The Amalgamation Club was not solely for sporting enthusiasts. In the form of a Reading Room, it also included what is perhaps the precursor to the Junior Common Room, which still thrives today.
This was not the kind of reading room which can now be found in libraries or archives. It was a space for recreation. There students could read magazines and journals. How it was decorated and what took place in there is hard to tell but there are certain clues in the Amalgamation Club’s minutes and accounts:
- We know that the first secretary of the Reading Room was C.R. Ashbee, who is associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. On 27 July 1885, the Combination Club committee asked him to consult somebody named Shoolbred regarding the furnishing of the room.
- After one or two initial meetings, the Amalgamation Club’s meetings were regularly held in the Reading Room.
- For a fee, students could join the Reading Room without paying a full subscription to the Amalgamation Club. This would have suited those among the Kingsmen who were less sporty!
- In the October term 1887, it was agreed that missing magazines could be replaced and the whole bound. This suggests that some of the magazines may have been ‘borrowed’.
- On 12 March 1888, the Reading Room Secretary requested an additional settee and curtains, the former suggesting that the furnishing was intended for comfort.
- On 9 March 1895, it was decided that the Honorary Secretary of the Amalgamation Club would write to the College concerning the inadequacy of the existing Reading Room. On 3 June 1895, it was minuted that the rooms and passage on the East side of the existing Reading Room would be taken in so that it was extended to 40ft by 18ft. In the same meeting, the provision of additional lighting was discussed.
- This may have been linked to a change in the way the space was perceived, for by that time it was referred to as either the Reading Room or the ‘Undergraduate Combination Room’.
- We know that Mr W.M. Fawcett was commissioned for the enlargement of the former Lecture Room so that it could be used as a Reading Room. Unfortunately we don’t have the sketch or final drawings.
- The Reading Room accounts give an impression of what the room was like and how it was used. For example, the 1925 accounts suggest that the room had a fireplace, by which students could read newspapers. They also show that an attendant was employed there.