Hold Fast, Sit Sure: City and the Saddlers

One of City’s longest-standing partnerships has been with The Worshipful Company of Saddlers. The livery company has been providing financial support to City from its inception as the Northampton Institute in the 1890s. As the below letter from 1891 shows, they were particularly quick off the mark – the first cheque arrived before the clerk had a bank account in which to deposit it!

A letter from John J Lambert, clerk of the Governing Body of the Northampton Institute, to Charles Dorman, Chair of the Governing Body. Source: Letter book from the archives. The letter reads: "Northampton Institute, 13th February, Re: Henry Kitchin's Charity. Dear Sir, I have received this moring from the Clerk to the Saddlers Company, Trustees of Henry Kitchin's Charity a cheque for £111-5-6 said to be payment of the amount due to the Governing Body from 9th May to 31st Dec. 1891 under the City Polytechnic Scheme and the Scheme for Kitchin's Charity. By this last named Scheme the Governing Body are entitled to 78/101 parts of the residue of the income of the Charity. The amount £111-5-6 will require verifying before a formal receipt is given. The important point is that for the present there is no Banking Account. I am, Sir, Yours faithfully, John J. Lambert"
A letter from John J Lambert, clerk of the Governing Body of the Northampton Institute, to Charles Dorman, Chair of the Governing Body. Source: Letter book from the archives. The letter reads: “Northampton Institute, 13th February, Re: Henry Kitchin’s Charity. Dear Sir, I have received this moring from the Clerk to the Saddlers Company, Trustees of Henry Kitchin’s Charity a cheque for £111-5-6 said to be payment of the amount due to the Governing Body from 9th May to 31st Dec. 1891 under the City Polytechnic Scheme and the Scheme for Kitchin’s Charity. By this last named Scheme the Governing Body are entitled to 78/101 parts of the residue of the income of the Charity. The amount £111-5-6 will require verifying before a formal receipt is given. The important point is that for the present there is no Banking Account. I am, Sir, Yours faithfully, John J. Lambert”

The source of these funds is the charity of Robert Kitchin, a warden of the Company in the 16th century. Upon his death in 1594, Kitchin left a perpetual income from property to be administered by the Company, stating that “every Sunday in the year, before noon, forever,” twelve poor parishioners of St Ethelbridge should be given twelve pence each, and that fifteen shillings and fourpence should be given “every year, yearly, forever” to fund ongoing maintenance of the parish church, St Ethelburga-the-Virgin within Bishopsgate. Though a modest building, the church has a storied history, and some of the 15th-century fabric remains to this day.

The church of St Ethelburga-the-Virgin within Bishopsgate. Source: Oxyman, reused under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license; available at https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/571163
The church of St Ethelburga-the-Virgin within Bishopsgate. Source: Oxyman, reused under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license

Dwindling residential numbers in the three-acre parish meant that, by the 19th century, fulfilling Kitchin’s original directions was no longer tenable. In 1891, the Charity Commission agreed that 78/101sts of the proceeds of the fund should be given to the Northampton Institute, which had a mission to improve the lives of “young men and women belonging to the poorer classes.” The remaining 23/101sts were to be paid to St Ethelburga’s. A modified version of this scheme persists to this day.

In return for their support, and as a mark of the close ties between the two organisations, the Saddlers were granted a seat on the Governing Body of the Institute. The first person appointed to this seat was Lt. Gen. John Wimburn Laurie, Master of the Company. Laurie’s 30-year military career saw him serve in conflicts from the Crimean War (1853-56) to the Serbo-Bulgarian War (1885). After his time in service, he was returned as a conservative MP for the Welsh seat of Pembroke and Haverfordwest in the 1895 and 1900 general elections, and appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath, making him a prominent figure in Victorian society.

Lt Gen John Wimburn Laurie (seated) with his three sons. Source: Wikimedia (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GeneralLaurieandhisThreeSons1901.jpg); public domain
Lt Gen John Wimburn Laurie (seated) with his three sons. Source: Wikimedia; public domain

Since these early days, the Company has continued to make contributions to City via Kitchin’s charity. One of the most prominent was the Saddlers’ Sports Centre, for which the Saddlers gifted £150,000 in 1971 (equivalent to over £2,000,000 today). The state-of-the-art Centre had a flexible layout, with a 900m² main hall that facilitated sports from badminton to archery. The Centre also featured a sauna and outdoor climbing wall, and was the first in Britain to use Uni-Turf flooring, which supported the use of needle-spike shoes for athletics events.

The editor of Quest, City’s magazine, wrote that “in no way more appropriately could [the Company] have helped future generations of students.” This prediction has so far been borne out; the Centre is still in use as the Saddlers Sports Hall.

