Secrets and Interdisciplinarity in 1928: The Combination Room

A reminder of the opening of the Trent Building

The office recently received a copy of this commemorative brochure from the opening of the Trent Building of what was then University College Nottingham.

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Front plate

The booklet contains a set of line drawings of the Trent Building together with a detailed and somewhat florid commentary by the then Vice-Principal of the College, Frank Granger.

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The Trent Building

It includes some great descriptions of the intended use of the different parts of the building including some nice words on the wonders of the refectory (which is now the Senate Chamber):

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The Refectory

But my favourite piece is this:

The next plaisaunce to the Refectory is the Women’s Common Room. Then there is the Combination Room, which is a suitable name because the staff will meet there in the leisure moments they spend amid their work. There they will discuss the points of contact of their several disciplines. It is expected that the meetings will sometimes be in secret, and continue the College tradition of secret societies.

I like it partly for its references to leisure time and the sadly discontinued secret societies (although if they were still in existence then I guess I wouldn’t know as they would, of course, be secret) but mainly because of the idea that interdisciplinarity should be encouraged was part of the building design. Combination Room may be a slightly odd title but the principle was a thoroughly sound one and still valid today.

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Lawrence on University College Nottingham

A controversial piece from D H Lawrence

More of Lawrence on Nottingham is available here but this entertaining piece is a highlight. Not exactly what you’d want to use in promotional material though.

‘Nottingham’s New University’ in Pansies (1929)

In Nottingham, that dismal town

where I went to school and college,

they’ve built a new university

for a new dispensation of knowledge.

Built it most grand and cakeily

out of the noble loot

derived from shrewd cash-chemistry

by good Sir Jesse Boot.

Little I thought, when I was a lad

and turned my modest penny

over on Boot’s Cash Chemist’s counter,

that Jesse, by turning many

millions of similar honest pence

over, would make a pile

that would rise at last and blossom out

in grand and cakey style

into a university

where smart men would dispense

doses of smart cash-chemistry

in language of common-sense!

That future Nottingham lads would be

cash-chemically B.Sc.

that Nottingham lights would rise and say:

-By Boots I am M.A.

From this I learn, though I knew it before

that culture has her roots

in the deep dung of cash, and lore

is a last off-shoot of Boots.