This page preserves the memories of Thorners over the decades. You can learn more about the history behind Hawthorns Hall on our website.
I am one of the graduates of 1954. None of those first undergraduates, brought together in 1950 could ever have foreseen what a wonderful institution UCNS would become. There were about 150 of us. Am I the oldest survivor? As one of the original occupants of The Hawthorns, having won the best room on the turn of a coin, I was interested to see that you are now retiring the place. I'd love to see it all again, but I'm too decrepit to travel, having chosen to end my days in this lovely wee town in the Borders. I wonder how many of the other original denizens are left. I know that two of my dearest friends there, "Tommo" Thomas and "Josh" Reynolds are no longer with us. I have to say that, when I arrived to serve in Malaya in 1954, most of the British administrators were public school and Oxbridge and I had to fight my corner. Being so much in favour of independence, some saw me as a "loonie lefty". My first view of Keele goes back a long way. From 1942 to 1945, as a schoolboy, I delivered newspapers to Home Farm Lodge. In winter, with the Wartime blackout, it could be a dangerous adventure. Finally, I can only join in with "Long live Keele".
Clive Collier (1954) (PS For ease of identification, I'm the guy whose motorbike was put on the Keele Hall roof in 1953)
Photo above: The early blocks at Hawthorns
Very sad to learn that The Hawthorns is to close and it was fascinating to read the comments of past Thornites. I moved there in my second year (1952) and lived first in the main house and then in the corner room in the first extension. There I stayed till I graduated in 1955. I recall a very hung-over John Golding (1956) - later an MP - returning late to the start of the 1953-1954 year. He began his political career very early on! I remember a night just before the start of the following year when a boozed up Ray Garner (1955) fell into a trench and broke his leg. Paul Rolo (the warden) was not amused. God willing, I will drag my weary bones to the October event in the hope of meeting old mates.
Don Thompson (1955)
I first met my husband George Dawson (who died in 2011) at a Hawthorns Freshers'party in 1956 (where the Hawthorns inhabitants looked over all the Fresher women and tried to get first pick... I am sure times have changed). I was invited by one member, but left with George. We were together for 55 years - so I think we made the right choice! Cheers, fond memories and good wishes to all the "Thornies".
Brenda Dawson (Warne) (1960)
The original residents of the Hawthorns 1952-1953, remembered by John Groom and supplemented from correspondence (additions welcome):
- Founding Class of 1954: Peter Brigginshaw, Clive Collier
- Pioneer Class of 1955: Mike Cowdrey, Ray Garner, Bernard Gilhooly, Chas Gill, John Pleavin, Don Thompson
- Pioneer Class of 1956: David Burton, Ray Challinor, Keith Clement, John Golding, John Groom, Julian Hooper, Ron Jones, Donald McIlwain, Jim Treadwell
- Pioneer Class of 1957: Stuart Milner
- Class uncertain: Ben Noble, Roy Trowel, Courtney Treasure, Norman Livesey, Philip Levy, Alan Cubbon, John Miles
The original house may have been purchased in 1951 but I am as certain as I can be at this distance in saying that our 1952 intake were the first men to live in the house. You have to remember that our arrival at Keele increased the undergraduate population from 300 to 450, split roughly 50/50 men and women. When we found ourselves to be a bike ride from the centre of campus we certainly bonded very quickly but also felt a bit isolated. We decided something should be done to let the girls know we existed. So we issued an invitation to the girls of Lindsay Hall to come for tea. A brave posse of young ladies walked down the long drive and we greeted them in the lounge to the right of the front door. This was 1952 – the Swinging Sixties were far off. We had no idea what to do with them. There followed an excruciating, embarrassing afternoon of small talk over cups of tea and cakes and if any promising liaisons were formed they were not very obvious. The frequent after lunch coffee sessions in a room of one of the huts on campus was much more rewarding. The girls did not arrive en masse again until much later when they sneakily stole our beloved dragon Cyranus and took it back up the drive. We got it back, eventually, but the Hawthorns house always remained a bit of a fortress and a foreign place for most of the other students until the site was developed into halls of residence, long after we had gone.
Keith Clement (1956)
A Hallowe'en raid
"For reasons not now easy to recall, the somewhat bumptious Hawthorn dwellers alienated those living on the main Campus. Several weeks before Halloween there was a rumour that the campus dwellers would mount some kind of attack on the Hawthorns. In preparation for this, buckets of water and dustbin rubbish were placed on the first floor landing and on the roof of the portico above the main door. It was hoped that Dr Ben Noble, then living at the Hawthorns would play his bagpipes during the “battle” but in the event he absconded. After the first assault, the “attackers” obtained dustbin lids to shield themselves from water and rubbish, in the manner of Roman soldiers and their shields. A few stones were thrown breaking a few windows and after sporadic skirmishes Paul Rolo, the Warden, arrived in his Morris Minor and screeched to a halt in front of the main door. The attackers promptly evaporated and all became peaceful. Subsequently, Paul Rolo put up a notice to the effect that every student would be fined 9 old pence to cover the damages but to the best of my knowledge it was never collected."
John Groom (1956)
The “Leaden” party
"At the outset, part of the Hawthorns was derelict and uninhabited and there was a small amount of roof sheeting and pipes made of lead which took very little effort to remove and stash in a carrying bag. There was a man in the village who evidently was a bit of a fence and he gladly exchanged the bag of lead for cash. The cash was then used to supplement the Xmas party fund to which every student in the College was invited. Most of it was spent on producing a strong Punch and those not in the know wondered where the funds for the Cider and Spirits came from. Sometime later one student, attempting to use an unoccupied room as a dark room, had the misfortune to find that the sink in the room was devoid of its drain pipe.
"The Sneyd Arms served as an unofficial annex to the Hawthorns and most people went there in the evenings where there was always a raucous singsong of student and other songs round the piano. The landlord also produced excellent cheese and onion sandwiches which helped those who could not be bothered to walk to the main Refectory at Keele Hall in the evening. From memory, Closing Time in those days was at 10.30 p.m. A pint of beer cost about 10 old pence.
"Parking was not a problem since Dr Edmund Papst was the only person to own a car at the Hawthorns in the early days. The Papstmobile was an open-top Austin 7, probably 1930’s vintage. Most people either walked or cycled; bicycles often lacked obvious owners and were left for anyone’s use.
