St. Hugh's College

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1954.

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'St. Hugh's College', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford, (London, 1954), pp. 347-348. British History Online [accessed 16 June 2024].

. "St. Hugh's College", in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford, (London, 1954) 347-348. British History Online, accessed June 16, 2024,

. "St. Hugh's College", A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford, (London, 1954). 347-348. British History Online. Web. 16 June 2024,

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In 1886 Miss (later Dame) Elizabeth Wordsworth, the first Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, opened a new hall for women students which should offer residence at low fees, an idea which was later found to be impracticable. To the foundation of the new hall Miss Wordsworth devoted a sum of money which was part of that guaranteed by her father, the Bishop of Lincoln, towards the foundation of the bishopric of Southwell: when the latter see was founded, and put upon a sound financial footing, the guarantee fund was returned to the Wordsworth family, Miss Wordsworth's share amounting to about £600. The new hall was named after St. Hugh, the great 12th-century bishop of Lincoln, partly because of the foundress's own connexion with that diocese, but mainly for the reason that until 1542 Oxford was under the jurisdiction of the bishops of Lincoln. St. Hugh's Hall began in a semi-detached house, 24 Norham Road, where four students lived under the principalship of Miss C. A. E. Moberly. Numbers soon increased and in 1887 the next house was added. In 1888, through the help of friends, chief among whom was Mr. Edward Gay, the lease of 17 Norham Gardens was purchased, a house which in 1891 was enlarged, further additions, viz. 28 Norham Gardens and Fyfield Lodge, being added in 1901 and 1909 respectively. In 1890 the first council was constituted, under the chairmanship of Sir John Caesar Hawkins. Cosmo Lang, later successively Archbishop of York and Canterbury, was among his successors in that office.

In the early days of the movement for the higher education of women in Oxford no responsibility for the teaching of students was undertaken by the halls of residence: the body which arranged their work was a central independent one—the Association for the Education of Women. Gradually, however, the tutorial system in St. Hugh's, as in the two older women's colleges, developed, for as the number of students grew, so the need for a resident staff increased also, though the A.E.W. remained in existence until membership of the University was opened to women in 1920.

In 1895 the Council of St. Hugh's took out a trustdeed, by which the property of the hall was assigned to trustees, and the objects and rules of the institution were therein set out. St. Hugh's was described as an Academical House conducted according to the principles of the Church of England, though there was at no time any denominational test for either tutors or students. In 1909 the status of tutors was defined, salaries were slightly raised, and the question of incorporation as an Association was brought foward. In 1911 this became an accomplished fact, and the hall was incorporated as St. Hugh's College, with a council partly elected by members of the Association (almost entirely former students) and partly co-opted, with the addition of a principal, a chairman, a secretary, a treasurer, and a representative of the Hebdomadal Council. This form of constitution approximated to that adopted by the other women's colleges at the same time, but though it was probably the most desirable temporary measure, it had, as a permanency, grave constitutional defects.

The next move forward was the purchase of a site at the corner of Banbury Road and St. Margaret's Road, upon which the new college buildings were erected. It was an allotment of 3½ acres which was assigned to University College when the open fields were inclosed in 1830; on the west was an allotment of St. John's College. In spite of difficulties caused by the outbreak of the war, the new building was opened on Ascension Day, 1916. In 1915 Miss Moberly had resigned the principalship, being succeeded in that office by Miss E. F. Jourdain, formerly Vice-Principal and tutor. The college had already benefited considerably from the will of its generous benefactress, Miss Clara Evelyn Mordan, but there was still a heavy debt on the building, and under Miss Jourdain the college of necessity, by reason of financial pressure, extended numerically beyond its housing capacity.

In 1923–4 St. Hugh's passed through a serious constitutional crisis which showed the need for reform. An inquiry was held by the Chancellor of the University, acting as Visitor at the request of the council. The publication of its findings led to the requirement that the women's colleges should be incorporated by Royal Charter or Act of Parliament, and that provision should be made for a Visitor and for representation of tutors and administrative officers on the governing body. In 1926 the charter was granted and the old Association was dissolved, its place being taken by a Corporate Body under the style of 'Principal and Council of St. Hugh's College'. This governing body consists of the Principal; the tutors, who after a certain probationary period become official fellows; such administrative officers as may be elected to official fellowships; research fellows; and a number of co-opted members in addition to three who are elected by and from the body of senior members, and any woman professor whom university statute may require the college to admit to a professorial fellowship. Miss Jourdain had died two years before the granting of the charter; she was succeeded in October 1924 by Miss B. E. Gwyer, under whose principalship two considerable additions to the building were made. In 1936 St. Hugh's College celebrated its jubilee, after 50 years of steady progress and constitutional development.

On the outbreak of war in 1939, the college buildings were requisitioned for use as a military hospital for head injuries. St. Hugh's was accommodated in Holywell Manor, Savile House, and five other houses until it was able to return to its own buildings in October 1945. On the retirement of Miss Gwyer in the following year, she was succeeded as principal by Miss E. E. S. Procter. The number of undergraduates allowed to St. Hugh's College has been fixed by University Statute in 1927 at 160; this was raised in 1948 to 180. The number at present (1950) in residence is 165 and it will not be possible to increase the number up to the permitted quota until further accommodation can be built. St. Hugh's has acquired more land adjacent to its site, and now owns the freehold of rather more than 10 acres.

Architectural History

The contract for the original part of the college building as it now stands was entered into in October 1914. The site was a house standing in a large garden at the corner of the Banbury Road and St. Margaret's Road. The total cost for the erection of the building, comprising dining-hall, library, kitchens, tutors' rooms, and accommodation for 70 students was £28, 122. The architect employed was Mr. H. T. Buckland, of the firm of Buckland and Haywood of Birmingham, who has been responsible throughout for subsequent additions and alterations. Owing to the beginning of the 1914–18 war it was doubtful whether the building could be proceeded with, but the contractors offered such favourable terms that the work was carried through without delay, and the new building was opened in 1916.

In 1927 a second contract was entered into for the extension known as the Mary Gray Allen Wing to the west of the main block, which was erected at a cost of £18,741. The new wing was linked to the original building by a covered loggia, and contained students' rooms designed on more spacious lines than those already in existence, and a junior common room of ample and dignified proportions. Architecturally, the Mary Gray Allen Wing was designed in the same style as the older building, though slight variations were made in order to suit altered conditions. It was opened by the Visitor of the college, Viscount Cecil of Chelwood, on 10 Oct. 1928.

Further extension, however, was still necessary, if college officers and undergraduates were to be housed adequately; moreover, the library had already begun to show signs of having outgrown its original housingspace, and the domestic and administrative offices were neither large nor numerous enough for their respective purposes. Early in 1935 work was begun upon a new library, and for the completion of the Mary Gray Allen Wing, upon land to the west of the college in St. Margaret's Road, and the new extensions were opened in 1936, the year in which St. Hugh's College celebrated its jubilee. At the same time structural alterations were made to the original kitchen premises, dininghall, and entrance-hall, and the old library, named after Miss Clara Evelyn Mordan was converted into a room in which meetings of the governing body and functions of various kinds might be held, to be known as the Mordan Hall. The new library (called the Moberly library) built to house 50,000 books, is of noble proportions and has its full complement of reading-rooms, stack-room, unpacking-room, and accommodation for the librarian. In planning this latest addition, the architect was at last able to give a collegiate aspect to the buildings, which had at first been designed rather with the idea of imparting a homely atmosphere. Apart from the five detached houses, originally private houses, in which at the present time certain of the tutors and undergraduates are housed, St. Hugh's is a dignified and harmonious whole, with beautiful surroundings.