Bee Hotels now in Position!

Further to the earlier post about the Bee Meadow, I can now report that on Monday 9th January 2023, Bee Hotels were placed in their permanent positions on the London Road Campus and in the garden of the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL). They were installed by Robin Dean, bee expert.

Preparing to install the Bee Hotel
London Road, January 2023:  Dr Jo Anna Reed Johnson (Director of Climate and Sustainability Education) and Robin Dean.

At London Road, the hotel is situated on the south wall of L33 (ICT & Modern Languages).

Bee Hotel in position
Permanent site of the Bee Hotel at London Road.

In the MERL gardens, Robin was assisted by Cathy Smith who coordinates volunteering on the garden projects.

Robin, Cathy & Bee Hotel at MERL
Robin Dean and Cathy Smith in the MERL garden.

The Bee Meadow Project is funded by the Friends of the University of Reading and the University’s Teaching and Learning Fund.

Hotel partially filled
Bee Hotel at the MERL, permanently fixed and partially filled.

 

More about London Road’s Missing South Cloister

An earlier post dealing with the period from 1905 to 1926 showed that a South Cloister had been planned from earliest days of the London Road Campus. A further post covering 1926 to 1947 showed how these plans changed over time and were never carried out. The purchase of Whiteknights in 1947 put paid to further developments.

In the meantime Sharon Maxwell, Special Collections Archivist, has found three items that fill some of the gaps and provide more clarity:

    • Notes dated 1907 by the Architects, W. Ravenscroft and C. S. Smith, on the New Hall and Buildings (Ref.:  UHC Box 1466).
    • A Report on New Buildings, submitted to the Council of the University by the Vice-Chancellor in January 1928 (Ref.:  UHC CM GOV 8).
    • A full-sized original plan of the site that includes proposals for a new South Entrance, a South Cloister and the West Cloister, dated 1929 (Ref.:  UHC – PLANS Box 1).
The site plan of 1929
large plan
Plan of 1929 (University of Reading Special Collections).

The plan shows how the route of a proposed South Cloister is linked to the creation of a new South Entrance on Acacias Road. It is similar to other plans of 1926 and 1929 except that its large size allows additional detail. One interesting feature that weren’t on the other maps is the inclusion of a ‘creeping way for pipes’ running from the East Cloister to the West Cloister and eventually turning south to link with the Agricultural Chemistry and Botany Building (now L22).

detail
Detail from the  above plan. ‘Chemistry’ is now L19; ‘Commercial and Technical Subjects’ is L16; ‘Agricultural Machinery’ is a parking area.
The Architects’ Notes dated 1907

This wasn’t the only mention of  a ‘creeping way’, however ; the Architects’ Notes of 1907 found by Sharon Maxwell mentions them in the context of both the Great Hall and the East Cloister:

‘A creeping way has been formed under the whole length of the Cloister, in which all pipes, both hot water, gas, and cold water supply are laid. Here are also all the electric cables, for supplying both these one-storey buildings and the new Hall. Thus periodical inspection is made a simple matter, and any future extensions or improvements are facilitated.’ (p. 6).

enlargement
Architects’ notes from 1907 (University of Reading Special Collections).
The Vice-Chancellor’s Report on New Buildings, 1928

The relevance of the proposed new creeping way is that its course had also been considered (and rejected!) as a possible route for the South Cloister. This is made clear from the third document located by Sharon Maxwell:  the Vice-Chancellor’s 1928 report to Council.

This report makes the case for a new ‘southern entrance gateway’ complete with porters’ lodge (possibly residential) on the grounds that, with halls of residence and homes of staff mainly to the south of the site, Acacia Road had become the main means of access. The gateway would be linked to the South Cloister, as shown in the above plans.

As can be seen, however, one problem was that the cloister would have needed to cut through the spur of the Chemistry Building (now L19).

spur
August 2022: looking towards the Dairy from L22; in the foreground is the L19 spur; on the right is L16.

