reassessment of her position and had agreed to a half-time post on an annual salary of £250 (Childs’s personal notes of 1911 and a draft of a letter to Morley of 18 June 1912). She was persuaded to stay on and give the new arrangements a fair trial.
    • At some point, the idea of giving Morley a title other than Professor of English was floated. It would contain the words ‘English Language’ (Childs’s notes of 1911). Later letters show Morley’s passionate resistance to being relegated from ‘English’ and ‘English Literature’ to ‘English Language’.
    • By 1908 Morley was extremely dissatisfied with the new arrangements. We don’t know the details but she expressed her frustration in a letter of 24 February 1907 in which she again threatens resignation (see image).

Final para

    Letter of 24/2/1908 from Morley to Childs threatening resignation (University of Reading Special Collections).
    • Childs was astonished, or so he claimed in a reply of the same day. His letter prompted an immediate counter-response from Morley (25 February) outlining her conditions:
        • The word ‘Language’ should not appear in her title – she does not want to be pigeonholed as a Philologist and confined to nothing but basic work on literature.
        • When a new English professor was appointed, the two posts should have equal status. In return she would respect his authority in areas outside her expertise.
    • There followed two letters containing suggestions from Morley of possible wordings of the professorial title: ‘Old & Modern English’ or ‘Historical & Modern English’ (27/2/08); ‘English Language & Literary History’, ‘English Language & Literary Criticism’, ‘English Letters & Language’, ‘English Language & History of Literature’ (29/2/08). She would accept his decision as long as the word ‘Literature’ was included somewhere, but would prefer ‘English’ on its own.
    • On 2 March 1908 Childs produced a handwritten draft of a letter reminding her of what she had already agreed (see image below) and outlining a set of non-negotiable conditions and concessions. These included:
        • The only acceptable title would be Professor of the English Language and Lecturer in English Literature;
        • Council would have total freedom in the appointment of a new English Professor;
        • She would still have a share of Literature teaching and the two professorships would have equal status, but on questions of literature ‘the authority of the Professor of Literature shall be acknowledged.’;
        • He would not proceed unless he had Morley’s total and continuing acceptance of these proposals.
Childs quotes M's own letter
Childs’s draft letter of 2 March 1908 in which he quotes back to Morley the concessions she had made the previous July (University of Reading Special Collections)
    • Morley’s reply dated the following day was polite and conciliatory. She would be prepared to accept all the conditions but was still worried about the wording of her title, quibbling about the inclusion of the definite article before ‘English Language’ when it was not present in front of ‘English Literature’. She wants all mention of ‘Lecturer in English Language’ to be removed on the appointment of the new Professor. Otherwise, she claimed, she would appear ‘explicitly’ subordinate to him.
    • Childs’s reply of the same day (3 March 1908) agrees to the future dropping of the reference to ‘English Language’ but cannot agree to any extension to the title once the new professor was in post (the word ‘extension’ appears in several documents but its meaning is not clear to me).
    • Morley is pleased, and agrees to the terms. However, she retains the right to reconsider her position on the appointment of the new professor (8 March 1908).
    • Childs agrees to put the proposals to the Finance Committee but insists on confidentiality: premature disclosure could derail everything.
    • Morley’s agreed title appeared in the College Calendar for 1908-9 (see image below).
first title
Calendar for 1908-9. Note that the definite article before ‘English Language’ has been removed.

The story doesn’t finish here, however. I stated earlier that during 1908 the exchanges between Morley and Childs had been civilised, polite and mutually respectful. Nevertheless, in 1912 with the imminent appointment of a new Professor of English Literature their tone became distinctly more frosty; and that will be the subject of the next post.

Note

I have borrowed the phrase ‘professorship battle’ from Barbara Morris because that is how she indexed the affair when she edited Edith Morley’s original manuscripts. It isn’t an exaggeration, particularly when developments of 1912 are taken into consideration.

Thanks

To Sharon Maxwell, Archivist at the Museum of English Rural Life/Special Collections Service for telling me about the correspondence between Morley and Childs.

Sources

File of correspondence between William M. Childs and Edith Morley, MS 2049/50. University of Reading, Special Collections.

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

University College, Reading. Calendar, 1908-9.

Edith Morley and Reading’s first Professors

The University of Reading is justifiably proud of the award of a chair to Edith Morley in 1908; her Professorship of English language was a landmark in the history of women in academia, and she is celebrated as the first woman to be appointed Professor at a university or university college in the UK. The wording of the previous sentence is important because her achievement has been disputed.

In 2017, the BBC News website published this report from Scotland:

‘The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has uncovered the story of Emma Ritter-Bondy, whom it believes was the first female professor of a higher education institution in the UK. The Glasgow Athenaeum School of Music, which is now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, made her Professor of Piano in 1892.’

The article goes on to point out that this was 16 years before Edith Morley’s appointment. This is true. I believe it is also true that there was a female Professor at a teacher training college in Cardiff before 1908 (Dyhouse, 1995).

