It’s 50 years since the official opening of the University of London Reactor Centre housed at Imperial’s Silwood Park campus. Silwood Park is located about 25 miles West of Central London, near the village of Sunninghill, Ascot, Berkshire. On 22nd June 1965 the official opening took place with the Principal of the University of London, along with the Imperial College’s Rector Sir Patrick Linstead, Pro Rector Sir Owen Saunders and Chairman Lord Sherfield. In 2011 the process application to decommission the ‘GEC 100kW Consort’ reactor was started and is being continued today. Sadly, although the archive has BBC Footage shot at the 1965 opening ceremony, it’s minus the sound track, so the on-screen presentation and interviews mean very little. That’s rather a disappointment as it captures a key part in the college’s history. The photo on the right is during construction. What I do have is a segment from the 1982 documentary that I made about Silwood Park and fortunately we shot a section about the reactor and its operation. Tracy Poole spoke with Dr McMahan a lecturer in Physics about the operation of the reactor centre. We shot inside the main reactor hall, control room and experiments lab. I’m so glad we did this because it will be the only archive material shot about the reactor before it eventually disappears for good. Because it’s a ‘pool type’ water cooled and water moderated reactor it’s possible to open the reactor up and seen inside the core (yes it’s true). Then you will see a bright blue glow caused by the Cherenkov radiation. The image on the left show this glow which I witnessed myself when I took the shots for the video whilst standing on top of the reactor. When we made this video the reactor centre was still relatively new and only 17 years old, now it’s celebrating 50 years! As indeed I do myself, later this year, with 50 years of working at (and since early retirement, occasionally with) Imperial College!
Below is the documentary extract about the reactor centre and also some lovely aerial helicopter footage we had shot, which shows the beautiful Silwood Park campus.
The May 2003 Postgraduate Awards Graduation Ceremony was the first time that we had taken cameras into the Royal Albert Hall for this particular event. The previous October 2002, we had relayed the scenes from the stage onto a large projection screen. This was for the special Commemoration Day visit by Lee Kuan Yew. However, I asked the company providing the cameras if they would record the event anyway, even though we didn’t have a use for it at that time (other than archival). Those videotapes are still in our archive and I will, at some point, run them off into digital form for the benefit of those who graduated that day. The following May 2003 we were asked to once more make arrangements to provide cameras and a large screen for the Postgraduate Awards Ceremony. Again, I asked that we record the whole event to ascertain the feasibility of recording and then distributing the event coverage on DVD, we also did the same in October for Commemoration Day. What you will see below is that 2003 recording, which has been digitised for the first time, from the only recording made, which was on a DVD-RW disc.
In 2004 we recorded the PG Awards ceremony once more, but with the specific intention of creating and making available DVD’s. The disc produced and its art work was created totally in-house, other than the actual disc pressing which was not possible for us to do. That first disc created can be seen on the left hand side. This process carried on for many years (along with Commemoration Day each October) until the ceremony coverage was eventually made available only on the Imperial YouTube channel, rather than on DVD’s.
I have recently rediscovered the first interview shot with a Rector in colour. It was recorded in December 1980 in the Sherfield Building office of Lord Flowers (1924-2010) who was Rector from 1973 to 1985.
The student TV (STOIC) had expressed an interest in interviewing him and I agreed to collaborate in the recording to enable it to be shot in colour. I thought at the time, that this would be good from an archive point-of-view. And 34 years later, my idea has just paid off! There are several other blog entries on Lord and Lady Flowers, but this one had escaped me until now. The interviewer is Mike Prosser, with an introduction made in the college’s former TV Studio. The interview was made as a ‘special’, within the normal weekly programme called News-Break. That programme was transmitted to all of the college halls across campus, as well as the union building. As in previous early colour videos featured within this blog, it will not be up to even the standards of a modern domestic camcorder, but at least we do have it. The previous colour interview with Lord Flowers was featured in my 2010 entry. That previous video was from 1984 and I had only just rediscovered it, so this 1980 video is adding to our collection. The last time I saw Lord Flowers was during a short visit to his house and we were sitting around his kitchen table having lunch with Lady Flowers.
This is an update to the original entry earlier this year. Pathe have just released all of its archive onto YouTube, so I am now able to bring you the film clip direct and in higher quality, rather than going via their own website.
In November 1965 the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visited Imperial College to officially open the newly completed Department of Biochemistry, headed by Sir Ernst Chain (1906-1979). What you will see are the original 1965 (silent) film rushes shot by Pathe News for its weekly newsreel, shown in cinemas at that time. These newsreels ended in 1970. It is to be assumed that the final edited film (if that ever happened) would have had a commentary on it, but this is all silent.
