King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
Mayhem in the Metropolis

The great rag of 1922

Battering ramsBattering ramsThe contest between King's and University College reached a new level of excitement in the rag of December 1922 when King's captured Phineas from his usual residence in Tottenham Court Road.

A week later, when King's ignored an ultimatum demanding his return, hundreds of UC students, transported in furniture vans from Bloomsbury or arriving at Aldwych Underground station, stormed the King's quad.

German gunGerman gunKing's was defended by the College gun, re-equipped with a powerful hose pipe, while stationed with Phineas, the University College mascot, on the College's main steps was a personal bodyguard of engineering students armed with rotten fruit and vegetables from the nearby Covent Garden market.

Having first taken the precaution to switch off the College's water supply at the mains, University College students engaged their rivals resulting in several injuries and the collapse of part of a King's College stone balustrade. Police were called and a truce was enforced.

WatercannonWatercannonUC and King's students then marched back to Gower Street in good spirits accompanied by the battered but dignified Phineas.

Phineas on paradePhineas on paradeThe University College mascot soon disappeared again the following spring. King's was initially suspected but this time it was students of Caius College in Cambridge who carried out the abduction.

As one witness of the apparently orderly removal commented, 'They said they were from Caius (pronounced 'Keys') and the assistant thought they were saying 'King's with a Kensington accent'.

The 1922 quad battle was viewed with alarm by the College authorities. The Union reminded students that the quadrangle was a 'dangerous and unsuitable place for…rags' and the editor of the King's student journal went as far as to suggest a premeditated and deliberate aspect to the violence.

The balustradeThe balustradeIt was, he said, 'a good rag…but got out of hand. It is a pity that the blinding of Mr Johnson…has not taught us that there is a limit'.

Balustrade fallsBalustrade fallsThe collapse of the balustrade was widely reported in the press with the Daily News describing a 'Rag Beyond the Limit' and speculating that a release of liquid oxygen stored below the accident area might have led to a violent explosion.

The King's Principal and University College's Provost both agreed that although it was a tradition that any damages caused by a rag should be borne by the students responsible, that in this instance the repair bill of £237 should be collectively shared by students of both colleges.

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