Nevertheless, it was concluded that no other route was feasible, the route following the course of the proposed creeping way having been ruled out:

‘It was suggested formerly that the link from Long Cloister to long cloister might pass immediately to the north of Chemistry (East). This route, however, would mean (1) obstruction to the lighting of these chemical laboratories, (2) a serious diminution of the Library Quadrangle, and (3) the destruction of one, probably more than one, of the trees which form a beautiful group to the north-west of Chemistry (East). These trees are a yew, a walnut, a cedar, and a lime. Their preservation from age to age should be a matter of duty to all who care for the amenities of the University.’ (Vice-Chancellor’s 1928 report to Council, p. 14).

The position of the four trees can be seen clearly in the enlarged area of the 1929 plan (see above). The image below shows the same area today but I don’t know whether any of the trees are the same.

trees
December 2022: on the left is the former Chemistry Building (now L19); in the background behind the trees is the former Agricultural Chemistry Building (now L22).

The South Cloister and the new entrance never came to pass. Fortunately, neither did a suggestion in the same report to improve the North Entrance on London Road by demolishing Green Bank and the School of Music.

Thanks

Many thanks to Sharon Maxwell and the Reading Room team for all their help.

From College Garden to Bee Meadow: History Repeating itself

Walking along the West Cloister at London Road, you will notice signs stating that grass has been left to grow between Buildings L24 (The Learning Hub) and L27 (Global Recruitment), as well as between L27 and L29 (Music).

Sign
London Road, November 2022.
Pollinator lawn
Garden area between L27 & L29, November 2022.

Further along the cloister, towards the north, between L29 and L33 (ICT & Modern Languages), is the Bee Meadow. This was officially opened on World Bee Day, 20th May 2022, together with the unveiling of a Bee Hotel whose construction had been assisted by local primary school children in a design competition on the theme of ‘Save Britain’s Pollinators’.

Alice & Robin
May 2022. The official opening of the Bee Meadow:  Robin Dean (Bee Expert) with the Bee Hotel; Alice Williams (Institute of Education) provides shelter.

The Bee Meadow Project is directed by Dr Jo Anna Reed Johnson, Director of Climate and Sustainability Education at the Institute of Education. It is funded by the Friends of the University of Reading. The project engages trainee teachers who will encourage young people to consider climate change through the perspective of bees.

With the help of the University’s Teaching and Learning Fund, the project is beginning to co-create teaching and learning activities and resources through a collaborative process, which reflects the pedagogical approach for education for sustainable development.

The History of this Part of the Campus

That the area along the West Cloister should become the focus of bees and pollination seems particularly appropriate given its history.

As I showed in my post about the missing South Cloister, it wasn’t until 1927-8 that plans for the West Cloister and its buildings were finally approved by Council.  Before that, early maps in College publications label the land as:

    • ‘The College Garden (for horticultural teaching and practice)’ (1902);
    • ‘Horticultural Ground’ (1903);
    • ‘Horticultural Department University College’ (1904);
    • ‘Horticultural Gardens’ (1906);
    • ‘Part of Horticultural Garden and Glasshouses’ (1907);
    • ‘Reserved for building’ (1926).
Extract
Detail from a ‘Sketch Plan of Reading Shewing University College’, published in the College Calendar, 1906-7.

By the time the College moved from Valpy Street to London Road in 1905, the land on the west side of the campus was already being leased from the Palmer family as a practical area for students in the Department of Horticulture.

potting shed
Undated image of horticultural students at London Road (University of Reading Special Collections).

The glasshouses mentioned above must have been heated through the winter as the Garden’s expenditure accounts (see below) include fairly large sums for coal and coke.

The glasshouses with the Great Hall in the background, can be seen in these two images:

Nursery
Undated photograph:  notes on the back suggest it was taken at some time between 1909 and 1913 (University of Reading Special Collections).
greenhouses
Undated photograph (University of Reading Special Collections). The glasshouses were demolished in 1917.

These plots were much more than a location for staff to demonstrate and for students to practise; it was a commercial enterprise. Some of the College’s earliest financial reports contain separate details of income and expenditure for the College Garden.

In this statement for the academic year 1903-4, the income from selling produce amounted to more than two-thirds of the net value of fees from Horticulture students.

Income
College Garden Income, 1903-4.

