Newnham College

Newnham College

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In 1871, Henry Sidgwick, who taught at Trinity College, established Newnham College, a residence for women who were attending lectures at University of Cambridge. As Sidgwick pointed out: "When, in accordance with the general plan formed in 1870 for developing the system of lectures for women in Cambridge, it became necessary to find a lady to preside over the house destined to receive external students, my first idea was to ask Miss Clough; and though her refusal for a time turned my thoughts into other directions, I never doubted that her acceptance of the post would be the best possible thing for the new institution. My desire for her co-operation was partly on account of her long devotion to the improvement of the education of women; but it was partly due to the fact that I thought she would be in special sympathy with the plan on which the work at Cambridge to be conducted."

Anne Clough was invited to take charge. She later recalled: "By 1873 twenty-two out of the thirty-four professors of the university granted formal leave to women students to attend their lectures, and a few years later this twenty-two had grown to twenty-nine." By 1879 Newnham College was fully established with its own tutorial staff. There were thirty students at Newnham and twenty in two supplementary houses. A further twenty-five students in lodgings.

One of Newnham's first students, Mary Paley, later admitted that at first there was a certain amount of conflict with Anne Clough. "I believe we were all hard-working and well-intentioned, but during that first year there was a good deal of friction between Miss Clough and some of us. I think we were almost entirely to blame, and I never cease to be astonished at our want of appreciation in those days. We did not understand her at all. I believe if she had had more weaknesses and limitations, we should have liked her better. We failed to see the great outlines of her character, her selflessness, her strong purpose, her extraordinary sympathy. She had some obvious faults of manner, and these we did see and probably exaggerated."

In 1889, Mary Bateson, a former student, was appointed as a lecturer on English constitutional history at Newnham College. She served on the college council, and took part in the unsuccessful effort of 1895–7 to have women admitted to full membership of the University of Cambridge. In 1903 Bateson was awarded a Newnham research fellowship. Upon the expiry of her fellowship she gave the money back to the fund to assist other scholars. Bateson was a frequent contributor to the English Historical Review. She also provided 108 biographical articles to the original edition of the Dictionary of National Biography. As Mary Dockray-Miller has pointed out: "The subjects of all these entries are men; they include saints, monks, and noblemen. Some date to the Anglo-Saxon or early modern periods; most cluster in the Anglo-Norman and high middle ages."

Whereas Emily Davies at Girton College insisted that her students studied the same subjects as men and be expected to pass similar exams, at Newnham, Anne Clough and Henry Sidgwick devised special courses for its undergraduates. Sidgwick also opposed the teaching of Greek and Latin, which formed a necessary preliminary for a degree at University of Cambridge. Sidgwick had argued for a long time that classics had dominated boy's secondary education and he did not want the same thing to happen to girl's education.

In June 1890, Philippa Fawcett became the first woman to score the highest mark of all the candidates for the Mathematical Tripos at the University of Cambridge. This news produced a great deal of excitement at Newnham, and was widely reported in the national press. The following year she sat part two of the tripos, which was considered to demand more originality and ingenuity of candidates. Once again she showed her talent by being placed, together with Geoffrey Thomas Bennett, the male senior wrangler of her year, alone in the first class. As Rita McWilliams Tullberg points out: "Bennett was made a fellow of St John's College, awarded the university prize for mathematics, and lectured for the university. Fawcett was not eligible for any such lucrative posts or prizes."

In 1891 Mary Sheepshanks went to Newnham College to study medieval and modern languages. In her unpublished autobiography she recalled: "College life meant for me a new freedom and independence ... The mere living in Cambridge was a joy in itself; the beauty of it all, the noble architecture, the atmosphere of learning were balm to one's soul ...To spend some of the most formative years in an atmosphere of things of the mind and in the acquisition of knowledge is happiness in itself and the results and memories are undying. Community life at its best, as in a college, brings contacts with people of varied interests and backgrounds and studying a wide range of subjects. Friendships are formed and new vistas opened. For a few years at least escape is possible from the worries and trivialities of domestic life."

Flora Mayor went to Newnham College to study history. Soon after arriving at Newnham her father, Reverand Joseph Bickersteth Mayor, wrote to her about the dangers of developing progressive political and religious views at college: "You will probably meet people of advanced views at Newnham, and some of our friends thought we were rash in letting you go there, but it is no longer possible for women to go through the world with their eyes shut, and if the highest education is reserved for those who have already a tendency to scepticism, or who belong to agnostic homes, it will be a very bad look-out for English society in the future.... Your position is probably better than that of most of your companions, both socially and intellectually, and in time you ought to be able to exercise some influence. That God's blessing may be with you through this eventful year is the earnest wish and prayer ot your affectionate father."

Mary Sheepshanks developed a close relationship with Florence Melian Stawell: "Florence Melian Stawell... was the most striking personality at Newnham at that time. She was an Australian student of outstanding ability, striking physical beauty and grace. On one occasion when she entered a room full of people a man exclaimed, At last the gods have come down to earth in the likeness of a woman! ... She was in fact one of those rare individuals endowed with every gift... Melian Stawell was in her third year when I went up, and I saw a good deal of her and learnt much from her." Flora Mayor agreed with Sheepshanks assessment of Stawell. She told her sister Alice how she met Stawell: "Miss Stawell was very nice and just think in the evening she asked me to dance with her and afterwards to come and see her. Unenlightened as you are you don't know what an honour that is but she is absolutely the Queen of the College... I did feel proud. She dances most splendidly."

Margaret Tuke argued that Newnham College had a positive impact on these young women: "At Newnham I saw women more reasonable, more contented, less petty than I had known them elsewhere. I saw them seriously determined to understand some of the problems of the world, imbued with the expectation of what education could do for women, with aspirations for a good above that of everyday life."

Newnham College encouraged the students to teach adult literacy classes in the poor working-class district of Barnwell. This experience turned several of these women into social reformers. This included Mary Sheepshanks, who became a strong advocate of women's suffrage. Her sister, Dorothy Sheepshanks, recalled that, "Mary came to hold very advanced views in many respects, views of which father disapproved." John Sheepshanks, who was Bishop of Norwich at the time, was so shocked by Mary's views on politics and religion that he insisted that Mary must not spend any of her future university vacations at home.

Early students at Newnham College included Katharine Glasier, Susan Lawrence, Mary Hamilton, Margery Corbett-Ashby, Mary Bateson, Philippa Fawcett, Mary Sheepshanks, Flora Mayor, Frances Partridge, Margot Heinemann, Margaret Tuke and Rosalind Franklin.

