In literature as well as in real life, geography has a great influence on people. And the reason I am talking about it now is the thoughts of alumni that visited the archives recently. They were the ones who started studying in Chelsea and underwent the transition to Plymouth.
Imagine you signed up for this:
Marjon Chelsea entrance
And it turned into this:
Marjon Chelsea entrance
Imagine leaving the place you know one summer and returning to it in autumn. Only to realize that it changed looks and location. You’re no longer walking the grounds that were there since Coleridge had his ‘crazy’ ideas about educating the poor. No more stories of Lady Stanley’s ghost and no more walls to jump.
Instead there is a site under construction, brand new buildings built in modern fashion and a whole lot of space surrounding the place. Imagine you joined one of the oldest schools in England, with the buildings to prove it, only to have it completely changed, seemingly overnight. The college had ran the course of history, the old gave way to the new.
But it doesn’t meant that the old is gone. The new Marjon site was designed to remind us where we came from. Behold the cloisters, old and new:
Marjon Chelsea entrance
The old library and former training school with our legacy building- the chaplaincy centre:
Old library and chaplaincy centre
As for the ghosts…well, they say that the third floor of the library is haunted and some people would not go there alone. Although I never felt anything otherworldly over there. Maybe some day…
We used to be a ‘monastic-type’ school. What do I mean by that? Of course in the medieval times there were schools attached to monasteries and the monasteries themselves had schools to educate young monks. But that’s not what I mean.
A proposed puilding back in Chelsea
The ‘monastic’ is gone, the cloister remains
In Kay-Schuttleworth’s and Coleridge’s times that would mean that the school should be an environment that would eliminate all distractions from the studies. What would that mean in practice? A lot of discipline, rules and schedules. The school would be an isolated place where time was highly organized and occasional breaks from studying would be filled with manual work and every hour in a student’s life would be accounted for. Ugh:-). Things got better with time, but even in the 50’s, the ‘monastic’ was very much alive- doors closing at 10, walls around the campus, no women students, just like in Mike Ford’s stories.
So nowadays the discipline is gone, but the ‘monastic’ is still present like a shadow of a monk in a haunted monastery. Look closely at this picture of a proposed building in the campus of St Mark College. See that bit with the columns running alongside the building? That’s called cloister, a part that is traditionally included in monasteries.
We’re now far away both from the monastic beginnings of education and from the ‘monastic-style’ schools. However, the ‘monastic’ still lives in the architecture of ~Marjon. With the move to Plymouth they made sure we still have a cloister even that it is modern-looking (well, retro-modern nowadays:-)). It is one of my favourite features of the campus, it allows you stay dry when moving from one building to another even if it rains cat and dogs and horses or just enjoy rain without a drawback of being wet. Next time you’re walking from the shop to the library, take note why we have that convenient route.:-)
This is a very small post, due to some unforeseen circumstances that prevented me from proper research in the past week. But excuses aside, here is the Chelsea Ostrich:
Before the big move in 1973 from Chelsea to Plymouth, the people were not extremely excited about the change. I can’t really blame them, for the most people the change is scary and seeing so many years of tradition and memories going through irrevocable transformation must be even harder. But for ostriches the change is something that, if ignored, will eventually go away. As an illustration of the mood on campus, one of the newsletters printed this image:
The Chelsea Ostrich
What can I say, I didn’t know that Marjon was accepting ostriches at some point:-)
Late Marjons return.& very helpful ‘bobbies.
A car for breakfast- students’ prank at its finest.
A pirate collects charity into a chamber pot- you can’t make that up:-)
They say that everyone has at least one story to tell, but one guy has a bagful of them and he is willing to share. I have a pleasure of telling you about Mike Ford another great Marjon graduate.
We have three of his books in the archives, written and also illustrated by Mike himself. He also published them as he created a publishing house (Chwarae Teg Publications) just to tell his stories. Wow!
There is ‘Mike’s Odd Odes’; Reading this one can only be compared to reading Vogon poetry if Vogons illustrated their works- that makes the ‘Odes’ a mixture of bizarre and awesome, you can’t go wrong with that. ‘The 1930’s + 1940’s Revisited’ is a book of stories from his childhood in Penarth. A good read for anyone that prefers ‘common man history’ to the official history books.
