Student lodgings at the Victoria University of Manchester

Sue Heath (Professor of Sociology, University of Manchester), Grant Collier (Heritage Officer and Curatorial Assistant for Special Collections, University of Manchester Library)

'Manchester landladies' cartoon: Suggestions to the S.R.C. No.3: Don't let the landladies of Manchester get wind of this Hall of Residence scheme!
'Manchester landladies' from Owens College Union Magazine (New Series, 1904)

This project explores the impact of living in lodgings (‘digs’) on the student experience at the Victoria University of Manchester (VUM) from the early 1900s through to the late 1960s, by which point the pioneering Owens Park residential development was fully open.

Whilst institutions such as Oxford, Cambridge and Durham operated as residential communities virtually from their outset, students at VUM (as in most other ‘Redbricks’) mostly lived at home in the University’s early years. As the century progressed, living away from home was increasingly regarded as an integral element of the university experience, yet many students were reliant not on university-provided accommodation but on renting rooms from local landladies.

By the time of the Robbins Report of 1963, whilst only 20% of British students lived at home, 52% of undergraduates lived in lodgings. Lodgings were increasingly considered a poor alternative to the benefits of halls, not least the fostering of a collegial (if not always very scholarly) atmosphere, yet were widespread well into the 1970s and beyond, albeit for a minority of students.

Our project uses the University of Manchester’s own archives to explore how these concerns played out at VUM. They are providing glimpses into a variety of issues, including the specific challenges of overseas students in lodgings, gender distinctions, and broader concerns over the suitability of landladies and their accommodation.