Some may wish to defend Morley’s claim by referring to geography (England versus the UK) or the relative academic status of each institution, but it seems to me that to pit these pioneering women against each other, in a competition they never asked to enter, merely detracts from their achievements.

What makes Morley particularly interesting and worthy of recognition, however, is that the chair wasn’t handed to her on a plate; she had to fight for it – and that is something that is often overlooked.

London Rd plaque
Plaque on the London Rd Campus: the text is slightly ambiguous – her original appointment in 1901 was at the former site on Valpy Street; she was based at London Rd from 1905 until she retired in 1940.
Reading’s first Professorships

In 1907, as a step on the long journey to becoming a university, University College Reading founded the Faculties of Letters and Science, appointed their respective Deans, and established eleven professorships.

Thus, the title of Professor was conferred on the lecturers responsible for the following subjects:

      • Modern History (W. M. Childs, College Principal)
      • Philosophy (W. G. de Burgh, Dean of Letters)
      • Botany (F. Keeble, Dean of Science)
      • Geography (H. N. Dickson)
      • French Language and Literature (A. V. Salmon)
      • Mathematics and Economics (A. L. Bowley)
      • Physics (G. J. Burch)
      • Chemistry (J. K. H. Inglis)
      • Zoology (F. J. Cole)
      • Agriculture (J. Percival)
      • Fine Art (W. G. Collingwood)

It will come as no surprise that the subject missing from the above is English, nor that the professors were all men. The College Principal, W. M. Childs, makes no attempt in his memoir ‘Making a University’ of 1933 to explain this omission, nor to mention the struggle that ensued; he simply adds a footnote in small print to state that, ‘English language was added to this list in 1908.’ (p. 124). Edith Morley doesn’t even seem to merit the honour of an entry in the book’s index.

Morley’s Reaction

John Holt’s official history of the university also pays little attention to the affair, although he does refer the reader to Morley’s own ‘Reminiscences’. Holt’s single mention of Morley’s professorship is nothing more than second-hand gossip from a colleague claiming that she ‘pounded poor old Childs until he made her a professor’ (Holt, 1977, p. 89). Though Holt’s account is not entirely negative, the tone of this is in keeping with several other of uncomplimentary descriptions of her, such as ‘provocative, disturbing, aggressive, intransigent’ (p. 89) and a ‘rogue professor’ (p. 276).

It was statements such as these that prompted the social historian Carol Dyhouse to treat Edith Morley’s time at Reading as a case study in her history of women in British universities (Dyhouse, 1995, pp. 156-161: ‘Difficult careers: the case of Edith Morley’).

Originally, Morley had been led to believe that a smaller number of ‘outstanding’ heads of department would receive professorships. So she had no great expectations for herself. In fact, in her memoir, and elsewhere, she seems to doubt, or at least downplay, her own capabilities:

    • ‘[I] had no illusions about my own merits.’
    • ‘I possessed the makings of a tolerable scholar’
    • ‘I knew that I had no claim to outstanding intellectual gifts and that it was beyond my power to produce original work of a high order.’ (Morley, 1944/2016, p. 115).

It was only when she realised that she was the sole lecturer responsible for an academic discipline who had not been given the title that she resolved to fight the decision. She was particularly incensed by what she perceived as the underhand and tactless way in which the whole business had been conducted, and believed she had a stronger case for a professorship on the grounds of both teaching and scholarship than some of the male heads of subject.

My next post will document Morley’s interactions with the Principal in pursuit of her claim for equality with her eleven male colleagues.

Sources

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

The first female professor in the UK. BBC News (2017), https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-39191297 (retrieved 13/5/2023).

University College, Reading. Calendar, 1907-8 & 1908-9.

University College, Reading. Report of Council, 1906-7.

Mary Bolam’s Retirement and the Tragedy of Stanley Phalp

As far as we can tell from census records, Mary Ann Bolam was born in Rainton Bridge, Durham, in 1862 and was the daughter of Thomas Bolam, a wagon wright for the local colliery who later became a grocer. She had a younger sister named Susannah, a dressmaker, who was born in 1864.

We know little about Bolam’s early education but in his history of the first 50 years of Reading University, Holt (1977) points out that she was a member of Summerville College at a time when women could not be accepted to an Oxford University degree. She graduated with honours in History (4th class) and received her first degree from the University of Dublin.

There followed a Teacher’s Certificate from the Board of Education, and a Diploma in Education and Geography from the University of St Andrew’s. Before taking up her post at Cheltenham Ladies’ College in 1897, she was Mistress of Method at Durham Training College and taught at a Demonstration School nearby. She moved to Reading in 1900 and remained in post until 1927.

Retirement

On her retirement in December 1927, the Reading Standard reported an official presentation to her in the University’s Buttery at London Road. It was attended by 120 of St Andrew’s Hall students, past and present. She received gifts of a silver coffee and tea service and a cheque. A framed portrait of her was presented to Mrs Childs by the chair of the St Andrew’s Students’ Committee so that it could be given a permanent place in the hall. In my previous post I mentioned that  Holt had described Bolam as a ‘living legend’, and there were many similar accolades now (‘Obstacles that would have crushed the spirit of a less brave woman seemed to make Miss Bolam grow younger.’Reading Standard, 10/12/34, p.10). Professor Childs wrote a glowing testimonial in Tamesis that concluded:

‘Her fame with us is secure ; for no one else in this University can ever do again pioneer work of the same kind.’ (Childs, 1927, p. 210).

