Monthly Archives: July 2014

All you ever wanted to know about Marjon’s founders but were afraid to ask: Introduction.

It is a shame that an average Marjon student knows very little about the history of their university. I admit that I was not much better, knowing only that it is much older than it looks, was originally two separate schools and it was located in London, before the move to Plymouth. I guess it is a part of our goals, to look and work towards our futures, so there is little time and occasion to look into the past. Since I joined the archive’s volunteers I had plenty of time to amend that neglect on my part.

Meet the guests of honour: Kay-Shuttleworth on the left, Coleridge on the right

Meet the guests of honour: Kay-Shuttleworth on the left, Coleridge on the right

But instead of concentrating on the history of the institution I wanted to look at the founders of the both schools. I wanted to get to know them better, to find out who they were and what motivations are hidden behind their deeds. I wanted to know how did it happen, that they started to work on those two separate, but parallel projects. I wanted to get to know them and tell you all about the kind of people they were. So I set on a quest that took me much longer than I expected. I had to start at the very beginning, when the railways were born. When the factory chimneys littered the skylines of major cities and the dinosaurs roamed the gas-lit streets…ok, there were no dinosaurs, but you get what I mean. I had to learn a thing or two about the beginnings of the public education, because Marjon’s founders are so tightly connected to it, there is no way of skipping that bit. There is so much to tell, but I promise I’ll be brief and tell you only the most juicy bits.:-)



Filed under long time ago, people

The coat of arms

If you never saw the official coat of arms of Marjon university- look to the right of the page. Today we only use the shield portion, having retired the dreadful ‘nike’ logo that dominated both webpages and signs when I got accepted.

The official document granting the coat of arms to Marjon

The official document granting the coat of arms to Marjon


A close-up of the three heavy seals attached to the document

I had a rare opportunity to see the official document that gives coat of arms to Marjon. It is housed in a special wooden box that protects it from the damaging light. Marjon got his coat of arms when the two Colleges merged in 1926. They were especially designed to accentuate the equality between the two schools, which from now on would stand as one. The official description is pure ‘heraldese’ that only those who are adept in the heraldic arts can understand. For us, the lay-people, it is enough to understand that the swords came from the coat of arms of diocese of London and the red diamonds from the Southwark’s diocese. Why? Because the schools were located in those dioceses. You can clearly see the connection:

A close-up of the arms themselves

A close-up of the arms themselves

I’m sure I don’t have to say anything about the blazon (the upper part of the arms- I’ve just learnt that word, please don’t throw stones at me:-)). The Lon and the Lamb stand of course for the Evangelists- St John and St Mark.

What surprises me, is the attitude the modern world has towards the arms. They are mostly ignored, substituted by logos and trademarks, and generally considered old-fashioned. G Woods Wallaston, the man who designed Marjon’s coat of arms, says: ‘Arms are to an individual, a family, or a body corporate what flag is to a nation.’ Nobody would ever dare to think the Union Jack to be old-fashioned, why then can’t we treat the coat of arms with the same deal of respect? They should be the source of pride and admiration, a sign of high standards and respectability. Yet some universities (I’m not pointing fingers, but you know who you are- Stars and Scallops:-)) prefer to hide their arms, restricting their use to the graduation ceremonies. But I ask you this: what good is to have your arms covered? The arms were originally invented for easy recognition and not for keeping under a lock and key. So I say: let our colours fly!

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Filed under Marjon pride

Kid in a candy store

John Christie- one of the first people ever to graduate from St John's

John Christie- one of the first people ever to graduate from St John’s

When you have a mind obsessed with ‘knowing stuff’ being in the archives is like being a kid in a candy store. There are books to read, photos to look at, dark nooks and crannies to put your tentacles in. But sometimes it can be overwhelming. Too much sweets can give you stomach ache, or in this case- swollen head. There is so many things that I would like to write about, so many projects. Some days I come in and think of researching one subject, only to have three more coming out of woodwork.

Here are some that still manage to get away from

Join the RAF- the artist took some liberties with the perspective in this one:-)

Join the RAF- the artist took some liberties with the perspective in this one:-)

me. For now.

Here is John Christie, one of the first students to ever graduate from St. John’s College. He was a Plymouth boy. I would love to hunt him down, maybe in the Club yearbook or in other, official documents. Who was he and how did it happen that he wound up in London? I want to know.

The archives have a sizable collection of old posters. Some of them are reproductions, others are genuine. Among them, there are some real beauties, others are funny looking. You can say a lot from the style and wording of posters. Each decade had its own way of expressing ideas and poster art is no different.

J. H Simpson- I can hear him begging to be displayed.

J. H Simpson- I can hear him begging to be displayed.

Here is the portrait of J. H Simpson. He was the principal during the WWII. His painting is one of many that beg to be restored and displayed. There is even a legend attached to one of them: ‘the story of man with no legs’. I itch to tell this one, but it has to give way to other stories.

There are others ‘back burner occupants’, but their time will come one day. Soon I hope.


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Heavy-lifting history

History- the sprawling sea of infinite paper…well, not exactly. People have very little contact with the solid, physical evidence of the progression of the ages. Except maybe in museums, but even there we’re separated by the glass and stern warnings of ‘don’t to touch the exhibits’ kind. It is such a shame. There is nothing quite like holding something that until very recently was buried under tons of earth and forgotten. Nothing, except maybe for handling the object that took refuge in our archives. We have many memorial plaques that had been taken from the place they were originally placed, mostly because of the move to Plymouth. Some were taken from the Battersea House when the Colleges merged. And when somebody says that archival work is light, just hand them A5 of solid brass and ask then:-)

The memorials themselves are quite beautiful and some are very elaborate. To think, that each of them stands for something so dear that people couldn’t bear the thought of them being forgotten. There are memorials for principals and vice-principals, tutors and other employees who earned the respect of their colleagues and pupils. There are memorials for students that met a tragic death and for war heroes. There is even a memorial for Percy Beach Daniels- the little son of principal Daniels. It stands not only as a remembrance of him, but also as a grim reminder of the realities of the Victorian life. Some are written in Latin and I had to scramble the little knowledge of the language that I have to decipher them, at the same time fighting against the ornate, gothic font.

Each memorial has a transcript made, that holds the dimensions and whatever inscriptions there are. This led me to find that the memorial for doctor Kay-Shuttleworth is not among those we have. I do hope the memorial is placed somewhere around campus, probably somewhere not open to the public. I’d rather not think that we would be so careless as to lose a memorial to one of our founders. But I’ve said enough already, let the memorials speak for themselves now:


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Filed under artefacts