A view of the main hall in the new Saddlers' Sports Centre, 1976. Source: Quest no. 31 (1976)
A view of the main hall in the new Saddlers’ Sports Centre, 1976. Source: Quest no. 31 (1976)

The Saddlers have also made generous contributions to the Student Union, granting £4,300 towards the redevelopment of the union bar (equivalent to roughly £25,000 today). In honour of this, the Union named the bar after the Company. The Saddlers’ Bar was opened in 1978, with the first pint being pulled by Alan Loader Maffey, 2nd Baron Rugby, who was Master of the Saddlers Company at the time.

Alan Loader Maffey, 2nd Baron Rugby, Master of the Saddlers Company, pulling the first pint in the new Saddlers' Bar, 1978. The pump handles feature horse's heads, in honour of the Saddlers. Source: City News (30 Oct 1978)
Alan Loader Maffey, 2nd Baron Rugby, Master of the Saddlers Company, pulling the first pint in the new Saddlers’ Bar, 1978. The pump handles feature horse’s heads, in honour of the Saddlers. Source: City News (30 Oct 1978)

With the previous Union bar at City being a place “where drinking was more a form of endurance than a pleasurable experience,” the opening of the Saddlers’ Bar was welcomed by many students at City. The Saddlers’ was the ‘prestige bar’ at City (there was also a ‘functions bar,’ also opened in 1978, complete with “full disco facilities”).

An artist's impression of the proposed Saddlers' Bar from 1978. Source: City News (12 Jun 1978)
An artist’s impression of the proposed Saddlers’ Bar from 1978. Source: City News (12 Jun 1978)

The Saddlers’ was styled after a traditional Victorian pub, with buttoned-tufted leather booths, dark wooden furniture, and “real glasses” instead of plastic ones. Despite several renamings and relocations over the years, the bar has been in continuous operation ever since, and is currently known as City Bar.

A group of five students enjoy the new Saddlers' Bar in 1978. Source: City News (30 Oct 1978)
A group of five students enjoy the new Saddlers’ Bar in 1978. Source: City News (30 Oct 1978)

More recent contributions have included funding for the first computer link between the main university computer facilities and City’s two halls of residence, which was completed in 1987, and funding for an alumni database in 1991.

City is hugely grateful for our close relationship with our friends at the Worshipful Company of Saddlers over the last 130 years. Long may it continue.

From the Archives: City and Space

by Stephen Penton and Conor Jackson

City Archive holds a number of pieces of material relating to space and space travel. This all relates to today’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics. One of the earliest departments when the Northampton Institute was founded in 1897 was Mechanical Engineering, and soon after in 1909 City was one of the first universities to introduce Aeronautical Engineering courses.

One of the Heads of Departments of the Aeronautics Department was Grigori Tokaty. Professor Tokaty had a highly successful career as an aeronautical engineer in the USSR, becoming chief rocket scientist in 1947.1 However, shortly afterwards he defected to the UK and has been described as ‘…one of the most prominent Cold War defectors’ (Dylan, 2018).2 He was a Professor at City between 1967 and 1975, and invited a number of eminent people involved in space to City during this time.

A photo of Professor Grigori Tokaty.
Professor Grigori Tokaty

Professor Tokaty invited the astronauts David Scott, Alfred Worden and James Irwin to visit City in November 1971, shortly after they had visited the Moon on the Apollo 15 mission. A short amateur film was made of the occasion, including footage of their arrival, and of a ceremony in the Great Hall. City still has this film in the Archive.

The mission was launched from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, using a spacecraft called Endeavour. It took nearly 100 hours to reach the moon. Once there, Scott and Irwin descended to the moon’s surface in a smaller vehicle called Falcon, and then used a Lunar Roving Vehicle to travel on the Moon (altogether it covered 17 miles). There was a greater emphasis on science than in earlier Apollo missions, particularly geology, with samples from the Moon’s surface taken and transported back to Earth. 18.5 hours were spent outside the spacecraft in all on the mission – this was a record at the time for one mission.3

In the ceremony at City the astronauts presented the University with a photograph of the Lunar Roving Vehicle, and a piece of the heat shield from the Endeavour spacecraft, both of which are still at City.

The signed photo of the Apollo 15 landing module and rover presented by the Apollo 15 astronauts. The inscription reads: "To Peter Studd, Lord Mayor and Chancellor of the City University from the Apollo 15 crew in appreciation of our visit - November 9, 1971" and the caption reads: "Astronaut Irwin with rover at Apollo 15 landing site."
The signed photo of the Apollo 15 landing module and rover presented by the Apollo 15 astronauts.

In the Autumn of 1974 – 31st October to be exact – Professor Tokaty invited science writer and novelist Arthur C. Clarke to deliver a lecture titled “The Promise of Space”. The lecture was captured using cassette tape and forms part of the modest audio-visual collection in the Archive.

The use of cassette tapes were fine for 1974, though they present an issue in 2019: this type of media is liable to degrade over time through over-playing, poor maintenance and poor playback equipment. To mitigate against any unknown deterioration and potential loss, it became apparent that the Clarke lecture would need to be digitised. The digitisation process was reasonably simple:

  • Download recording software.
  • Connect a tape player to a PC sound card or microphone
  • Insert a tape and record.