After retiring she lived at 30a Northcourt Avenue. The house was built in 1927. It lies on the opposite side of the road from Wellington Avenue and still bears its original name: ‘Four Ways’.

sketch of
Illustration of Mary Bolam’s house by Elizabeth Heydeman (‘Northcourt Avenue: its history & people’ by Penny Kemp, p, 45)

It is said that Mary Bolam’s students presented her with a particularly fine front door, which she promised would always be open to them (Kemp, 1996). An article in the Reading Standard from 1944 in honour of her 85th birthday showed her to be still living at ‘Four Ways’. It claimed that her students had helped her to build it in gratitude for all she had done – this seems a slight exaggeration, however; the builders were J. H. Margetts & Son (Kemp, 1996).

Bolam’s great-nephew, Stanley Phalp

There are few details available about how Mary Bolam spent her retirement. At one stage, she was a member of the Governing Council of Kinmel School, Abergele, North Wales, from which she resigned in 1929 – the Council had never met and the school never drew on her expertise.

Nor do we know exactly when and why she left Reading. According to the Northampton Mercury, she died at the age of 88 in Weston Favell, Northampton, on November 30th 1949 and left the sum of £1,792 10s. 8d.

One interesting detail to emerge from newspaper articles of the time, however, is that in the 1930s she was either the tenant or owner of Pond Wood Farm, Billingsbear, near Wokingham (now replaced by housing). It seems that she had taken over the farm for the benefit of her great-nephew, Stanley Phalp,  who was given the role of manager.

Stanley had been born in 1911 and was the grandson of Mary Bolam’s sister Susannah. His father, Norman Thomas Bolam Phalp, had been incapacitated in the 1914-18 War, and from the age of seven, Stanley was in the care of his great-aunt. He was known to some Reading students from spending his summer holidays at St Andrews Hall, and in 1928 he enrolled as a student in Reading University’s Faculty of Agriculture.

Stanley’s Suicide in 1934

Stanley Phalp died on the 29 September 1934. The first press reports of the circumstances of his death appeared a few days later on 3 October.

He had been spotted in a semi-conscious state in his car on Saltpit Road, Hurst, near Reading. A doctor had been called but death could not be prevented. There was a lengthy police investigation.

Stanley’s father was interviewed, but he knew little about Stanley’s private life or finances, other than that he was in perfect health, a non-smoker and a teetotaller. The Coroner established that Stanley lived with Miss Bolam, but that he was of age and therefor not in her charge. Because a post-mortem had failed to reveal the cause of death, the Coroner adjourned the inquest and ordered a forensic examination of the organs by a county analyst.

Arsenic poisoning was confirmed – according to the Public Analyst, more than five times the fatal dose had been extracted from the stomach contents. The press revealed that police had discovered a bottle of weedkiller and a letter from a woman in London who had turned down Stanley’s proposal of marriage.

The inquest was resumed on October 13 and the jury returned a verdict of suicide. Mary Bolam gave evidence. She produced a letter from Stanley that she had found in her desk, and gave details of a phone call he had received from a Miss Joan Rich whom he had known for several years and who had been expected to come and stay. Stanley had then left in his car, presumably having already ingested the poison.

Mary Bolam said that Stanley had seemed in good spirits that day, ‘His heart and soul were in his work at the farm and he worked from morning  until night.’ (Coventry Evening Telegraph, 3 Oct 1934, p. 1).

The case was reported in detail, both locally and nationally, paying particular attention to his relationship with Miss Rich, their letters to each other, the content of the phone call, and the nature of the poisoning. Bolam had clearly been upset by being taken to view the body in the car; and she was incensed by the lurid and sensational nature of some of the newspaper coverage:

‘”I do not think it ought to be allowed in England for anyone to give such a slanderous report,” she said. “He was a fine English boy, living such a clean life.”‘ (Coventry Evening Telegraph, 3 Oct 1934, p. 1).

A sense of the tone of some of the articles can be judged from the headlines:

    • ‘Collapsed in car. Mystery of young man found dying’ (Daily Mail, 3 Oct);
    • ‘Motorist’s mystery death. Coroner orders analysis of organs to be made. Young farmer found dying in car.’ (Reading Standard, 5 Oct);
    • ‘Dying man in car. Analysis reveals arsenic. Letter from a girl’  (The Daily Telegraph, 12 Oct);
    • ‘Suicide verdict on farm manager. Girl and courtship she wished to end. Dying in car’ (Gloucestershire Echo, 13 Oct);
    • ‘Unrequited love tragedy. Suicide of young farm manager. Girl and new attachment. Farewell letter torn up unread.’ (The Sunday Times, 14 Oct);
    • ‘Arsenic in stomach. Young farm manager’s suicide. Phone “Goodbye” to girl’ (Shields Daily Gazette, 15 Oct).

