|Records of Mason Hall, a hall of residence established for men and women students at the University of Birmingham in 1966-1967 as part of the student accommodation complex on the Vale site, initially planned as a pair of halls each accommodating men and women students in separate buildings, but which became a mixed hall of residence at the start of the 1967-1968 academic session. Records consist of minutes of governing bodies and student committees; administrative papers of governing bodies and individual members of those bodies, including minutes, reports, and other papers; promotional records; student records and lists; log books; student magazines; photographs; and ephemera including a copy of a history of Mason Hall, compiled in 2006 when it closed
Although some of the sequences of governance records are incomplete, and there are substantial gaps in minutes of the Junior Common Room committee in particular, it is possible to use the surviving minute sequences together with the administrative papers of Peter Hodson, a member of the Senior Common Room from 1967 to 1973, and of the Junior Common Room committee for the period from 1985 to 1989, as a source of information about the management and operation of the hall of residence for the majority of its lifespan from 1966 to 2006. Promotional records, particularly the set of Mason Hall handbooks, and the student publications, particularly the set of Freshers magazines, provide useful sources of information about the management structure of the hall of residence, its facilities, and the creation and development of community relationships between staff and student residents, as well as comprising a valuable resource for the study of student life and experience at the University of Birmingham from the mid 1960s to the mid 2000s. The student publications are of additional interest because these records were generated by student residents and offer the researcher a different perspective to that reflected in the official records generated by the University. The comprehensive series of student record cards covering the period 1966 to 1998 provide basic information about individual student residents for the majority of the period that the hall of residence was open.
Despite the gaps in some of the record series, and the likely absence of other series, the surviving records constitute a valuable resource for the study of the management and operation of Mason Hall from 1966 to 2006, as well as forming the only surviving set of records for the entire complex of student residences built by the University of Birmingham on the Vale site in the 1960s. Records of Mason Hall provide evidence about the provision, management, and development of this phase of University-owned residential accommodation; the changing relationship between Senior Common Room and Junior Common Room committees, and the development of a residential community; and aspects of student life and experience including the influence that students were able to exert over their lives in the hall. Because of the time period they cover, the records also reflect the impact on the University of an expanding student population and social and cultural change during the 1960s and 1970s in particular, which affected the way that the University managed the lives of those students living in residential accommodation, especially in the amendment of regulations and the relaxation of moral attitudes relating to governing student behaviour. The records can also be used alongside the records of more traditional halls of residence like University House, which became a mixed hall from 1964 (see UB/HUH), and together with records of University committees governing the management of all halls of residence, including the other student accommodation on the Vale site during the same period
|Mason Hall was the last and the largest of a set of the halls of residence to be constructed by the University of Birmingham on land at the Vale site in Edgbaston, and the first part of the accommodation was opened in October 1966. Mason Hall had been planned as a pair of two separate buildings, one for men students, and one for women students, which shared catering and social facilities, following the pattern established by Ridge Hall and High Hall, and Lake Hall and Wyddrington Hall, also on the Vale site and opened earlier in the 1960s. The two buildings making up Mason Hall were initially known as Mason Hall and Chad Hall. Mason Hall was intended for women students, and opened first. Chad Hall was intended for men students, and opened in January 1967.
The first meeting of Mason Hall Council was held on 27 September 1966, and administrative tasks were divided between members. The first chairman was Dr T. Alty. When students and staff took up residence at Chad Hall in January 1967, the building was only partially completed. The site was not completely planted with grass and tress, and there was temporary, under-cover access to the shared dining hall, because the contractors had failed to complete the building to time. During the 1966-1967 academic session, distinct identities for Mason Hall and Chad Hall were attempted, though it appears that no President was appointed for Mason Hall, the women students building. The two separate buildings, and their student and staff committees, merged as Mason Hall in October 1967, and the building formerly known as Mason Hall was renamed Calthorpe wing, while Chad Hall became Chad wing. Robert J. Gibson was the first President of Mason Hall, from 1967. He had been a student at the University of Birmingham during the Second World War, and then returned as a member of staff in Zoology in 1951, and had been Warden of Chad Hill, a hall of residence for postgraduate students, and then of Chancellor's Hall, residential accommodation for men students, from 1964. References in administrative files kept by Peter Hodson, a member of the Senior Common Room at Chad Hall, suggest that Mason Hall did not operate as a completely mixed hall until the 1968-1969 academic session, when dining was no longer segregated, and the hall had begun to function as a social community with both men and women students taking active roles on committees and organising shared social activities. Two Junior Common Room Presidents were usually elected each year, one male and one female.
