Picture little old me, just got accepted by Reading University and ready to find out which halls I have been assigned. ‘Ping’, oh look I’ve got an email, I’ve been given a room in Wantage Hall. Wonder what that place is like…
Baron Robert Wantage was born in 1832. By all accounts he seems to have been quite a lad. He was awarded one of the first Victoria Crosses for his service in the Crimean war, and devoted much of his later life to public service. He had no children though, so when he died in 1901 he left only a widow; Lady Harriet Wantage.
Now if you’re struggling to imagine more of a lad than Robert, then let me present to you his wife. She had a “great personality” and was “admired and revered by all who knew her” (I can’t reference these quotes by the way). In honour of her late husband, and to use up some of his massive fortune, she offered to build a Hall of Residence for use by Reading University.
The hall, designed by architect Charles Steward-Smith, was the first purpose-built Hall of Residence outside of Oxford and Cambridge. Around the central quad there stands a clocktower and bell, a common room, oriel windows, two impressive Magnolia trees (removed in 2017, what a tragedy!) and a grand dining hall. The Wantage motto is Astra castra, Numen lumen (the stars are my camp, thy name, my light).
Over its hundred year history the hall has housed flight instructors during the First World War, and appeared in scenes in Private’s Progress in 1956. It is still in use today, with the addition of a ‘new court’ in 1970 (a far inferior part of the establishment). That’s my history lesson done, hope it interests some of you 🙂