I combed the University’s annual reports for the years 1928 to 1935 looking for mentions of Stanley Phalp but could find nothing about him, not even his examination results. There is, however, an obituary in this issue of the Old Students’ Magazine:

cover of OSM
Issue containing Stanley Phalp’s obituary (the cover is signed by Dr Nellie Eales, its Editor)

The text is a welcome contrast to the press accounts, with no mention of suicide, and is worth quoting in full:

‘MR. STANLEY PHALP died on September 29, 1934. Old St. Andrew’s students will remember his coming to the Hall in his school holidays. He was in the Faculty of Agriculture from 1928 to 1932, and was a member of St. David’s Hall. He was a keen Rugby player and rowed in the Eight of 1931 and 1932, gaining his colours in the former year. At Pondwood Farm, Billingsbear, Wokingham, which Miss Bolam took for him in 1933, he made a reputation in the short time for his intelligent, keen and painstaking methods.’

Thanks to:

Dr Rhianedd Smith (University Museums and Special Collections Services) for passing on material about Mary Bolam from the British Newspaper Archive and for retrieving census data.

Penny Kemp for permission to reproduce the sketch of 30a Northcourt Avenue.

Sources

Childs, W. M. (1927). Miss Bolam. Tamesis, Vol. XXV. Summer Term, No. 10, pp. 209-10.

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

Kemp, P. (1996). Northcourt Avenue: its history & people. Reading: Northcourt Avenue Residents’ Association.

University of Reading. Old Students’ Association (1935). Mr. Stanley Phalp. Old Students’ Magazine, 21, p. 64.

Newspaper Articles

Arsenic in stomach. (1934, October 15). Shields Daily Gazette, p.6.

Broken romance. (1934, October 19). Western Gazette, p. 10.

Collapsed in car. (1934, October 3). Daily Mail, p. 19.

Deaths. (1934, October 6). The Times, p. 1.

Death of Miss Mary Bolam. (1949, December 9). Northampton Mercury, p. 5.

Dying man in car. (1934, October 12). The Daily Telegraph, p. 12.

Farm manager’s death (1934, October 13). Coventry Evening Telegraph, p. 1.

Found dying in car. (1934, October 3). Hartlepool Daily Mail, p. 2.

Man’s arsenic death. (1934, October 12). Daily Mail, p. 13.

Miss Bolam. (1944, October 6). Reading Standard, p. 5.

Miss Bolam and Governing Council. (1929, August 28). Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, p. 7.

Miss Bolam’s birthday. (1944, October 13). Reading Standard, p. 5.

Motorist’s mystery death. (1934, October 5). Reading Standard, p. 11.

Northampton will. (1950, March 24). Northampton Chronicle and Echo, p.8.

Reading College. (1900, September 22). Berkshire Chronicle, p. 8.

Suicide verdict on farm manager. (1934, October 13). Gloucestershire Echo, p. 1.

The death of a farm manager. (1934, October 15). The Times, p. 8.

University news. Oxford, July 22. (1896, 25 July). York Herald, p. 6.

University of Reading: Presentation to the first Warden of St. Andrew’s Hall. (1927, December 10). Reading Standard, p. 10.

Unrequited love tragedy. (1934, October 14). The Sunday Times, p. 30.

Young man’s suicide in car. (1934, October 15). The Daily Telegraph, p. 9.

 

Mary Ann Bolam and her ‘Academic Antecedents’

The name Mary Bolam (1861-1949) has figured prominently in this blog thanks to her roles as Censor and Warden of St Andrew’s. She had moved from Cheltenham Ladies’ College to Reading in 1900 where her job description was ‘Assistant to the Vice-Principal, and Censor of Women Students in Licensed Lodgings.’ She held the position of Censor until 1911, but continued as Warden until her retirement in 1927.

In his memoir W. M. Childs wrote that:

‘Miss Bolam had passed through Somerville College, Oxford, and she had also come under the spell of Miss Beale at Cheltenham. But no one who knew her ever troubled about her academic antecedents, for Miss Bolam was a personality on her own account. She had strong organizing genius, strong will, clear purpose, north-country toughness under trial, and benevolence at heart.’ (Childs, 1933, p. 182)

Praise indeed! But is there a note of scepticism in the references to Miss Beale and to Miss Bolam’s ‘academic antecedents’?

Cheltenham Ladies’ College

Dorothea Beale (1831-1906) was a suffragist and pioneering educationalist who became head of Cheltenham Ladies’ College in 1858. Edith Morley described her and her colleague Frances Buss as having ‘revolutionised girls’ education’ (Morley, 2016, p. 43). It would therefore seem a laudable achievement that Miss Bolam had worked there as a teacher educator. The Ladies’ College Magazine recorded her appointment like this:

‘Miss Bolam, L.L.A. who passed the Honours History School from Somerville College, Oxford, and has since been Mistress of Method at the Durham Training College, joins the staff of the Training Department.’ (Cheltenham Ladies’ College Magazine, Autumn, 1897, p. 296).

