Keele University 1986-89

I studied for my degree at Keele University between 1986 and 1989. The university is located in a small Staffordshire village from which it takes it's name, on a hill above Newcastle-Under-Lyme in the United Kingdom. Keele not only holds many fond memories for me but is also where I met my wife, Suman.

Keele's 617 acre university campus is the largest integrated university campus in the UK. In contrast, during my time at Keele, the number of full-time students was under 3000. These days the number has risen to over 5,500 and there are apparently plans to grow to 10,000 students but even then the campus grounds will remain large in comparison to the number of students.

Established with degree giving powers in 1949 as the University College of North Staffordshire, university status followed in 1962. The university was founded to promote breadth of education and promote interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary scholarship. Therefore, one of the attractions of Keele at the time I was applying was the emphasis on and variety of joint honours degree course. Another was its foundation year providing introductions to a wide range of subjects enabling students to spend a year sampling subjects before choosing their honours subjects. I took a three year course in Mathematics and Computer Science while my wife took Law and Sociology after completing the foundation year.

The campus is largely formed from the 19th century Keele Hall and its estate. Formerly the home of the Sneyd family and enjoying Grade II registration by English Heritage, a sizable chunk of the campus still consists of a number of small lakes, gardens and woodland that made up the grounds of Keele Hall.

The Sneyd family took possession of Keele in the 16th century, although the family can trace its origins in Staffordshire back as far as the late 13th century. With extensive coalfields under their land, the family gained significantly in wealth after the Industrial Revolution. Ralph Sneyd (1793-1870) rebuilt much of Keele Hall in the 1850s to the design of Antony Salvin.

Keele Hall main entranceKeele Hall main lawn
Keele Hall formal gardenKeele Hall main lawn
One of the smaller lakes
Stream between lakesLake number one

Located on top of a ridge over looking the Potteries conurbation, Keele can be very cold; very, very cold. In my first year, the outside walls of my room faced north and east, the window was not double-glazed and grew a large icicles on the inside, and one night it was so cold I resorted to dragging the heavy rug off the floor to supplement my blankets. However, one the advantage of the cold is thatabout once every four years there is heavy snow and the campus is turned into a winter wonderland.

Thorns in the snowKeele hall
Keele Hall main lawnLooking West
From Keele Hallto Keele HallTo the clock house

In the late 1980's there were only four halls of residence, Barnes, Horwood, and Lyndsey on campus, five minutes walk from the centre of the campus, and The Hawthorns ('Thorns) in Keele village itself, a fifteen minute walk from the centre of the campus. I lived in 'Thorns for all three of my years at Keele starting in B block (room 22) and moving to the self-catering flats in Z and Y blocks for the following two years respectively.

To the centre of campusTo 'Thorns
To 'Thorns 2
Thorns before conference centre
Thorns from Y BlockAnnual tissue tree blossomingThorns from B Block

At the end of the day, a trip back to the Hawthorns hall usually means a stroll from the centre of the campus, down the road to the Keele village gate and then across the open grass area to the village itself. Once in 'Thorns, there is another couple of minutes from the main block that holds the bar and cafeteria (refectory when I was there) to the various residential blocks.

Behind the last of the residential blocks in 'Thorns the road becomes a farm track. Five minutes walk down the track there is a small row of houses and, in the late 1980's, the only public telephone without a long queue of students outside it. These days, of course, mobile phones mean that students no longer have to brave the weather, or queue for ages to phone family and friends. Also a by-pass of the village was built a few years ago and that runs behind The Hawthorns with bridge over it for the farm track. This is a significant improvement for the village making crossing the main road through the village much easier and safer for half-awake students struggling onto campus for 9:00am lectures.

The village of Keele itself consists of a pub (The Sneyd Arms), a parish church, a post office, and maybe 20-30 houses and bungalows. At the other end of the campus there is a golf course that separates Keele from the mining town of Silverdale. Naturally, the golf course has its own bar, The Golfer's Arms, that is frequented by students looking for an alternative to the bars in the Student's Union.

My wife spent two years in 'Thorns (O Block and Templar House) followed by a year in Barnes. For her final year she lived in Horwood. This meant she was much closer to the library and the Student's Union.

A tradition during my time at Keele that has now been stopped (I believe) was to cover friends finishing their last exam with cheap champagne, shaving foam, flour, and various other concoctions. This made an unholy mess outside the chapel where the exams were held but was a great way of bringing closure to your exams.

End of final examsHorwood HallHorwood Hall

Like any university there are seemed to be innumerable sports and social clubs and societies. The two main societies that I was involved with while at Keele were the rugby club and the Christian Union. Both demanded a considerable amount of time but I did briefly attend a few other clubs, although I confess it was usually because they were offering a free meal, drink or entertainment at the time.

rugby at Keelerugby at Keelerugby at Keele
rugby at Keelerugby at Keelerugby at Keele
rugby at Keelerugby at Keelerugby at Keelerugby at Keele
rugby at Keele
rugby at Keelerugby at Keele

The rabble living in B block with me during my first (fresher) year included Murray Cash, Darren Greenop, Graham Ethelston, Graham Hazel, and Andy Howells. Living next door in C-block but also spending most of his time in B-block was Nic Smith. The self-catering flats in 'Thorns consisted of four bedroom studies, plus a shared lounge/kitchen and bathroom. My thanks and apologises in equal measure to Jeremy Pearson, Andy Lucking, and Steve Hudson, Murray Cash, James Sutherland, and Simon Hearn who put up with me in Z6 and Y17 respectively. The shared lounge/kitchen meant that the flats were often (sometimes too often) a place where people tended to meet and chill out as an alternative to the bar and pub.

The old stable block at Keele has been converted into rooms surrounding a very pleasent courtyard featuring a small clock house. This now houses the music department and is reached from the rest of the campus via a cutting planted with rhodedendrums. One of my favourite activities at Keele was watching the open air performances of Shakespeare that were held in summer in front of the clock house. From the other side of the clock house, an impressive avenue of trees leads down to an old gatehouse.

To clock house and music departmentTo clock house and music departmentThe clock house in the old stable blockThe avenue to the clock house
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