By 1873 twenty-two out of the thirty-four professors of the university granted formal leave to women students to attend their lectures, and a few years later this twenty-two had grown to twenty-nine. In the case of several of the professorial lectures there were special reasons against opening them to women, and, in particular, the admission of women to the medical lectures was not asked for either at that or any later time.

Gradually, also, women were admitted to lectures given in college halls or lecture rooms. St. John's College, even as early as 1871, permitted one of its lecturers, Mr. Main, to give instruction to women students in the chemistry laboratory of the college, and this Mr. Main constantly did, usually at an early hour, such as 8.30 a.m. before lectures to undergraduates began.

When, in accordance with the general plan formed in 1870 for developing the system of lectures for women in Cambridge, it became necessary to find a lady to preside over the house destined to receive external students, my first idea was to ask Miss Clough; and though her refusal for a time turned my thoughts into other directions, I never doubted that her acceptance of the post would be the best possible thing for the new institution.

My desire for her co-operation was partly on account of her long devotion to the improvement of the education of women; but it was partly due to the fact that I thought she would be in special sympathy with the plan on which the work at Cambridge to be conducted.

In October 1871, Mary Kennedy, Ella Bulley, Edith Creak, Annie Migault, and I came to be with Miss Clough, and in the following term we were joined by Felicia Larner, and one or two others. We lived very much the life of a family; we studied together, we had our meals at one table, and in the evening we usually sat with Miss Clough in her sitting-room. We did our best to keep down household expenses: our food was very simple; we all, including Miss Clough, not only made our beds and dusted our rooms, but we helped to wash up after meals, and we did the domestic sewing in the evening.

I believe we were all hard-working and well-intentioned, but during that first year there was a good deal of friction between Miss Clough and some of us. She had some obvious faults of manner, and these we did see and probably exaggerated. She did not dress well, and she had a certain timidity and irresoluteness.

The venture of women's education in Cambridge was a new one: she was, I think, a little afraid of us, and did not know what we might do next. She had not had much to do with girls of our age before, and perhaps she treated us too much like schoolgirls. She did not quite enter into our notions of fun: perhaps she took things a little too seriously, and so she did not gain our full confidence in those early days.

In the early days she was always nervous lest the students should attract attention and criticism by any eccentricity in dress or conduct, for her great desire was to be unnoticed, and to make it clear that this little colony of women was harmless and inoffensive. Much of this care and watchfulness seemed unreasonable to the students, and no doubt Miss Clough pushed it to excess; but she probably did, by means of it, avoid dangers which could hardly otherwise have been guarded against.

College life meant for me a new freedom and independence ... The mere living in Cambridge was a joy in itself; the beauty of it all, the noble architecture, the atmosphere of learning were balm to one's soul ...

To spend some of the most formative years in an atmosphere of things of the mind and in the acquisition of knowledge is happiness in itself and the results and memories are undying. For a few years at least escape is possible from the worries and trivialities of domestic life.

At Newnham I saw women more reasonable, more contented, less petty than I had known them elsewhere. I saw them seriously determined to understand some of the problems of the world, imbued with the expectation of what education could do for women, with aspirations for a good above that of everyday life.

My education in Cambridge came entirely from my fellow-Newnhamites ... For the first time we made friends. The slow exploration of another human being, the discovery of shared perplexities and interests, the delight in our new companions' gifts and, maybe, beauty (for beauty was not wanting in those years) - these were excitements. Many of us made friends who remained faithful to us all our lives.

Newnham College Boat Club

Newnham College Boat Club is the rowing club for members of Newnham College, Cambridge. The club has a year-round senior squad and invites all members of the college to learn to row by joining the novice squads during Michaelmas or Easter terms.

The club was founded in 1893, making it one of the oldest women's rowing clubs in the world, and pioneered women's rowing at Cambridge University. The first bumps races for women were held in 1974 and since then have continued to be major events in the club's calendar.

In the Lent Bumps, the 1st VIII has rarely finished outside the top-9 places, taking the headship in 1977, 1982, 1983 and 2019. In the May Bumps, the 1st IV and 1st VIII has never finished outside the top-10 places, taking the headship in 1975, 1976, 2003 and 2019.

Newnham College Boat Club represented Cambridge in the Women's Boat Race from the inaugural race in 1927 until Cambridge University Women's Boat Club was founded in 1941 when Girton College became the second women's college to cater for rowing. [1] [2] [3] All of the Cambridge rowers in 1941 were members of Newnham. The following year, the first non-Newnham rower competed. [4] The Cambridge victories in the early years, 1929 and 1930,were credited to Newnham College. [5]

In 1976 in the May Bumps, Newnham I were head on the 2nd day, and Newnham II were in 2nd position. No other women's club has managed to get a 2nd boat into 2nd place. The only men's club to have managed it was 1st Trinity, whose 2nd boat bumped its 1st boat in the 1875 races to finish in 2nd place behind Jesus. Newnham is, therefore, the only club (men or women) in the history of Cambridge bumps racing to have held the top two places simultaneously.

In 2006 Newnham won the newly inaugurated Pegasus Cup for being "the most successful college boat club competing in the Cambridge May Bumping Races", with a points system that takes into account the number of boats competing in the races, thus favouring smaller boatclubs. They reclaimed the Cup in 2017.

The May races in 2007 saw Newnham go up three places.

In 2009/10 Newnham won the Michell Cup, annually awarded by the CUCBC to the Boat Club giving the best performance on the river during the course of the academic year. Newnham retained the trophy in 2010/11 and the upwards trajectory in the Bumps tables was continued in 2011/12 when the first VIII finished at 3rd on the river.

In 2013 Newnham won the newly inaugurated Marconi Cup for being "the most successful college boat club competing in the Cambridge Lent Bumping Races". [6]

In 2019, Newnham claimed headship in both the Lent and May bumps, ending Jesus's two-year reign by bumping them in both events. [7] [8] This was Newnham's first Lents Headship since 1983, their first Mays Headship since 2003, and their first ever Double Headship (meaning holding Head position in both the Lents and May Bumps in the same year). Additionally in the May Bumps 2019, Newnham II claimed "W2 Headship" position, being the highest ranked W2 on the river. [8]


Newnham College. Argent on a chevron azure (for Clough) between in chief two crosses bottony fitchy sable (for Kennedy) and in base a mullet sable (for Balfour) a griffin's head razed or (for Sidgwick) between two voided lozenges argent (for Clough). [Granted 1924]

The organization indirectly responsible for the founding of Newnham College (fn. 1) was the North of England Council for Promoting the Higher Education of Women, which existed between 1867 and 1874. This council attacked the low intellectual standards prevailing in girls' schools, and it succeeded in interesting certain university teachers in its scheme for providing women with courses of lectures on advanced subjects at different centres. These reformers did not want to establish a purely classical curriculum, and the council soon approached the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge with a memorial asking for a special examination for women over eighteen which, conducted in several subject groups, would be of sufficiently high standard to serve as a test for those entering the teaching profession.

