Opinion | The Hawthorns accommodation is not fit for people

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By, Rebecca Widdowson, First Year, Sociology

I turn off my laptop and leave the kitchen. The sight that greets me in the corridor confirms my theory. The ceiling has fallen down. And nothing is being done about it.  

Sadly, this lack of maintenance is not all uncommon in the Hawthorns. The alarmingly frequent lack of hot water makes it impossible to maintain any good standard of hygiene, and the heating is best described as temperamental.

An image of The Hawthorns | Courtesy of Rebecca Widdowson 

The fact that 116 students are paying a minimum of £147 per week to live here, and they aren’t even guaranteed hot water, is appalling.   There’s a massive disparity in room sizes and facilities, which vary from shared bathrooms to en-suites, but even the larger rooms have problems. My windows hardly open at all, which is bad for warmer weather, but aren’t double-glazed so let in a breeze during the night. And let’s not even mention the horrific rattling sound they make when it gets windy.  

There are a number of other ‘niggles’ that make everyday life at the Hawthorns difficult when there’s just no need for it. In particular, the printer in our common room doesn’t work, and it doesn’t look like it will be fixed any time soon, despite numerous complaints from residents.   Currently, two of the three tumble dryers are broken. One dryer in particular just heats your clothes, much to the surprise of one of my flat-mates who returned to the kitchen after the drying cycle to exclaim; “Now I have hot, wet clothes!”  

John Dingle and the original Hawthorns | Courtesy of Rebecca Widdowson 

Although, something must be said for the moves the Hawthorns makes to improve the quality of student life here. My favourite is the random fire alarm that go off around 8:30 unexpectedly on Tuesday mornings. Thanks for that. Really.  

Finally, to the sick, twisted individual who put up the signs in the Hawthorns; thank you so much for making it impossible to find your way around in here, I really love how you decided to put the room numbers in a completely random order.  

An advertisement for a party at The Hawthorns | Courtesy of Rebecca Widdowson 

But before we consider packing up and moving elsewhere, let’s take a trip down memory lane and visit the rich history of the building itself.   100 years ago, Hawthorns was a single villa in the hands of John Dingle who immediately extended and refurbished it to create a hotel, using other villas on Woodland Road to connect to the original and adding higher floors and a ballroom too.  Surprisingly, Dingle’s hotel plans weren’t halted by the war, as he got soldiers who were training in Bristol to complete the extensions – also known as Clifton Wing – and continue connecting the villas.

There are a number of other ‘niggles’ that make everyday life at the Hawthorns difficult when there’s just no need for it.

By the 1950s the Hawthorns boasted 250 bedrooms and numerous other areas for dining and dancing.   Perhaps the most chilling fact is that when a larger hotel chain took control of the Hawthorns in the 1980s they planned to destroy these extensions – that’s us again in Clifton Wing – but the work never took place. Eventually, Bristol University brought Hawthorns back in 1991, when the hotel chain lost funding to keep the building.   You can really tell how the Hawthorns has been added to over the years because of all the random alcoves and awkwardly designed rooms and staircases. (Which I think would be amazing for hide and seek, but no-one’s taken me up on the offer yet.)  

There are now new plans to destroy the Hawthorns to make way for a new £80 million library. The library would be home to galleries and a café, both accessible to the public in just three years’ time. Yet, speaking to ex-residents, you’ll find that these plans have been ongoing for years now, with no real confirmation they’re really going ahead.  Personally, I think it would be devastating to lose such a historically fascinating building. To be honest, I don’t even notice the distance I have to travel to leave the building anymore, and I think I’m getting fitter for it. Every day is leg day when you live in the Hawthorns.  

Somewhat more touching is the fact that the original villa is where the Hawthorns café is today. The fact that this architecture has stayed standing for over 100 years is truly something to marvel at. But sadly, all that remains from the Hawthorns Hotel era of the 70s are snippets of conversation from online forums, reminiscing of the quality of music and crowded dancefloor and flyers for good times long since passed.

Dingle’s legacy is the Hawthorns, as messed up a building as it is. Maybe the university shouldn’t be so eager to let go of it just yet.


How do you enjoy your accomodation?

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