"For Hawthorners, Meals were provided in the Refectory at Keele Hall except on Sundays when bread, butter, eggs and sometimes beans were given out. Sunday evening meals were cooked in the kitchen and were at times fairly exotic and sumptuous. Julian Hooper once cooked a whole pig’s head in the gas oven and dropped it when taking it out of the oven, producing a skating rink of fat all over the floor. Many people cooked pork or lamb chops after which they repaired to the lounge to listen to a serial called the “Red Planet” and a popular dance music programme on the radio (Jack Jackson’s Roundup). All meals except for Sunday evening were provided by the Keele Hall Refectory run by a lady called Miss Rolfe and were self-service. Because everyone had to attend Foundation Year lectures at 9 a.m., not all Hawthorners managed breakfast because of the long walk to the refectory and the walk back to the Chemistry block for the first lecture."
John Groom (1956)
"The new originals"
"I lived in the Hawthorns for my final year. I remember spending the afternoon in one of the labs on campus and coming out to find several inches of snow through which I had to wade my way back to the Hawthorns in flimsy shoes. We were snowed in there for my 21st - no post, nobody could travel up for the celebrations. Ended up drinking sherry and eating cake with the other residents on my floor."
Liz Walton (1968)
"I was part of the first cohort to the 'new' blocks (A-F men, G-M women) when they were built in 1967. Spent four remarkably happy years there."
Bob Digby (1971)
"As the original occupant of Hawthorns A5, I am saddened that the life of the Hall is coming to a close. I thought of the room as the height of luxury when I first moved in, spent three happy years there and then moved to a flat in Z Block when it became available in 1970."
Trevor Bannister (1971)
"I had a sentimental journey to Hawthorns where I stayed in 1964-67 and liked it very much. Lovely large rooms and Paul Rolo as warden - come in. have a drink - was his response to every problem. He was also very liberal. Women’s visits were very restricted and he went to see one student in his room. He hurriedly put his girlfriend in the wardrobe, which was very large. Paul Rollo did not stay long but addressed the wardrobe, “Miss I do not know who you are but the next time you hide in as wardrobe remember to take you shoes with you.” With that he left. They really were the Bs and Es of student accommodation in their day - an upgrade from the huts - I was a hutman in my first year. Also there was a very nice back route to the campus entailing heading down towards the motorway, taking a lane to the left and walking through trees linking uo to the wood and ten coming out by the lakes and up to Sneyd Hall. A lovely walk and on a windy summers day one could hear the wind among the lofty pines as the words of Newman and the music of Elgar came into one’s mind’s ear. Spring brought the cherry tree into bloom - reminiscent of Houseman, and the flowering chestnuts in the drive were lovely."
Michael Corby (1967)
"I moved in when the buildings were brand new!! ...now they're knocking them down!"
Daniel Joseph (1971)
"In the early 1960s, the extended residence was presided over by wardens Iolo Roberts and the extraordinary Eileen Lake. She is remembered for her eclectic make-up (she never quite got her lipstick to fit her lips) and her poor driving skills, once driving her car through the holly hedge into the Sneyd car-park. It was known for years after as the Eileen Lake Memorial Gap."
Chris Harrison (1968)
Photo below: Clearing snow at Hawthorns, 1969
"The mid-1960s saw the great student protests against the "hours rules", where male and female were segregated overnight, a rule more honoured in the breach than in the observance. In 1970 the five new blocks of four-bed flats were added; they fell outside of the usual restrictions and provided accommodation for 48 weeks of the year. So the Thorns headed a revolution in student living. For that year I acted as liaison officer between the students and the university. The most dramatic incident was the night when I was summoned to deal with a knife-bearing intruder. Some students had taken pity on this guy and offered him a bed for the night. Once ensconced, he pulled a large kitchen knife and began to threaten the residents. Three fled and one was left in the flat with the unwelcome guest. The police were called and so was I. By convention the police could not enter university property without a warrant except by invitation. We reached the locked flat-door and I offered one of the officers my master key only to be told I had to unlock the door myself and invite them in. It was a scary moment instantly defused when we found the visitor slumped in a drugged haze on a chair in the kitchen. Panic over! Most of the time my duties were more mundane, including accompanying Flo Andrews, the Hall Manager, on her termly inspections of the flats. Most memorable was one student's room whose bed sported a rich silk-cover on which lay a riding crop and hand-cuffs. Since these were not against the terms of the lease we made no comment and passed on."
Chris Harrison (1968)
"The Sneyd Arms became a student pub in the 1960s. The students drank in the Lounge even though prices were lower in the Public Bar. By convention, the Bar was left to the locals and the academics. The Sneyd also doubled as an off-licence as supermarkets at that time could not sell alcohol. Students bought flagons of cider (then the cheapest drink) and a ghastly wine marketed under the brand name Hirondelle in heroic quantities."
Chris Harrison (1968)
"An Annexe resident set off a railway detonator which exploded and reverberated around the newly built blocks. Some girls became hysterical, Iolo Roberts was out in his dressing gown (it was about midnight) trying to ascertain what had happened. He never succeeded. I think it was officially attributed and recorded as a movement of the nearby Silverdale Fault."
James Atherton (1967)
"My musical education really began at the Hawthorns. I listened to a whole variety of music with a fellow student of whom I have fond memories. He had built his own speaker system so the sound quality was strong and powerful in his small room. There I first heard Mozart’s Symphonia Concertante by David and Igor Oistrakh, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in F major, op. 135 and those words "Es Muss Sein", amongst other works. He also introduced me to William Walton’s Balthshazar’s Feast. I also heard quite a bit of Ray Charles, including ‘Hey What’d I say’ with the line “ See the girl with the red dress on” and “Hit the Road Jack” but also very early Beatles like “Love, Love Me Do” as well as Snooks Eglin and Robert Johnson. So much music is always touched by Keele, and especially Hawthorn, memories of those far away days in the early 1960s. Too, I remember other Hawthorn dwellers, friends of my music educator, who were a wonderful band of friends together; unfortunately, I have never seen their names pop up in Keele recollections."
Jennifer Waterman (1963)
"I spent my first year in hall at Hawthorns, in M block if my memory is correct. Unfortunately I’m not able to attend the farewell, so I am glad that I was able to have a wander round with my daughter a few years back when I attended the guest lecture in the American Studies department. All this has made me reflect back on my student days at Keele and what the experience felt like, rather than just on the academic outcome and its role in my career. This crystallised out in the form of a poem..."