The next photograph has the following inscription on the back:

‘Crop of Tomatoes in newly-planted Vinery – variety : Winter Beauty Horticultural Gardens at the College, London Road (c.1907)’.

tomatoes indoors
Winter Beauties c.1907 (University of Reading Special Collections).

I believe the greenhouse below to be the Vinery – you can just make out the tomatoes, but I am not sure where it was located. The foreground looks like the original rose garden, in which case this might be near where the Peace Garden is now. There is no date or description on the back.

vinery exterior
The Vinery (University of Reading Special Collections).

In 1917 Horticulture left the Campus and moved to Shinfield. As the next photographs show, the gardens were grassed over before construction started on the West Cloister. These images were taken after the New Library was completed in 1923. It can be seen on the right and now houses Architecture:

1923-9

2nd view
Undated images, taken at some time between 1923 and 1929 (University of Reading Special Collections). The Great Hall is in the background on the left.
But What about the Bees?

Before I discovered the financial accounts referred to above, I had wondered whether beekeeping had been part of the Horticulture Department’s activities.

I’d noticed from lists of examination results that insects were on the syllabus:  annual reports from Reading College between 1899 and 1901 include Entomology in the Certificate in Horticulture; there were also Certificate Examinations in Entomology and Associate Examinations in Agricultural Entomology.

The first mention of bees was for the academic year 1903-4:   the University College Gardens Accounts record that £4 16s 1d was spent on bees (nearly as much was spent on insecticides!):

expenditure
College Garden Expenditure, 1903-4.

There are further references in the accounts for 1905-6 and 1906-7, now under the general heading of ‘apiculture’ rather than just ‘bees’. By 1907 the amount spent on apiculture had increased to £7 5s 5d.

There are no further mentions of bees or apiculture in these records. That doesn’t necessarily mean that apiculture had ceased, simply that the accounts were presented differently and in less detail in the Annual Reports. In addition, the accounts for 1906-7 are joint accounts for London Rd and the Fruit Station at Shinfield. So it is possible that some of this activity had moved there.

Nevertheless, there is clear evidence that apiculture did take place on the London Road Campus at the beginning of the 20th Century; in 2023 when the flowers bloom, the bees will have turned full circle!

Thanks

To Dr Jo Anna Reed Johnson for help with details of the Bee Meadow Project.

Sources

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

Reading College. Annual Reports and Accounts from 1899-1900 to 1901-2.

Reading College. Calendar from 1899-1900 to 1901-2.

University College, Reading. Annual Reports and Accounts  from 1903-04 to 1907-08.

University College, Reading. Calendars from 1902-3 to 1925-26.

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

University of Reading Special Collections. Report on New Buildings submitted to Council of the University by the Vice-Chancellor, February 1928 (UHC CM GOV 8).

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

University of Reading Special Collections. University History MS 5305 Photographs – London Road.

Stoking the Boilers

The clocks have gone back; December will soon be here; the nights are getting chilly; at London Road the heating has been on for a while now.

Spare a thought for those who once stoked the campus boilers!

engineers
University of Reading Special Collections.

This image, dated c.1915, was taken in one of the Boiler Rooms at London Road. A note on the back describes these two men as the ‘Engineers’:  they are Edward J. Godden and Frederick T. Millard and, apparently, the photo was taken shortly before the latter’s call-up to serve in the armed forces during WW1.

Edward Godden had started as a porter in 1907 before becoming Engineer in 1910, a post he retained until 1926. Frederick Millard returned as his assistant at the end of the war and also remained until 1926.

I don’t know the location of this particular Boiler Room but architects’ notes of 1907 state that:

‘Messrs. Perkins, Warner, and Pfeiderer, of London, installed the heating apparatus in the Old Red Building’ (p. 2).

There were also three independent boilers ‘in a basement’ to heat the buildings along the East Cloister (see map of 1907). Ventilation was improved by electric exhaust fans to remove foul air. Coal for the boilers was delivered via the south entrance in Acacias (now Acacia) Road between the dairy and the present-day L16.

map
Site plan published in the Students’ Handbook of 1907-8.

