The new students who joined Lancaster in its inaugural year were housed at St Leonardgate and in Morecambe. Student accommodation in Morecambe was hotly criticised, despite the fact that it was hoped that the town would become a ‘playground’ for the new students. Some students had disagreements with their landladies.
One, in particular, lamented that he was allowed to have “one bath a week on a Saturday and if you missed that, you had to wait until next week.”
Charles Carter hoped that the landladies in Morecambe would see students as more than just a means of earning money in the winter. Instead, they should regard themselves as offering a social service.
Student social life
“I am not sure that I am qualified to understand what students mean when they say that Lancaster is a dull place….people [should] create their own [entertainment]. I have always suspected that dullness resides not in places. But in people who think that places are dull.” Charles Carter, Lancaster University’s First Vice-Chancellor
The majority of the early students found it easy to amuse themselves when not in lectures and played an important role in establishing new clubs and enterprises at the university. Student publications proliferated around the campus in the 1960s. As well as the collegiate newspapers, there were three major works:
Carolynne was created four days after the university opened by the members of Bowland college and was named after the girlfriend of its founder, William Smethurst in an attempt to attract her attention. It worked, and the couple’s engagement was announced in the magazine in 1968.
Carolynne became very popular around the local area and there was both a university and a city edition (the latter was sold in Lancaster, Morecambe and Preston newsagents). Princess Alexandra, the Chancellor of the University also subscribed to the magazine! Carolynne was financially and editorially independent from the university and was able to report on issues outside the University’s academic life.
The magazine was rated second only to Oxford’s student paper and the January 1968 edition boasted a circulation of over 2,500. From 1967 onwards, a different cover girl from the university graced the cover of the magazine wearing the ultra-fashionable clothing of the time.
Student College and Administrative News (SCAN)
SCAN or the Student College and Administrative News began to roll off the press in February 1967. Produced by the Senior Common Room, SCAN differed from Carolynne and John O’ Gauntlet because its editor was directly responsible to the SCR. SCAN became a reliable source of news about the university and its administration. Whereas Carolynne and John O’ Gauntlet expressed their own viewpoints, SCAN was more like a news service. Early editions were printed on yellow and pink paper and, although less sophisticated than its counterparts, it was well respected and highly praised.
SCAN still exists today but is drastically different from its predecessor. It has become the main student publication at the university.
John O Gauntlet
John O’ Gauntlet was described as “a vehicle for radical ideas” and, like Carolynne, was independent from the Senior Common Room. The paper was sprinkled with a heavy pinch of Marxism and tended to focus on the harsher aspects of university life and politics. In particular, it followed the activism on American campuses during the 1960’s. However, as with the other student newspapers, it also had a sense of humour, as shown by the “Spot the beard” competition!
The inaugural meeting of the JCR occurred in 1967 and involved the only two existing colleges, Bowland and Lonsdale.
Student clubs were also widespread during the early existence of the University. The Film Society boasted that “for half a crown”, you could watch anything ranging from The Grapes of Wrath to A Hard Days Night. There was also a Marxist Discussion group for the more left-wing political brains and the Conservative and Unionist Association which was one of the first clubs to be formed at the university. University politics were hotly debated. The first JCR meeting for Bowland and Lonsdale occurred in 1967.
There was also the ’64 Society Debating Club’, departmental groups such as the Historical and Biological Society, Scottish Country Dancing and musical groupings such as the Choral Society (for “whether you think you don’t sing or whether you’re sure you do”). For the student interested in doing something more physical during their spare time, there were also numerous clubs and associations to choose from including golf, lawn tennis, rugby and athletics. The Mountaineering club was active in the late 1960s and assured any potential members that “you could do worse than enjoy a leisurely day out with the Mountaineering Club…at least you’ll spend Sunday evening in a different pub than normal.” (Nothing changes!) For those more interested in less taxing sports, there was also a Tiddlywinks club, an apparently competitive sport that required “teamwork, guile, resilience at the knees, gamesmanship and co-ordination between the eye, thumb and the index finger.” The Rag Association was also very popular with students.
In addition to the activities of the student societies and consistent with the collegiate system upon which the university was based, the social life of the early students tended to revolve around the activities organised by individual colleges. Band nights were very popular, but one former member of Pendle recalled that there were only a few electrical sockets by the door of Pendle bar. This meant that great long reams of electrical cable were stretched across the room; unsuspecting musicians that didn’t cut the rug often had their wires unplugged in mid rendition with a simple yank of the power cords! The Great Hall also staged concerts by nationally known groups including Roxy Music, Dire Straits, Mike Oldfield and Eric Clapton, but because of fire regulations and increasing costs of touring, such gigs died out in the 1980s. Today live music is largely restricted to the off-campus social centre in town, the Sugar House.
The Alumni office runs an excellent alumni relations programme for ex-students and some colleges have their own associations.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Lancaster had a reputation as one of the most radical universities in the country. It is rumoured that The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury was based in part on events which occurred here the university. The book was later turned into a television series which was partially filmed on the Lancaster campus and starred Antony Sher in the lead role.
Student activism covered issues as wide-ranging as local bus fares and freedom of speech. In November 1967, Carolynne reported that 70 students returning from a dance were locked in a Ribble garage after a fares dispute. In 1965, there was a street march against the consequences of Rhodesia’s threatened unilateral declaration of independence and a protest against the visit of the Smethwick MP Peter Grittiths who arrived to address the university Conservative Association. Various members of the Marxist society accused the MP of being a racist.
Anti-Vietnam protests were also prevalent at Lancaster. In 1965, ten students spent two days in the December snow to protest against American involvement in the war. During the summer of 1966, a number of students conducted an anti-Vietnam march along a Morecambe promenade packed with people enjoying the sunshine. As a result, 16 students were fined £4 each; one particular student was carried from Morecambe court and sent to prison for his refusal to pay. Much of the protest activity on American campuses during the 1960s was reported by the left-wing student paper John O’Gauntlet. The paper also accused science departments of behaving like a degree factory, in much the same way as students at Berkley in California.
Some of the protests made national news. The most widely reported occurred in the early 1970s when it was announced that David Craig, a lecturer who had become the centre of an argument about academic freedom and freedom of speech was to be made redundant. Disgruntled students gathered in Alexandra Square and blockaded University House to support his cause.