This film record by Pathe is one of the few that were shot on campus at this time. Sequences include the arrival, at the old college Exhibition Road entrance; Sir Patrick Linstead (Rector), Sir Ernst Chain and Lord Sherfield (Chairman Governing Body) all greeting the Queen Mother upon her arrival. This film would have been shot some 8 months before the sudden death of Linstead. You will also see the very obvious building work taking place across the entire campus, with a complete gap where Sherfield and the library now stand. Finally and most importantly, there are shots of Chain in his laboratory, something that we do not have in our own archives.
Were you in the crowd that day? Maybe you are one of the students lining up to speak with the Queen Mother at the end of the film? If you are, then do let us know.
Dr Harold R Allen came to Imperial College as a lecturer in October 1947 after completing a PhD at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory. He made major contributions to the Physics Department but more importantly to the musical activities within the college.
In this interview, recorded in 1983 and not long before his retirement, he talks about the 1960 transfer from the old buildings occupied by Physics, to the brand new building on the corner of Prince Consort Road and Queens Gate. Physics was the first department within Imperial College to move into an entirely new building. As well as this, he discusses his colleagues that were in the department during his years as a member of staff. There’s an interesting anecdote too about the initial design of the Physics lecture theatre and columns that were originally planned, but which would have reduced vision across the entire space.
Sir Roderic Hill who was Rector the time (1948-1954), is discussed as being the person to have started what was then called General Studies. Lady Hill had discovered during a conversation with Dr Allen that he had an interest in music and asked him what was the strength of musical activities going on within the college. All of this lead to the formation of a choir to sing at the then newly created Commemoration Day, the purchase of a piano followed along with the creation of a ‘space for musical activities’. He became leader, organiser and treasurer of the college orchestra.
This interview was recorded in the Imperial College TV Studio on 18th July 1983, especially for the college archives. It was intended to capture the people and history of the college for others to enjoy in the future; we are doing that now, over 30 years later!
A piece of sad news from Linda Jones in the Blackett Lab is that Harold Allen died on September 5th of this year, 2014.
Sir Patrick Linstead (1902–66) was an organic chemist educated at Imperial College, whose work included the discovery of Phthalocyanine dyes. Linstead’s period as Rector (1954-1966) encompassed a time of great change. Much of the South Kensington campus was completely rebuilt during the 1950s and in the early 1960s the Empire was giving way to the new Commonwealth. This caused him to consider changing Imperial’s name, but he was implored not to by former students. In 1962, he foresaw Imperial’s eventual departure from the University of London in July 2007, writing that Imperial’s ‘importance in the educational scene is not reflected in the practices and procedures of the university’. He died in 1966 while still in office as Rector. What we have, fortunately, are some audio recordings made during his time at Imperial College.
First is his speech from the Mansion House “Jubilee” dinner, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Imperial College in 1957.
Second he is speaking during the opening of the Roderic Hill Building in the presence of The Queen Mother in 1957.
Third we have him speaking on BBC radio in February 1958, just as the Jubilee celebrations were ending. He talks about the expansion of the college which had already started at the time he was speaking. The colour photo above, which is of his official painting, depicts him holding the plans for the expansion of the college.
Bob Schroter came to the City and Guilds College, within the Imperial College, as an undergraduate student in 1959.
In this video, recorded in 2006 for the centenary celebrations of 2007, he talks about his time as an undergraduate, then as a postgraduate and finally a member of college staff. During his time as a student, Bob became the president of the students union and since then has become heavily involved in the Old Centralians Trust. His time as president of the union involved meetings and discussions with the then Rector, Sir Patrick Linstead. During the interview Bob talks about the Links Club and the various mascots of the student unions, particularly those of City and Guilds. The Exploration Board is mentioned and the fact that this was started only a matter of years before Bob became a student at Imperial College in the late 1950’s.
Bob ends by talking about the Physiological Flow Studies Unit (PFSU) (of which he became deputy head for many years) and his research, which involved working with Camels and then Horses.
If you would like to see more of this type of Alumni video interview and can make suggestions as to who should take part, then please contact me via the LEAVE A REPLY box below. We would very much appreciate people like Rogers Knight who can tell us stories about Imperial College life in times past, especially those pre-war.
Back in 2010 I brought you the two videos that were made to coincide with the City and Guilds centenary in 1985, they were Studying for the Future and Discovering the Future. I had promised to bring you a third video made later in that year called Mastering the Future. Obviously, this video was intended to showcase and promote the idea of taking a masters degree at Imperial College.
Key figures from Industry were featured to give a sense of what was required from University students taking such masters degrees. One person appearing was Sir George Porter, later Lord Porter who was then President of the Royal Institution. Later he moved to Imperial College to continue his research work. By the time the video was made Eric Ash had become Rector, superseding Brian Flowers. One of the few recordings that we have of Professor Bruce Sayers, then head of computing and also dean of City and Guilds is part of this video. Once more there are some great views of ‘Imperial past’ featured such as: the original front entrance on Exhibition Road; Sports Centre and Gym; Libraries and the 1960’s Walkway with Bookshop.
