Do you remember your student room? We explore the history of the University’s halls of residence and share alumni memories.
Whether you called Lake, High, Chamberlain or any other halls of residence home, chances are your memories of University are filled with time in halls.
With the help of Helen Fisher, Archivist for the Cadbury Research Library, we delve into the history of the halls of residence and uncover how they have changed over the years.
Initially the majority of the students attending the University lived in the local area and could stay at home. There was a list of approved lodgings but otherwise students were expected to find their own accommodation. First year students would not be guaranteed a room for another 70 years.
Temporary accommodation on the Hagley Road was rented for women, where Margery Fry was appointed warden.
The University campaigned to fund and build a dedicated women's hall of residence.
Queen's College Hall of Residence was created as accommodation for men in the Queen’s College building on Paradise Street in Birmingham City Centre.
University House (current day Business School) was opened on Edgbaston Park Road - the first permanent women's halls of residence.
Photo: Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham
The students and staff of University House made way during the First World War to provide accommodation for nurses working at the 1st Southern General Hospital, a temporary military hospital in the Aston Webb complex. Students/staff at University House moved to Wyddrington in Edgbaston as temporary accommodation.
Chancellor's Hall was opened - a hall of residence for men in a building on Augustus Road, Edgbaston, but too many rules meant it didn't prove popular and many students chose to rent privately.
Photo: Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham
The Guild of Students opened. There is some evidence in the records that single sex social events organised at University House became less popular as students preferred to attend mixed social events at the Guild.
Photo: Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham, scrapbook kept by student resident at Chancellor's Hall in 1930s
University House was in high demand and had to use additional accommodation in the beautiful Edwardian rooms of Winterbourne House, which was bequeathed to the University.
Photo of University House interior: Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham
Chancellor's Hall and University House were the only halls of residence available for students and they both remained open during the Second World War.
Vale site purchased
Additional residential accommodation for men was provided at Manor House. This was the former home of the Cadbury family and was donated for use as a hall of residence. Chad Hill was also rented, a larger house in Edgbaston to provide residential accommodation for postgraduate students, including a high proportion of international students
Photo: Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham of students at Manor House
Read an article on Manor House in a previous edition of Old Joe. (Page 35)
With the number of halls booming to meet student demand, the University set up a committee with wide range responsibility for all the student accommodation it managed, and to discuss how more rooms could be found.
The University launched a fundraising campaign to build new halls of residence on the Vale site. By the early 1960s, work was underway to construct the new halls of residence.
In a daring move for the times, University House decided to also admit men, becoming the University's first mixed hall. A series of new halls were built in pairs for women and men, with separate buildings for shared self-service canteens.
Photo of Halls of Residence on the Vale site: Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham
Ridge Hall for women and High Hall for Men opened; later combined to form Chamberlain Hall.
Photo of High Hall common room: Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham
Wyddrington Hall for women and Lake Hall for men opened; later combined to form Shackleton Hall in the 1990s
Mason Hall for women and Chad Hall for men opened; a year later combined to form a mixed hall called Mason Hall.
Photo of student room at Mason Hall: Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham
Additional accommodation for postgraduate students was created at Lucas House on Pritchatts Road.
Ian Graham (BSc Physics, 1967)
'I stayed in Chancellor's Hall between 1964-1967. The first year I was in the one and only room that had five people in it. One more than was necessary for a game of bridge. Many a night was spent into the small hours playing cards. It was only small stakes, but the winnings were saved and funded a good bash at the end of the year.'
A block of self-catering flats called Griffin Close were created in the grounds of Manor House. University policy changed to guarantee all first year students a place in University accommodation. First year students were granted a place at Griffin Close.
Liz Headon (BA Hons French 1971)
'I was in Ridge in my second year (1968/9). It seemed very modern and stylish compared with the terraced house in industrial Lancashire that was home, even though it was before "en-suite" had been invented, and there were communal washrooms with a row of wash-basins and a couple of cubicles with baths. It was paired with the boys' High Hall, with an internal link open in the daytime. In the evening, we were only allowed in the "opposite" hall until a certain time, and certainly in Ridge, a staff member was on the front desk to sign boys in and out, and would investigate any on the list who appeared to have gone AWOL. However, it was well-known that boys could still get in via the LG (lower ground floor) bedroom windows of cooperative residents, so spot checks were also conducted. Of course, at that time the majority of residents were legally minors, so the staff were acting in loco parentis.'
Paul Richards (BSc Chemistry, 1973)
'More happy days on the 12th floor of High Hall from 1971-73. Great views over the lake, Vale site and city. A pleasant walk to lectures avoiding the Canada geese. Fond memories of Drs. Randall and Webber. My girlfriend lived next door at Ridge Hall - had to climb in the window to see her.'
The success of Griffin Close prompted the construction of Maple Bank on the Vale site. Later the Tennis Court flats were developed on Edgbaston Park Road.
University House, Manor House, the Vale halls of residence, self-catering flats at Griffin Close, Maple Bank and Tennis Courts all remained in use during this period.
The Hall of Residence committee and the Lodging committee were replaced by a Student Accommodation committee responsible for all University-owned residential accommodation.
Paul Haigh (BSC Geography, 1996)
'Gentleman of Lake Hall 1993-1994. Memories? Drying all my washing on the tiny radiator, listening to David Bowie, using the sink in several ways...'
University House closed as a hall of residence and turned into the University Business School.
Mason Hall closed, demolished and rebuilt as self-catering flats.
Manor House was closed and the empty building was damaged by fire.
Chamberlain Hall (the former Ridge and Hall High) was demolished and rebuilt.
See virtual tours of current accommodation here.
Share your story
What are your favourite memories from your halls of residence? Share your story and photo with us here.