A Women's Local Examination, later known as the Higher Local Examination, was instituted in 1868 by the Senate of Cambridge University, and the next year Henry Sidgwick, fellow of Trinity College, called a committee together to arrange courses of study in preparation for the examination. This committee, which in 1873 grew into the Association for the Promotion of the Higher Education of Women in Cambridge, was supported by Professors F. D. Maurice, Fawcett, Adams, Cayley, and many other distinguished lecturers, (fn. 2) and their scheme met with immediate success. From the first they had hoped to attract women students living outside Cambridge, a plan encouraged by the scholarships offered by J. S. Mill, Helen Taylor, and others, and it was soon clear that some house of residence would have to be opened for these women. In September 1871 Sidgwick persuaded Anne Jemima Clough, the first secretary and one of the principal organizers of the North of England Council, to take charge of 74 Regent Street.

To this small house five students were admitted in October, and even before the end of the first year the number had increased. In 1872 a lease was taken of Merton Hall and for two years this remained the centre for resident and out-students. Then in 1874 the 'Lectures Association' decided to promote a limited liability company to build a permanent home for them. By means of this company Newnham Hall, known later as South Hall, and now as Old Hall, was opened in 1875 when Miss Clough came into residence with Miss Paley (fn. 3) as the first resident lecturer. This building in its turn was quickly outgrown and by 1879 it was felt that the time had come to amalgamate the association and the company in a new society which would co-ordinate the work of teaching and housing the students. The Newnham College Association thus formed was registered on 23 April 1880. It immediately took in hand the building of a North Hall, now called Sidgwick Hall, which was opened in 1880 under Mrs. Henry Sidgwick as viceprincipal. Mrs. Sidgwick, as Miss Eleanor Balfour, had been a benefactor of Newnham Hall since 1874 and had stayed with Miss Clough in 1875. She was succeeded by Miss Gladstone in 1882. Even after the building of Clough Hall in 1888 a public right of way ran through the grounds, but in 1891 this was closed by an agreement with the town, and the Pfeiffer Building, built largely from a grant from the trust left by Mr. and Mrs. Pfeiffer for encouraging women's work, was erected over the site two years later. In 1897 the library given by Mr. and Mrs. Yates Thompson was added, and by the opening of Kennedy Buildings, named in honour of Dr. and the Misses Kennedy, in 1906 and of Peile Hall in 1910 the main block of the College buildings was completed. Peile Hall commemorated the work which Dr. Peile, Master of Christ's College, and his wife had done for Newnham. He was President of the College from 1890 to 1909 and Mrs. Peile organized the correspondence classes which helped many women unable to come up to Cambridge. Mr. Basil Champneys was the architect of all these buildings. In 1938 Fawcett Building, the beginning of a smaller court, was the work of the firm of Scott, Shepherd, and Breakwell. Further extensions, including a new porter's lodge in a more central position, were carried out in 1948–50. The architects were Buckland and Haywood. A Principal's Lodge, built with a bequest from Mrs. Jessie Lloyd in memory of her daughter, M. E. H. Lloyd (Newnham College, 1913–17), and designed by Louis Osman, was under construction in 1956.

On 24 February 1881 the University first formally recognized Newnham and Girton Colleges and opened the tripos examinations to their women students on the same conditions of entrance and residence as those imposed on men. (fn. 4) In 1897 a proposal to grant women students titles of degrees was rejected by the University, (fn. 5) but the need for some recognition of their academic status other than the tripos certificate was shown by the numbers of women who, between 1904 and 1907, proceeded to the 'ad eundem' degrees offered by Trinity College, Dublin. (fn. 6) In 1923, following on a grace of the Senate passed in 1921, ordinances were approved by the University admitting women to the titles of degrees and at the same time limiting the number of women students at Girton and Newnham to 500, exclusive of research students. (fn. 7) By the statutes of 1926 women became eligible for membership of faculties and faculty boards and for all teaching offices in the University, (fn. 8) while most of the University scholarships, studentships, exhibitions, and prizes were opened to women in 1928. (fn. 9) In December 1947 a grace was passed admitting women to full membership of the University and constituting Newnham a College of the University. The relevant changes of statutes received royal approval in 1948. (fn. 10)

Meanwhile Newnham College had worked out its own constitution. By the articles of association in 1880 the government of the College and the administration of its property were vested in a council. When the articles were revised in 1892 a further group was added to the members of the College who elected the council. These were the associates of the College, who, numbering finally 48, represented the past students. Instituted to promote the interests of education, learning, and research, the associates had also their own organization and soon proved very influential. Among other schemes which the College owes to their initiative are the raising of a research fellowship fund between 1898 and 1899, the founding of the Henry Sidgwick Memorial in 1900, and the draft of the new constitution which was embodied in the royal charter granted in April 1917. By this charter the ultimate authority in 'all questions affecting the good government of the College, the promotion of the interests thereof and the maintenance of the discipline and studies of the students' passed to the governing body, whose members, the principal and fellows of the College, are the teaching and administrative staff and representatives of the research fellows and associates. The council, which included three members of the Senate of the University, was elected by the governing body and retained the power of making appointments and of conducting the general business and finance of the College. The charter and statutes were revised in 1951 to take account of the new status of the College in the University, and to bring its nomenclature into line with that of other colleges. Some modifications were made in the representation of associates and research fellows.

Side by side with the work of extending the College buildings and developing its institutions went that of securing opportunities for women to undertake independent research. At first the poverty of the College prevented this and even teaching appointments were few. However, in 1882 the Bathurst Studentships were founded for the encouragement of advanced work in any of the natural sciences, (fn. 11) and in 1888 another studentship was given by the friends of Marion Kennedy, who was honorary secretary of the College from 1876 to 1903, and presented to her for this purpose on the day that Clough Hall was opened. (fn. 12) Ten years later the first research fellowship, the Geoffrey Fellowship, was offered, (fn. 13) and in 1900 the first College fellowship was also awarded. (fn. 14) On the death of Mary Bateson in 1906 another fellowship was founded (fn. 15) and in recent years the Sarah Smithson Fellowship, (fn. 16) the Jenner Fellowship, (fn. 17) and the Wheldale Onslow Memorial Fellowship (fn. 18) have been added to the College fellowships of which at least one is offered annually.

