The Great Hall

General Info

Full Name: The Great Hall
Address: Reading University Campus, London Road
Opened-Closed: 1905-current

Brief History

Reading University’s first campus was situated on the London Road site and all academic activity took place there until the acquisition of Whiteknights Park in the 1950s.
The focal point at London Road is the Great Hall. It was opened in 1905-6 and the organ was installed in 1910. It is now a beautiful Grade 2 listed building and plays host to many University events, from Graduation ceremonies and large public lectures to the item on the calendar all students dread – University exams!
The Hall has a great musical tradition and over the years has hosted internal concerts, carol services and smaller recitals. External clients who use the Hall regularly include Reading Symphony Orchestra, Wokingham Choral Society, Reading Festival Chorus and the Reading Male Voice Choir.
Last year we welcomed the acclaimed Indian folk musician Raghu Dixit, playing one of his first concert dates outside his native country, and Italian singer Gianmaria Testa who entertained the Trans National Italy Conference with a private performance in the hall.
The Hall is available for private hire and can be used for concerts, exhibitions or conferences.

Reportedly, some of Gerald Finzi’s scores are also held within the University’s files.

Adrian Boult and Gustav Holst

1. In The University of Reading; the first fifty years (Reading, 1977) J C Holt states that before the Great War Adrian Boult played timpani in an orchestra under the direction of Hugh Allen (director of the School of Music 1908-1918) in a performance of Beethoven’s 2nd symphony. Boult conducted the college’s orchestra and choir during 1919-20, and in 1954 conducted the orchestra in its 50th Anniversary Concert. This information was provided by Adrian Boult.

2. In the College Calendar for 1919-20 Adrian C Boult is listed as Conductor of the College Choral Society and Orchestra. The Report and Accounts for 1918-19 records that Adrian Boult succeeded Professor Allen (who had been appointed Director of the Royal College of Music) as Conductor of the Choral Society and Orchestra.

3. The College Report and Accounts for 1919-20 record the resignation of Adrian Boult and the appointment of Gustav Holst as principal teacher of Harmony, Counterpoint and Composition, and as Conductor of the Choral Society and Orchestra.

4. Gustav Holst is listed as tutor in the Department of Music in the College Calendars for 1920-21, 1921-22 and 1922-23.

5. In the College Report and Accounts Holst is recorded as having conducted concerts by the Choral Society and Orchestra on 8 February and 15 June 1921, on 21 February (in the College Hall) and 20 June 1922 (in the College Grounds) and on 20 February (1923). At some point during Holst’s engagement at the college there was a performance of The Planets on two pianos. It is not clear whether Holst was one of the pianists.

6. In the College Report and Accounts for 1922-23 it is recorded that Holst resigned at Easter.

7. There are reviews of some of Holst’s concerts in Tamesis, the College’s student magazine.

8. Holst was reported to have fallen off the stage at the Great Hall during one performance whilst conducting!

Links and Resources

Account from Chris Rayner, Great Hall manager

Trail Directions

Clockwise to

turn left out of the main entrance to the campus and continue along London Road – at the cross-junction, turn left onto Silver Street – the Rising Sun Arts Centre is on the opposite side of the road, 50m up

Anti-clockwise to

leave through the main entrance to the campus and turn right down London Road – as you reach the Hospital, cross the road and go down Watlington Street – turn right at the church and then left onto St John’s Street – the Retreat is on your left