Cathy Smith (Riley) (1973)
Back in the autumn of '69 - reflections
In velvet and denim, loons & flares,
Long skirts & short dresses, platforms, afghans,
Freshers eager for life,
We arrived on campus
It was the hippy era ripe with optimism & hope
Long haired youth tuned in and out of learning,
Not for all long hours in the library
Some turned on, man, and luxuriated in the space & time of university life
Others studied diligently
Wrote their essays,
Revised, sat exams - passing by the era's invitation to drop out...
Remember the Foundation Year?
A tapestry of knowledge unfurled day by day
Full breakfast on board, bright or bleary eyed students absorbed concepts of physics, chemistry, culture, literature, psychology, politics, astronomy
The whole panoply of learning,
It seemed an unending intellectual smorgasbord
Later drinking coffee in our rooms
Hours spent listening to music - playing records by Cream, Hendrix, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Dylan, Stones
So many bands
The songs of our youth spun into the fabric of our lives
Walks in Keele's grassy parkland, by the lake, through the woods
Contemplating life, the universe, everything
And absorbing the natural world
Student life left behind, the real world was harder than we realised
Still, we made a go of it, made our parents proud
Thanks Keele, you were and are amazing!
Cathy Smith (Riley) (1973)
From the domestic staff - "Marj"
"I was a student at Horwood and my mum, Marjorie (Marj) Horton, was a cleaner (or "domestic") at Hawthorns from the early 1970s until her retirement in the mid-1990s. Working at Keele was something many of the local women did; it offered part-time work that fitted around school hours and a bus service from neighbouring villages. Plus the questionable bonus of second-hand sheets when they were being thrown out (at least they prepared me for the sheets at Horwood). Mum began working in the original Hawthorns blocks but was then assigned the new building known as Templar House. New buildings were rare in those days and she loved it a lot. She worked hard to keep it clean and woe betide any other cleaner that didn’t put the mop bucket back. I remember rushing into Templar House to tell Mum that I’d passed my driving test and she was in the cleaner’s cupboard remonstrating with the mop.
"To Mum, the students whose rooms she cleaned were her family; she was surrogate mum, confidante and agony aunt rolled into one. She was so proud of each and every one of them and she missed them when they had graduated. But the students looked after her too. it was no surprise that when it came for me to choose a university, it had to be Keele. Payphones were few and far between on campus, so it was great to be able to call my Mum using the internal telephone system. The downside was that this service was only available between 09:30 and 12:30 Monday to Friday when Mum would be sporting her pale blue overall (later changed to a Kermit-like green) and wielding a duster.
"Mum got me a summer job cleaning at both Horwood and Barnes but after a couple of weeks I decided it wasn’t for me. Instead, Flo Andrews asked if I would run the bingo sessions for a contingent of Americans coming to stay at Hawthorns as part of a Saga Holidays tour. My boyfriend and I managed a handful of sessions but the Americans didn’t really get the hang of it and Flo quickly sacked us. We were quietly relieved.
"Mum was a life-long Trade Unionist and would rise to become Chair of the Keele University branch of UNISON (previously NUPE). She was instrumental in getting pay rises for the domestics and always kept the management on their toes. She remained active in the trade union movement for many years after retirement and was always involved in one campaign or another. She also kept a keen eye on developments at Keele. Latterly she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and is now buried in Keele Cemetery overlooking her beloved Hawthorns. When going through her personal effects I found a collection of thank you cards she’d received from students over the years. Knowing the fun she had working at Hawthorns, I think the pleasure was all hers."
Andrea Horton (1986)
"Chris and I were one of two married couples who moved into the new blocks in 1970. Then Chris - studying for a PhD at the Communications Department - was offered the resident turor's (rodent rotor's) job at the Hawthorns and we lived in one of the three little flats for five years. Our first daughter Helen was born while we were there and we were offered the upstairs two-bedroomed flat when that happened. Chris and I took over a small patch of garden outside to grow rhubarb, radishes and raspberries. We stored our tandem in the old garages."
Jane James (Aldworth) (1972)
"My first hall of residence was Hawthorns in 1968 and we were the first human inhabitants - we had an interesting issue with the local cockroaches that also felt they had priority!! Very fond memories of this hall - I started there and graduated from there. Hope whatever you're replacing it with generates the same great memories."
Jackie Westwood-Demetriades (1972)
"One Hawthorns fragment: probably in a bit of thoughtful allocation by campus admin, a fellow Cardiffian, Bob Jones, a would-be geologist, was my neighbour there in Foundation Year. I bonded with him and three other Hawthornians on a snowy night at the Lakes, tobogganing on borrowed refectory trays down to the water’s edge (in my case partly into the water, which meant an icy, squelchy walk back to change into wonderfully warm, dry clothes).
"It was not all adolescent adventures in that first term and I owe another Hawthorns neighbour a lasting debt for saving me from, at best, a re-sit and at worst, a sending down. John Davnall patiently coached me for my end-of-term sessional (subsid) chemistry exam.... Thanks to "Dav", I was able to offset my poor results in the Foundation Year multiple choice exam with a score of almost 90% in Chemistry, which convinced the authorities I was worth keeping on.."
Christopher Roberts (1972)
"The wonderful friendships that grew amongst those living in A Block. The water cascading down the stairs after a mammoth water fight. The lovely people who looked after us; Doreen the Halls Secretary; Les the friendly security guard; all the refectory staff who fed us so well; the general block parties; the window locks that afforded easy access to rooms, sadly now double glazed to deprive students of fun! I loved the village setting, there was just nothing like it, 'Thorns was just the place to be."
Tony Clark (1978)
Photo above left: Hawthorns, 1970 - building continues
"Climbing up from the top floor window to the roof of Hawthorns A block to sunbathe during the hot summer of 1976."
Paul Toland (1978)
"I lodged at Hawthorns for my first year 1975-76. I have fond memories of trying to get to Foundation Year lectures in time. I continued my association with the Hall throughout my four years. Sad to see it go but all things change. I posted this of me outside "my" block (L) on a flying visit back in 2014. I was a rarity in having a car right from the start and could actually park it more or less next to the door!"
Richard Markham (1979)
Photo above right: Richard Markham - The Return.