Many members of Newnham College have distinguished themselves in different branches of learning and in administrative, educational, and social work. Accounts of them and of their published work will be found in the Principals' reports, (fn. 19) and the reports of the Research Fellowship Committee. (fn. 20)


The life of a college can be measured both by the success of its graduates and in its physical growth.

Seneca College has graduated thousands of students since its inception in 1967, and we have proudly seen them go on to be successful executives, senators, pilots, fashion designers, police officers, broadcasters and entrepreneurs.

A Sampling of Successful Seneca Alumni:
  • Marc Caira — former President & CEO of Tim Hortons Inc.
  • Hon. Alvin Curling — former MPP Scarborough North, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Ambassador to the Dominican Republic
  • Armand La Barge — Chief of York Regional Police (retired)
  • Vivienne Poy — Senator
  • Philip Sparks — Fashion Designer

Building Through the Years

The Seneca of today was a long time coming. When the College first opened its doors in 1967, classes were offered at a number of sites including a former Woolworth store and a renovated factory.

Ground was turned in 1968 to create Seneca’s first permanent location on Finch Avenue East at Highway 404. The modest building grew in phases over the years and is today named after our founding president William Newnham.

At the same time, Seneca created its Buttonville Campus to house its aviation program. Since then, the College’s fleet has grown to include a total of 19 planes (single and twin engine), as well as simulators that allow students to gain experience in single engine planes and multi-crew jet aircrafts.

The 700-acre King Campus, the former estate owned by the Eaton Family, followed in 1971.

Recent Years

Many other locations have housed Seneca programs but the next major expansion happened in 1999 with the opening of the [email protected] Campus, the first college campus to be located on the grounds of a university.

In 2005, Seneca opened its Markham Campus. A former 10-storey office building, this unique campus is located in Markham’s business district, home to the head offices of many multinational and national businesses.

Seneca also has smaller campuses in Newmarket, Yorkgate and Vaughan offering community-based services.

In 2011, Newnham Campus celebrated the opening of the environmentally friendly A+ Building, providing a new entrance to the building and additional classrooms, study and meeting areas.

Students of the Bachelor of Aviation Technology program began classes at the Peterborough Aviaton Campus in January 2014. The new campus was created after the owners of the Buttonville Airport, where Seneca’s aviation program had been based for more than 40 years, announced their intent to close the airport. The new state-of-the-art campus is located at the Peterborough Municipal Airport.

The Future

King Campus was awarded provincial funding to revitalize the campus by modernizing current facilities and building more space for students while expanding programming in health and community services, pathways and natural environment and sustainability. The $100+ million project to expand infrastructure at the Campus is made possible through a partnership with the Ontario government, Seneca Student Federation and the Student Athletic Association. Construction has already started on the 200,000 square foot Magna Hall, named in recognition of the $3-million donation to the Campaign for King Campus made by Magna International. It will feature 25 classrooms, labs, a library, a student centre, gymnasium and fitness facilities and provide space for 1,500 additional students.

At Newnham Campus, Seneca has broken ground on the Centre for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CITE).

CITE, financially supported by the federal and provincial governments, will bring applied research and commercialization, specialized training and both student and business-led entrepreneurial activities under one roof.

It will include classrooms, labs and a presentation gallery that incorporates indigenous design. There will also be space and entrepreneurial supports to help small-to-medium-size enterprises from North Toronto and York Region build their innovation capacity through access to the facility’s maker spaces, labs, equipment and research expertise.

Construction has also started, on a new multi-purpose artificial turf field and seasonal dome at Newnham Campus. It will serve both recreation and varsity programs, Seneca Summer Camps and the community through space rentals. It was made possible by funding from the Student Athletic Association and through the support of the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program.

With campuses across the Greater Toronto Area, Seneca offers degrees, diplomas and certificates renowned for their quality and respected by employers. Combining the highest academic standards with practical, hands-on learning, expert teaching faculty and the latest technology ensures Seneca graduates are career-ready.

Newnham College - History

Illuminating Newnham College’s rich history

Haberdashery was commissioned by Newnham College the iconic institution at the heart of Cambridge University. ’Arc of history’ sits in the heart of the new buildings created by Walters & Cohen Architects for the women’s college, floating above the students in the Iris café and recreation area.

We were given access to a fantastic archive of letters, photographs and personal correspondence from throughout the pioneering history of this famous college. By recreating details from key documents across 270 etched and rolled brass ‘pages’ positioned in flowing arcs across the ceiling space, we invite the audience below to contemplate those who have gone before them.

Brilliant minds like Rosalind Franklin a chemist and x-ray crystallographer recognised posthumously for her significant contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA, classicist Jane Harrison who uncovered the more subtle-layers beneath the ancient Greek civilisation paving the way for Mary Beard, and Philippa Fawcett who came top of her year’s mathematical exams at Cambridge but could not be officially recognised by her male counterparts are stories that deserve to be celebrated.

Each historical document was carefully selected, digitised and converted into textured illustrations photo-etched on to brass sheets, each carefully rolled to give them a perception of delicate movement.

By perforating the designs on each unique brass sheet of ‘paper’ the light from overhead skylights pierces the sculpture creating patterns of light and shadow, giving a unique interpretation of an aesthetic first used by Japanese artist Hokusai in his woodcut ‘Travellers Caught in a Sudden breeze at Ejiri’ (c.1832).

Arc of History · Newnham College, Cambridge

Illuminating Newnham College’s rich history

Haberdashery was commissioned by Newnham College the iconic institution at the heart of Cambridge University. ’Arc of history’ sits in the heart of the new buildings created by Walters & Cohen Architects for the women’s college, floating above the students in the Iris café and recreation area.

We were given access to a fantastic archive of letters, photographs and personal correspondence from throughout the pioneering history of this famous college. By recreating details from key documents across 270 etched and rolled brass ‘pages’ positioned in flowing arcs across the ceiling space, we invite the audience below to contemplate those who have gone before them.

