When I first visited Reading University for some weekends in 1967 (I saw the Jeff Beck Group live in the Great Hall at the Old London Road campus!), Wantage Hall and its environs made want me to be a student here. Wantage Hall is the oldest hall of residence of Reading University . It is however a non-collegiate Hall (as are all of the Halls at Reading University). It is believed to be the first purpose-built hall outside of Oxford and Cambridge universities, and is designed in the Oxford college style. The displayed motto reads: "Astra castra, Numen lumen" (the stars are my camp, the deity my light) is that of the Knights of the Maccabees.
The hall was donated by Lady Harriet Wantage in memory of her husband Lord Robert James Loyd-Lindsay, 1st Baron Wantage. It was opened in 1908 by Lord Wantage, the first President of Reading University. Built of brick and with its turrets and magnificent Tudor twin-towered gate-house arched entrance and clock, Wantage Hal; is not only one of the great delights of Old Redlands and its tree lined avenues., but of the Reading itself
Architecturally it is a gem in these parts. It is built in a traditional redbrick Victorian Gothic/Tudor style along the lines of an Oxford College cloister style Quad (quadrangle). The imposing entrance has a large arched gateway and twin towers with turrets with a clock tower. Inside is the traditional lawn quadrangle The dining hall which is wood panelled, lined with portraits of Lord and Lady Wantage as well as portraits of various Vice Chancellors of the University. Wantage Hall enjoys its own independent Library.
When I was a student at the University (1968-1972) there was an excellent folk club held in the cellar and other rooms (Keith Christmas I recall playing here). I also recall "Sheep Night" when Wantage students would make forays into other halls and leave behind either painted (washable) outlines of sheep or white cardboard cut-outs (the object of 1st. years belonging to Windsor and other halls to try to catch and prevent them- we never did!). White sheep would mysteriously appear overnight and often be seen around Upper Redlands Road, the top of Redlands Road, the northern end of Northcourt Avenue and Elmhurst Road, and various parts of northern part of campus.. I am not sure if this tradition continues. Neither am I familiar with its origin- perhaps it is a confused form descending from Black Sheep night or a tradition of its own, perhaps relating to the fact that Wantage was connected to the gentlemens agricultural inheritance of the University's founding
Wantage is one of those buildings which adds tranquillity, originality, beauty and delight to the life of the student, Redlands resident or passing visitor.
The following is the entry for Wantage Hall in Wikipedia:
Wantage Hall, built 1908,.. The hall is in the town of Reading in the UK. The hall is situated just off the University's Whiteknights Campus, twenty minutes walk from the town centre, ten minutes from the University library and five minutes from the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Christchurch Green, with shops and buses to the town, is nearby.
A new court added in 1970. It is renowned within the university for its formal dinners, which often sell out. It currently offers students 19 catered meals a week, accommodating 245 students.
Wantage Hall is one of 13 Halls belonging to the University of Reading. In a non-collegiate modern British university; the various Halls form the most important sub-divisions of the institution. While lacking the formal academic autonomy of, for example, the Oxbridge colleges, they have nonetheless developed into the main focus for student identity and life. Indeed ex-students prefer to join their Hall association rather than a university-wide body.
Wantage Hall Librarian 2006-7, James Dennison, has completed a major redevelopment of the Library and it is now regularly open after years of being dormant.
In the summer of 2008, a rumour circulated the hall that there were plans afoot by the university to eventually end the student accommodation of Wantage Hall and convert the Hall to a permanent conference centre, as it is used for in the summer and during holidays. This would follow the previous closures of St. Andrew's Hall, St. David's Hall, Mansfield Hall, and (though it is said to eventually reopen) Wells' Hall. It would also follow the enforced stripping of Wantage Hall's individual warden.
However, the last will and testament of Lady Wantage specifically states that the Hall must be maintained as student accommodation. Whether the University would be able to override this fact remains to be seen.
The Hall has not commented on these rumours.
Wantage Hall not only is renowned for its tradition, but also for its facilities. These includeThe Junior Common Room acts as the main area for JCR activities such as hustings during election time, and on a daily basis provides newspapers and a general meeting place with television. Other Facilities include a traditional Bar, a Library, a Computer Room, an additional TV room with Sky television, as well as a laundry room and a music room with a piano. There is also gym equipment situated in the floor underneath 'B' block, however this is currently out of use.
