Monthly Archives: September 2013

Our Valuable Volunteers and Their Various Ventures: Natalie

Our volunteer for today is Natalie. Natalie is a self-professed ‘history geek’. As it is proper for a history geek, I first saw her while she was buried in the old documents, surrounded by huge dusty tomes, logs and journals.


Natalie hunting for Mr Dawe

Natalie is combing the teachers’ and students’ logbooks and various other documents in search for traces of Mr Dawe. Dave was a local man from Plymouth. He travelled to London to learn about teaching and modern ways of education. Later on, he became the headmaster of the St Mark’s College in Chelsea. Too bad he couldn’t wait a hundred years for the College to come to him:-). Natalie is looking into learning more about him and his life. It’s the stories like his that are the building blocks of our history.

Another project she is interested in is the life of early students, especially the Victorian ones. ‘It is interesting to see what student’s life was like’ she said. I have found this subject very interesting too, as it puts in perspective our own experiences with higher education.  I am looking forward to cooperating with Natalie, as she is one of those people we really need, with the passion and the patience to go with it.

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The Past Lives of the Students: The Battersea Training School

Piling debts, imminent deadlines, exam fever, student’s life has its challenges but in all honesty- we have it made and it’s great to be a student these days. Rummaging through the archives I have found some interesting facts from the life of the students more than a hundred years ago, when the St John College started as the Battersea Training School.


The Old Battersea House- The college left it in 1920 to join St. Mark’s in Chelsea

Some of us find the morning routine harsh. When the first lectures start at 9AM, some of us are still battling sleep Supporting our heads with our laptops after the exploits of last night( whatever they might have been). Back then the first lectures started at 7AM, but don’t think you could ‘sleep in’. There was housework to be done and the students were required to get up at 5:30AM( colloquially known as ‘stupid o’clock’ nowadays.) to do various tasks around the house, just before breakfast. That was a part of the modesty training, that’s why there were barely any support staff.

‘The young men and boys performed among them the whole of the household work, including such tasks as sweeping and scouring floors and stairs, cleaning shoes, grates, knives and yards, preparing vegetables for the cook and making beds.’

Now we have groundskeepers, catering staff, cleaning crews and various other people to make our life comfortable. I swear that I will be extra kind to them just because they make such a good job!

We have great conditions to learn, spacious library, computers, cafeteria, and for campus based student, a private room in the dorms or the village. Our university is modern and comfortable, but it wasn’t always so.  An unnamed, student reminiscing about the time he spent in the school around 1860, said:

‘The buildings, the internal arrangement of the rooms and even the sanitation at the date left much to be desired. More students were admitted that could be accommodated… twenty or more of the first-year men had to sleep in the adjoining Devonshire House in the residence of the Vice Principal.’

We all know how important it is for us to relive stress that mounts from stuffing our heads with knowledge all day long.  It varies from ‘Wooo! Party!’ to ‘Hey! A new gallery exihibit is in town’. What would you be doing if you were a student of Battersea Training School? Most probably you’d be running around with a hoe in the vegetable garden in the afternoon or getting some experience in animal husbandry just before your first lecture. ‘…gardening and outdoor work was introduced. Cows, goats and poultry were brought which were tended by the students.’ To help with ‘the strenuous effort of application and attention demanded from them..’. Because the best remedy for overworked youths is…more work! 🙂 The only true leisure seemed long walks under the eye of Dr. Kay (Sir James Kay- Shuttleworth- one of the founders of the school, for us historically challenged), and even that was described as ‘not solely for pleasure but were also intended to cultivate their habits of observation.‘ No rest for the weary then!

Yikes! I will never complain of tiredness ever again! However, one cannot help but admire those who have gained their education in such spartan conditions. Some people may sigh for the ‘good old days’, but I am impervious to nostalgia and I am glad I live in the 21 century. Who knows, maybe one day somebody will write about how hard it was to hand in your coursework in person before 4PM on the day of the deadline:-)


Year Book of the Battersea Club, Sixty years ago at Battersea Training School

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Our Valuable Volunteers and Their Various Ventures: Mark and Richard

Our archives are a place where many volunteers pursue their projects and passions. As a recurring feature of this blog I will write about those people and their work, so that everybody can meet the people who invest their time and energy here.

Last Thursday I have met my first two volunteers, Mark and Richard. Those two lovely guys are working on a parallel projects involving photography, both in the archives and around the campus. They both came to us guided by the Plymouth’s Volunteer Centre.


Mark on the left, Richard on the right

In the late morning we had a short walk towards the less visited parts of our campus, with Gillian being our guide. We went down the road towards the chaplain’s house and the pond behind it. There is a small wooded area that was of interest to them and also the future site of a new orchard has been planted recently (I can’t wait for the first ‘apple day’!’. I followed them as they worked taking pictures of this little travelled spot.


Their projects are related but separate. Mark’s project is called ‘Seeing Marjon in Another Light’. His work includes the pictures of those features of Marjon that are often passed unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of the campus life, the exquisite beauty of the flowers, trees and wildlife. He uses computer graphics to enhance his photos, saturating them with lively, impressionist colours. For Mark, working with the photography is his refugee from anxiety and depression and a way of coping with day-to-day challenges. ‘Looking through the lens brings me a new perspective’ He said.

Richard’s project is called ‘Impressions of Marjon’. His work involves searching archives for old pictures of places around Marjon. When he finds a suitable one, he tries to take a picture in the same spot and make a comparison with the old one. This way one can see clearly how the time affected the place. The slow progress of time becomes so obvious this way and makes the viewer aware of the passing seasons.

I am glad that I have met them as it is always uplifting to see people making time and effort to pursue their passions. I am certainly looking forward to seeing more of their work.

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