Photo below left: Residents of Hawthorns F Block in 1973: Paul Stevens, Stephen Pask, Stephanie Croxton, "Nonney" and M Morling
"In 1976 I returned to the Thorns, first as a Resident Tutor and later as Assistant Warden. By then the Thorns was run by Carole Holder, a larger than life lady in every sense. She was a bonne viveuse, a cook of distinction, and a prolific party-giver at which Thorns students mingled with some of the great and the good of the university and beyond. Carole asked me to oversee the student run bar which at that time opened twice a week. I found a pretty shambolic organisation. Although the turn-over was quite large we were making no profit. I doubled the student bar-staff wages, banned all drinking behind the bar, and instituted regular stock checks and hey presto we started to make substantial profits."
Chris Harrison (1968)
What to do with his money? Suddenly the Hall Council ceased to be just a talking-shop and became an instrument for fun. Let us have bigger and better Balls they decided. Many Balls had themes, such as Vicars and Tarts; oh how Thorns' students loved to dress-up! This was the age of The Rocky Horror Music Show and I saw more lingerie, and not just on the girls, at these balls than I had before or since. The Thorns Balls came to rival the Union's Balls for the quality of the bands and the cheapness of the tickets. There was even a black-market in Ball tickets. The better the bands, the louder the music and soon we started to get complaints from the village. What should we do about that? We decided to hold a Christmas party for the elderly of the village plus representatives of the village community such as the parish council, the shop keeper, the vicar and the publican. Carole Holder, with help, provided a buffet for over 100 people, the students devised and performed a cabaret, and I acted as Master of Ceremonies. The first part of the evening ended with a raffle, before were retired to the student bar for a disco. It was amazing what talents emerged. There was musical entertainment from our Music students; old-fashioned recitations; even a conjurer. The most memorable and certainly the best appreciated by the old men was a dance troupe made up of scantily dressed girls whose principal covering were costumes made out of black bin-liners. We also had imported acts, the best of which were the Globular Sisters. Imagine two portly bearded middle aged men dressed in dinner suits, sporting blonde wigs and heavily made-up singing songs from Noel Coward. The effect was hilarious. These parties proved a great success and complaints from the village ceased.
The Balls made a substantial profit and the Hall funds grew and grew. What to do with these excess funds. I suggested the students run a free coach trip to Alton Towers and later to Blackpool. We also ran a coach trip to Blackpool for the village pensioners. The Thorns Bar ran a disco alongside the cheap booze and attendance was high. My memory of these years is of a constant stream of social events, many fuelled by alcohol.
"I remember my finals celebrated in 'Thorns and our shared flat."
Ruth Norris (1974)
"Thorns Radio was set up as a pirate radio station run by and for Thorns students. The resident staff chose to turn a blind eye - or should that be a deaf ear - to its existence, until enforcement officers started to make enquiries. The pirate radio station ceased broadcasting but was replaced a few years later by KUBE Radio, a legitimate community radio based in the Union."
Chris Harrison (1968)
"In those days the university provided one pay phone in the General Block and two outside the Flats. All went well until we started to get massive bills not covered by money in the boxes in one of the phones. Our suspicions were aroused when we noticed this phone attracting queues of students waiting to use it. The GPO sent an investigator but he could not work out how the fiddle was being worked until we found the instigator of the scam, a clever electronics student, who under promise of no prosecution told the GPO how it was done."
Chris Harrison (1968)
"I lived in M block in my first year then move to the LFA flats for P1, P2 and P3. Followed by a year in O block when doing a PGCE. Loved the walk to campus to get to lectures."
Anne Copley (1974)
"On the whole Thorns students were honest, but not all. When Vice-Chancellor Brian Fender ended pre-paid food service at the weekends students began cooking in the Blocks. And soon we got a spate of thefts of food from Block kitchens. Eventually, the perpetrators were tracked down by some students to one of the Flats. I was summoned and early on Saturday morning the irate students and I called on the flat. The door was open so we went in. On the table was a carrier bag full of food. We asked the occupants whose it was. They denied all knowledge of it. I got them to agree that these looked like stolen goods and that therefore I should call the police. I pointed out that the thieves would be easy to trace since their finger-prints would be on it. At this point they confessed. One of them was planning to be a lawyer so a criminal conviction would scupper his career prospects and they agreed to let me deal with it which I did with fines. The food was returned to the student kitchens."
Chris Harrison (1968)
"I lodged at Hawthorns for my first year 1975-76. I have fond memories of trying to get to Foundation Year lectures in time. I continued my association with the Hall throughout my four years. Sad to see it go but all things change. This is me outside "my" block (L) on a flying visit back in 2014. I was a rarity in having a car right from the start and could actually park it more or less next to the door!"
Richard Markham (1979)
"On the whole Thorns students were reasonably behaved, the main complaints being excessive noise and damage to rooms. However, there was one case which did exercise me and that was a case of homophobic bullying. Julian was almost a parody of a queer. He was short, dumpy and minced around the Hall and on campus arm in arm with his boyfriend. His fellow students thought him fair game and on a regular basis wrecked his room and subjected him to personal abuse. When I discovered this I knew I had to act, but how? One night after the pub I summoned a Block Meeting by the simple expedient of setting off the fire alarm. The residents tumbled out of their rooms to find me waiting at the entrance to the block. I tasked them with the bullying of Julian. “But he's a queer” said one student, as though it were a justification. “So am I” I replied but that doesn't justify you making Julian's life a misery. Shocked, the students retreated to their rooms and from then on they left Julian alone but transferred their venom to me. They would scream obscene chants outside my rooms late at night, but significantly never had the balls to say it to my face. Years later one of those students even wrote me an apology. In time the abuse ceased and the students became reconciled to having a gay Resident Tutor and so in a strange way the Thorns became the spear-head of Gay Liberation at Keele. We even raised funds to support people with AIDS."
Chris Harrison (1968)
"Thorns C block. I remember G, a cockney who inhabited the room immediately on the right as you walked in, who was a big Elton John fan. He used to play Funeral for a Friend, full blast, with his door open. I remember P (he was Greek) who bought a ton of lamb, along with a ton of ouzo and a BBQ (liberated from the family restaurant). That was a very memorable Sunday afternoon."
"Happy times in 'Thorns 75-79, three of them in A block. Was sorry not to be able to make it to the farewell event."