Junior Common Room Committee
Fourteen students are elected annually to represent their peers within the hall and to organise events. This committee runs the JCR, puts on events and uses JCR fees to fund events for the students. The three major annual events organised by the JCR committee are the Summer Ball, Freshers Week, and RAGs (Raise and Give) Week, although social events continue throughout the year. The JCR committee (often referred to simply as the JCR) operate in accordance to a written constitution which governs their relations with the JCR body (the student population) as a whole and each other within the committee. The fourteen positions of the JCR committee are Head Councillor, 2 Councillors, Treasurer, Secretary, Welfare Rep, Social Rep, International Rep, Sports Rep, Librarian, 2 Attached Member Reps, and 2 Fresher Lay Reps. The Librarian and Sports Rep may select assistants, subject to the approval of the JCR in a simple yes/no vote, who may sit at JCR committee meetings, however, they do not enjoy voting rights. Indeed, any person may be brought to JCR committee meetings, given the approval of the committee, but cannot vote.
Wantage Hall is famed for its formal dinners. These include:
- Freshers Formal
- Founder's Dinner
- Christmas Formal
- Burns' Supper
- Easter Formal
- Graduand's Dinner
Since 2004 there has also been a Hogwarts dinner between the Burns' Supper and Easter Formal - whilst initially dominated by Slytherin, the House Cup has, for the last two years, been won by Ravenclaw.
Wantage Hall enjoys many rivalries with other halls in the University of Reading. The most obvious of these is the fierce rivalry with Wells Hall, situated less than 100 yards (91 m) away, best articulated through rugby and, particularly, football. However, from the 2006-07 academic year, Wells Hall has been closed for the next few years, and in its place most have seen St. Patrick's Hall as the obvious choice for Wantage's main rivals due to its status as being the second oldest Hall. This modern rivalry, revives a long tradition of rivalry between the two halls, up until 1990, there had been a long tradition at Reading of a "bonfire hop" essentially a bonfire party on the 5th of November each year where each hall marched with a mascot to the central bonfire on campus, traditionally Wantage Hall and St Patricks attempted to out do each other at this event, culminating in 1990 in the burning of Wantage's original historic sign. The bonfire hop was banned after 1990 due to the violence that had become prevalent.
During 2006 a trio of mysterious members of Wantage Hall planned a clandestine mission to Wells Hall. The mission was called 'Operation Ladyboy', and is thought to have targeted the cannon which stood at the centre of Wells Hall (an external gloss paint, called 'Flamingo Fun 2', was employed). Several attempts were made in the dead of night, yet each time the mission was foiled due to impressive security and mediocre planning. Despite such setbacks minor goals were achieved, such as the kidnapping of the Wells Hall Owl, a stone statue and symbol of the hall. This owl appears (unbeknown to some) in the Wantage RAGS photograph of 2006, in the bottom left of the photo.
Black Sheep Night
An annual tradition in Wantage Hall is that of putting sheep in the quad as an act of defiance against a chosen topic. This dates back to 1928, when students put sheep in the quad as an act of protest against the Warden's decision to lock any students out of the hall if they had not returned by midnight. This tradition has been carried on intermittently since and with various themes by the highly secretive 'Black Sheep Committee'. During the 2005-6 academic year, the choice of protest for the day was against the lecturer's strike.
Certainly until at least the mid 1950s this was known only as Sheep Night and was not associated with protests (except the 1928 Sheep Night as cited above).
The Hall bar, the 'Baa', is named in honour of the tradition.
The highlight of the every 'RAGs Weeks' is the annual and infamous 'Man-o-Man' competition. This involves around 5 of the hall's men taking part in a number of challenges and events one evening in the Baa with the aim of raising as much money as possible. Whoever raises the most money, generally by whipping up the crowd's enthusiasm and being extremely outrageous, is crowned Mr. Wantage of that year. The gruelling set of challenges and events are arranged by the JCR who ensure that all of the candidates are extremely drunken. The evening culminates with all of the contestants taking part in a striptease and running around (a generally packed) Baa naked, trying to collect as much of people's money as they can.
Only graduates are allowed to walk on the grass of the quad. The only exception to this is during the summer term, after exams have finished, when croquet is played on the grass. During Fresher's Week, it is tradition for members of the JCR committee to call a 'quad run'. After the bell is rung in the Baa announcing this, all those in the Baa must immediately proceed to go upstairs to the quad, and do a full lap of the quad in just their underwear.
Every summer term following exams, a mass water fight known as Opit is held on the grass behind Lawn Anex. A bar-b-que is provided by the catering staff. In 2006, in addition to the water fight, an entire Sports Day was organised in the mould of Primary School sports days.
Until at least 1956, Opit was a garden party in the Quad - it evolved into a water fight and BBQ some time after that period.