The London Road campus of the University of Reading has the distinctive charm of a traditional red-brick university. Built along the lines of the old colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, the heart of the campus is the Quadrangle of an open lawned space, with the departments grouped around the Quad edged by a covered cloister, like a cross between a traditional college and a monastery. Each Department being easy to find as a large but discreet sign used to dangle from the ceiling of the cloister outside each Department,
To the north side of the Quad sits the imposing Library, an elegeant building which dominates the Quad and sets the scene clearly for diligence, industrious study and the high standards expected of the Professional Class. Members and entrants to the five Professional Classes today would do well to remember their origins and the vital role they are supposed to play in society- which would be in a far better state if they were to improve their morals, ethics and practices accordingly.
The other imposing building of course is The Great Hall: neo Classical with sumptuous medallioned ceiling. One feels the charm, discipline and cultural; ambience of a true academic environ.
The cloister theme continues from the main quad around to the north of the Library, then around the memorial First and Second World Wars garden of the Memorial Clock Tower to the main entrance, on the London Road (A4).
The Campus is bounded by London Road to the north, Redlands Road to the east, Acacias to the south and Crown Place to west.
The Fine Art Department
I spent my undergraduate days here from 1968-1972 in the Department of Fine Art. Claude Rogers OBE was Professor of Art then, and Sir Terry Frost was Reader (later Professor Emeritus) Initially in those days the Art Department included both Typography and also History of Art. But these two later became separate departments with the eventual move up to Whiteknights Park.
The ground floor of the imposing Library was given over to the The Art Library, The Ruskin Collection, and the studies of the leading art history lecturers (Kerry Downes and Peter Fitzgerald).
The Art Department was a rabbit warren of studios, each divided up according to years, for each year was a marked progression over four years, from the general Bauhaus type disciplines of the 1st. Year (which was a Foundation Year as such and with which you had to chosse two oitgher subjcets to sit your First University Exam)
There was also a "signing in book" which each student was obliged to sign and place a time in each day. After certain time in the morning, the book was removed so that if you failed to get to your studio on time you missed registration and if you had many blanks your tutor summoned you to expllain your commitment to your subject.
Origins of the University
The University owes its origins to the Schools of Art and Science established in Reading in 1860 and 1870. These became part of an extension college of Christ Church of the University of Oxford in 1892, which became known as University College, Reading. In 1896 it received the granting of its Coat of Arms.
The new college received its first treasury grant in 1901. Three years later it was given a site, in London Road, by the Palmer family of Huntley and Palmers fame. The same family's continued support enabled the opening of Wantage in 1908 and the Research Institute in Dairying in 1912
The college first applied for a Royal Charter in 1920 but was unsuccessful at that time. However a second petition, in 1925, was successful, and the charter was officially granted on March 17, 1926. Dr.W.M.Childs was Principal of the University College when it was granted its University Charter .With the charter, the University College became the University of Reading, the only new university to be created in England between the two world wars.
Few people realised that it is the Fine Art Department that represents the seed from which the University today grew. It is the oldest part of the university as it were, its founding mother.
The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower booms out magnificently not only across the campus but can he beard right up to the top of Southern Hill and part way down into Reading town itself. The tower is a memorial to those graduates of the University who gave their lives during the First and Second World Wars- although the tower was built in the 1920's to commemorate those who fell during the First World War.
As you walk from the Quad under the clock archway to the Main Entrance on both sides of you are inscribed on plaques the names of those of our forebears who fell. A wreath of poppies hangs all years round.
I recall that when we had lectures in the Library, or when we had to give a seminar to our tutor and fellow students the clock would boom out. I initially wondered why part way through a delivery PF or KD would suddenly stop in mid flow... and then a couple of seconds later off would boom the clock. They would recommence as if nothing had happend as soon as the last chime had rung!
The Tower is 61ft in height and 196ft (14 x 14) square at the base. The greater part of the building work was carried out by the local building firm Collier and Catley. It was dedicated in June 1924. The bell weights 2.5 tons. It used to be a tradition that on 11th.November each yea the bell would ring 144 times to commemorate those undergraduates who died in World War 1.
The Great Hall
Currently undergoing some refurbishment the Great Hall is built along traditional lines of academic great buildings, with neo-Classical exterior and high curved medallioned ceiling inside
The graduation ceremonies are help here. Also regular classical concerts of a very high standard. are given.
Before the University and the Students Union moved up the Whiteknights Park it was also the venue for RUSU Saturday night concerts. I remember seeing the Jeff Beck Group (Rod Stewart was lead singer) here when I was 17 or so when visiting Reading to decide if I wanted to come here.
Viscount Goschen, Chancellor of Oxford University, laid the foundation stone for The Great Hall in 1905
As stated above the Library is the focal point of the whole Quad. Whilst the ground floor comprised the Art Library, and the Ruskin Collection together with two lecture rooms, and lecturers offices, the top floor was The School of Education Library. Reading University had a teacher training department- offering the PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education). This all moved off to the Bulmershe Campus in the 80's or 90's- but is now due to move back again.