But the one that is the most interesting for me was ‘A Stewed Ant in London, Paris and Cardiff (Ha! I didn’t get that one until I said it aloud.:-)’. Those are the mostly the stories from his time as a Marjon student 1955-57- the good, the bad and the weird. And those include: A pirate working for charity, a secret marriage and ‘bobbies’ helpful beyond their duties. My favourite though is the story about an especially strict teacher that finds a car on his table instead of expected breakfast. This one made me regret that I never witnessed anything like the pranks of old. On the other hand- today’s student has little authority to rebel against and I’m happier for it.
His work reminds me of Billy Hopkins and his books. I have written about him before. I think that Mike deserves as much recognition as Billy. Or maybe more than him, because he is hilarious and his anecdotes mademe laugh out loud (No, I’m not abbreviating that!;)
Among the things that I did not know about Marjon is that there used to be a lively student exchange between the college and the Ecole Normale D’instituteurs in Versailles. And I wouldn’t know still if I wouldn’t stick my nose where it doesn’t belong and dig up some of the scrap books that were made to commemorate the occasion. Apart from the student’s scrapbooks from the beginning of the twentieth century that I’ve written about before, I was never very much into the idea of a scrapbook. In our time, when everybody carries a pocket camera, galleries can be made on the fly and uploaded to a social platform of your choice, I can’t see much point to it. But back then, a scrapbook could be a great project. This one is, a memory of an event that survived for sixty years on these pages. What is special about it is that it is not a work of one person. This is not a work of some zealot that collected ticket stubs, newspapers and drew pictures like there was no tomorrow. This scrapbook is a compilation of work of all participants of the exchange. Each person contributed to this project. They wrote articles on a different subject concerning the life in Versailles. They drew pictures of art, buildings, life scenes and of an occasional French bum that they encountered ( technically such a person is called a clochard and is an important part of local ambience):-). There are tickets to attractions, map of the ‘expedition’, fronts from French cigarette boxes and even the receipts from the restaurants they visited. Want to check what was good to eat back then? Be my guest:-). And what is interesting about the exchange of 1955 is that it is an exchange that almost wasn’t. Apparently, that year an epidemic of scarlet fever stormed through the Ecole Normale D’instituteurs. Seriously not fun. The scrapbook contains a telegram from Versailles that brought the news that almost nixed the plans for the exchange. Luckily it was only postponed and the exchange went ahead. And that is how a beautiful keepsake was made.
Chelsea-Versailles 1955 exchange scrapbook
A drawing of a statue of Clemence Isaure
A drawing of Paris railway station
Many tickets stubs
Tickets from the attractions
A full page of French cigarettes
A picture of a random clochard
A map of Versailles with routes and points of interest.
Scarlet fever strikes! – the message from the French school
Derwent Coleridge- the guy that founded St Mark’s College
There is this book that I found in the depths of the archives. It is quite interesting, as it was written after the school has been in existence for 45 years and it was collaborated upon by people who were closely involved with it, sometimes both as students and teachers. But to me, the most interesting were the memories of Derwent Coleridge, the founder of St Mark. He talks about the way the whole area was when they first arrived. He says that it was ‘market-gardens and meadows intersected by creeks and ditches covered with green water weeds.’ It is really hard for me to imagine the middle of London to ever been like that. But the invasive expansion of London was apparent even back then, as he says: ‘it was country already condemned to turn into suburb…’
He recollects everything about the college itself: the grounds, the buildings, the teachers and pupils. Even Mrs Harvey, who was the matron in charge of the domestic servants. It made me think that she must have been an incredible figure. Colerige says that once, hearing rumours of burglars on the grounds, even that she was ‘…elderly and rheumatic, (she) went around the passages with a poker.’
He also casually reminisces about the music evening that they had, when he listened to Sir Arthur Sullivan singing. Yeah, Derwent my man, I’m not jealous of that at all:-) I swear sometimes it feels like we had our fingers in ALL the pies at some point.
But the memories of others as they remembered St Mark and Coleridge were as interesting. Especially what A.C King said, that he was ’…delighted in taking every opportunity of introducing his assistant masters to any man of note…’ He must have been proud of them and it looks to me like he did everything to help their careers and the school’s reputation.
I wonder what Coleridge would say if he could see us now? I bet he would be proud of us getting full university title last year. I think he would be happy with what his legacy had become. As for me, I enjoyed the book and I will definitely come back to Coleridge because there is more to say about him.
Gent, G.W. (ed) (1891) Memories of S Mark College. Chelsea: G. White Printer