I am not sure whether there was a boiler under the Great Hall which is described as being heated and ventilated by hot water and air:

‘A creeping way beneath the floor gives access to every part of the heating arrangements, and a large fan in the basement, worked by an electric motor, drives fresh air into the Hall over the radiators, the air being first washed by a water screen.’ (1907, p. 4).

The tone of these notes shows how proud the architects were of the facilities across the campus. No doubt ventilation was particularly important in buildings such as Fine Arts {now L4: Art Education) which were still lit by incandescent gas burners.

Those with electric light could suffer power cuts, however. The Great Hall had electric lighting but always kept a single gas jet burning during events in case a power outage should result in panic.

Sources

University College, Reading. Calendars 1907-8 to 1925-6.

University College, Reading (1907). Notes by the Architects (W. Ravenscroft and C. S. Smith) on the New Hall and Buildings.

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

University of Reading Special Collections. University History MS5305 Photographs – Portraits Box 1.

On Armistice Day

Memorial
The War Memorial, November 2022
George and Walter Lucking

A year ago I published a post about George Lucking and the University of Reading War Memorial.

Mr Lucking had been a porter on the College’s Valpy Street premises from 1904, just before the move to London Road, and became Head Porter on the new campus in 1907. He remained in post until 1924.

His son Walter is recorded on the roll of honour beneath the clock tower and in the Book of Remembrance of members of the College who fell in the War of 1914-18.

Walter
University of Reading, Special Collections

I recently discovered another image of George Lucking in the form of the sketch below. It is undated, but he looks of a similar age to his portrait with the clock tower bell in my earlier post so it is likely that it was completed in the early to mid-1920s.

Sketch
University of Reading, Special Collections:  Undated sketch of George Lucking, Head Porter at London Rd.
W. M. Childs

As Principal of University College Reading it was W. M. Childs who suggested a memorial to the members of the College who had fallen in the 1914-18 War.

It would, he proposed, consist of a tower with a clock and a great bell. And the tower, should ‘make its appeal simply through its visible strength, its austerity, and its proportions.’ (1933, p.255).

He records that,

‘More than 500 of our members, past and present, served in our fleets or armies and upon our war memorial are the names of 144 who lost their lives.’ (W. M. Childs, 1933, p. 218)

In his memoir, Childs focuses on the effect of the war on the college and on those who died, but it is left to his son, Hubert, to record the emotional effect the horrors of war had on him:

‘A fortnight’s lecturing to troops in forward areas in France, which he undertook under the Y.M.C.A. auspices early in 1918, served to increase his abhorrence of the terrible destruction, waste and squalor that the conflict was causing, and added to his eagerness for a return to normal life. ‘ (H. Childs, 1976, p. 120).

Horse
The Peace Garden at London Rd. 11/11/2022:  Memorial Sculpture designed and constructed by Secondary PGCE students using recyclable materials.
Sources

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

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

University College, Reading. Calendars from 1904-5 to 1923-4.

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

University of Reading Special Collections. MS 5339 Book of Photographs of Members of University College, Reading who fell in the 1914-18 War.

Whatever happened to the South Cloister? Part 2: 1926-1947

On becoming a university (1926)

With buildings in place to the north, south and east of the central quadrangle, and cloisters joining them on the east and north sides, the development of the west side of the campus had become a priority. Childs reported to Council on the inadequacy of teaching areas, and in 1928 submitted a paper that stressed the need for a permanent, wide-ranging solution that had no place for short-term ‘tinkering’ (Holt, 1977, p. 34). Council’s immediate response was to set up a New Buildings Committee and an appeal for funds –  £200,000 would be needed (including £55,000 for maintenance of the new buildings).

The Proceedings of 1927-28 refer to a ‘block plan’ prepared by the architects Messrs. Chas. Smith and Son that had been approved by Council. Proposals included:

‘… the whole of the University buildings, from entrance to entrance, to be linked together by permanent cloisters …. a cloistered quadrangle enclosing the major part of the open space to the south of the library’. (p. 47)

The block plan was published in the University Gazette in 1929:

Whole plan

The proposed route for the South Cloister shows an interesting deviation from the development plan of 1911; it now passes through the spur of today’s L19 before turning towards a proposed new south entrance with its own porters’ lodge:

close-up

Between 1929 and 1932, and with the help of donations, buildings for Geology (now L27), Geography and Agricultural Chemistry (L24) were completed along the West Cloister.

