If someone had told the 10 year old me, that one day I’d be taking my university examinations in a portrait gallery surrounded by thousands of pounds worth of artwork, protected by an alarm automated barrier, in one of the most flammable buildings in the world; I would’ve have thought them silly. Yet fate really is a funny thing.
The Picture Gallery at Royal Holloway is truly beautiful. Students and teachers alike are in awe of the displays. It’s easy to understand why Thomas Holloway invested a lot of time and money into the artworks that stand proud in the university’s Founders building to this day.
Albeit outstanding and impressive, the Picture Gallery is a nightmare venue for an exam. There I sit trying to desperately focus on the words of Marx, David Shields and Judith Butler, yet my eyes are continuously drawn to the painting North West of my seat – ‘Man Proposes, God Disposes’.
What makes that painting so special you may ask?
Well ladies and gents, that specific painting is one of the reasons why Royal Holloway remains one of the Top Ten Most Haunted Universities in the UK. Come exam time, the picture is famously covered with a Union Jack flag, fuelling rumours that a student was once so disturbed by what she saw she killed herself at her desk. I know, utterly horrifying to hear prior to taking an exam in the infamous gallery.
Now, this particular story is one I leave out of my speech when giving campus tours to prospective Holloway students. I decidedly save that one for the rumour mill come Fresher’s Week.
Frequent tours are held of Holloway’s Picture Gallery, often with personalised tours available from local curators (www.rhul.ac.uk) Well worth a visit if you’re ever in the local area, and a definite must see if you’re a Holloway student.