Brilliant minds like Rosalind Franklin a chemist and x-ray crystallographer recognised posthumously for her significant contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA, classicist Jane Harrison who uncovered the more subtle-layers beneath the ancient Greek civilisation paving the way for Mary Beard, and Philippa Fawcett who came top of her year’s mathematical exams at Cambridge but could not be officially recognised by her male counterparts are stories that deserve to be celebrated.

Each historical document was carefully selected, digitised and converted into textured illustrations photo-etched on to brass sheets, each carefully rolled to give them a perception of delicate movement.

By perforating the designs on each unique brass sheet of ‘paper’ the light from overhead skylights pierces the sculpture creating patterns of light and shadow, giving a unique interpretation of an aesthetic first used by Japanese artist Hokusai in his woodcut ‘Travellers Caught in a Sudden breeze at Ejiri’ (c.1832).


The early part of the eighties was full of events for the women students of Newnham and their supporters. In these years they obtained (1) a fixed legal constitution (2) a second hall of residence, and other much needed buildings (3) gradual increase of facilities for study, especially in the opening of Cambridge College lectures to women (4) more important still, a large measure of University recognition, and (5) greater opportunities of educational and social work for past students. These several lines of progress may here be taken in order, except the fifth, which I reserve for the next chapter.

(1) It has been mentioned that when the necessity arose of increasing accommodation for women students, an amalgamation was in 1879 discussed of the Association for the Higher Education of Women in Cambridge with the Newnham Hall Company. The Memorandum and Articles of Association were drawn up before long, and Newnham College came [34] into existence and was registered in the spring of 1880. The constitution was not entirely according to the character of an Academic institution, being under the financial control of the Board of Trade. There was a provision that no profits should accrue to members of the College in the legal sense of the word members, though members might receive remuneration for work done for the College. The Ordinary Members consisted of the first promoters of the College, with large subscribers to its funds afterwards Associate Members (helpers and benefactors, not to be confounded with the present Associates) and Honorary Members, mostly teachers and helpers of the students. The government rested with a Council, to be elected at a general meeting of Members of the College, four going out annually in rotation, but re-eligible. The executive officers were to be a President, Vice-President, and Secretary. The President and the Principal were to be ex officio members. There was as yet no systematic representation of quasi-graduate students, but the resident lecturers were as a rule entitled to vote as ordinary or as honorary members.

We shall see later on in what respects this Memorandum of Association came to be regarded as inadequate. In point of fact, it marked progress in stability, and worked very well for many years. The Council generally consisted of persons [35] enthusiastically devoted to the interests of the College, and many of them able, by their experience on educational bodies or by their social influence, to assist in its development along the best lines.

(2) Materially, the great event of 1880-81 was the completion and opening of the second Hall of Residence, the North Hall, as it was called, the name South Hall being given to the earlier Newnham Hall. The ground on which it was built was on the other side of a narrow road. In the daytime, when gates could be kept open, passage from one Hall to the other was easy, but at night, for privacy's sake, it was necessary that they should be closed. This, of course, was a check to late evening parties for cocoa, chat, or dancing, among the students belonging to separate Halls, and the concession of one open evening a week hardly met the difficulty. There seemed to be a danger lest Hall feeling might endanger devotion to the College as a whole, and one might expect that the fact of the Principal residing in the older building and only a Vice-Principal in the newer might seem to imply some kind of inferiority. Any danger of the kind was avoided by an act of generous devotion on the part of two promoters of the College which could hardly have been foretold.

The great services of Dr. Sidgwick to the incipient College have been alluded to, though they are far [36] too wide and various to be severally recorded. [6] His wife, formerly Miss Eleanor Balfour, had for some years been a very able treasurer and member of council. She had given a scholarship to Newnham in Mathematics, her own chief subject of study at that time. They lived a quiet, scholarly, but sociable life in their house at Hillside, at the beginning of the Chesterton Road. At this moment, when anyone of less standing in the University and the world generally could hardly have met the emergency, Mrs. Sidgwick agreed to come and preside in the new Hall, with the title of Vice-Principal, and Mr. Sidgwick came to live there also, thus giving up his privacy and the company of most of his books. The arrangement was the more successful in that Miss Gladstone also took up residence in the North Hall as her secretary. The name of Gladstone brought distinction with it. Miss Helen Gladstone had resided as a student of English and Political Economy for one year with the Sidgwicks and for two years in Newnham Hall, and was deservedly popular both with the students and in the University world outside. Students who entered the College, [37] and were taken into the new Hall, cherished ever after the memory of these two years as a halcyon time&mdashin which they enjoyed listening to good talk and associating with interesting persons more than during any other period of their lives. At the end of two years, Miss Gladstone became Vice-Principal, resident in the North Hall, a post which she held for many years, and in which her well-known geniality, cheerfulness, and whole-hearted devotion to her task and to the students under her care found abundant scope and recognition.

It was under the same roof as the North Hall that the much needed lecture rooms were raised. There were at first three. Later when a large number of small rooms for private teaching were made in the Pfeiffer Building, two of the lecture rooms proper were knocked into one, thereby giving the College one room large enough to accommodate (if desks were removed) about a hundred people. It was chiefly by pressure from Miss Gladstone that an infirmary or hospital was built, adjoining the North Hall, but with its separate entrance. This has often proved useful in checking the spread of infectious ailments among the students or the servants. A chemical laboratory had already been erected in the garden at a respectful distance from the original Hall. Its equipment was mainly the task of Miss Penelope Lawrence, afterwards headmistress of Roedean School, Brighton. A laboratory [38] for the study of Biological subjects was provided in the town in 1884, a disused Congregational chapel being adapted to the purpose. Mrs. Sidgwick and her sister, Miss Alice Balfour, were the principal donors, and the laboratory was appropriately named after their brother, Francis Maitland Balfour, whose promising and already distinguished career had been cut short by an accident in the Alps. For many years, these two laboratories formed the training ground of a large number of students, who did much to supply the demand for improved science teaching in schools and colleges for girls. In the Chemical Laboratory Miss Freund and in the Balfour Laboratory Miss Greenwood (now Mrs. Bidder) and Miss Saunders presided for many years, carrying on both teaching and research. (Both Miss Freund and Mrs. Bidder were former students of Girton.) In course of time, the opening of the University laboratories to women students rendered these buildings less necessary, and they are at present let for University purposes.

