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Alfred Palmer

East Thorpe and
Alfred Waterhouse

The origins of
St. Andrew's

Minute Books
and Reports

Rules for Women's
Halls of Residence

Closure of
St. Andrew's Hall

The Museum of
English Rural Life

The Origins of St. Andrew's Hall and Student Life There

The University's Wantage Hall is believed to be the first English purpose-built student hall of residence since the Oxford and Cambridge colleges.


Mary Bolam, founder of St. Andrew's Hall

However, it is also believed that St. Andrews was the first English hall of residence outside of London to provide female-only accommodation.

St. Andrew's Hall began as a private venture by Miss Mary Bolam, a campaigner for women's halls. She opened her first accommodation for nine female students in London Road in January 1901. The following year these students, plus fifteen others, moved in to "The Beeches", London Road and transformed it into "St. Andrew's Hostel".

The Hostel stayed in London Road until Alfred Palmer provided use of his family home, East Thorpe, to the University. It was this building, opened by Mrs Alfred Palmer on 10th June 1911, that provided the basis for St. Andrew's Hall that remained until 2001.

Expansion of St. Andrew's Hall was made by the acquisition of houses in Redlands Road and Morgan Road.

Despite her rules of being back in Hall by 6pm (except by permission for lectures or other "approved functions") and her obsession with cleanliness and order, Mary Bolam was adored by the students staying at St. Andrews.

"She very quickly knew all her students and she had such as pigeon-hole type of memory that she soon knew each student's table napkin ring as well."

Recalled by a St. Andrew's student of 1913.

Hall wardens were very determined people who knew they were in a great position of responsibility and influence. Mary Bolam was always willing to show it.

On the proposals to do away with the open fires in the Hall, she fought back with the argument:

"What woman ever told her secrets to a radiator?"

When Evelyn Wiseman took charge of Cintra Lodge (another female Hall of Residence accommodating 31 students) in 1926, Bolam's advice to her was:

"Do not let the Committee [for the Management of Women's Halls of Residence] know what you are doing, my dear, the Hall is yours."

Mary Bolam retired in 1927 with many calling it an end of an era.

The Hall continued expanding with two further extensions taking place (in 1962/3 and 1973/4). In October 1969, the controversial move was made to make St Andrew's the first of Reading's mixed Halls of Residence. By 1977 all but two of the University Halls were mixed.