There are many coat of arms on the walls of this building, these are the representative shields of each country that had students reside here during its first years. Quite a number of these are former Commonwealth countries, and perhaps more surprising, there are some countries that no longer exist. These shields at the International Halls of Residency are also of great interest because many of them are unique – as well as the fact barely anyone’s written about them.
I couldnt find any sort of information about these shields or who made them. Clearly they were created in the early sixties when the halls were opened and these complement the unique style of brickwork found on the building itself, being vertically rather than horizontally placed. In this particular kind of styling the bricks are known as soldiers.
This type of brickwork is visually attractive however its not popular because it lacks the strength of the more traditional header or stretcher brickwork. Its not to say it cant be used – because its been used to great effect at the International Halls – however the main strengthening in the building happens to come from the concrete beams and supports.
The entrance to the halls with the first four coat of arms seen on the adjacent walls.
I don’t think they are in any particular order, thus they are being shown as they are found on the walls, that is, from the main halls entrance westwards. One can always walk the opposite direction from either King’s Cross or Russell Square tubes and work their way round to the main entrance in Landsdowne Terrace. In this post I am working my way from the main entrance here to the other side nearest to Russell Square tube/the Brunswick Centre.
The first eight of these coat of arms are arranged in groups of four. The remainder (totalling 14) are arranged in pairs. Here are the first four by the building’s main entrance in Landsdowne Terrace.
Gibraltar and Gambia. Gibraltar still uses the same coat of arms. Gambia on the other hand now uses one with a pair of lions.
Gibraltar is practically the only country out of all these shields that still remains part of the UK. Nearly all the others, with just two exceptions, were colonies or crown dependencies and have since gained independence. Gambia was one of those which gained independence, this being 1965, just three years after the halls opened. The coat of arms were replaced in November 1964 by one with two lions holding an axe and a hoe.
British Guiana and the Windward Islands.
The South American country of British Guiana was also independent in the immediate years following the halls’ opened. In 1966 it gained independence and became Guyana. The shield seen here was used 1955-1966 and represents a Blackwall frigate sailing the seas.
That for the Windward Islands I am not sure about. There’s very little information. Its said the use of the symbol on the country’s flag ended in 1958. Presumably it continued in use as a heraldic shield a few more years?
The second set of four, still in Landsdowne Terrace.
Austria, an odd out entry by not having being part of the UK ever, and also one of just a handful of inland countries represented on the walls. Its accompanied by Barbados.
The old Barbados shield is nice but its of course very old fashioned. The figure depicted is not a king but in fact Neptune riding a pair of aquatic horses. Today their heraldic shield is one featuring a fish and a pelican.
That for Austria is still in use and the fact it is at all represented here tells us something of the history of these coat of arms. If we however consider the next set of shields, this is quite an interesting grouping because of the four countries represented on this wall, three are inland.
The next set are of great historical interest. Both were countries strongly administered by the UK in those days. Northern Rhodesia is now Zambia. The country gained independence in 1964 which tells us most of these shields must have been made in the period between 1962 and 1963. Any later than that this one would have had to denote Zambia instead.
Northern Rhodesia and Uganda.
Rhodesia at this time was two countries known as Northern and Southern. Following the North’s independence as Zambia, the southern one became simply known as Rhodesia in 1965 – and an illegal state in the eyes of Britain. Those of us who are at least in their late sixties will no doubt remember a certain Ian Smith who was an unrepentant white supremacist. Through trouble and strife the southern country eventually became known as Zimbabwe.
The Ugandan one is one the country had used since it gained independence in 1962. The shield is also of interest because its still used today on the country’s flag though the actual coat of arms itself has changed to include as well as the same Crested Crane, an Ugandan Kob (a type of deer.)
The largest group of these colourful shields totals eight on that side fronting Brunswick Square.
Malaya is the old name for when the country was under British rule. These days its known as Malaysia, having acquired that name in 1963. Sudan or rather its official title is represented here. Its Al Jumhūrīyat as-Sūdān (The Republic of Sudan) and interestingly is the only shield here that depicts Arabic.