With the increase in the number of students, further buildings became necessary. The South Hall (formerly Newnham Hall) had been designed with a view to possible extension, and in 1882, a west wing was built, containing rooms for about twelve more students. The ground floor of this building was devoted to a well-planned Library, at that time a great desideratum. The equipment of the [39] College as to books had originally been scanty. Perhaps the need of books was, for a time, not altogether to be deplored, as the early generation of students realized the necessity of procuring their own books or of inducing generous friends to assist them in that direction and many gave books as a parting present to the College. A moderate-sized common-room in the Old Hall (since divided into two rooms for students) was the first library, but was soon outgrown. But when something larger was required, the new Library (now the Reading Room of the Old Hall) both served its purpose till the books again outran the accommodation, and afforded a delightful morning room for study, as well as space for occasional social parties.

(3) During the late 'seventies and the early 'eighties, women students were informally admitted to privileges which greatly facilitated their work, and in particular many College lectures were opened to them. Their own lectures&mdashbefore the building of Sidgwick Hall&mdashwere given in the rooms belonging to the Young Men's Christian Association, near the old Post Office, a central but somewhat noisy situation. The larger rooms in this building were of good size and convenient, but the class-rooms were less so, and to many students their first introduction to Greek Tragedy or to English Law will always be associated with the striking of a hammer on the blacksmith's anvil. The new lecture rooms at [40] Newnham had not this drawback. The professorial lectures were generally given in rooms now absorbed in the University Library. In some, women were allowed to come into the gallery, where their presence was not easily discerned. But meantime, as already mentioned, some of the Colleges were ready to accept suggestions as to admitting women to the Inter-collegiate Lectures. The first of the Colleges to admit women to lectures in its own hall was Christ's. In the summer term of 1876, eight students of Newnham College (some working at classics, others at history) were admitted to a course of lectures on the Punic Wars given by Mr. (now Professor) J. S. Reid in the temporary dining-hall of Christ's. Great efforts were made to meet the somewhat exacting demands&mdashin those days&mdashof social propriety. Thus these students were obliged always to be chaperoned by a responsible lady, and as Miss Clough had in the early days few colleagues to lighten her responsibilities, the task usually fell on her. Needless to say, she never represented this as a grievance, though the lectures were three times a week, the hour inconvenient, and the weather generally wet. She was only too glad to help in a new departure, and, as she said (with reminiscences of her brother and Dr. Arnold), she always found Roman History interesting.

King's was the next College to admit women. Trinity not till a little later. It may be noticed, [41] without any disparagement of the lecturers who obtained these concessions, that in the case of those already lecturing to women according to the previous arrangements, it was more convenient to have seats assigned to the women in the College lecture rooms or halls than to give the same lecture to their men pupils in College in the morning and to the women in a room belonging to the Young Men's Christian Association, or even in Newnham College, in the afternoon. Nevertheless Newnham owes gratitude to the Lecturers and to the Fellows of Colleges who showed, in many cases, both zeal and courtesy in meeting the women students' needs. With regard to the undergraduates, it may be remarked that though at first some showed a curious amazement mixed with bashfulness at their strange visitors, they soon accustomed themselves to the change, and showed almost always a spirit of courtesy and good sense. As more accommodation came to be provided by the University&mdashirrespective of College distinctions&mdashin the New Divinity Schools and the New Lecture Rooms, access to lectures became easier for women, as for other non-members of the University.

Another great advantage which the students obtained in these years was permission to read in the University Library. They could not be admitted without referees, such as were demanded from non-university persons, but the Principal was [42] always accepted as one referee, so that the student candidate had to find one only. Fees&mdashvery moderate&mdashwere paid by the College when a student had been specially advised to read in the Library. Formal admission was granted for the morning only, but a student who for any special reason wished to read in the afternoon as well could easily obtain permission.

Another privilege gradually obtained without any special effort was that of being examined in the Inter-collegiate Examinations popularly called Mays. As all Cambridge men and women know, examinations of students in their first and second years are held in most subjects at the end of the summer term, to test their knowledge and power of expressing it. These are not directly under any University board, but are given by the lecturers on the subjects they have been teaching, in various Colleges, during the past year. The "Mays," in spite of drawbacks, have often been of great value, in giving confidence to industrious but despondent students, and in warning those whose progress was unsatisfactory. The fact of having been through a certain course, examined on the subject, and marked with the undergraduates, emphasised the fact to the women students, the undergraduates, and the world at large, that the work done at Newnham and Girton was really of University standing.

(4) All these steps led towards what was necessary [43] in order that the work of the College should be solid and permanent&mdashthe recognition by the University of the existence of women students and women of what I have called quasi-graduate status. It may be said&mdashit was said, and still is said when further demands are made&mdashthat women had the real thing, why trouble about the artificial trappings? Women could become well-educated, even learned those who had studied at Cambridge were the better esteemed in educational circles, and they were free from many tiresome responsibilities that weigh on full members of the University. But to this was answered: that the path to good education and sound learning is still more thorny than it need be that the world, which often has to distribute educational posts and distinctions, does not care for education without a degree that the position of the women, held only by courtesy, was insecure. A scrupulous examiner might at any time decline to examine a tripos-candidate whom he was not bound to examine, and any University lecturer might refuse to allow women at his lectures. At the same time, women who "brushed the flounce of all the sciences," and flitted about like bees for intellectual honey, might easily pose as University women and bring real students into disrepute. Finally: if there were duties as well as privileges exacted from the children of Alma Mater, women would hardly be found unwilling to accept them.

