Lucy Cowen (French and Spanish 2016) and Pamela Cowen (née Mabley, Medieval History 1948 and PGCE 1949). Pamela is wearing her Exeter blazer.

Grandmother and Granddaughter at Graduation

When Lucy Cowen (French and Spanish 2016) graduated, she was joined at the ceremony by her grandmother Pamela Cowen (née Mabley), who had graduated from Exeter almost 70 years before in 1948 in Medieval History followed by a PGCE year in 1949.

Pamela’s affection for the university was a big factor in Lucy applying to Exeter as well. Lucy said:

“I really loved my time at Exeter studying Spanish and French and felt so lucky to be able to go to university on such a beautiful campus.  It was really special to be able to spend my graduation with my family and have that family history there. “

Here Pamela recalls student life at Exeter in the 1940s.

Life at university in 1945 just after the war was totally different to the life students enjoy now. Food was rationed with just one egg a week and three oranges per term.  The peel was collected to be candied for Christmas. Sugar, meat, bread and cakes were also rationed. My mother, when she could, sent me a bread coupon which was always spent on a small malt loaf. It never reached hall but was consumed on the way home from the shop to Duryard.

Initially I was in Reed Hall, which was for women in 1945 then, as more and more ex-servicemen came back, we were moved to Duryard or Thomas Hall. I believe there is now a modern block in the grounds. From Duryard we had to go over to Thomas Hall for all our meals. Seven of us lived on the top floor of Duryard with one bathroom between us.  It had one washbasin, a metal bath and a loo. The hot tank was filled once a day and once the water was used, that was it!

I do not remember any female lecturers. Certainly there were none in the History Department but Miss Matthias was Dean of Women. Apart from her, the only female staff I remember were wardens of the womens’ halls and matrons. Our warden, Miss Pierpoint, was an ex WAAF officer and discipline was truly maintained! You had to be back in hall by 10pm every day except Saturday when the university had its “Hop”, and a formal dance twice a year. On those occasions you had to be back by 11pm. A fine of 6d was levied if you were not. 6d bought coffee and a bun in a café in Exeter in those days.

Men were only allowed in hall when there was an ‘Exchange’ Sunday lunch and even then they had to be out by 3pm. We seemed to have had many more lectures each week than students today and all essays were handwritten. If you made a mistake or wanted to add something you had to rewrite it!

However I have fond memories of my university days and I am still in touch with three of my fellow History students: Don and Sheila Cawthron (nee Higgs) and Sheila Walker. 

It was with great pleasure that I found my granddaughter was going to the same university and I was thrilled to be at her graduation.

Date: 17 November 2016

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