 

Bolam salary letter
Letter from Cheltenham Ladies’ College to Mary Bolam about her salary, October 1897.

The above letter gives her salary as £65 per annum, although Council minutes for the same month state a figure of £150 plus board. A further letter of July 1899 shows that this was increased to £195 per annum plus a £2 capitation bonus for every student above 10 who was enrolled in the Government Training Department of which she was Head Mistress.

The College’s extensive archive has preserved past copies of the College Magazine, and several accounts of Bolam’s work at Cheltenham have been tracked down in them by Mrs Rachel Roberts, the College Archivist:

    • In the Kindergarten Training Department she gave lectures and model lessons (College Magazine, 1898, 37, p. 156).
    • Her first report on the work of the ‘Government Department’ appeared in the Magazine in 1898 (37, pp. 157-58): this was a new department but already had seven students in training. Bolam stated that ‘the Ladies’ College has now a recognised position under Government inspection’ (p. 157).
    • She wrote a report on the ‘Elementary Training Department’ that appeared in the Magazine In 1899 (39, p. 71): there were now eleven women trainees and they were able to use All Saints School for practical experience.
    • In the same issue, it was announced that a paper on ‘Story-telling to Little Children’ that she had delivered in Cardiff at a conference on Kindergarten Teaching had now been published. It was stated that ‘The little pamphlet will be found to contain many interesting observations on Child nature and child growth.’ (39, p. 92)
    • In spring 1900 the Magazine recorded that she had been assisting in the Secondary Training Department (41, p. 83).
    • In the same issue her final report on the Elementary Training Department appeared: the number of trainees was now up to nineteen. She noted that, ‘The weekly criticism lessons are greatly enjoyed by the children who consider themselves severely punished if they are excluded.’ (41, p.85) (see my earlier post for an account of the criticism lesson at Reading).
    • She left the College in 1900 (42, p. 299).
Reading College and Unversity College, Reading

Mary Bolam’s name doesn’t appear in the Reading College Calendars until 1901-2 when her membership of the Tutorial and Residence Committees is recorded. She is listed as Assistant Lecturer in Geography and her address given as St Andrew’s Hostel, Reading. Two years later she had been moved from Geography to Tutor in Preliminary Studies.

Given her previous experience training teachers it seems surprising that she hadn’t been recruited immediately into the Education Department. According to Holt (1977), it was why she had come to Reading, but I can find no evidence of this until 1911 when she appeared in the Calendar as Lecturer in Education (Primary Division).

There is, however, evidence from the Reading press that she was actively involved with schools and teacher education from the very beginning. The Reading Mercury, for example, recorded that in 1901 she gave a lecture on ‘Teachers and Teaching’ at a Pupil Teacher Centre in Basingstoke to managers and trainees from 14 schools in the district. She also presented a paper on ‘Telling Stories to Little Children’ at a meeting of the Parents’ National Education Union at Reading in 1903 (the report in the Reading Mercury referred to her as ‘Assistant Lecturer in History and Literature’). Similar reports of lectures on subjects such as child rearing, and speeches at prize-givings continued throughout her career.

By her retirement in 1927, Mary Bolam was a member of the University Court and the Senate, and had been a member of the Academic Board and Academic Governors of the University College. As Holt put it in his history of the University’s first 50 years, ‘… Miss Bolam in her last year had become a living legend.’ (Holt, 1977, p. 66).

Bolam edited
Mary Bolam (undated; University of Reading Special Collections)

My next post will give a brief summary of Bolam’s qualifications and career, followed by events after her retirement.

Thanks to:

Mrs Rachel Roberts, College Archivist, Cheltenham Ladies’ College, for searching College Magazines, Staff Indexes and Correspondence for references to Mary Bolam.

Dr Rhianedd Smith (University Museums and Special Collections Services) for passing on material about Mary Bolam from the British Newspaper Archive and for retrieving census data.

Sources

Cheltenham Ladies’ College. Letters to Mary Bolam, Letter Book, pages 119 &227.

Cheltenham Ladies’ College Magazines, 1897 to 1900.

Cheltenham Ladies’ College. Council Minutes, October 1897

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.

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

Parents’ National Education Union: Meeting at Reading. (1903, January 31). Reading Mercury, p. 7.

Pupil Teacher Centre. (1901, June 8). Reading Mercury, p. 6.

Pupil Teachers’ Gathering at Basingstoke. (1901, June 15). Reading Mercury, p. 6.

Reading College. Calendars, 1900-1902, 1925-6.

University College, Reading. Calendar, 1903-04, 1926-27.

Women Students, Social Work and Fears of Infection (1925)

In a post of 7 September 2021, I mentioned that the Covid crisis wasn’t the first time that the London Road Campus had been closed because of an epidemic –  in 1917 an outbreak of measles brought about a complete shutdown for two weeks at the end of the Lent Term.