Matters came to a crisis at the end of the year 1880. In the winter 1879-1880 (the triposes came, then, at various periods of the year), Newnham and Girton obtained first classes in three triposes, the most conspicuous case being that of Miss C. A. Scott of Girton, who in the Mathematical Tripos had obtained (by the usual informal examination) a place equal to that of the eighth wrangler. These successes seemed to give a reductio ad absurdum to the common arguments about the inferiority of the "female mind," to set the mark of success on the methods followed at both Colleges, and to suggest the inexpediency&mdashif not injustice&mdashof withholding from women the title which should give them status and improve their prospects in the academic world. It may be mentioned that, in 1878, London University had obtained a supplement to its Charter empowering it to admit women to its degrees, a step which marked both a recognition of the claims of educated women and an abandonment of London's first tentative measures in providing examinations for women. It had for some time admitted women to a "General Examination," closely resembling the Matriculation, but allowing more option as to subjects. This might be followed by examinations for certificates of Higher Proficiency, which could be taken, without further fee, with the General, or in any subsequent year. It was a very useful examination for girls who had left school and in [45] continuing their studies at home wished to take up one subject or another, together or at intervals, according to convenience. The weak points were that the syllabus did not sufficiently correspond to the men's to give any guarantee as to standard demanded and attained&mdashand far worse: that there was nothing progressive about the "Special" examinations, there being only one examination held in each subject. When the degree examinations were thrown open, a good many Cambridge women took the London B.A. or M.A. after their triposes in order to have some title to present to the academic world. But&mdashas London degrees examinations were then arranged&mdashsuch work generally involved the consumption of much time on other than specially chosen lines on the part of any Cambridge Tripos student. The fact that it was desired and achieved gave proof&mdashif fresh proof were needed&mdashof the actual market value to educated women of the letters denoting a certain standard of mental equipment. London University was then, it may be added, a University only in name. The teaching tested in its examinations had been obtained by solitary students reading privately, by residents in various provincial Colleges, and by members of those Colleges in London&mdashUniversity, King's, Bedford, and Westfield, which were ready to take their place as Colleges of an actual teaching as well as degree-granting University&mdashas London became in [46] 1900. The provincial Universities (Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, etc.) all admitted women to their degrees early, if not at their first opening.

But to return to Cambridge. The movement of 1880 was taken up in various quarters, notably in the North of England. Petitions were drawn up and sent to the Senate of the University praying for degrees for women. That originated by Mr. and Mrs. Aldis of Newcastle declared: "That the present plan of informal examination is unsatisfactory, and that consequently the undersigned persons interested in the Higher Education of Women pray the Senate of the University to give women the right of admission to the degree examination and to degrees." Three other memorials were presented. The Executive Committee of Girton College, after pointing to the satisfactory results of several years' experience, desired the University to "take their case (that of the Students) into serious consideration, with a view to their formal admission to the B.A. degree." This was, of course, different from the Newcastle petition in being of the nature of a compromise, since it did not ask for the M.A. which would have involved a share in the government of the University. A similar half-way measure had previously been adopted with regard to Nonconformists, to whom the B.A. had been allowed some time before they were admitted to the M.A.

The third petition is that which specially interests us in the history of Newnham College, as it was that of the Lectures Committee, out of which&mdashas already related&mdashNewnham College took its beginning. This document, like that of Girton, appeals to the result of experience, though not to experience of exactly the same kind. It expresses a desire that a stable form may be given to the plan of instruction and examination already being carried on, and also a preference that some option should be allowed as to the Previous Examination and unwillingness (not refusal) to prepare women for the Ordinary Degree.

A fourth memorial, much to the same general purpose as the last, was signed by a hundred and twenty-three members of the University.

The result of the Memorials was that a Syndicate was appointed, a memorable discussion on its proposals held in the Art Schools, and the "Graces" drawn up to be submitted to the whole Senate. Among the staunchest supporters of the proposals were the venerable, whole-hearted helper of the cause, Prof. Benjamin Hall Kennedy, Dr. (later Bishop) Browne, Prof. Cayley, Dr. (now Prof.) H. Jackson, Prof. J. E. B. Mayor, Dr. Peile, and Mr. Coutts Trotter. These names sufficiently refute any accusation of youthful flightiness or overstrained liberalism in the character of the movement.

As the Graces have formed from that time the basis of Newnham College as an institution sanctioned by the University, and as their purport is not always clearly apprehended, it may be as well to transcribe them in full, excepting only such as relate to financial and subordinate regulations:

1. Female students who have fulfilled the conditions respecting length of residence and standing which Members of the University are required to fulfil may be admitted to the Previous Examination, and the Tripos Examinations.

2. Such residence shall be kept (a) at Girton College or (b) at Newnham College, or (c) within the precincts of the University under the regulations of one or other of these Colleges, or (d) in any similar Institution within the precincts of the University, which may be recognised hereafter by the University by Grace of the Senate.

3. Certificates of residence shall be given by the authorities of Girton College or Newnham College or other similar institution hereafter recognised by the University in the same form as that which is customary in the case of Members of the University.

4. Except as provided in Regulation 5, female students shall before admission to a Tripos Examination have passed the Previous Examination (including the Additional Subjects) or one of the examinations which excuse Members of the University from the Previous Examination.

5. Female students who have obtained an Honour Certificate in the Higher Local Examination may be admitted to a Tripos Examination, though such certificate does not cover the special portions of the Higher Local Examinations which are accepted by the University in lieu of parts or the whole of the Previous Examination provided that such students have passed in Group B (Languages) and Group C (Mathematics).

6. No female student shall be admitted to any part of any of the Examinations of the University who is not recommended for admission by the authorities of the College or other institution to which she has been admitted.

7. After each examination, a Class List of the female students who have satisfied the Examiners shall be published by the Examiners at the same time with the Class List of Members of the University, the standard for each Class and the method of arrangement in each Class being the same in the two Class Lists.

8. In each class of female students in which the names are arranged in order of merit, the place which each of such students would have occupied in the corresponding Class of Members of the University shall be indicated.

9. The Examiners for a Tripos shall be at liberty to state, if the case be so, that a female candidate shall have failed to satisfy them or has in their [50] opinion reached a standard equivalent to that required from Members of the University for the Ordinary B.A. degree.

10. To each female student who has satisfied the Examiners in a Tripos Examination, a Certificate shall be given by the University stating the conditions under which she was admitted to the examinations of the University, the Examinations in which she has satisfied the Examiner, and the Class and place in the Class, if indicated, to which she has attained, in each of such examinations.

It was further provided that these arrangements should hold, in the first instance, for five years. Rules were laid down as to the conditions under which any future Hall of residence might be recognised by the admission of its students to Triposes.

The result of the voting on the Graces was looked forward to by both sides with hope and fear. The result was a triumphant majority for the women's cause, 331 to 32. The small number who actually voted against the Graces does not, of course, imply that the number of objectors was insignificant, for, in fact, a good many opponents withdrew early as from a lost cause. From that time, Feb. 24th, 1881, counted as the great day of the College to be remembered by all succeeding generations of students, who have been annually reminded at Commemoration how well their friends had fought for them, how a special train had been run from [51] London to accommodate favourable members of Parliament, and with what joy and thankfulness the news had been received in the College and telegraphed to friends at a distance.

The cause for congratulation was very real. If things had gone otherwise, it is difficult to see what the future of women's education in England would have been. Oxford was temporarily behind Cambridge in the movement, and a set-back at Cambridge would certainly have damaged prospects in the sister University, and, in fact, throughout England. Women would have been debarred from sharing in the best that University education in England can give, and would have been cut off from the historic sources of sound learning and of moral and intellectual inspiration.

