Schools: Queen's College, Harley Street

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1, Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, the Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes To 1870, Private Education From Sixteenth Century. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1969.

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'Schools: Queen's College, Harley Street', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1, Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, the Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes To 1870, Private Education From Sixteenth Century, (London, 1969) pp. 311-312. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]


In 1843 the Governesses' Benevolent Institution was founded to provide a training for governesses, granting certificates to the proficient. The decision to offer certificates to competent governesses led to the establishment of a committee of examiners but it was soon apparent that to do any real good it would be necessary to provide 'an education for female teachers'. (fn. 2) The committee of examiners later became the committee of education, which in 1848 opened Queen's College at 66 (later renumbered 45) Harley Street. There was no endowment and the college was dependent for its success on the unselfish devotion and energy of its founders, whose aims were to set up an institution 'for the instruction of ladies generally' and to raise the status and selfrespect of governesses by improving their qualifications. (fn. 3) F. D. Maurice was chairman of the committee, and among his associates were Charles Kingsley, John Hullah, William Sterndale Bennett, Charles Grenfell Nicolay, Edward Plumptre, and Richard Chenevix Trench. (fn. 4)

From the beginning the classes were open to all girls and women above the age of twelve. (fn. 5) The college was divided into seniors and juniors, (fn. 6) and soon it became necessary to open a preparatory class for younger girls and to offer additional classes in the evening. It was open to any girl to 'select such classes as will meet with her views' (fn. 7) and fees were charged for each subject according to the number of weekly classes held in it. Education was by a system of lectures and essays; Maurice discouraged competition and allowed neither rewards nor punishments. A 'lady resident' received the pupils, and because the committee and professors were men, there were lady visitors to superintend the work of the college, to chaperon the girls at their classes, and to act as intermediaries between professors and parents or guardians. These visitors were 'ladies of rank and talent'; the duty became a fashionable form of social service, and Lady Stanley of Alderley, Lady Kay-Shuttleworth, and Lady Canning were among those who served. (fn. 8)

Among the early pupils were Dorothea Beale, later principal of Cheltenham Ladies' College, and Frances Mary Buss, founder of the North London Collegiate School for Girls. (fn. 9) Miss Beale later became the first lady tutor, but resigned because she thought that pupils were being taken into the college from the preparatory class before they were sufficiently prepared (fn. 10) and because she resented the limitation on the authority of the women members of the staff, claiming that 'though some classes may be profitably undertaken by men, the education of girls as a whole must be in the hands of their own sex'. (fn. 11) Miss Beale may have come into conflict with Nicolay, deputy chairman since 1848 and dean since 1853, who resigned the latter office in 1856 after an investigating committee had found that there was a lack of confidence in him in the college, although he retained his professorships until 1858. (fn. 12) In 1850 there was an anonymous attack on Maurice, Nicolay, and Kingsley, based on their introductory lectures at the college; (fn. 13) in 1853, on his dismissal from King's College, Maurice submitted his resignation, and although a majority of the Council voted against its acceptance he refused to withdraw it without a unanimous vote in his favour. He returned as professor of English Literature and Modern History from 1858 to 1866.

The Bishop of London was invited to become Visitor of the college in 1851, and in 1853 the college was granted a royal charter; the bishop took the chair at the first annual meeting held by the college separately from the Governesses' Benevolent Institution. In 1864 the first principal of the college, A. P. Stanley, Dean of Westminster, was appointed. (fn. 14) When the college was inspected in 1865 there were 124 pupils and 59 'non-compounders', students who attended fewer classes. Fees ranged from 12 to 27 guineas a year and boarders paid 60 guineas; music, drawing, dancing, writing, and private tuition were charged as extras. (fn. 15) The Revd. E. H. Plumptre, Maurice's brother-in-law, who had been connected with the college from its foundation, was Principal 1875-9. (fn. 16) The Revd. J. Llewelyn Davies (principal 1873-5 and 1879-86) organized teaching for University of London matriculation and B.A. examinations, but although students continued to take matriculation until it came to an end as a separate examination, few entered for the B.A. and that part of the plan was given up. (fn. 17)