The possibility of infection spreading across the campus and halls of residence continued to be a concern during the 1920s. This is illustrated by correspondence from February and March 1925 about students’ involvement in social work. The record of these is incomplete, but the gaps can be inferred from the five documents that remain.

It appears that a group of women students had been in contact with a Miss M. Maplesden, Secretary to the Reading Council of Social Welfare. They wished to carry out voluntary work in Coley, an area of social deprivation and overcrowding near the centre of Reading (see Ounsley, 2021). The students were advised to approach Professor Childs, Principal of the College, who requested that Miss Maplesden write to him formally. This she did on 24th February 1925.

Letter 1:  Miss Maplesden to Professor childs
Shows letter heading
University of Reading Special Collections

In her letter, Miss Maplesden made three main suggestions:

    • that the students should join Domestic Science students who would already be observing social work in the neighbourhood;
    • having found out what aspects of social work would be suitable, they would submit a plan for the following academic year to the Principal;
    • the students should take responsibility for Coley Hall which had recently been offered to the Council for use on weekdays;
    • in addition, she was in favour of the scheme being extended to include men students.
Letter 2:  Miss Maplesden to Professor childs

The following day she wrote again to Professor Childs. From the content we can infer that they had already met to discuss the proposal, and that Childs had warned her that Hall Wardens were likely to be concerned about students bringing back infection from the Coley area.

Apparently, she had already informed her Executive Committee of the risk, and in an attempt to forestall such objections, she includes the following, rather baffling, justification:

‘Members of the Committee drew attention to the fact that during a period of epidemic the schools in crowded areas such as Coley, Greyfriars and Silver Street are as a rule less open to epidemics than the schools in better neighbourhoods.’

Memo 1: Professor Childs to the Hall Wardens

On the 3rd March 1925, Childs sent out a memo. It isn’t clear whether it went to all the wardens of halls and members of the two Hall Management Committees; on the typed copy in the University’s Special Collections, just five names have been added by hand:

    • ‘bolam’ (Mary Bolam, Warden of St Andrews Hall – for women);
    • ‘britton’ (Winifred Britton, Wessex Hall – for women);
    • ‘Mrs. Childs’ (Emma Catherine Childs – wife of the Principal – Chair of the Committee for the Management of Women’s Halls of Residence);
    • ‘Little’ (Emily K. Little, St George’s Hall – for women);
    • ‘Cooke’ (H. S. Cooke, Cintra Lodge – for women: the only women’s hall with a male warden).

In the memo, he explained the situation and asked the wardens for their views. He warned that:

‘There are certain things which it is necessary to bear in mind, namely, the risk of infection and the general conditions under which the work is done.’

Childs received five replies; unfortunately only Letter 3 (see below) has survived.

Letter 3: Winifred Britton to Professor Childs

On 5th March 1925, Winifred Britton responded with a handwritten letter from Wessex Hall outlining her objections:

    • there was too little time for the volunteers to shadow the domestic science students who were studying social welfare;
    • ‘Coley is one of the poorest districts in Reading & the risk of infection would be great’;
    • Coley was a long way from the College and time would be wasted travelling;
    • ‘… it would entail students being absent from Hall dinner, a thing which is always discouraged.’
    • there might be a lack of organisation, supervision and leadership;
    • finally: ‘Also I do think that [the students] are inclined to forget the fact they are sent here to pursue a definite course of study which leaves very little time for outside activities.’

According to an interview conducted by J. C. Holt (1977), the relationship between Britton and Childs was a difficult one, and Britton resigned in 1929. I don’t know whether it was a factor in this case.

Letter 4:  Professor Childs to Miss Maplesden

On the 18th March 1925, Childs sent a diplomatically worded letter declining the proposal. In doing so, he drew on several of Winifed Britton’s arguments. Nevertheless, he denied that risk of infection was a factor – after all, Education students were already doing teaching practice in local elementary schools. Instead, he suggested that the students could help run a summer camp.

‘Coley Talking’

The social history of Coley has been documented by Margaret Ounsley in ‘Coley talking: realities of life in old Reading’. Her chapter, ‘Talking of health, medicine, illness and death’, presents details of epidemics of measles, influenza, tuberculosis and diphtheria. To avoid too negative a picture, however, it is worth quoting part of the conclusion to that chapter, especially as it refers to the year of the Maplesden/Childs correspondence:

‘It would be wrong to give the impression that the population of Coley was completely disease-ridden. Undoubtedly, the poorest children were undernourished in the first few decades but by 1925 attendances at the Southampton Street Feeding Centre had dropped to eight. Many infants and children died, but also many people couldn’t remember having a day’s illness in their lives. The children for the most part seem to have led a hardy outdoor life with basic but nourishing food. Coley School won boxing, football and swimming trophies year after year in the 1920s and 1930s. There is no doubt that standards of health improved dramatically at this time.’ (Ounsley, 2021, p. 87)

Sources

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

Ounsley, M. (2021). Coley talking: realities of life in old Reading. Reading: Two Rivers Press.

University College, Reading. Calendar, 1924-5.