Edwin Kilby (1979)
"Student deaths were rare and in my time none were from suicide. These deaths were mainly sudden and violent: a car accident; a fall from a cliff-top; a stabbing on the football terraces. The consequences in Hall were often extreme and we acted as bereavement counsellors to grieving friends. It was my job to attend the funeral out of respect for the student and their family; my presence as a representative of the University was uniformly welcomed but it was not an easy task. Where I knew the student well I mourned with the rest."
Chris Harrison (1968)
"The very happiest of times... B13 from Oct '76 to June '78. V36 from Oct '78 to July '80... Such memories: founding Thorns Radio with Chris Mac. DJing in Thorns Bar Thursday & Sunday evenings... Cath from Silverdale - B Block long suffering cleaner.. lovely lady who managed Thorns... packed lunches from Thorns dining room... queuing at the phone box down Quarry Bank Rd... grumpy Post Office owners... even grumpier landlord of Sneyd Arms' - Geoff... best friends ever made were made there... B Block... D... E... F... W... & J block for the ladeez!"
Jeremy Duggan (1980)
Unusual Hawthorns visitors - Colonel Walter Sneyd and St Jude
"I was sad to learn that Hawthorns was closing. My close University friends and I were resident there for our whole four years (and most of us still meet regularly once a year). Here (left) is a photo of five of us in ‘K’ Block on the eve of Finals 1974: Maggie Smith, Mazda Jenkinson, Maggie Cook, Tat Canby and, prostrate on the floor, Edwin Carmichael. We are praying at the shrine to St Jude, Patron of Helpless Causes. Also - I want to add to the story of the Sneyd family and Hawthorns. I was at Keele from 1970-74 (a mature student: 11+ failure with no ‘O’ or ‘A’ levels who had been on a one-year course for ‘second-chance’ students at Hillcroft College. The fact that I came out with a First says a great deal about what Keele offers in my opinion!) I was based at Hawthorns and, in the refectory there, we started to see an elderly vicar eating in the refectory. Our little group of students befriended him. He was Colonel Walter Sneyd who had lost an arm in the First World War. I believe he was in Intelligence during the Second World War. Because his studies at Oxford had been interrupted by the First World War (and possibly also because of his disability) he did not complete his degree at Oxford as a young man. He had come back to Keele in his retirement to remedy this situation and he was lodging somewhere in Keele village. Clearly he had been offered access to the refectory for his meals. I think he was using the University Library for his studies. He was a gentleman of the old school but we became very friendly with him (cutting up his meat, for example) and he did finally complete his Oxford degree (and was able subsequently to sport ‘MA’ after his name). I stayed in touch with him after Keele and we used to meet twice a year - once in London where he always came for the boat race (and was fortunate to be on one of the boats following the crews) and then in Oxford where he came to stay in a residence for clergy. During this time he was vicar (or retired vicar) of a village in Monmouthshire. He was very supportive of me, especially when I was researching for my Keele History doctorate in Suffolk. It was here I learnt of his death - a postcard I had sent to him from Suffolk, where I was staying at the time, was returned to me with simply the word ‘Deceased’ on it! Walter was something of an eccentric - or perhaps fairer to say he was of a different age - impeccable in manners and courtesy. We did not learn a great deal about him personally and it wasn’t until after his death that I learned he had been married and widowed. He had said nothing to us of this significant area of his life but he had hinted of Intelligence adventures during the Second World War."
Margaret Cook (1974)
"Four years living in A block. Great times, drinking in The Sneyd most nights apart from the weekly 'Thorns night. Went back years later when my daughter went to Keele and was put in Thorns F block - nothing had changed in over 20 years!"
Andy Poole (1985)
"Bare-foot in ballgowns, making our way to 'Thorns after a summer ball. Five o'clock in the morning with brilliant sunshine and a dawn chorus. Absolutely glorious and the epitome of my time at Keele."
"Hawthorns had their own parties. I remember seeing Big Country in the refectory just as they hit the big time. They were delayed due to a car accident on the way. The Bootleg Beatles played in one of the smaller rooms once. The lounge had an early asteroids machine with green graphics. For every so many points you scored, you got another life. People got so good at it that 10p would last all day and we would do shifts keeping it going. Somewhere nearby, possibly on the right hand side as you crossed the main road, was a large house with a long drive. There was a Citroen SM Maserati parked in the drive. A rare car and very valuable."
Trevor Parry (1983)
Photo right: 1984 Flats interior by Trevor Parry
"Happy memories 1981-1984. C block for two years then one of the flats for my last year. Thorns Radio broadcasting from C Block with Alan Clifford aka The Salty Dog. Lazy summer term nights playing 30-a-side football. And the winter of 1981/82. Building such a massive snowman on an access road that a JCB was brought in to clear it. And refectory pie and chips. A staple of survival!"
Stephen Field (1984)
"I arrived at Thorns as a Fresher in autumn 1979 and left nine years later, having been a resident undergrad and postgrad, resident tutor and finally deputy warden. Early on, it was clear that Thorns was very different from the other halls. It had character, it had characters, it had an attitude and it had the Sneyd Arms on the doorstep! Thorns was my surrogate family. I don’t believe that sense of “belonging” happened in other halls. I think the feeling was built and nurtured by the approach and style of the residential staff at the time – Carole Holder, Chris Harrison, Flo Andrews, Eva Procek (and later Peter Jackson). They were ably supported by Beryl, Les, Jack, Henry and a whole bunch of resident tutors – and of course, I remember Bev Skeggs (my E/F resident tutor) with fondness. In my final year as an undergrad I was the Thorns Bar Manager. At the time, we opened on Thursday night for the Thorns Disco. Who remembers Kung Fu Fighting from the turntable of Rajesh Bhasin? The Thorns Balls were the big event of the year, and we really did manage to “punch above our weight”. I will leave it to others to detail the astonishing array of bands we managed to book – all down to the incredible foresight of the Social Committee… who seemed to have a perpetual gift for booking bands who were just about to break into the big time. There is one event that I view as an example of the caring, pastoral and protective nature of Thorns. Way back in 1985 (I think), Chris Harrison championed a personalized communication (to the Thorns students; from all resident staff) about awareness and understanding of HIV/AIDS. This was way before the mainstream media had picked up on the issue. But for most residents it was about the parties.... And soon it will all be gone… and I for one will miss it greatly."