The Malayan one is no longer used in its full extent. Notice the Prince of Wales emblem! As Malaysia its coat of arms has similarities – the daggers along the top are still used, the same colours are employed however it has symbols which refer to North Borneo and Sarawak, as well as the use of both of Malay and Arabic text for the motto.
That for Sudan was created at independence in 1956 and continued to be used until 1970.
Nigeria and Ghana.
Nigeria gained independence in 1960 but retained the Queen as nominal head of state for a while. The shield seen here actually denotes the Federation of Nigeria, which was extant from 1960 to 1963.
Ghana’s is basically the same as it was in the sixties, except its usually accompanied by a pair of eagles
Australia and Pakistan.
That for Australia is still in use today accompanied by a kangaroo and an emu. Sharp eye observers will no doubt spot the crowns, this refers to the fact the Queen is still the country’s head of state. Its a bone of contention of course, some would rather the country became fully a republic whilst others want it to remain a sovereign country.
Pakistan is of course a product of British colonial rule and the decision to grant what was then India independence also led to the controversial partitioning of the country, which resulted in the creation of of Pakistan. The shield seen here is still in use in modern Pakistan.
There are no prizes for guessing the coat of arms on the left. It hasn’t even got a name attached to it but I am sure most can sus which country it refers to! The other is of course India and the shield depicted is still used today.
The unnamed one is in fact not named because it refers to the Queen. Its known as the Royal Arms and has been in use since 1801. Of course it too doubles as the coat of arms for the UK.
The International Halls originally had their main entrance on the south side of Brunswick Square just past these last two examples. This particular entrance is no longer in use however there’s a foundation stone placed at this spot which gives us a little bit of information about the International Halls.
The foundation stone I think originally came from the side in Landsdowne Terrace. As can be seen these halls of residency opened in October 1963. The dates of some of the shields seen here leads me to believe they were placed on the building after it had been finished and this work would have been completed perhaps by the summer of 1964.
The building’s relocated foundation stone.
That is reasonably correct because the different shields would have represented the first year of overseas students who resided here, and it also explains why Austria, obviously not a former British dependency of any sort, gained a place of honour on the walls of the building!
There is a long section of wall without any shields and then at the far end a further six appear. Let’s look at this final set…
The final group of six, on the section towards Grenville Street.
New Zealand and Mauritius. Both these countries still use the same emblems.
However as is common in most heraldic shields these days, New Zealand’s includes a white woman and a Maori warrior, whilst Mauritus employs the Dodo and a Sambur deer.
Hong Kong and Cyprus. The Cyprus shield unusually mentions the year of independence which is 1960. The country soon became embroiled in heavy conflict and ultimately became divided into three partitions.
These are of course the Greek and the Turkish states, plus a substantial UN buffer zone which separates the two. Of great note however is the fact Cyprus continues to employ the same emblem these days, clearly as a symbol of hope and peace as well as possible reunification.
Hong Kong’s shield was clearly that used for when it was under British rule as a crown colony and it represents a pair of Chinese Junks. I do not know if this emblem changed over the years prior to the country being returned to China in 1997 as a special administrative region. Hong Kong is currently experiencing a period of great turmoil as its residents become extremely dissatisfied with its Chinese rulers – and there are calls for it to be made a completely independent country.
Sierra Leone and Singapore.
Sierra Leone has had the same emblem since it gained independence in 1961. The heraldic shield as it is now is bordered by a pair of lions. That for Singapore clearly denotes the period before 1965 (as well as after.) At first I thought this shield had been placed on the wall later than the others however its most definitely from the 1962-63 period as I find this shield was in fact introduced during 1959. This would have been when the country first became a self-governing entity within the British Commonwealth. It became part of Malaysia in 1963, but was expelled in 1965.
The 22 coat of arms or shields can be found on the sides of the International Halls facing onto the south side of Brunswick Square (opposite the Brunswick Centre) and Landsdowne Terrace (adjacent to Coram’s Fields.)
The full address of the building is International Hall, Lansdowne Terrace, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1AS
The nearest tube is Russell Square, just a couple of minutes walk. One can alternatively walk southwards from King’s Cross/St. Pancras down Judd and Hunter Streets to the junctions with Bernard Street, Brunswick Square and Grenville Street where the first of the coats of arms (starting with Sierra Leone/Singapore) can be found.