University of Reading Special Collections. Uncatalogued papers relating to women students. Reference UHC AA-SA 8.

Florence Mary Faithfull (c.1892-1918)

As we start the final week of Women’s History Month, this is an opportunity to feature someone mentioned to me recently by Dr Rhianedd Smith (University Museums and Special Collections Services) .

Florence Faithfull is the only woman whose name appears on the War Memorial on the London Road Campus and University College Reading’s Book of Remembrance.

War memorial
London Road, the Roll of Honour beneath the Clock Tower
Book of Remembrance
Book of Remembrance of those Members of The University College Reading who fell in The War 1914-1918

She was born in the early 1890s and lived at number 26 Upper Redlands Road, Reading with her parents and siblings.

A former student of University College Reading, Faithfull is recorded in the Annual Report for 1910-11 as receiving the Certificate in Commerce.

Certificate result

During the First World War, she enrolled as a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment and was stationed in Mesopotamia (Iraq) at the British General Hospital. She died at Basra in January 1918 at the age of 26, the result of a tragic boating accident.

The circumstances of her death were that the Matron and twelve of the hospital nurses had been invited to the Officers’ Hospital to meet those convalescing and to have tea. They were transported by motor launch, but on the way back there was a collision with a steam tug and four of the nurses lost their lives. A Court of Inquiry recorded a verdict of accidental death resulting from an error of judgement by the helmsman of the launch.

Florence Faithfull’s medal card containing the words ‘Died on service’ is held in the National Archives.

Medal card

Her death is remembered in 1920 in the ‘Old Students’ News’, though there is a mis-spelling of her name.

Old Students

As noted above, her name has been entered in the Book of Remembrance (again with the mis-spelling). Regrettably there is no photograph.

Faithfull

Thanks

To Dr Rhianedd Smith for telling me about Florence Faithfull and suggesting her as a topic.

To Paul Johnson, Image Library Manager, National Archives, for permission to reproduce the image of the medal card.

Sources

Biographical information about Florence Faithfull was obtained from the University of Reading’s Enterprise Catalogue.

Book of Remembrance of those Members of The University College Reading who fell in The War 1914-1918. University of Reading Special Collections, MS 5339.

Medal card of Faithfull, Florence, M. Corps: Voluntary Aid Detachment. National Archives, Catalogue reference: WO 372/23/13539

University College, Reading. Old Students’ News, No. 6, Jan., 1920.

University College, Reading. Report to the Court of Governors for the Year ended September 30th, 1911.

Caps and Gowns

In a post of 19th June 2022,  I referred to documents from 1921 and 1926 that stressed the rule that women students should wear academic dress on and off campus. Later in the same decade this was again a cause of dissent.

As can be seen from the images below, caps and gowns were a long-standing tradition at Reading.

Shows academic dress
Staff and Students outside The Acacias, c. 1906.
Advert for Academic Dress
Advertisement for academic dress in the ‘University College Magazine’, 1908.

In 1927, however, the year following the granting of the Royal Charter, a flurry of items appeared in Tamesis, the official magazine of the University that raised gender issues. Two of these mention academic dress; and both appear under pseudonyms.

An article by ‘senex’, lent term 1927

The first item, with the title ‘Gowns, Schoolgirls–and Others’ was published in the Lent Term issue. It was a lengthy, and semi-humorous diatribe, that accused the student body, both male and female, of submitting too readily to petty rules and regulations, particularly with regard to academic dress.

The arguments ran as follows: gowns were an anachronism in a recently-established university like Reading; the only reason for using them as a marker of status was sheer snobbery; they were of no other practical use; they were an impediment when raising one’s glass at the bar; they were ‘drab, monotonous and unbeautiful’ – gowns and caps masked the attractiveness of one’s clothes and hairstyle, especially for women.

The writer also points out that the rule about wearing cap and gown “down town” applied to women only, and their acquiescence is criticised:

‘But, mark you, no such drastic ordinance was issued to the men. O, sisters, fie, for shame! Where is your feminine independence, to allow without protest such disgraceful discrimination against your sex?’ (p. 180).

The article concludes with an appeal to all students to:

‘refuse any longer to insult your aesthetic tastes by obeying the antiquarian dictates of the older generation.’ (p. 181).

The signature (‘Yours in sorrow’) is of SENEX (a wise old man): presumably a male, possibly a mature or postgraduate student, or maybe even a member of academic staff. Who knows?

A letter from ‘Felicissimus’, Summer Term 1927

The second item is a letter to the Editor of Tamesis. It addresses equal rights and the restrictions on women students’ freedom of movement and dress code. Such constraints are felt to be inappropriate for ‘a modern University’, yet:

‘Our seven hundred odd women servilely accept the most tyrannous restraints, whilst the small band of men are heartily amused … A woman must wear cap and gown at all times – lucky man !’ (p. 225).

While complaining of expectations that women should always behave like ladies (except on the sports field!), ‘Felicissimus’ also appears to be critical of pressures from academia to reject marriage and motherhood.

