All the news that's fit to print
First update to this website in a very long time … much has happened since I last posted.
As many of you will know, the campus has undergone a lot of change, with work now well underway in the latest redevelopment of the Coopers Hill site. It’s been a while since I personally last ventured there, but reports from others cite that all of the ‘new’ accommodation blocks, workshops and gymnasiums have all been cleared and demolished.
This is to make way for the next chapter in the campus’ story – it’s transformation into (drumroll please!) Magna Carta Park.
Sad face ;-(
More on that another time… the reason for dusting off the blog and writing this update was to share with the world an amazing set of photos and memories from a very special campus resident – one Phyllis Taylor – later to become Phyllis Enlund after her marriage to Jeffery.
Phyllis, or Phyl as she likes to be known, left a comment on the website a couple of years ago which caught my attention. Rather than coming from someone who studied on campus – either during the Shoreditch College years, or the Brunel years – Phyllis lived and worked on campus from 1946 when it was Cooper’s Hill Emergency Training College – which makes Phyl the oldest (in residency terms) commentator to date!
If you remember, Cooper’s Hill Emergency Training College was setup by London County Council (LCC) to quickly address the lack of teachers following the second world war (you can read more about the history of the campus here). During wartime, the LCC had used Cooper’s Hill as an administrative centre to protect vital civic functions from bombing. It’s is also the period when Piccadilly’s famous Eros statue was stored for safe-keeping in the President Hall cellars!
To address the acute shortage of trained teachers, a heavily compressed syllabus was used to train handcraft teachers in under 18 months, many of whom were soldiers demobbed and returning from the war. It was this influx of students that led cause to setup kitchens to provide meals, and Phyl’s first job. The College closed in name in 1951, when it was agreed the Shoreditch College of Education (also under LCC control) would expand and relocate from their Pitfield Street campus in Hoxton, London to the Cooper’s Hill site.
Now, it’s impolite to ask a lady her age, but i’m guessing she must be in her late 80’s now … alive and well and living now in Australia.
According to the many emails we have exchanged, Phyl was born in Strood, Rochester on the north Kent coast. She grew up and went to school in nearby Rainham where a neighbour, who worked in another Teachers College kitchen, told Phyl about the job openings in the kitchens at the newly opened Cooper’s Hill Emergency Training College in Surrey. She applied and took up a job as an assistant vegetable cook in October 1946.
She lived in College Hall, above the kitchens, with a view of the Chapel. Every morning she rose at 5.30 and and prepared meals for upwards of 370 resident students every day. She remembers the food being very good by post-war standards – bacon, eggs & toast for breakfast from 6.30, and sometimes grilled herrings too. A less fond memory was chopping frozen cabbages in the winter months!
On days her off, she remembers fondly going to dances in Windsor, Staines, Egham and even as far away as Kingston. There were plenty of dances held on the campus – presumably in the Pillar or College Halls – as well as visits to the Barley Mow in Englefield Green, and to ‘the pictures’ in Egham!
Phyl was kind enough to share the photos above from her personal collection, which I can’t thank her enough for. Not surprisingly the campus looks almost identical to the much later years we’ll all recognise, but the real delight is in seeing folk posing for the same kinds of photographs in the same kinds of places – in from of President Hall, on the Pillar Hall Ballroom steps, by the Pillar Hall garden urns etc.
A timeless place.
Thank-you Phyl – it’s been wonderful corresponding these past few years, and i’m sure many people will enjoy your photos and memories of Coopers Hill.
Minor update to the TV & movie locations page, adding The Wrong Box from 1966, and two appearances on the small screen in 2010 and 2011 in Lewis and Downton Abbey no less! Tip of the hat to Jill Sandwell for spotting the latter two outings for the campus.
The site has been live for a little over a week now, and the positive reactions i’ve received have been lovely! Certainly makes all the hard work worthwhile now, and confirms my suspicion that the campus really ignited a unique set of feelings in whomever, and whenever they stayed here.
There’s been some great site feedback too – thanks to all who’ve submitted wonky links. There are some immediate observations I’ve made:
1. Folk really want a photo gallery option to view personal photos.
I’m fully supportive of this, and i’m looking into options. Whilst I don’t mind hosting photos per se, over time this could get quite onerous, and I wonder if a shared photo repository (eg Flickr, Picasa) might be a better solution. If you have strong opinions, let me know.
2. Visits from smartphones
I really shouldn’t be surprised about this, doing what I do, but over half of site visits are coming from Smartphones – principally iPhones – and i’m aware that the panoramic photography isn’t supported on these devices. I’m working on a solution for this, though it will require all of the photography viewpoints being re-made. When I embarked on this project 3 years ago and made some technology choices, smartphones had a much smaller market share and there wasn’t a robust solution to panoramic photography on those platforms, so I opted for the QuickTime route. Times have changed, and thankfully there are modern HTML5 techniques available now. Before embarking on the internal shots (some 600 views!!) i’ll make the jump to a new plug-in free technology that supports the widest set of devices possible. Watch this space.
3. Changing building names
The chaps from the STC days are understandly unfamilair with the building names Brunel adopted – even though they generally commemorate the STC faculty staff (Williams, Scrivens, Marshall et al). A couple of helpful alumni are trying to provide an alternative building nomenclature to me, so I can provide both names where possible.
Keep the feedback coming in – and do please leave your thoughts in the Guestbook. It’s these personal stories that breathe life into the site.
Some lovely comments coming in already – thank you! Jason’s inaugural note in the Guestbook was exactly the reaction I hoped this site would provoke.
Lots of interest in the “access all areas” photography I alluded to from the lesser-seen parts of the campus – like the President Hall cellars and the College Hall Top floor. Publishing the buildings will take some time to complete, but to wet the appetite, here’s a glimpse from inside one of the Clock Tower rooms overlooking President Hall, and here’s a couple showing the epic views from up there:
Added more thumbnails for Luther, Bhaji on the Beach and Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll on the movie locations page. Tidied up the permalink structure, and deployed to live server.
I can’t quite believe it, but after almost three and half years, this site is finally ready to launch to the world.
There’s 193 viewpoints to see, covering the entire campus – all photographed in a single day in the late summer of 2008. If this initial release is well-received, i’ll start adding the internal shots I have of the buildings as time allows. I photographed just about every one, and every floor!
Enjoy, be kind, and let me know if you find any error or bugs.