Forced entry by students and others into Senate House: a statement by Mr Pugh, Security Officer

In the Senate House foyer, Mr Roy Butler standing on left (with glasses) being questioned by Gavin Graham (centre).

This statement, dated 18 May 1970, is from Mr Pugh, the University Security Supervisor, and records his impressions of the second, brief, occupation of Senate House, on 15 May after the decision of the Appeals Board. It was found in the Registrar’s archive. See also: Senate reoccupied after Thomas’ silence: Guild Gazette

I have to report that at approximately 1.10pm, Friday 15th May 1970, I was on duty in Senate House. Members of the portering staff and security had just changed over their respective posts during the lunch period. I was stationed at the front door leading into Oxford Street. I was aware that a mass meeting of students was in progress at the Student’s Union.

The next thing I noticed was traffic travelling in the direction of town was almost at a standstill. I opened the front door and there saw a crowd of about 300 students in Oxford Street approaching Senate House. I could not identify who was leading the crowd. Some red banners were being carried. I then went inside Senate House and locked the front door with a key. I immediately ordered the staff that I then had inside Senate House – Senior Porter Elsby, Porters Jones, Kelshaw, and driver Hobson – to check that all doors and windows were locked. . .

As the crowd of students approached the front door, I telephoned the police at the information room. I cold not say whether any police arrived on the scene but most of the students left Oxford Street and went into Abercromby Gardens and surrounded Senate House. There were many on the low veranda.

Mr Gavin Graham (student) beckoned me to the front door. I spoke to him through the aperture of the letter box. He said “May I be allowed to see the Vice-Chancellor or the Registrar?” I replied “They are both out of the building at lunch”.

There were one or two members of the administrative staff outside the front door. Mr Graham said “You can let them in Mr Pugh”.  These people were allowed in and there was no rush of students. In fact there were only about ten students at the front entrance.

At about 1.15pm I was having reports from all parts of Senate House that students were trying to open the windows. The front door was safe and I went to examine the Finance Office. Senior Porter Elsby and Porter Jones were in Committee Rooms 1 and 2. Seeing that the building was secured as much as possible I returned to the front door, and was in conversation with students Graham, Snow and R W Davies.

At this point Porter Jones shouted to me “Mr Pugh, the students have forced the windows in committee rooms.” I locked the front door and walked towards the committee room followed by Porter Manning.

As I was passing the porter’s enquiry desk I saw the side door from Committee Room 2 being opened and Mr David Robertson walked into the passage leading to the bronze statue. He was followed by several students.

The bolts on the double glass door leading to the bronze statue were released and the students rushed forward into Senate House. I attempted to close these doors but was prevented by the crowd of students. I was pushed in by one person (5ft 7in, medium build, bearded, and dressed in a grey suit). I could identify this person if I saw him again.

I then returned towards the porter’s enquiry desk. By this time the hall was full of students. I was confronted by Mr D Robertson. I stopped in front of him.  He said  “Don’t you put your hands on me Mr Pugh or I’ll have fifty witnesses who saw you.” I replied ” I would not soil my hands”.

I then went into Committee Room 1 where I saw Senior Porter Elsby. He said “This window (meaning the North window) was forced open”. I placed my arms across the window to prevent students entering, when I noticed the window at the other end of the room had been forced open and student Swingler, Pamela Rose and Rees came through the window.

Porter Jones who was in Committee Room 2 was there when Mr D Robertson came through the window followed by I Williams. Robertson unfastened the door catch and went into the main hall.

Student Snow was not seen inside Senate House. Student Aspinall sat on the base of the bronze statue. Student Gusack was on the pavement in Oxford Street. He appeared to be taking photographs.

The students whom I can identify at the forced sit-in were: Morris, Black, Williams, Harrison, Fishman, Cresswell, Rossinger, H. Gibbs, G Graham, R L Davies, M Wood, J Rees, Swingler, P Rose, also Mr D Robertson and Father Maxwell.

I spoke to student Swingler in Committee Room 1. I asked him to vacate the room. He replied “We are in now, the doors are open, so we’re staying.”

A few minutes later I was approached by student Gavin Graham. He said  “Can you get in touch with the VC or the Registrar for me? If one of these persons will address the students, I’ll guarantee we’ll vacate Senate House for you”. I replied  ” I am sorry I don’t know where they are”.

I then went into my office in the basement and reported the forced entry to the police at Copperas Hill.

I then made a tour of Senate House. I saw student Rees in the basement corridor accompanied by another student (whom I can identify but don’t know his name). I asked them to leave the basement. After some persuasion they went into the main hall. Student Harrison was also prowling round the corridor and stairs.

A mass meeting was soon arranged. Most of the students sat on the floor of the main hall between the front door in Oxford Street and the porter’s enquiry desk. One of the first persons to address the meeting was G Graham, followed by Mr D Robertson, Mike Wood and Pete Cresswell.

Mr Butler, Academic Secretary, appeared and stood in the main hall between the porter’s desk and the main Finance Office. He answered a few questions put to him from the floor of the meeting, but the students did not pay much attention. Mr Butler then left.

Student Richard L Davies was standing by the Academic Office. He said  “Since the birds have flown for the time being, I can see no purpose in staying at Senate House over the weekend causing ourselves inconvenience, whilst the staff of Senate House would not be working anyway”.

Mr Robertson, student Wood and Williams were urging the students to stage and occupation of Senate House. Students Graham, Davies and Morris were against staying for the weekend. After student Morris spoke a vote was taken. Thirteen voted for staying, the remainder voted against. Students Davies and Morris said “We can do all the talking in Mountford Hall”. The students then left at around 4.35 pm.

Copy of Daily Post report attached.

Attached was this annotated photo from the Daily Post report the following morning:

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1 thought on “Forced entry by students and others into Senate House: a statement by Mr Pugh, Security Officer”

  1. Quite bizarre! I have absolutely no recollection of this event whatsoever, and assumed from earlier archive accounts that I’d not been present. The dialogue between Pugh and myself sounds melodramatically unconvincing – more likely Pugh bigging himself up to his line managers.

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