The 1968 Mason Hall handbook states that the daily life of hall was governed by Hall Council which consisted of the President of the Senior Common Room, as chairman, and the resident members of the University academic staff, as Senior Common Room members. Senior Common Room members were appointed by University Council on the recommendation of the Halls of Residence committee, and each student resident was allocated a member of the Senior Common Room as a tutor. The President and Vice-President of the Junior Common Room were also in attendance at meetings of Hall Council. Student residents of hall composed the Junior Common Room, with its affairs controlled by the elected officers and the committee of the Junior Common Room. Matters affecting the hall were discussed by a joint committee of Senior Common Room and Junior Common Room members and put into a form suitable for presentation to the University Halls of Residence committees via Hall Council. Matters of a purely domestic nature were dealt with by the Halls Administrator or Steward, and financial matters by the Finance Office of the University. By February 1973, it appears that the Senate Halls of Residence committee was responsible only for the general welfare of the students, and that administrative and financial business was to be controlled by a sub-committee of the Finance and General Purposes committee, according to a statement in minutes of Hall Council.
The Junior Common Room committee organised social events in hall, including an annual ball, held every year since 1968. There was also a library, games room, television rooms, and various other social amenities. The hall offered catering for most meals, and the Junior Common Room committee had some influence over the choice of food, though the menus were controlled centrally by the Halls Administration. In 1981, self-catering flats at the Tennis Courts complex opened, and some of these were affiliated to Mason Hall, allowing residents to use hall catering and social facilities. The records suggest that, although Mason Hall was generally a popular choice, there were difficulties in filling the large number of double rooms, and that the large size of the hall made it more challenging to create a sense of community and contributed to the social isolation of some students. The records also reveal consistent and long-standing problems with the hall's heating system.
Robert J. Gibson retired in 1985, and David Rolf was appointed Hall President. He was appointed President of University House in 1994, and was replaced by Andre Pacek, though he returned to Mason Hall as a Senior Common Room member after the closure of University House in 2002.
The Director of University Hospitality and Accommodation Services reported to Hall Council in November 1999 that Mason Hall, along with the rest of the student accommodation on the Vale site, would be turned into a 'student village'. Mason Hall was to be upgraded and remodelled with some blocks demolished and the hall was to be converted to provide en-suite single rooms, with refurbishment initially planned for completion in 2003. The intention was for the Junior Common Room to be modernised and replaced by a Residents Association, after discussion with the Guild of Students, and pastoral care was to be replaced by Student Support Officers, supported by Post Graduate Supervisors. Mason Hall was scheduled to close in June 2001. However, by this date the University was still waiting for permission from Birmingham City Council to re-develop the Vale site, and no decision had been made about the future of Mason Hall. Minutes of Hall Council for February 2002 mention the phased demolition of Mason Hall in June 2005/2006.
Concerns were expressed about the function of Hall Council in 2001 due to the lack of Junior Common Room members attending meetings, and there are references to the low number of returning student residents due to uncertainty about Mason Hall's future, the cost of accommodation, and the poor condition of the facilities offered, particularly in comparison with the surplus of new accommodation being constructed in Selly Oak. The Guild of Students took over the running of Mason Hall bar from August 2001, and took control of Junior Common Room finances from the summer of 2002. Mason Hall lost responsibility for the Tennis Court hall-related flats from the 2002-2003 academic session, and changes to cleaning services from 2002-2003 resulted in students having to provide and launder their own bed linen and take responsibility for cleaning their own rooms. Minutes of Hall Council document the deterioration of the hall buildings due to the proposed demolition, and in March 2004 changes to the Senior Common Room and Junior Common Room structure and responsibilities were discussed. It was proposed that each Senior Common Room tutor would take on extra students, and that student mentors would work alongside them. Formal meals were to be discontinued, though the Junior Common Room committee would continue to operate. The Freshers magazine for 2003-2004 mentions the continuation of catering in Mason Hall. There is no surviving magazine for the 2004-2005 academic session, but by 2005-2006 meals were provided in the Shackleton Hall Hub, and there was no longer any on-site catering at Mason Hall. Entries in Incident books for the 2005-2006 academic session indicate that Mason Hall closed in June 2006. The hall buildings were subsequently demolished, and replaced by a set of student flats on the same site
|Some records were transferred to Special Collections in 1989-1990 as part of a project to gather and sort the university's institutional archives, but the majority of the records were stored in the University's Modern Records store by staff at Mason Hall from 1993 onwards, and were subsequently transferred to Special Collections in 2016 for permanent preservation as part of the University's institutional archives