One December morning, a woman knocked on the door to the UWI Museum’s office and asked for the Curator. She said that a friend had told her to come. In one arm, clutched to her chest, was a ceramic platter, the back bearing the mark of Dunn Bennett & Co, Burslem, UK. On placing it flat, it turned out to be a part of a set once used in the Mary Seacole Hall, one of the University of the West Indies (UWI)s early halls of residence built and opened during the 1950s. Three others of this vintage were Irvine, Taylor and Chancellor Halls. Irvine and Taylor were eventually, and remain, co-ed; Chancellor is all-male and Seacole all-female.
Only a few pieces of the varied crockery – and cutlery – sets used in the halls remain. On hearing that a UWI Museum would be established, in 2012, former Assistant Registrar Rodina Reid captured a few remnants – mainly demi-tasse cups and saucers – that she had seen in an old warehouse and handed them on. A few other pieces have found their way in. This was the largest.
The original halls each had their own crockery, cutlery and linens. The university was completely residential until the early 1960s when demand outstripped accommodation capacity and it was decided to change the policy which required all students to ‘live-on’. Even then, students living on hall had breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks provided as part of their accommodation.
Eventually, hall mealtimes were abolished and the hall equipment went to the Stores, where some became to stuff of yard sales over the decades.
In September 2012, a group of students from Irvine Hall were amazed to see crockery bearing their hall name and emblem, during a visit to the Museum. It had become part of an unknown past – and sometimes a symbol of connection that some students wistfully wish aloud would return.