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St Patrick’s Hall saved from demolition

Reading University has officially dropped its plans to demolish St Patrick’s Hall, some of its oldest student accommodation and a historic building used to house Royal Air Corps cadets during the First World War.

St Patrick's Hall, inside quad right

The controversial plans to demolish the hall to make way for larger, newer student accommodation were met with strong objections from the general public, local residents associations and the Victorian Society, as well as the Reading East MP Rob Wilson and University of Reading alumni.

Founded in 1908 by R. L. Pearson as a private hostel, St Patrick’s was rebuilt by the University in 1913 in a neo-Georgian style. Most famously, during the First World War St Patrick’s Hall was used by the Royal Flying Corps, the RAF’s precursor, to house cadets at the No 1 School of Aeronautics. The experiences of the pilot who created Biggles, William Earl Johns, at the No 1 School of Aeronautics are thought to have inspired the book ‘Biggles learns to fly’.

The Victorian Society officially objected to the demolition plans last year, arguing that St Patrick’s Hall’s important historical status was being overlooked by the university. Alex Bowring, Victorian Society Conservation Adviser, said: “St Patrick’s was designed by C.Smith & Son - the same architect as the university’s listed Great Hall and Wantage Hall. However, unlike these buildings St Pat’s has not received the same recognition as a key part of the University’s early development. This hall, which predates the establishment of Reading as a separate university in 1926, must be kept as an integral part of any redevelopment.”

New proposals for the redevelopment of the area - which the university describe as meeting "the dual objectives of responding to the growing demand for affordable, on-campus accommodation, whilst preserving the campus' heritage"- will go on show next week.

Update: The university has postponed exhibiting the redevelopment plans until a later date. They were due to go on show between 6pm and 8.30pm on Wednesday, January 11, during a public exhitibtion. 

Quoted in Reading and Berkshire News, a university spokeswoman said: "The university and its long-term partner, University Partnerships Programme (UPP), are still finalising the proposed plans for the site and we look forward to presenting the updated plans when they are ready." 

Tuesday 10 January, 2017

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