On the 19th October 1988 the beginning of the mergers with the medical schools started. This was the merger between Imperial College of Science and Technology and St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, located just north of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park at Paddington. The end result of the mergers was the formation of the Faculty of Medicine.
To my knowledge this is only the second time that the college’s Great Hall has played host to a royal event. The first of these was the opening of the building (then called College Block and subsequently Sherfield Building) and the hall itself by HM the Queen in 1969. The hall was packed as you would imagine and that didn’t leave all that much room for the two cameras and tripods we had proposed for the live recording. We were also limited in terms of man-power so my colleague Chris Roberts operated the main camera whilst I located the second camera next to where I had the vision mixer and recorders. This meant that I could not only cut between the cameras, but also operate the second camera to change the shots slightly. What I could not cope with was the fact than when people stood up, they almost blocked the shots from the camera next to me.
The ceremony starts with the fanfare “St Mary’s”. There are then several musical interludes during which you’ll see a very young Richard Dickins and these 22 years later I must apologise to Richard because we got the spelling of his name wrong on our end credits. But, it’s a wonderful record of music from the college symphony orchestra playing Walton’s ‘Crown Imperial’. Also the late Eric Brown conducts the college choir with music from Carmina Burana. And finally in terms of music you’ll hear the electronic organ that’s located within the hall. Princess Anne, (The Princess Royal) as Chancellor of the University of London presented the Chairman of the Governing Body (Sir Henry Fisher) with a specially bound copy of the Imperial College Act and its revised Charter. The Imperial College Rector at the time was Professor (later Sir) Eric Ash.
As always, I’ve had to tweak the image on the video to make it look at bit better. Technology has advanced a lot since this was recorded and the lighting levels required to get good images is a lot lower these days. The Great Hall have never been fantastic for shooting video unless extra light is thrown at the stage area and that then leaves the audience rather dark, whilst the wood panels around the hall make a very warm image when light bounces off it. The whole video is around 45 minutes in duration.
So now we come to the second Seen and Gone and this is when we get to see something interesting (and yes I do mean see). In December 1971 STOIC showed their Christmas edition of the then regular news programme Topic. I’ll try to recall the background to this programme if my memory serves me well!
Although by this time we had two videotape recorders in the studio, the programme was shown live to the JCR (Junior Common room), whilst the recorders were used to replay some inserts into the programme (maybe one did also record I can’t remember). At this time it was still not possible to easily record items outside of the studio so some cunning ideas came into use. To enable STOIC to capture external events an 8mm cine camera was used. The footage was then edited together and a simple background audio track of, for example, street noise, was created to play in the background. These inserts were then run into the live programme whilst one of the presenters did a voiceover. In later years a magnetic sound stripe was added to the film to allow sound to be prerecorded in synch. Things didn’t always go to plan however, the splices in the film sometimes broke during projection or whilst being made ready to be shown. On one occasion a splice broke on the film that was going onto the take-up reel, the easiest thing to do at the time was to ignore it and therefore the film simply spooled directly onto the control room floor in a large pile. This edition of Topic was a good example of where things could and did go wrong. You’ll hear two situations where something happened and the presenter is called on the phone from the control and asked to ‘pad’ until it’s resolved. I thought it was fun if I left those in what you’ll be hearing.
Now, I have called this Seen and Gone, but that’s not strictly true in this case. When I found the audio recording I remembered several spools of 8mm film. These are the original films used to insert into the programmes until portable video became available. They have sat there for 40 years waiting to be seen again. However the videos which they appeared in have long gone. But, in this case I had the soundtrack! So, what you are about to see is the recreation of a lost programme from 40 years ago. I remembered too that I had some photos of STOIC setting up and using the studio at Christmas…..bingo, it was THE same programme I had on audio. So, I’ve been able to use them and the 8mm films to insert at the appropriate places. There does appear to be one film missing and you’ll only hear the commentary and background sound effects. I discovered photos of Lord Penney being interviewed and those too are from the same programme.
So, you’ll be hearing and/or seeing: Guilds Motor club A-Z rally; NUS day of action; Silly Football in Hyde Park; Morphy Day rowing, the London to Brighton vintage car rally and the Lord Mayor’s Show. An interview with Lord Penney (then Rector) was prerecorded and I used the three photos taken at the time of that. Former Union President Piers Corbyn is included and I found a photo taken of that as well. And there’s an added bonus too. Many of the 8mm films were shot with normal Kodak 8mm film stock, so for the first time ever these will be seen in colour. Other items were shot using black and white film. So here is my recreated Christmas Topic from December 1971 with mistakes and technical breakdowns left in.