Odds and quads

A pound's worth of small change, held in a tin in the bursar's office, was transformed into a lump of metal when an incendiary bomb hit Bedford College on the night of 10-11 May 1941.

October 14, 2010

It is now kept in the archives of Royal Holloway, University of London, an institution created in 1985 from the merger of Bedford and Royal Holloway colleges.

Bedford College was based in London's Regent's Park from 1913, but in October 1939 it was evacuated to Cambridge for five academic years. Books were shipped out or protected by blast walls, laboratory equipment was buried in the garden and tenants including the exiled Dutch government moved in.

Students stuck in Cambridge began to pine for Piccadilly Circus and the National Gallery. But plans to move the college back to London were halted by the bombing raid, which - with water supplies failing and fire engines busy elsewhere - inflicted significant damage. Things would have been worse if a last-minute change of wind direction had not spared some buildings.

These coins form a poignant memorial to that terrible night.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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