The undated plan below shows the campus at some time between 1932 and 1934. The names of some of the departments allocated to buildings are different from the earlier block plan. For example, today’s L29 is labelled ‘Geography and Letters Lecture Theatre’ instead of ‘Education’.

Smith & Bott
Undated plan published in Smith & Bott, 1992, p. 60.

In 1934 the Friends of the University provided £750 for an extension to the cloister on the west side of the Library Quadrangle.

Friends cloister
September 2022: ‘The Friends’ Cloister’, looking towards L33. A Plaque (see below) is on the second pillar on the left.

Friends plaque

In spite of progress along the West Cloister, space was still in short supply. In the Proceedings of 1936-7 the Vice-Chancellor (Franklin Sibly) notes:

‘Owing to the growth of classes in the School of Art and the Department of Zoology, the need of new buildings is extremely urgent; and there is also a pressing need of suitable accommodation, in a new building, for the Department of Psychology.’ (p. 31).

Further developments were reported in the University Proceedings.

    • 1938-9:  a two-storey building (now L33) was approved for Zoology and Psychology. Accommodation for Art would extend into the old Zoology Building on the East Cloister.
    • Work started in July, but stopped in October 1939 because of the outbreak of war. The Vice-Chancellor noted that the need for space was ‘acute’.
    • The University spent £3,250 on air-raid precautions and fire-fighting equipment.
    • 1939-40:  work on the new buildings resumed and ‘a basement air-raid shelter’ was added to the plans.
1939
1939: preparing the ground for the New Zoology Building (now L33) (University of Reading, Special Collections).
    • 1940-41:  the buildings were completed.
    • 1941-42:  the accommodation became available for use during the Lent Term of 1942.
1941
May 2019:  L33 (formerly ‘The New Zoology Building’)
But Still no South Cloister

Despite the West Cloister being in place, the proposed South Cloister appears to have been relegated to a short ‘covered way’. This is shown in a Development Plan of 1944 published in Holt’s (1977) history of the University.

1944 whole campus
1944 Development Plan (Holt, 1977, plate no. 25)
enlargement
Enlarged section showing the Covered Way near the proposed South Entrance on Acacia Road

Following the end of the Second World War in 1945, space became even more of an issue:  large numbers of ex-servicemen and women who had postponed entry wanted to take up their places. Many were refused admission because of lack of hall places, classrooms and laboratory space. At the same time, the Government was expanding university provision and Reading would be expected to double the number of students from pre-war levels.

There was no more room for expansion at London Road and attention became focused on acquiring the freehold of Whiteknights Park. Thanks to a Treasury loan this was completed in February 1947. Presumably there was little appetite now for completing the cloisters on the original campus!

The Institute of Education moved back to the London Road Campus from Bulmershe in January 2012 following a multi-million pound refurbishment and was soon accompanied by Architecture.

Students and staff moving from L14, L16 or the Dairy to L22 and L24 are still at the mercy of the elements.

W
September 2022:  the West Cloister from outside the Learning Hub (L24)
Sources

Brown, C. C. (2006). Four score and more: a chronological celebration of the University of Reading on the occasion of its eightieth birthday. Reading: University of Reading.

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

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

Reading University Gazette. Vol. II.  No. 2. March 21, 1929.

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

University of Reading. Proceedings of the University, 1925-26 to 1946-7.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This will be detailed in the next post.

Sources

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

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

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

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

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

The Young Nellie Eales and her Postcard Home

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

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

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

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

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

pc
University of Reading, Special Collections

The message reads as follows:

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

She continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

enlarged

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

Note

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

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

Sources

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

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

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

University College, Reading. Calendar, 1910-11.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Covid
The Great Hall, January 2021
Post Script

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

Thanks

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

Sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great Hall: Laying the Foundation Stone

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

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

Why start the new campus with the hall?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Front cover

Among its contents were:

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

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

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

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

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

And:

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

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

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

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

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

Post Script

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

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

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

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

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