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Leicester Special Collections

University Alumni are unique information sources

The “So That They May Have Life” heritage project enlisted the help of volunteer researchers from varied backgrounds, including many Leicester residents with established knowledge of local history, but University alumni were also able to enrich the archives with information from their own unique experiences.

With physical access to the University archives prohibited by the Covid-19 restrictions, researching of archive images had to be undertaken remotely, mainly via the internet.  This was not a significant problem when the subject was a famous person or well-known location, but for others it was almost intractable.  Fortunately, some alumni have been able to throw light on a few of these images, allowing archivists to elaborate on, or even make corrections to the existing archive records.

Student friends of David Francis at his home

One such former student was David Francis.  David was a Sociology undergraduate in the early 1960s, but during his time at Leicester he also acted as photographer for the student newspaper “Ripple”, and many of his photographs are held in the University archives.  The image above shows one of David’s photographs, originally recorded in the archives as being of 'actors performing in the “Rag Revue” of 1962'.

David Francis portrait 1962

Portrait of David Francis at his home, 1962

The project research team were able to contact David, but when asked to confirm the subject matter, he said that it was in fact a photo of a group of friends in the kitchen of his house in Biddulph Street, Highfields!  Note the similarity of the wallpaper and tablecloth in the two photographs.

Fielding Johnson Building and College House, 1920s

1920s College House with H Block extension to the Fielding Johnson building

One volunteer researcher, Mary Bettles, is an Alumna from the 1970s.  Having been asked to research an image of “H Block” of the old College Hall, Mary recalls:

“As an Arts undergraduate from 1968 to 1971, I remember having to hand in written work to my tutor by posting it under the door of his office in H Block. Unfortunately some ended up under the lino along with essays from other colleagues, so they then had to be put over the top of the door. At that time Combined Studies students were assigned a “moral tutor”, to be on hand to help with any personal or workload problems.  Many a heart to heart talk would run the risk of being interrupted by the fluttering down of pages of one’s colleagues' essays.  H Block contained the offices of both the Arts and Social Sciences Faculty and the building was definitely showing its age. It started life as temporary quarters for the nurses serving in the military hospital during World War I and then was used as residences for female students of the University College." 

College House, H Block and the Engineering Building, 1963 to 1968

College House, H Block and Engineering Building, 1963-1968

"It was a long two storey building that ran from College House towards the Percy Gee Building. When the Attenborough Tower was completed and staff were moved in, the old building was demolished in 1969."

Demolition of H Block, 1960s/1970s

Demolition of H Block

"With the inevitable building snags to contend with, one member of staff announced that the Attenborough Tower was just like being in H Block except the rooms were piled vertically rather than horizontally.  H Block more than fulfilled many roles on the campus, but nothing remains of it except in the photographic archive and the memories of staff and alumni."

Mary Bettles. B.A. Hons Combined Arts. 1971

Gilbert Murray Hall 5-a-side Football Team, 1982

Another volunteer, John Flynn is an Alumnus from 1982.  When asked to research an image recorded in the archives as being of the 'Gilbert Murray Hall football team 1982', he recognised it more accurately as the 5-a-side team that defeated his own Beaumont Hall team in the final of the 1982 Inter-Hall 5-a-side Football knockout competition.

Beaumont Hall 5-a-side Football Team 1982

Inter-Hall 5-a-side Runners-up Trophy

Inter-hall 5-a-side Football Competition 1982 Runners-up Trophy

John was also able to supply photographs of his defeated Beaumont team, and of the runners-up trophy presented to each player of the losing team.


Page text and curation by John Flynn except where indicated