So here she is in her glory days, opened in 1895 as the Grand Hotel and about to become something grander still. But from 1949 to 2006, the building was Hamilton Hall, its location and view (yes that’s the 18th green of the Old Course) the property, temporarily, of each of the students who forked out the standard halls of residence fee each year. As did I. So what if the plumbing was noisy and the lino had seen better days? It was a bargain, an absolute steal.
In my first year I shared a room facing the sea, in second year, thanks to a fiercely regulated ballot system, I was in the smaller of those two minarets overlooking the golf course. Because of the hotel legacy, there were very few single rooms and they were built on the inside, facing the interior ‘well,’ an area of limited day-light crisscrossed by fire escapes. The singles were also reserved for tertians and magistrands. A rise in status compensated for the loss of view. As for the Swot Room, similarly situated and so delightfully named, I think that might merit a post of its own.
Not that I had chosen Hamiltonfor the view, but more because a family acquaintance had advised me that it was ‘less stuffy’ than the other female halls. I certainly won’t own up to stuffiness but as a traditional hall there was a good deal of formality (high table, signing out for meals, asking for a ‘late key’) and an expectation that gowns would be worn to dinner. We had a warden, Miss Wright, whom I confess was little more than a passing acquaintance (but remembered with affection here on page 8) and each year a Senior Student, although I don’t recall her function, if she even had one. In general, the crucial figure was the Porter whose favour was well worth winning as he was the one to relay phone calls from the outside world and to guard the revolving door, noting which visitors might have signed in and not signed out again (although in my day the ‘three feet on the floor’ rule, as described here, was consigned to history, thank goodness.)
Meals, by the way, were three per day (like it or lump it, only invalids could make special diet requests) plus bread and jam (of a suspiciously neon hue) for anyone around at tea-time. The breakfast rolls were second to none. The butter was served from bowls of water (?). Dinner menu highlights: Braised Steak, Chicken Maryland, and yes, Arctic Roll.
The more I write this, the more it sounds archaic to the point (pace the Arctic Roll) of mediaeval , but trust me, it wasn’t so long ago, not really. And it wasn’t so bad either. I moved out in my final year, but moved back in to be cosseted through my finals.
The new development is under the auspices of the Old Course Hotel, which in 1970 was the newcomer and can be seen in the middle of this photo.