‘Post-pizza sex parties were a thing’
Beyond the pines of James Baillie, there once lay an unassuming yet infamous halls that didn’t quite make the brochure – mainly because no-one had a clue it existed.
You know Central Village, you know Henry Price.You may have even found yourself in the obscure halls like North Hill Court or Liberty Dock, or been regaled by older siblings with tales of the once-great Bodington. But no matter what you’ve heard, it’s unlikely you know much about Mary Morris House.
Home to only 150 students, Mary Morris stood in the shadow of the more famous halls and never quite lived up to the dizzying glamour of Charles Morris, its on-campus namesake. In fact, it was more the polar opposite of these well-rounded halls with their convenient locations and reliance on actual security.
Despite being a cheaper alternative to say the least, Morris maintained a kind of charm that couldn’t be found anywhere else. And although it was named after the wife of the former vice-chancellor, Mary Morris’ history is shrouded in mystery. It doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.
Though it may not have the illustrious history of Devonshire or Lyddon, Mary Morris’ backwater nature meant that its final years up to its closure this July were wild to say the least. With next to no restrictions and wardens living among tenants, Mary Morris became what Andy, a former resident, calls “our very own recreational utopia.”
Will, an Australian exchange who found himself in the mythical residence, says “mateship, debauchery and recklessness” were in abundance, and that “hall rules were a myth”.
Another final resident, Steve, simplified that even further: “It was chilled. I was lucky to meet 15 sound lads and discover that you can smash ket and get a 2:2 in computer science.” Right on.
Ex-resident Emma, perhaps more insightfully, said: “Something about being in that building, or being all together, made us lose our shit entirely. We got worse (or better, you might say) as the year progressed.
“It had a reputation as a party place back in the day didn’t it? I think we may have outdone it in the final year, to be honest.”
Indeed the debauchery was not always contained and Mary’s followers would often spill out into the leafy surroundings of Wood Lane, much to the horror of the local schoolkids.
Big nights out would rarely end once the residents had returned but would usually continue long into the night.
Steve says: “We planned not to take any drugs for the final Good Life, but ended up on six different types for three days, eventually collapsing onto the couches outside at the end.”
Likewise, Steve attests that no night ended before 6am, with Stella-fuelled breakfasts at the Original Oak merely part and parcel of Mary Morris life.
Despite the debauchery, there was something beautiful about the way in which Mary Morris crumbled around its final residents – and yes, it literally crumbled. Resident Welshman Rhodri remembers “having a poo and watching the water come pouring in” – two people having a shower at the same time would, naturally, cause immediate flooding.
As the summer approached and the decision to close Mary Morris drew near, the ants arrived. Though he jokes that “the place was structurally sound”, Steve remembers the ants well: “Did you see the ant infestation in the common room? That was rank.” There were indeed ants everywhere – including one flat’s bathroom.
The decision to close down the dilapidated halls was passed – and as the table tennis table (a devastating loss, leaving many inconsolable for weeks after) and furniture began to be removed, a rebellious fever struck Mary Morris House.
One former resident remembers the final days as a blur of “running round in circles playing strip ping pong”, whilst “post-pizza sex parties” allegedly became “a thing.”
It all finally came to an end, and tenants were forced to bid a fond farewell to the madness of Mary Morris. Ex-warden and Unipol employee Phil has this to say of Mary Morris’ official fate: “Unipol were given Mary Morris three years ago, but three years on realised how much work really needed doing.”
Phil says that the site of Mary Morris House will soon become “fancier, en-suite university accommodation”, but the residents who have moved onto pastures new will always remember Mary Morris for what it was.
In the words of ex-tenant Will: “I wouldn’t trade my stay for all the Charles Morrises in the world.”