The historical Felicissimus was a male who led an uprising in Ancient Rome. I assume that, here, a female student is using it as a badge of her revolutionary credentials.

Postscript on the language used by senex
    1. At one point in the article, Senex refers to women students disparagingly as ‘undiegraduettes’. I have come across this word several times in issues of Tamesis during this period. The usage is patronising, misogynistic and offensive. I don’t know whether the coinage is unique to Reading, but I have been unable to find any citation elsewhere, whether through Google or in the Oxford English Dictionary.
    2. I was surprised to find the phrase ‘down town’, even placed between introverted commas and written as separate words. I had regarded it as a much more recent import from North American English, becoming more mainstream as the title of a popular song in 1964. The Oxford English Dictionary, however, includes a British citation in Parliamentary Papers from as early as 1901.
Sources

‘Felicissimus’ (1927). Letter to the Editor, 7th June. Tamesis, Vol. XXV. Summer Term. No. 10, p. 225.

‘Senex’ (1927). Gowns, Schoolgirls–and Others. Tamesis, Vol. XXV. Lent Term. No. 9. pp. 180-81.

University College Magazine, 1908, Vol. VIII. Autumn Term, No. 1 (unnumbered pages of advertisements).

University of Reading Special Collections. University History MS 5305 Photographs – Groups, Whiteknights Aerial, Halls, Agri – land – aerial – horticulture/farming.

‘The Rattler’

Following the previous post by Professor Viv Edwards about Rag Week,  Reading University’s Rag Magazines deserved a mention. They appeared under a number of different titles between 1927 and 2000; copies can be accessed from the University Library’s off-site store.

The earliest issues (1927-1931) went under the title of ‘The Rattler. The Unofficial Organ of the Students’ Union’. It sold for 6d and was easily recognisable from the colourful design on the cover. There may have been an issue of a rag magazine in 1926 when the rag started, but no copies are available.

Cover of Rattler

Judging by an editorial inTamesis (the official organ of the Students’ Union) The Rattler was ‘an undeniable success’ (Autumn 1927, p. 2) and achieved a circulation of over 20,000 in 1927. No doubt this made a substantial contribution to the increase in receipts in comparison with the previous year.

Shows takings

The University’s annual report for 1925-26 recorded that all the takings were donated to the Royal Berkshire Hospital which is still a major beneficiary today.

Content of The Rattler

By today’s standards, the jokes, cartoons, poems and articles seem rather feeble (see below) and sometimes almost incomprehensible. In their day, they might have been more amusing; it was certainly an achievement to sell so many copies!

example of cartoon
Cartoon reproduced in Tamesis, Autumn 1927, p. 6.
Example of poem and cartoon
Limerick reproduced in Tamesis, Autumn 1927, p. 5.

More interesting is an item that was included in October 1930 (p. 13) in the form of a letter from an apparently working-class student called Dave to his friend Bill.  Allegedly Dave, despite having no qualifications, had accidentally obtained a scholarship to Reading University and a place in Wantage Hall after meeting someone at the Black Boy pub.

This one-page satire of university life attempts to represent imagined differences in language and everyday experience of the academically less privileged. Here’s part of how Dave describes the experience:

‘Seeing’ ‘as ‘ow there wornt nothin’ ter pay, up I goes. Yer never see such a daft show in orl yer life. They expects yer to ‘ang a yard or two o’ black clorth on yer shoulders an’ calls it a gown – as if yer wudent catch yer deff o’ chill if yer did wear it a’ nights. An’ Lumme Bill, yer did orter see the ‘ats – Morter Bords they call ’em – gawd knows why – cos ther ain’t no morter in ’em, nor bords neither. I don’t arf look a mug in mine …. Then there’s wot they calls Leckchures – you all sits in a room and an old bloke torks away like a plaguey millstream …’

Presumably, some of the revenue from the rag came from advertisements at the back of magazine. Sometimes the businesses who had paid for these entered into the spirit of things:

Advert

PostScript

For all the emphasis on academic lectures and caps and gowns in the spoof letter above, the new University was far from being an ivory tower. It continued to offer the technical and practical courses and training that had once been a central part of the work of the College. This was in addition to its joint commitment  with the Workers’ Educational Association to provide tutorial classes, to which Prof Edith Morley and her colleagues were enthusiastic contributors (see Morley, 2016. pp 124-8, for an inspiring account of her personal experiences).

The first Annual Report published by the University (1925-26) recorded 710 Evening Students whose most popular courses were in commercial subjects and fine art. Their occupations varied widely, some of the most common being engineers and draughtsmen, carpenters and joiners, clerks, shop assistants, shorthand-typists, grocers, printers, gas fitters, teachers, gardeners and domestic servants. At this stage of the University’s history, Evening Students still outnumbered those studying for degrees, certificates or diplomas (see Holt, 1977, pp. 23-5).

Sources

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

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

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

Tamesis, Vol. XXVI. Autumn Term, 1927. No. 1.

The Rattler, the Unofficial Organ of the Students’ Union. Issues from 1927 to 1931.

University of Reading. Proceedings of the University, 1925-26.