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Philip Spires

(Chemical Engineering 1970-73)
Recalls barbecuing a cow over a bonfire in Garden Hall...

Garden Hall, was more famous for its parties and lifestyle than it was for its residents’ academic achievements. I spent two years there. Say no more. One of the more memorable events was the barbecue in the summer term 1971. I had helped to organise social things in the Hall during that year, my first at Imperial College, and so I also helped to organise the barbecue.Garden Hall 1971
Photo above: Students at Garden Hall in 1971

But it was no sanitised gas-burning, bleached, blemishless barbecue for us. No. We dug up the eponymous garden to create a fire pit that would have cooked for five thousand without extension, cut down a few trees here and there (only dead ones!) and created a bonfire the size of a house.

We had ordered two hind quarters of beef, no less, from a certain gentleman called Mooney. He had agreed to cook them in his College Block ovens for about 24 hours before the event so that all our inferno would have to do in any case was brown the outside.

Garden Hall 1972Suspending half a cow over a bonfire was a problem that was passed to Mechanical Engineering. Dr Dave Hardwick, our beloved warden, arranged for the construction of a spit, which was duly designed and completed. Again, it was no putrid, paltry, piddling little skewer for the Garden Hall set. Not on your Nellie. It was ten feet of two inch steel bar (or mks equivalent), complete with steel plate meat-grabbers equipped with multiple ten centimetre long, one centimetre diameter spikes. It was of sufficient duty to have barbecued a ship. Photo above: Students at Garden Hall in 1972.

So with the fire built and the spit erected, the day arrived. The meat had to be wheeled from College Block, along the walkway over the Electrical Engineering labs, across Exhibition Road and into Prince’s Gardens. The trolley was bit rickety and we sloshed gravy on the gentle incline outside the Goethe Institute and the Maths Department annexe where John Thole’s wonderful lunchtime concerts were held.

I think over 200 people attended and, as predicted, there was enough food for several thousand. The meat, like the experience, was rare.

  © 2007 Imperial College London

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