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Visiting the Former St. Andrew's Hall, Reading University, Reading, England: Commemorating Women's University Education

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The Museum of English Rural Life. The museum was established in 1951 by the University of Reading LinkExternal link . It moved from the Whiteknights campus to this location at Redlands Road in 2005.

The Museum of English Rural Life. The museum was established in 1951 by the University of Reading LinkExternal link . It moved from the Whiteknights campus to this location at Redlands Road in 2005.

Red brick memories of distinguished personalities

This property, dating from 1880/82, was originally known as East Thorpe: executed in red brick (of this, a further comment shortly), with typically tall chimney stacks, flying buttresses and a profusion of pointed window gables.

The building has historical associations with many distinguished personalities; and while it is beyond the scope of this short article to deal adequately with all the individuals concerned, the following are a few of them:

The building was designed by the architect Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905), who had strong links with the town of Reading: He notably designed Foxhill House which served as his own residence and which today houses the University of Reading's School of Law; he also designed Reading Town Hall (1).

While Alfred Waterhouse did not design the building to be university property in the first instance, his use of similar red brick at University College, Liverpool eventually gave rise to the common phrase 'red brick university' to denote a whole range of civic universities in England.

The property originally belonged to Alfred Palmer, a prominent Reading business figure, who served as High Sheriff of Berkshire and liberal benefactor of the University of Reading (which conferred on him an Hon. DSc. in 1927). Alfred Palmer donated East Thorpe to University College, Reading (as it was then known prior to incorporation as a University in 1926).

From 1911 East Thorpe was known as St. Andrew's Hall, and is believed to have been the first University Hall of Residence in England outside London to be dedicated to women students. From 1911 until 1927, prominent advocate for women's university residential facilities Miss Mary Bolam served from 1911 until 1927 as Warden of St. Andrew's Hall (2).

Miss Eleanor Plumer served as Warden of St. Andrews Hall from 1927 until 1931 (3) and, having moved to Oxford, later served as Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford (4).

St Andrew's Hall became coeducational in the 1960s.

While St Andrew's Hall closed as a residence in 2001, it continued to be owned by the University of Reading and today houses the English Museum of Rural Life (5). Formerly on the University of Reading's Whiteknights site, the Museum was founded in 1951 and currently holds almost 25,000 display items.

(My own oblique connection with the vicinity of the former St. Andrew's Hall is from a few decades ago as an alumnus of the University of Reading.)

The former St. Andrew's Hall is situated at 6, Redlands Road, Reading, Berkshire.

March 27, 2020

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(1) Other works by Architect Waterhouse include the Natural History Museum, London, Girton College, Cambridge, Manchester Town Hall, and many others.

(2) Miss Bolam had already been responsible for the accommodation and welfare at Reading of women university students from 1901 until 1911.

(3) See also: J. C. Holt, The University of Reading: the first fifty years, Reading: Reading University Press, 1977, p. 64.

(4) Until 1952, when it received its charter of incorporation, St. Anne's College was known as St. Anne's Society and, prior to 1942, as the Society for Home Students; Eleanor Plumer was a daughter of Field Marshal Herbert, Viscount Plumer and Annie, Viscountess Plumer. See also:

(5) See also:

Also worth seeing

In Reading itself, the University of Reading's Wantage Hall and St Patrick's Hall, are among the University's building which are of architectural merit; Reading Abbey ruins include the Hospitium, formerly housing the 19th century College from which Reading University later developed.

Silchester (distance: 18 kilometres) has significant, Romain remains.


How to get there

United Airlines flies from New York Newark Airport to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Distance from Heathrow Airport to Reading is 49 kilometres. A regular bus link exists between Heathrow Airport and Reading. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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