Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Open Day and a trip to the loo

Saturday was a beautiful day – chilly but bright and sunny. This is my absolute favourite sort of Autumn weather. The UoG Open Day started at 10 o’clock and all the ambassadors had to arrive at 8am to help set up. That always feels so early as I prop my eyelids up with matchsticks during my early Saturday brekkie!  This time we were trying a new set up – instead of leading tours of visitors we were allocated to ‘tour points’. These were marked by red balloons with tour routes marked by red stars on the ground and blue balloons.  The balloons looked lovely all along the fence between the two campuses – unfortunately they were very appealing to the locals and had disappeared by 10.30!
Open Day balloons

I was stationed at tour point no 7 on the Mansion site, with Dan, a first year student paramedic. We had to memorise a script about the history of the mansion site and show people the common room, (formerly the drawing room), the winter gardens and an area I had never visited previously – the Victorian ladies’ loo. Well, dear reader – that was the highlight of the day for me!  This hidden gem was part of the original mansion constructed on this site by the immensely rich Colonel North in the 1890’s. Bombing in the second world war destroyed much of the building including a full set of Turkish baths, but the entrance foyer, the ballroom  (now the library) and the wonderful, glass houses of the winter gardens are still here. They give a good impression of just how over-the-top the whole place must have been – quite an ostentations display of wealth and privilege. His backyard was Avery Hill Park and there was plenty of space for his regiment 250 men to camp there!
Unfortunately he wasn’t around for long after the building was finished and after his death it had to be sold. any way back to those loos! The corridor is like any educational institutional corridor and you go through a door marked ‘Staff only’ and enter another world!
Marble basins

“Harry Potter loos!”  exclaimed some of our visitors delightedly.
And all that marble! Imagine popping in here to powder your nose between dances in the ballroom!
And only the best in porcelain! Royal Doulton no less! I love the attention to detail – the soap dish carved out of solid marble and those gorgeous Victorian taps.

...and then we get to the windows! The detail is beautiful. Luckily I had two architecture students who shared my interest so that I could wax lyrical with them! They are designed and manufactured by Campbell Smith & Co., well known church window makers of the time.
Windows and ceiling
The ceiling is quite amazing also. It is fully tiled using a technique known as Burmantoft’s faïence, praised in British Architecture as “the best of its kind we have seen”. I discovered Burmantoft’s pottery works was near Leeds in Yorkshire. now you know!  I wonder where I will be next Open Day?  Am I going to be privy to some more hidden treasures, I wonder!

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