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Student boarders at Osgoode Hall

In February 1833, Convocation ordered the formation of a standing committee of three benchers, to be called the Committee of Economy. The committee would manage the economic, household and domestic arrangements of Osgoode Hall, including rules pertaining to boarders at Osgoode Hall, who were predominantly wealthy law students. These rules dictated the timing of breakfast, tea and dinner and the duration of meals, the exact furnishing of each bedroom, and the requirement of boarders to furnish their own bed, bedding, towels, and wash their own apparel. The doors of Osgoode Hall were closed and locked every evening at 10:30 p.m. Non-residents of the hall could attend meals for a small price, and boarders were responsible for the cost of their guests’ meals, though every barrister member could call for a bottle of wine or pint of beer for a specific fee. Of particular note were restrictions on non-wool curtains and the prohibition of card playing or gambling.

Given the rigidity of the rules for student boarders of Osgoode Hall, it is perhaps not surprising that conflict often arose between the law students and the Osgoode Hall steward, who was responsible for enforcing those rules. These conflicts included a fight between a student and a barrister, late-night loudness, music and drunkenness, wasteful behaviour by the boarders with food and candles, excessive demands for the cleaning of boots and the delivery of notes to town, numerous instances of the door to the hall being left unlocked at night, and the theft of stools from the library. Despite efforts by the Treasurer, Robert Baldwin, to curtail this behaviour, the students were impervious to censure and conflict persisted.

For their part, four students submitted a formal complaint to the Committee of Economy in June 1834 about the poor quality of meat, tea and coffee provided at Osgoode Hall. The student residence at this time was highly subsidized by the Law Society, did not make a profit and in fact lost money due to the low boarding fees charged to the students, which necessitated household economization and cutbacks. Despite this, students continued to demand fresh food, more frequent boot-cleaning, and a more deferential staff.

The dilemma of the boarders came to an end when Osgoode Hall was turned over to the British army in the aftermath of the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837. When the Law Society took back Osgoode Hall in 1843, what had once been the student quarters were converted to a library and offices.
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