Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, the unifier of a fractured territory and one-time resident of Eboracum (York), is a powerful name to attach to the newest addition to the University’s clan. Yet he suffered from what can only be described as a dysfunctional family, having his firstborn son executed at the behest of his jealous second wife, who in a fit of remorseful revenge, he had suffocated in an over-heated bath. This dynastical infighting continued after his death, dividing the empire irreperably.
The Seebohm Rowntree Building
Seebhom Rowntree was one of the key figures in the research into poverty at the turn of the century, most notably in his home town of York. Yet his family business, who also used child labour in their factories, was responsible for the buying of cocao from plantantions in the Portuguese colony of São Tomé and Principe in West Africa who kept their workers in slave conditions. Rowntree’s chocolate company took more than two years to boycott their supplier, after an independent report was published in 1907.
It seems inconceivable to students today that one of the greatest rock guitarists in music history once graced this University’s corridors. In 2011 his venue, a mundane lecture hall in Derwent formally known as D/L/028, was renamed in his honour. With an entry price of just 6/-, Jimi performed in February 1967, just before his career was about to take off, after the release of ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘The Wind Cries Mary’. His set was ‘awesome’ reminisced one attendee but ‘he had clearly been smoking a lot’. Well, it was the sixties.
Sir John Vanbrugh had quite a varied career. In his time, he was an architect, a knight, a radical Whig involved with the plot to overthrow James II and most interestingly, a sexually explicit playwrite. Extremely controversial in his day, Vanbrugh’s best known work, Love’s Last Shift, was a box-office hit but contained four scandalous sex scenes and gained criticism from Bishops who scorned his “failure to impose exemplary morality by appropriating rewards and not punishments for their filthy acts.”
The Jack Lyons Concert Hall
Leeds-born Jack Lyons was an influential donor to the Music Department and understandably, was honoured with the naming of the 350 seat concert hall after him. Yet the businessman was ignominiously stripped of his knighthood and CBE after being convicted of insider-dealing. This was through his close contact with Margaret Thatcher in Guinness’ buy-out of the Scottish drinks company Distillers, and had to pay an eye-watering £4 million fine, avoiding prison time on health grounds.
The namesake of York’s largest college and foreign secretary in Neville Chamberlain’s government, he is considered by some historians to be Britain’s ‘Arch-appeaser’, pressing for peace negotiations with Nazi Germany as late as May 1940. However his incompetence was not all detrimental to his legacy, as in his previous role as Viceroy of India he opened up dialogue with Mahatma Gandhi after his attempts at imprisoning the members of the Indian National Congress failed.