In 1881 Camilla Croudace became lady resident. She was a woman of wide interests and broad culture who was a dominant influence at Queen's for a quarter of a century. (fn. 18) Among her early pupils was Gertrude Bell (fn. 19) and one of her last was Katherine Mansfield. The latter edited the college magazine, contributed several stories herself, and began a novel. (fn. 20) One of the staff who impressed Katherine Mansfield was J. A. Cramb, the history professor, whose lectures on Germany and England, published in 1913, made a considerable stir. (fn. 21) Emile Cammaerts was professor of French 1915-31. (fn. 22)

After the First World War the college introduced secretarial and domestic science courses and expanded into 47 Harley Street. In 1932 Miss G. E. Holloway became the first woman principal. The college was evacuated to Keswick in 1938 and Brackley in 1939, but in 1940 it returned to London under the leadership of Miss A. M. Kynaston (acting principal 1940-2, principal 1942-64) with a predominantly female staff. (fn. 23) Since 1931, when Board of Education recognition was obtained, the college has adapted itself to the general pattern of girls' schools, but although it offers an education on modern lines for the General Certificate of Education and university entrance, it still caters for some non-examination and part-time students. The college expanded into 49 Harley Street in 1963. In 1964 there were 245 pupils, of whom three were non-compounders.


  • 1. The writer is indebted to Miss C. Oliver, registrar at Queen's College, for information and advice.
  • 2. F. D. Maurice, Introductory Lectures delivered at Queen's Coll. Lond. 3-4.
  • 3. Cttee. of Educ. minutes, 10 Oct. 1850, penes Miss Oliver; Lady Henrietta Maria Stanley of Alderley, 'Personal Recollections of Women's Education', Nineteenth Cent. vi. 309.
  • 4. H. C. Barnard, Short Hist. of Eng. Educ. 183-4; S. J. Curtis, Hist. of Educ. in Britain, 171; F. J. C. Hearnshaw, Centenary Hist. of King's Coll. Lond. 196; Nineteenth Cent. vi. 309.
  • 5. Prospectus, 1848.
  • 6. In 1964 these terms were still used for girls taking G.C.E. 'A' level and 'O' level courses respectively.
  • 7. Prospectus, 1848.
  • 8. Mrs. Alex-Tweedie, First Coll. Open to Women, Queen's Coll. Harley Street, 20-22; Rosalie C. Grylls, Queen's Coll. Harley Street, 8-17.
  • 9. For Dorothea Beale see D.N.B. Second Supp. i. 116- 18; V.C.H. Glos. ii. 433; V.C.H. Oxf. iii. 348; and for Frances Mary Buss see article on North London Collegiate School.
  • 10. Elizabeth Raikes, Dorothea Beale of Cheltenham, 35.
  • 11. Alex-Tweedie, First Coll. 34-35.
  • 12. Cttee. of Educ. minutes 22 Dec. 1856.
  • 13. Qrly. Rev. clxxii (March 1850), 364-83; Frazer's Mag. May 1850.
  • 14. Cttee. of Educ. minutes 1 Feb. 1864.
  • 15. Schs. Enquiry Com. [3966-IX] H.C., p. 294 (1867-8), xxviii (9).
  • 16. Alex-Tweedie, First Coll. 26.
  • 17. Ibid. 26-27; Nineteenth Cent. vi. 310-11; Grylls, Queen's Coll. 50.
  • 18. Grylls, Queen's Coll. 57-60; A. Alpers, Katherine Mansfield, 56.
  • 19. Earlier Letters of Gertrude Bell, ed. Elsa Richmond, 17, 93.
  • 20. Ruth Elvish Mantz and J. Middleton Murry, Katherine Mansfield, 188-9; Sylvia Berkman, Katherine Mansfield, 22-23.
  • 21. Mantz and Murry, Katherine Mansfield, 189; Grylls, Queen's Coll. 62.
  • 22. Grylls, Queen's Coll. 89.
  • 23. Ibid. 3, 87, 96-103, 116.