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The Memories of Geoff Stone

The early days

In the Early days the Maintenance section was situated in Gibbet Hill farmhouse.The only means of transport was one Land Rover to be used by 15 drivers. Eventually two pick up type vans were bought for tradesmen with the land Rover being used by gardeners.

Whenever the van went along Gibbet Hill road past the fields by the stream if horses were there our dog Tuppence would have a good bark. At this time Gibbet Hill Road was still a country lane with difficulty passing other traffic in certain parts.

The first buildings, what the students did to them and other pranks.

Early construction work
Early construction work

When Rootes Hall was first opened the main entrance was a sea of mud; the contractors placed scaffold planks to enable people to enter the building. Some smart guy called it the 59th Street Bridge after the song title of the time.

An event, which caused a stir, was when the students wrote the story of Winnie the Pooh on the pavement (in black paint) from Gibbet Hill site towards Rootes on the Intersite path. The bricklayers then had the problem of removing it. They tried paint remover but to no avail. In the end all the paving slabs had to be turned over to hide the story.

If you look at the side of the Sports Centre facing Tocil Block 1 you will see a dark patch at high level this is where someone painted in stencil form a horse and rider on the wall. Pressure jets were used to remove the painting to its present state they dare not take any more of the paint off or the bricks would not show enough of their rough surface. Because of this the University invested in a power sprayer as numerous paintings appeared after this.

One regular prank was to take a shopping trolley on to the top point of Cryfield Hall One roof. Most of these pranks happened over weekends.

A clever group of students placed giant footprints down the face of the Science ‘B’ block above the Porters lodge without the night security patrols seeing them.

The Koan and other technical wonders

The Koan, which is now outside the Arts Centre, was originally delivered before the Arts Centre was finished and was stored in the works yard. The story goes that it came from the Southbank in London and bailed a theatre out of debt when it was sold. It was designed and made by a woman artist but not engineered correctly. Before it was moved to Warwick tramps were living in it .The running track for the top section was so rough as it went around it used bump up and down and the lights flashed on and off. The students have tried to improve the design by putting a shopping trolley on top of the Koan and repainting it.

The University's fleet of Sinclair C5s
The University's fleet of Sinclair C5s

When the C5 trikes were launched Clive Sinclair donated some to the University for departmental use, the Estate’s one was okay for going to the Main site but very tiring coming back up the footpath.

During one very hard winter the students managed to put a car on one of the islands in the middle of the lake By the Health Centre along with some shopping trolleys. The Gardeners were asked to drive the car off but John the tractor driver refused too. He did not know the state of the ice so he attached a rope to the car and pulled it off.

In the Science Building there is one of the largest Electromagnets around. The hazardous area is cordoned off. When a cleaner saw a man walking in this area she spotted some dirt, which she thought she ought to clean up. As the Technician was walking in the area she assumed it was safe to enter. The Vacuum Cleaner, which she was using, was attracted to the magnet immediately - we were left with a bag of bits; it took 2 days to clear it from the magnet. In the same area the gardeners have had to hold on to their wheelbarrow as it was attracted to the building - they were also told to use wooden forks and spades. A shrub bed has been formed to keep people away from the area.

"Ma" and "Kitten Mitten"

Some years ago a beautiful but very timid silver tabby cat appeared in the Works Yard, and was seen to have with her a small and very pretty kitten. The 'Hard Men' of the Direct Labour Force immediately took the pair to their hearts, and named them "Ma" and "Kitten Mitten" respectively. Both cats came to trust these kind humans, who shared their lunchbox delicacies with them, and generally gave them fuss and affection (kindness and affection being something it is felt the cats had not previously experienced). 'The Lads' soon fell into the habit of buying cat-food and providing "Ma" and "Kitten Mitten" with milk and clean water to drink, weekend 'feeding duties' being taken over by whoever was working overtime.

A problem presented itself when 'Ma' gave birth to a litter of kittens just before the Easter Vacation Shut-down - who would feed her over the break when she would not be able to venture far from her newborn litter? The situation was soon resolved by 'The Lads' who quickly persuaded one of the Estates Clerical Staff to call in twice a day over the entire shut-down period, to ensure that "Ma" (and thus the new litter) and "Kitten Mitten" were adequately fed and watered. "Kitten Mitten" was not greatly impressed by the kittens and remained aloof from them for most of the time

When the kittens were eight weeks old the services of the Cats Protection League were enlisted to spey them all including "Ma" and "Kitten Mitten" - first they had to be caught and caged in the baskets provided by the C.P.L.! This accomplished and the operations duly completed the kittens found excellent homes with the Head Groundsman`s family, and the grandchildren of the Clerical Assistant who had fed them over the Easter break.

Unfortunately, the increased volume of traffic on Gibbet Hill Road ultimately led to the deaths of both "Ma" and "Kitten Mitten" in separate accidents. 'The Lads' were deeply affected by these incidents, (never let it be said that 'grown men don't cry',). They gave both their feline friends a decent burial just outside the Works Yard, in a place where both cats had liked to sit in the sunshine, and made a wooden cross to mark the spot.