George Haylett (1983) (from a longer memoir saved in the KOHP)
"Our flat - W32 I think, definitely W block, but it's been almost 30 years - was known as the Love Shack. Such a proud boast for four young men to have their flat known as that, however it was only because we used to play that song by the B52s over and over. We loved that song, and whenever I hear it, I am taken straight back to 'Thorns and my time at Keele."
Andy Daley 1989
"A5 was my home from 1982 to 1985. Absolutely loved my time at the Hawthorns."
Andy Gosling (1985)
"E10, then Templar House for my final year (it was new then) in 1980-84, good times on the whole. Every time I hear a door bang..."
Duncan Baldwin (1984)
"Home away from home 81-84"
Bhupinder Maria (1984)
"In March 1985, my last few months at my beloved Hawthorns and who did we get to perform at Thorns refectory? Only the Pogues - a truly awesome evening that will always stay with me."
Andy Gosling (1985)
"C block for 2 years. Sept '81 to June '83. Such great memories. Thorns FM and The Salty Dog. Countless nights in the Sneyd Arms. The winter of 81/Jan 82 (God it was cold!). Refectory Pies. Odd forays to the SU bar. The chip van outside the SU bar! 30 a side football on the grass outside C Block. Shopping at Fine Fare in Newcastle UL. Happy days."
Stephen Field (1984)
"Coming out of a long illness, Keele was the balm I needed, and Hawthorns was the cradle where I began to grow again. I had a flat right up the top of the lane (V21?) and it faced the fields. Peaceful, sunrises every day, a great foursome in the flat, good times. That first winter was really snowy and my little Mini got stuck on Keele Bank trying to get down to swimming in the morning! Later that weekend we walked along the lane towards the services and the drifts were taller than me (5 feet tall)! In the summer, the sounds of the countryside drifted over our studies, and in that 1991 summer the Keele bypass was put in - my car turned a lovely shade of red from the dust. I was sad to leave Hawthorns after two years but knew that it had been special and I was on my way to be a pioneer exchange student at Ball State University, USA. Hawthorns would always be the best accommodation!"
Nina Bunton (1994)
"I lived in Thorns for the whole three years I was in Keele I loved it so much. It was like a community all of its own. The walk also did you good - allowed you to sober up or walk off the hangover in the morning. We had many a good night in the Sneyd and the Thorns bar £1 a pint days, aaah!.Used to queue for the payphone and collect the post from the reception area. Also had a chip or two at the restaurant. #thornsforever "
Pauline Vickers (1994)
"Arriving at Keele for the first time and allocated Cell Block H. A sink in a cupboard; what more could anyone want? A fantastic group of girls who made being a fresher a joy. Who can forget Helen's Christmas Dinner on the landing?"
Lisa Eades (1994)
"I remember the squirrel that use to live in the tree outside my window when I was in block A. As well as a very hot summer in 1993 when we ended up half flooding the block during a water fight. As well as sunbathing on the roof of block F after the cleaner accidentally left a cupboard open giving us access to the hatch onto the roof. Finding an old TV in the attic of R block and converting it into an "Evil Edna" look alike."
Kerry Brudenell (1995)
"I remember many wonderful things from Hawthorns as I was in Halls A block all three years from Autumn 1999 to summer 2002. One of my earliest memories is sitting out on the big landings outside the kitchen in the block getting to know all the other people who lived there and making friends some for life. Big enough to be fun and small enough to care those blocks and the bar with its quizzes and party nights where integral to how much I loved my time at Keele!"
Emily Brough (1999)
"My husband John (1991) and I spent all our time at Keele at Thorns. That bit of distance was great, not living over the shop. I really appreciated it after I had chickenpox in the spring term of my second year. I was contained in a ward of the health centre, in splendid isolation. Friday night, I was lying in bed itchy and miserable and I could hear the Union disco!"
Luisella O'Shea (1990)
"I spent half my second year in the all-male F block before moving to the sanctuary of The Oaks; great fun although the night everyone was ill from some home brew wasn't great! I remember it was 20p one way on the bus to the Union which was welcome on a bad night."
Matt Egerton (1994)
"I lively happily at Hawthorns for 6 years, as an undergraduate (room D26, then P block), and then during my PhD. During my PhD I was an assistant warden. I have fun memories of being called out in the night to stop parties (my glasses steamed up and after giving a stern order that the party was over I walked inside a cupboard mistaking it for the door to leave by), as well as being phoned at 2am by a student ordering a pizza (someone had put the duty warden's phone number on the pizza delivery advert). Not to mention the student who phoned the duty number to complain that she had flies in her room. Happy days - I'm sorry to hear that Hawthorns is retiring. I made so many great friends in those years."
Debbie Hawker (Lovell) (1988 - 1994)
"I don't know where I spent the most time, C, F or P Block. Or Templar Bar."
Lee Melton (1995)
"Definitely Templar Bar that was all three years the others were only for a year."
"Z block for me. Z5 flat for two years. Loved it there. Remember it - Tracey Dale and Karen Weetman? Plus Andy and his washing up mountain I kept relocating to his bed!"
Sarah Body (1996)
"Two years in D block for me 1994-95 (D18) and 1995-95 (D23). Lots of memories. Those halls were awesome!"
"Tamsin Brown (2001) had the marvellous idea for Keele friends to club together to bid for the Templar Bar sign from Hawthorns for our friend Ashley Hall’s 40th Birthday. Ashley (2000) used to manage the bar and this Templar Bar workers’ group has stuck together as friends ever since. Though a bit bruised and battered the sign reflected 18 years of the important part Templar played in so many of ours and others lives. It was a gift our sentimental mate loved. Now he just needs to decide what to do with it.... We all worked in Templar Bar and have stayed friends ever since. We meet up erratically but most memorably in 2017 for the Hawthorns Farewell. Ashley has been our “glue” – although he might not appreciate being described as glue. So, when Tamsin had the idea to bid for the sign we all agreed it was a great idea. And Ashley loved it. Hawthorns was and is a special place for me. On my very first day at Keele I saw an advert for staff in the bar. I applied the same day and within a week I was working there. I spent my three years living and working in Hawthorns. I had other friends and classmates but the Templar Bar team was like a family to me. So here’s a toast to Ashley Hall (2000), Ros Beck (O’Hara) (2001), Tamsin Brown (2001), Paula Whitehouse (2001), Peter “Scouse” Doyle (2002), Peter “Taff” Franks (2003), Ian Rabagliati (2002), Jimmy Riebold (2002), Phil Thompson (2003), Julie Treadwell (2003) and Anna Hewlett."
