Article from 6th Feb. 2003

Arthur Tarrant - Tales from Old Battersea

Arthur Tarrant

I suppose that all student will know that we had our origins in the old Battersea Polytechnic in London, and they will have seen pictures of that great Victorian building, which still stands today. But I don’t suppose that anyone will have told them about the pigeons.

Pigeons are basically rock birds, and so they love Victorian buildings, with all their nooks and crannies. Battersea Poly was no exception – it was home to hundreds if not thousands of pigeons. And they were an infernal nuisance. Not only did the whole place get covered in pigeon droppings, but they died in inaccessible places, and the removal of pigeon corpses was no pleasant task.

now I think I can say at this stage of history that there were certain of the old polytechnic lecturers there who confined their activities to giving the minimum number of lecture that their contracts required. Those gentry would disappear as soon as their lectures were concluded, usually sometime in May, and would not be seen again until the following October. One such had an office just across the corridor from ours, and puts his own lock on it, so that no-one could get in while he was away. One October morning we heard the click of his lock, and then there was a sort of gasp. A moment later he knocked on our door. “Come and look at this” was his cry.

When he left in May, he had left the window open, The pigeons had moved in. The whole place was smothered in pigeon droppings – desk, table, floor, chairs, bookcase, lights, everything was a stinking mass of droppings. Worst were his Dunloppillo armchairs. Pigeon droppings are very corrosive, and his chairs were riddled with half-inch holes, as though someone had put an auger through them.

The whole place was a fearful health hazard, an ultimately that office was demolish and the space created was used to enlarge an adjacent teaching lab. The old head porter, the splendid Jack Knight, confided t me “Silly ****** shouldn’t have left the window open, should he?”

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