Early Writings

Early Writings


Discovered in an old desk

A crumpled photograph discovered recently at the University gives us an hitherto unknown picture of Alison in her student days. The occasion was the celebration in the physics department of the 25 years that Professor Schuster had held his post. The four women students are dotted around the group, with Alison in the back row, resplendent in her beautiful Edwardian hat. Thanks to Robin Marshall and to the University Press officer, Michael Addelman for bringing this to our attention.

Alison, Scientist and Budding Author. 1903-6

Alison spent her student days in Manchester living in Ashburne House, Victoria Park, Manchester University’s first Hall of Residence for women. Founded in 1899, the Hall grew rapidly, from an initial eleven students to 25 in Alison’s day. Today, on the Fallowfield site, Ashburne Hall has some five hundred students.

Ashburne House was no finishing school for affluent young ladies. Most of the women students had some bursary and knew they would have to earn their own living, often by teaching. The women students worked hard, fearful that “the Ashburne Experiment” as the University Magazine called it would be ridiculed.

Preserved in the Ashburne archives are the first copies of the student magazine, Yggdrasill, the Norse Tree of Knowledge. Like the roots of the mythical tree, early Ashburnians hoped that the cause of women’s education would spread throughout the world. From 1899 till 1909 Yggdrasill was handwritten and hand drawn. Hence we find a poem, “Argument” * written by AJT in 1905, casting a whimsical eye on the lively debates in Ashburne House. Then there are the wonderful inventions of Alison, the physics student, trying to ease the life of her fellow Ashburnians with a pneumatic tunnel to whisk them down to Owens College, together with her early warning tea pot. Alison was evidently tired of coming back, cold and wet after a long session in her lab, only to find the Ashburne afternoon tea almost over. Her idea for little heated boots on wheels would also have cheered her fellow students.

This wonderful, unpublished evidence of Alison’s literary and scientific skills shows a dry sense of humour, which would have delighted her contemporaries. She was a popular contributor and continued to write the occasional article for Yggdrasill , even when she became famous.

Many Inventions: Excerpts from the Journal written by Alison Uttley
(Illustrations by Gwladys Llewellyn)

It is reported that a new means of locomotion has been discovered, which will infallibly supercede all others such as trains, motors, etc. being far more rapid and effective. It is based on the same principle as the Vacuum Cleaner and will work as follows:

A Vacuum (on a large scale) will be set up, say for example at Owens College, Manchester, with pipes (also on a large scale) communicating with the various Halls of Residence. The pipes may go underground or overhead, in which latter case, the Vacuum would be in the college tower. The Ashburnians going to a 9.30 would assemble at 9.29 and stand at the mouth of the pipe and xxxxxxxx. They would find themselves at College before the second bell. This great saving in time and trouble will recommend itself to busy Ashburnians, but unfortunately, the machine is not yet in working order.


Until that happy event, Ashburnians are earnestly recommended to make use of the excellent subject to ber found close at hand viz – Miss Taylor. If they will provide themselves with roller skates and stand in a line behind her when she goes to college, they will find themselves wafted there with minimum exertion and maximium speed.


The necessity in the present state of the weather, of keeping ourselves from becoming frozen corpses, has provded the mother of a brilliant and ingenious invention viz – Boots with ample soles, which accommodate a small compact heating apparatus and from which arise thin pipes of rubber which can be wrapped around the wearer and so convey the hot air all over her, giving a pleasant warmth, even in the coldest weather.


Another invention, specially recommended to the notice of Ashburnians, is a new kind of teapot, which fills a long-felt want. We all know by sad experience how aggravating it is, when coming in a little late for tea, to find all the teapots empty because they have not been duly filled up with hot water as they got low. In this new teapot, as soon as the water gets below a certain level, viz – three inches from the bottom, a spring shoots up the lid as in the illustration. We think that if this teapot were introduced into the house, people would be less likely to fill up the teapots.


* Correction

We would like to make it clear that there was an error in some of the Manchester Press regarding Alison’s undergraduate poem: Argument. This appeared in Denis Judd’s biography, courtesy of the Ashburne Hall Archive. Her other undergraduate piece, Many Inventions, illustrated by her fellow student, Gwladys Llewellyn, certainly has lain undiscovered for a century and hitherto unpublished.

THE POEM (Written during the lent term of 1905)

At Ashburne there is a Society

Which has rapidly gained notoriety,

It’s name I can state with propriety, –


We meet after Punch on a Saturday

With tea and sweet cakes we’re a party gay,

Instead of elicit chatting as Students may,


We talk of meetings Political

And all of us soon are so critical

Our speeches become analytical


The Signs of our age are Synthetical,

Do you call Walt Whitman poetical?

My theory is not hypothetical


We talk of the Status of human kind

Of Suffrage, and greatness of human mind

Equality, love, but we always find


If we began all our talks at the break of day

They’d continue till after the Sun’s last ray

As we get into bed, the last word we say


A.J.T. (Alice Jane Taylor)

Alison (then known as Alice J Taylor) is in the back row, second from the right.The picture was taken in June 1906.
Alison (then known as Alice J Taylor) is in the back row, second from the right.
The picture was taken in June 1906.

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