Julie Treadwell (2003)
Photo right: Ashley Hall, Templar Bar Sign Winner 2018
"Arriving back in halls to find my block mates playing Mario Kart on one of the floors. I then decided to play and lost. However I played again and beat them to prove that I could, even when highly intoxicated."
"In all seriousness, it was a place of good but strange times. I'll miss it. However, somewhere with a boiler that can fill more than half a bath for the nine it services will hopefully replace it."
Paul Wagner (2005)
"I spent all three years on Hawthorns, but on my first day I found myself living upstairs from some very strange boys! I remember telling my Mum not to worry I wasn't going to go out with any of "those weirdos". So that was how I met my husband."
"We got moved Block halfway through the year due to refurbishment. We felt really put out to move across from L block to C block... until we realised it was much nicer after the refurb! Also was a much nicer location. We had a field that we played rounders on a few times next door!"
Lucy Wain (2008)
"Five of us are making a 'pilgrimage' back to block H! We're bringing all our children too... to show them where it all started! Three of the babies would exist if it wasn't for Keele!"
Rachel Baddeley (2002)
"My Hawthorns memory is my first year in 2002, meeting my husband at Templar Ball and my parents cooking a roast dinner for the whole block on our first term! Unfortunately, my husband has now passed away but those memories of our meeting and our subsequent love story will stay with me forever."
Rebecca Patel (2005)
"My room had damp and I got a chest infection for the only time in my life, coincidence?"
"My parents and I moved all my stuff into my new room in K-Block and as I waved them off and went back to room, for a split-second I felt alone and scared. This was the first time I had lived away from home, and I didn't quite know what to do with myself - until there was a knock on my door! The girl next door told me that the entire block was going to the poster sale and asked whether I wanted to come. So the whole of K-Block walked down to the poster sale together whilst getting to know each other. It sounds silly, but during that walk I felt as if I was part of something incredible. It was the beginning of some amazing friendships that were formed in K-Block during 2004 and I'll always be grateful for the lack of space, the messy kitchen, and of course the shabby-yet-perfect Templar Bar."
Thaila Skye (2004)
"This photo shows me just about to leave Keele for good in July 2001. My old Ford Escort packed up and ready to go outside 'House 2' (home for my final year) and the empty X block (closed due to rising damp I believe).”
Matt Sykes (2001)
“Ha ha ha I inherited the "no parking" parking space that September!”
Amanda Caton (2004)
"Ha yes, Amanda Caton, Andrew Penn got a massive dent in his bonnet when half a branch fell on it from that big tree! Boy, I was in trouble for parking there."
Jill Hanby (2004)
Photo left: Matt Sykes, parking in the No Parking space.
"I texted my parents about visiting Keele before Hawthorns gets pulled down as I can't make the October event and I noticed that the suggested auto-correct following words after I typed "Keele" were "street" "university"....and "squirrels"."
Claire McLennan (2006)
"I started at Keele in 2001 in what was then an all girl's E block! Such a surprise being so far from campus and only in a girl's block, but it wasn't a problem for long. Loved the walks to campus and more importantly found than F block next door was all boys! The poor student rep who lived between these two blocks. I vividly remember heading to F block in fresher's week wearing a Union Jack cowgirl hat (as you do!) Walking past room two with a guy sitting on an amp, playing guitar with a few others. Two weeks later we met again in the Union. Nearly sixteen years later we are still together. Now married with two kid. Andrew Penn and I will NEVER forget Hawthorns!"
Jill Hanby (2001)
"After spending FY and undergrad years in Barnes, my first postgrad year was spent in Templar House. Apart from windswept 20 minute walk to the Chemistry Department instead of 5, it made me think about what I'd missed out on by living in the centre of campus for my undergrad years."
Dominic Miles-Shenton (2000)
"The best place on campus would never have met my wife if I have never stayed there. Four of THE BEST YEARS of my life... 2002-2006!"
Philip Carrington (2005)
"I met my wife-to-be when we were both freshers living in C and D blocks."
Tom Reynolds (2003)
"Hawthorns is at the heart of the symbolic community spirit and togetherness that Keele is renowned for. It was home to where real independence, academic initiative, intimacy and long term friendships started. The memory that probably stands out the most and I’m sure resonates most with the whole of L Block in 2010 is "Henry Hoover" night. My Top 20 memories are 1: Henry Hoover night, 2: Staying up until the early hours on the landing finishing group assignments with Emma & Andrew, 3: Danger darts, then danger hangers, then danger glass with Ryan…, 4: Tamhoy, 5: Movie nights on the top landing, 6: Enya naps with Jess and Becky, 7: The endless dirty pots and pans left on the side to ‘soak’, 8: My room on the middle landing (Room 12) used predominantly as social space, 9: The Halloween Party, 10: Debbie the cleaner - lovely lady, 11: The L Block Christmas dinner, 12: Being the L block representative with Jodie, 13: Having a biscuit and a brew and Just talking and confiding with Danielle, 14: Being next door neighbour to Kristian, 15: Winning the best block award for that academic year, 16: The shower that never drained properly, 17: Making long lasting friends for life with the whole block, 18: The support from the whole block when my dad passed away, 19: The merrily intoxicated shopping spree with Emma after celebrating end of exams, 20: Being the last out of the block and toasting the year end with Chris at the pub."
Ethan Clarke (2013)
Photo right: Hawthorns entrance in 2011
"Having a huge snowball fight at 11 in the evening between Z, Y, W and V Blocks."
Duncan Fryer (2014)
Being served hot chocolate after coming home at 4am from the library.
"Moving into S Block on my very first day at Keele in 2012. I met all my lovely housemates who became like family and I met my now fiancé for the first time as he moved into the room next door!"
Hayley Wharrick (2012)
"Two years A block, two years in the flats in W block, 1979-83. Great years."
Ian Brunt (1983)
On 6 October 1967 some bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager young people descended upon Keele. A number of them who have shared a friendship born at Keele half a century ago ventured back on 27 September 2017 to see how the old Alma Mater had developed and to bid farewell to the Hawthorns where 50 years ago they were the first occupants of Blocks A to L. It was interesting to wander amid such young-looking people and to be met by a member of staff concerned about why such a motley crew were meandering aimlessly around the Hawthorns. We realised that we were perhaps of an ancient generation and today’s students live different lives with different expectations.