The device used to carry out the recording was a boombox-style CD and tape player from the early 2000s. I had misgivings about the basic set-up, but the quality of the recording was satisfactory for our purpose and the only drawbacks were some warm and fuzzy noises and a reduced volume at certain points in the recording. This certainly gave the recording an authentic feel, though a more refined sound was achieved using tools from the recording software.

Clarke may be best known for his fiction, but he was also something of a futurist, so we were hopeful that the lecture would contain correct predictions about technology to come. This proved to be the case as he made prescient remarks about email, digital newspapers and the internet. We transcribed a section of the tape where he discusses this in more detail:

We’re going to see things coming in like the global satellite post office. Instead of having the physical delivery of mail, which is getting more and more difficult and slower and slower, we will just get at least our commercial mail through electronic links in a few microseconds or a few milliseconds instead of a few weeks it sometimes takes now. The global electronic newspaper – the time’s going to come when you will just dial some coding in your home and you will see the front page of any newspaper in the world, if you can still use the word newspaper in that context and get through satellite links not only the current news media, but every newspaper that has ever been, every book that has ever been right back to the invention of the printing press, in fact all of the knowledge of mankind could be available to you in your home through such a device when you dial the correct thirty digit number. There’s a little problem in information retrieval here but we’re going to solve that, we have to.

A poster for Arthur C Clarke's lecture at City in 1974. The text reads: "Dept. of Aeronautics. The City University, London, EC1. A Special Lecture: "The Promise of Space" by Arthur C. Clarke, science writer & novelist ("Interplanetary Flight," "THe Exploration of Space," "The Promise of Space," "Glidepath," "2001 - A Space Odyssey," etc., etc.). Thurs. 31st Oct. 1974, 2oc to 3oc in Room U.214. All Welcome!"
A poster for Arthur C Clarke’s lecture at City in 1974.

More than 40 years have passed since City welcomed Arthur C. Clarke and the astronauts of the Apollo 15 mission and much has changed about space and space travel in the intervening years. It is impossible to know what connection City may have with space in the future, but with the advent of space tourism it may be alumni who come back to visit us.

  

References

1. White, S (1971) ‘Tokaty, space pioneer.’ New scientist and science journal, 8th July 1971.

2. Dylan, A. (2018) ‘SIS, Grigori Tokaev, and the London Controlling Section: New Perspectives on a Cold War Defector and Cold War Deception.’ War in History, 26(4) pp. 517-538.

3. ‘Apollo 15’ (2019) Wikipedia. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_15 (Accessed 16th October 2019)

Behind the scenes of The Story of City: The Financial Ledger

One of the more challenging objects in City’s 125th anniversary exhibition was a mysterious ledger found in the archives. The leather-bound book, simply labelled ‘Private’, was fastened with a brass lock, for which the key has long been lost.

Keen to discover the ledger’s secrets, we contacted several locksmiths and book conservators. They identified a number of issues with opening the lock – given the tiny size of the key, reproducing it would be very fine and detailed work. The brass construction of the lock also posed problems for conventional lock-picking, as there was a risk of damaging the fairly soft metal.

Ultimately, our conservator recommended a locksmith who specialises in historical locks. The book was taken off-site, and a new key was produced. Unfortunately, due to the age of the item, the reproduction key became jammed in the lock. The ledger was ultimately opened, although with some damage to the locking mechanism; this is sometimes an unavoidable consequence of working with fragile and complex archival objects.

What we found inside the ledger justified the unfortunate damage to the object. Dating back to 1891, the financial records cover almost every aspect of the first years of City, from its conception, to its building, and through to the early activities of the first Principal, Dr Robert Mullineux Walmsley. Our conservator felt the pages were in such good condition, it was likely that the ledger had not been opened for at least a hundred years.

Financial records like this often contain information that is otherwise lost to history. For example, while we knew that the Great Hall was used for public ‘entertainments’, we had very few records of what these involved. From the pages below, we can see that the Hall was used for boxing and gymnastics competitions, band performances, and public lectures. Of course, sometimes these records prompt more questions than they answer – what were the ‘police entertainments’ mentioned in 1903? Who were Miss White and Miss James?

Despite these mysteries, these records form an invaluable link to City’s past. They provide avenues for further investigation in other archives around London, as well as adding colour and richness to City’s story. Bringing these records together in our exhibition illustrates our history as a place of learning, a social enterprise, and a proud contributor to our vibrant Islington community. You can browse selected pages from the ledger below – what will you discover?

  • Financial ledger cover brown tooled suede with brass clasp.
    Financial ledger cover

 

You can see this ledger, along with many other treasures from City’s archive, in our exhibition The Story of City: life, learning and legacy. The first part is in the Pavilion until the end of June 2019; a second part of the exhibition will follow in July, and run until the end of the year.