RCSA Saves the Day

By rescuing a piece of IC Union history, the RCSA truly have ‘saved the day’. One of the two large tables in the Union Bar, both of which are ‘dripping with history’, was desperately in need of repair. At any time, a slice of the table-top, about a fifth if it, was about to break away. And two of the table legs, despite looking the epitome of robustness, were on the verge of dropping off.

With the Union strapped for cash and bogged down with their ‘back to basics’ agenda, it was the College Archivist, Anne Barrett, who put us in touch with her favourite restorer/conservator. And it was the new RCSA Exec who completed the jigsaw puzzle by coming up with the all-important funding.

RCSA President, Mike Munroe, commented…. “considering the amount of time we have all spent chatting over, drinking at and, yes… dancing on that table over the years, it seems only fitting that Alumni should get involved.

So the table was restored over the Christmas and New Year and is now returned the Bar. It is back to its best and ready for the next 112 years of its history. But do you know the story of the Union Bar tables?

Well….. they were made in March 1958 to grace the new Union Bar that had been newly opened in January of the previous year, in 1957. The new bar was an enormous improvement on the previous incarnation and a particular refinement was the canopy above the bar. It was deliberately introduced to curtail the age-old tradition of dancing on the bar-top. If you had a sporting victory to celebrate, or an announcement to make, of for just about any reason whatever, you would jump on the bar-top to attract everybody’s attention.

The canopy put a stop to that, and brought about howls of protest over the lack of headroom.

Bur Kitchener, Millard, Anderson et al., designers of the new bar, had a secret accommodation up their sleeves….

What had happened to the old bar-top that had been in use since 1911? The very same bar-top that had been danced upon by generations of students for pretty much fifty years? It had first been moved to the temporary bar that was set up in the engineering department. It was then stripped from the temporary Union Bar and was sawn into two halves, each of which was turned into a table.

You can see the brass inscriptions inlaid into the tabletops that proclaim “IMPERIAL COLLEGE UNION OLD BAR COUNTER 1911 – 1956”.

Kitchener was able to quell the discontent…. “don’t worry that you can’t dance on the new bar top, because you can continue to dance on the OLD bar top…..
It’s been converted into two tables
“. And dance upon it they did, for the next fifty years, until “health and safety” got in the way.

Take a look at the tables when you are next in the Bar. See if you can make out the repairs. See, also, if you can see where the holes for the two handpumps have been made good.

We are immensely proud that the RCSA, on behalf of its members, stand ready to preserve precious heirlooms such as this table and we pass thanks to Anne Barrett, to the RCSA executive and to the countless RCSA members who dutifully pay their annual subscriptions.

(if you like the support we offer to our students why not help us do more? Consider making a donation to the RCSA Trust here. With no staff and no building costs you can be assured that every penny of your donation will be gratefully received and faithfully applied to assist the students of the Royal College of Science).