The crew included: Lin Farley (G Block 1967-71), Elizabeth Clarke (Pingstone) (H Block 1967-72); Peter Cuthbert (D Block 1967-8, 1969-70 and P Block 1970-71; Lindsay 1968-69); Barrie Milnes (C Block 1967-70; P Block 1970-71) and Dewi Hughes (C Block 1967-70; P Block 1970-71) together with Katherine Cuthbert (John) (Lindsay 1965-69) and Sue Paine (Barnes Huts 1967-71). Two non Keele partners, accompanied us on our journey down memory lane.
Photo left: Return of the 1967 new arrivals in 2017
We were saddened by the proposed demolition of the Hawthorns which held so many happy memories of camaraderie and friendship and the loss of trees and the green areas which made Hawthorns quite special (ED: very many of the trees have protection orders against removal) – that place to which you returned home from the campus – not “going back to my room” of the campus-arians! We managed to peek at our old rooms… how small and basic they seemed now (even cell-like) given the expectation of en-suite, mod-con accommodation nowadays.
"My memories are of the Potteries of 50 year ago, a place still very close to the world described by Arnold Bennett. On the edge of the countryside, no other buildings along the unmade lane - a farm track billowing with white hawthorn blossom in the spring, leading into fields. The treat of having a shower and central heating and a room of my own - all new to me. Parties in the kitchens - especially pancakes, and the big social event of Sunday evening meals. All other meals were taken in the refectories as part of the accommodation package, but also the social mix of eating together in the refectories - you could usually find someone you knew to eat with and there was no need to worry about shopping or cooking. Breaking the Hours Rule and writing to tell my tutor so. In those days the blocks were single sex and everyone had to be back in their own block by 10 o’clock – in the evening. Walking to the telephone box in the village to make a call home on Sunday nights. Taking the bus into Newcastle and the Potteries on Saturdays. As the bus returned, coming up the hill from Hanley we looked back over an industrial landscape complete with steel works and coal mines and dotted with fires. Standing in front of a butchers shop looking at a strange sort of meat labelled 'boiled udder', and more, palatable, discovering oatcakes. Going to an evening class in Newcastle where we were taught to paint pottery by a woman who had worked for Wedgwood. She was a person of unusual talent and her own work was very fine."
"Aah 1967! Can you remember? Colour television for the first time and Radio reconfigured to become Radios 1,2,3, and 4… and arriving at the Hawthorns which was almost like home – set in green rural rolling landscape but less dramatic than what one was used to - and becoming the first occupant of C19. The sharing of experiences with others, not least being away from home for a lengthy period for the first time and learning to live with a group of disparate individuals from which strong and everlasting friendships were cast. I can echo memories of the environment and the walks – not forgetting the walk to and from the campus even in the heavy snow even to get to the daily 9 o’clock FY lecture; the trek to phone to perform a weekly duty (improved when the Refectory Block was opened) but there was always the weekly letter from home; the co-eating of meals and the lively conversations, followed by endless coffees in friends’ rooms squashing 10 to 12 into the "cells". My grant for the first term was £93, of which £63 went for accommodation which incorporated the room and all meals other than Sunday evening dinner - which usually for many of the males tended to be revitalised Vesta pack concoctions (unless you were proficient in deciphering Katherine Whitehorn's culinary bible "How to cook in a bed-sit"). And of course the hours rules! But the forward thinking University authorities decided that the Hawthorns should be the guinea pig for greater autonomy... and naturally the first thing to be extended and gradually removed was the hours rule. This caused some enmity in the other Halls who adopted an UDI, reflecting that Keele of 1968 was synonymous with "revolution" and sit-ins, but then they came running for advice on how to organise and operate the system of management when it was realised that autonomy did not come without exercising democratic responsibility. And yes the ritual at 5.50pm each week day of congregating in the TV Lounge to watch that commentary on contemporary social mores “The Magic Roundabout” – Dillon high on his carrots, Zebedee keen on enticing anyone with his "and so to bed"! These were the years when Iolo Roberts and his wife, Menai and daughter Nia occupied the Hawthorns House. Their fundamental concern for the wellbeing of the residents was immense. I remember the Sunday evening journeys in their company to the Welsh Chapel in Hanley… and there was nothing like steak pudding and chips topped with gravy to finish off an evening – often in a friend’s MGB Roadster! not forgetting also the jaunts to the Mainwaring Arms, Whitmore, for a convivial break, and a couple of pints, away from base! The Hawthorns experience was its people and its setting. Thanks for the memories unique to the community which I hope is still Keele."
"Whilst the Magic Roundabout was "required" viewing for many of us, those days were also days of momentous events. There were the videos of the Moon landings but, if my memory serves me right, while there were pictures from space there was quite a long period of zero external communication due to a postal strike. As my parents had no phone in those days, one had no idea of how they were doing, nor they any news of my doings. No helicopter parents then! There was also the year of student uprisings. Down in Hawthorns the lads had a Sunday tradition of buying all the various Sunday newspapers and spending the morning reading and chatting. One week we were astonished to read that a Midlands university had students occupying administrative buildings, and more amazing still had staged a mass clothing strip off and were marching about naked and liberated. The surprise was even greater when it was discovered that the university was Keele, it had happened on the previous day and we Thorns folks had missed all the "fun"
"Keele in 1967 was very much a campus orientated university, Heads of Departments living in the detached houses, lecturers in flats or acting as wardens, and the students living in the halls of residence or the huts. Staff ran various social groups often in their homes and tutorial numbers were small enough that everyone knew the others. The Foundation Year was amazing with 400 of us studying a subject wide course starting with the Big Bang and ending with the post WW2 world and its future. The Hawthorns was mostly brand new in 1967 and we loved being just off the campus in a village with a church, pub, fields and student centre. The individual units were small only about 5 rooms, one bathroom on each floor and one kitchen for the block. We got to know each other very well! My group of friends spent all four years there. What did I gain from four years at Keele? FY gave me a wealth of knowledge that I have been able to draw on over the years, and led me to move from my degree subjects (Geography and History) to a MBA in Psychology and Industrial Relations and a career in HR in the City of London. I gained experience of living in a community and most importantly, a group of friends who I am still close to after 50 years!"
Elizabeth Clarke (Pingstone)