Wantage Hall, Reading
Description: Wantage Hall
Date Listed: 2 April 2008
English Heritage Building ID: 504291
OS Grid Reference: SU7268172289
OS Grid Coordinates: 472681, 172288
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4449, -0.9556
Location: 43 Upper Redlands Road, Reading RG1 5HP
Incorrect location/postcode? Submit a correction!
934/0/10065 UPPER REDLANDS ROAD
02-APR-08 Wantage Hall
Wantage Hall, 1908. Hall of residence at the University of Reading. Neo-Tudor design by Charles Steward Smith, architect, commissioned and endowed by Lady Wantage. Addition of New Court to the north in 1970, by Peter Ednie & Partners is not of special interest.
MATERIALS: Red brick in English Bond with stone dressings and tiled roofs.
PLAN: A quadrangle, known as 'Old Court': largely of two storeys but with an additional basement level in the northern half given the sloping site. Roof is largely double pitched with a central concealed valley. Main entrance gate through a three storey clock tower in the south elevation. Dining Hall range, housing student common room on the ground floor and the dining hall above, on the north side of the quadrangle. Student accommodation mainly in the west and east ranges over two floors. Warden's study and offices in the south-east corner, formerly the Principal's residence. Service rooms largely confined to basement level. Red brick 1970s addition, known as 'New Court', forms a further quadrangle to the north but is not of special interest.
EXTERIOR: Main façade to the south on Upper Redlands Road. Of two storeys under a pitched tiled roof with pairs of gabled bays at the south-west and south-east corners. Windows are leaded casements with stone surrounds and moulded drip-moulds; those to the ground floor are conjoined to form a narrow string course. Rainwater hoppers decorated with a 'W' for 'Wantage'. Central, three-storey crenellated clock tower, again in red brick with stone dressings: there are stone string courses between floors and gargoyle corbels to the machicolation. Polygonal stair towers at each corner. Handsome canted oriel window to the first floor. Entrance is through a large Tudor arched gateway in stone with carved spandrels; paired solid panelled gates.
Similar features are employed in the quadrangle although it is more decorative. West and east ranges have a series of prominent projecting chimney stacks, with clustered pots, stone dressings and diaper work decoration, dividing up the elevations. Entrance bays have Flemish gables with carved stone coats of arms and banded diaper work detailing. Two-storey dining room range to the north dominates both given its axis opposite the entrance but also for its greater height: symmetrical range of three bays, all with gables, decorated with diaper work. Large mullion and transom windows with leaded lights and some coloured glass. Central bay has a decorative canted oriel with a Flemish gable topped with a carved stone finial. Foundation stone beneath this window. Carved sundial added to the oriel in the 1980s inscribed to the memory of Sydney Taylor.
INTERIOR: Interiors differ dependent upon function with the principal spaces more decorative than the student accommodation, service accommodation or circulation spaces. Student accommodation is in small study bedrooms largely in the west and east ranges where they are arranged either side of a central corridor on the ground and first floors. Each has a fireplace (some now blocked) with a wooden mantle and original picture rails. Elongated doors to the student rooms are replicas of the originals given fire prevention requirements. Corridors and staircases have exposed red brick walls. Main staircase, leading up to the Dining Hall, has a solid brick balustrade topped with a moulded stone banister and terminating in a carved stone newel. Tudor arches with stone mouldings are also employed internally. Interiors of particular note are the former Principal's lodgings and the Dining Hall. The former contains stone fireplaces decorated with the shell motif of the University and original panelling. Present Warden's study, originally the parlour of the Principal's lodgings, retains its original fireplace which has a timber surround, decorative mantle, and glazed green tiles. Wallpaper in a green leaf design may be original Morris & Co. Most impressive Dining Hall with solid timber hammer-beam roof and attractive curved braces. Original wooden and metal chandeliers. Panelling to picture rail level and carved door surround. Windows with coloured glass shields and crests. Large open fireplace with stone Tudor surround and carved spandrels. Substantial decorative carved timber fire surround and overmantle including carved human heads, shells and a Latin inscription.
ANCILLARY FEATURES: Red brick walls and railings to Redlands Road and Upper Redlands Road.
HISTORY: Although a School of Art was established at Reading in 1860 with a School of Science following in 1870, it was not until 1892 that Reading was founded as a University Extension College under the patronage of the University of Oxford. It became a University in its own right in 1926 by Royal Charter. Wantage Hall was built relatively early in the life of the university; it was designed in 1906 and opened in 1908. It is believed to have been the first purpose-built hall of residence built after the Oxford and Cambridge colleges. It was the gift of Harriet, Lady Wantage (1837-1920) a wealthy local benefactress. Lady and Baron Wantage owned Lockinge House, near Wantage, as well as considerable land holdings in Berkshire. They were artistic connoisseurs and patrons and were heavily involved with the British Red Cross Society. Lady Wantage was closely associated with her husband's work at Reading University College of which he was the first president and after his death in 1901 she was appointed vice-president and live governor. She donated nearly £150,000 to the University including the building and endowment of Wantage Hall as a men's hall of residence and £50,000 to an endowment fund in 1911. She was also a benefactor of the Royal Berkshire Hospital and was the first woman to receive the freedom of the Borough of Reading. Charles Steward Smith (1858-1923), who designed the building, was a local Reading based architect.
During the First World War Wantage Hall was used by the Royal Flying Corps School of Instruction, training instructors to, in turn, train the increasing numbers of RFC squadrons required. Classes were held in the building and practical training took place along Upper Redlands Road where old fuselages were suspended in the trees for this purpose.
The hall of residence expanded in 1970 with additional accommodation provided by New Court, an extension added to the north of the original building (now known as 'Old Court'). New Court was designed by the architectural firm Peter Ednie & Partners but is not considered of special interest.
Wantage Hall remains in use as a fully catered residential hall which accommodates approximately 245 students.
SOURCES: Reading Standard 31 October 1908
REASON FOR DESIGNATION:
Wantage Hall was the first hall of residence at the University of Reading opening in 1908. It is designated for the following principal reasons:
* A handsome and intact hall of residence in a Tudor style with an interesting quadrangle plan-form, quality materials and detailing.
* A very early hall of residence which drew on the historic Oxbridge college tradition but was a pioneer of C20 university collegiate accommodation, and which was to become the model for subsequent university colleges and halls of residence.
This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.