The Ghosts of Senate House is one part of a creative research project led by Sarah Sparkes. It serves as an archive for uncanny, apocryphal stories emanating from Senate House. These stories formed part of "a Magical library for the 21st Century" an archive of writings, recordings, artwork, artefacts, and other contributions, which was first shown at the University of London as part of The Bloomsbury Festival October 2011.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

stories from' the store rooms'

John Stone and Alan Train take me to 'the central stores'
As part of a search for old Senate House artefacts,  I was taken on a tour of 'the store rooms' by two long standing members of Senate House staff, John Stone and Alan Train. John and Alan know a great deal about the building and its past; they also literally hold the keys to all the 'behind the scenes' stories.
After thoroughly disorientating me by leading me along many corridors, through locked doors and up and down endless staircases, I was finally brought to the entrance of  the dimly lit store rooms. These rooms are used to house old furnishings and other material from the buildings past. The main part of the store rooms are reached via a staircase cased in scaffolding, lined with shelves of  fading, silver plated dinner ware.  This staircase, and its mirror image on the far side of central stores, were designed to lead up to a viewing gallery overlooking  'The Grand Hall'. 'The Grand Hall' was part of the original more extensive plan for Senate House which was never completed.  The site of the proposed 'Grand Hall' is now occupied by the post-modern Stewart House.
We climbed the stairs and passed through an imposing green doorway into the main storeroom.
the stores - once used as a rifle range
 I was informed that this narrow yet high ceilinged room was used as a rifle range by officer cadets in need of firing practise during the second world war.  Today, the space is lined floor to ceiling with shelves which are the resting place of many original Holden designed chairs, desks and tables along with period light fittings and soft furnishings.
treasures from the stores- maintenance minutes books form the 1930s - 1950s

On a back shelf, John and Alan unearthed some other treasures, including a box of minutes books belonging to the maintenance department and dating from the 1930s - 1950s.  Standing amongst the marooned old furniture, listening to John and Alan reading out interesting accounts from the minutes books, I felt quite surrounded by, and buried along with a ghostly assembly of past Senate House employees; an extra-ordinary, but claustrophobic experience.

"Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun"
.from John Betjeman's - A Subaltern's Love Song. John Betjeman worked for the Minsitry of information at Senate House and so did the subject of one of his poems

No comments:

Post a Comment