A perusal of the Graces will show that though they gave all that was immediately needed, they did not satisfy all the actual or possible desires of the promoters of women's colleges. Outsiders, as before mentioned, already wished for full membership to be granted. To many this seemed a premature project. Yet those were right who foresaw that a desire for more complete membership was certain to come by and by. In 1881 there were few, if any, of the women quasi-graduates able to take an active part in University work. Some apprenticeship, under the wing of Alma Mater, might seem at least desirable. Again, the views held by Girton, [52] that conditions of examinations such as those relating to preliminary qualifications and the Pass degree, ought from the first to have been the same for women as for members of the University, might be urged with some force. As already shown, the objection to compulsory Classics and Mathematics, even up to the standard of the Previous Examination, on the part of some of the founders and supporters of Newnham College was due, not to a preference for easier conditions, but from a fear of a detrimental effect on schools. In point of fact, so many other alternatives than those of the Previous Examination and the Higher Local are now offered that neither of these examinations is much favoured in the best schools that send girls up to the Universities. As to the Pass Degree: the suspicion with which it was regarded by the Newnham pioneers has already been noticed. The objection to it is not that it is bad in itself: many attempts have been made to render a pass course interesting and profitable to men who have not physical strength or intellectual persistency to embark on an honours curriculum, or who wish to reduce their academic duties in order to follow some social or intellectual hobbies. But there has always been the danger of demanding a very small amount of intellectual work and tolerating men who have no leaning towards academic pursuits, and to whom the University is chiefly attractive [53] by reason of its scope for athletics and for genial life in comradeship. There was as yet, and it is to be hoped there will be permanently, no place in the women's colleges for the society woman without intellectual aspirations. Such an element would have been difficult to deal with, and would not have been successful from any point of view. True, Newnham never wished to discourage either students of discursive mind and original ideas and plans, or those who&mdashthrough defective early education or delicate health&mdashshrunk from a tripos course. In fact, some students whose presence and work in the College have proved eminently beneficial to themselves and to Newnham, have preferred to take a mixed course of study. For the rank and file, it is now supposed that the numerous triposes afford sufficient choice. If, at the end of her second year, a student is judged to be unable to proceed further on tripos lines, she is expected to go down, unless her studies are judged to be sufficiently serious and profitable for giving special leave to continue them. The equivalent of a pass degree is, as already stated, and as set forth in No. 9 of the Graces, only awarded to a student who has narrowly escaped failure. It may also be noticed that a failure, for a woman, leaves no chance of a second trial.

The Graces gave a real and substantial benefit to women students and&mdashindirectly&mdashto those who had [54] been, informally, through a tripos course at Newnham. These latter did not obtain University recognition of any sort, but their names and tripos places were recorded in the Girton and Newnham Calendars, and this served as evidence of their standing to the educational world. When Trinity College, Dublin, for a few years (as will be hereafter related) granted an ad eundem B.A. or M.A. to Oxford and Cambridge women who had taken final honours examinations, those who had done so previous to the Graces (as will be hereafter noticed) [7] were admitted with the others. For some reason, those who many years later drew up the Representation of the People Act of 1918 felt obliged to draw the line more strictly and to limit the vote to those women who had obtained the equivalent of a degree since 1881.

There were no heart-burnings caused by the comparatively narrow range of the privileges given by the Graces, partly because it was always felt that more would come quietly as time and occasion should dictate. The resident staff, as such, obtained no recognition. No woman could sit on a board of studies, nor lecture formally in an academic building. Privately, the opinion of Newnham lecturers was sometimes asked on a question as to curricula, and women of distinction occasionally lectured and sometimes drew large audiences, while&mdashin course [55] of time&mdashsome undergraduates were advised by their tutors to seek admission to the lectures of a Newnham specialist. For some years there was no ground for formal extensions of privilege. And it was believed, and was to be proved again afterwards, that in the situation in which Newnham found itself, it was unwise to demand privileges that were not almost certain to be granted.

In fact, the crowning triumph of the Graces marks the success of the policy of Miss Clough, Dr. and Mrs. Sidgwick, Miss Kennedy, and the other founders of the College: a policy of winning great things by not standing out for lesser ones, of pertinacity in following a large if at first vague programme, and of conciliation and "sweet reasonableness" towards those who looked askance on the whole movement. It must be observed that all the Founders were deeply imbued with love and reverence for the University, and that the students were brought up to regard it as almost an Alma Mater&mdashat any rate, as a noble and worthy corporation, to which they owed a deep debt for its past doings, and for what it had always stood for in the nation and in the world, a debt increased by the privilege granted to them of living within its precincts and learning wisdom from its most distinguished sons. There was no "battering at the gates." The pioneers of the Women's Colleges, so far from tolerating any notion that the University [56] would suffer from granting their requests, would have felt it a thing worth much labour and many struggles if they could in any way add to the great repute and dignity which Cambridge had, among Universities, enjoyed from far-back times.


The early hamlet of Newnham was situated on the west bank of the River Flit, [ dubious – discuss ] on an island of permanently dry land. The surrounding land was liable to flooding, particularly during the winter months. A permanent cut of the river leads to the Newnham watermill, which predated the Norman conquest of 1066, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The hamlet was linked to the town of Cambridge by a series of small bridges and fords over the various channels of the River Cam. A road led to the nearby village of Grantchester.

In 1256, the Carmelite order of monks established a convent in Newnham, with a church, cloister, dormitory and other buildings. Over the next 50 years, the order gradually moved from a contemplative tradition to more interactive religious practices. This, along with the fact that the convent was frequently cut off from Cambridge by winter flooding, led the order to move to Cambridge in 1292.

In the late 19th century, after the enclosure of the Cambridge fields, Newnham Croft was constructed – a middle-class suburb located partly within the Cambridge town boundary, and partly within the parish of Grantchester. In 1870, a church was built to serve the growing community. Initially, St Mark's Church on Barton Road (A603) was a daughter church to the parish of Grantchester. Newnham Croft was incorporated into the borough of Cambridge in 1911 Newnham was created as a separate parish in 1918. It is served by Newnham Croft Primary School.

From 1885, Sir George Darwin (son of Charles Darwin) lived in Newnham Grange (built in 1793), where he raised his children (including Sir Charles Darwin and Gwen Raverat). After the death of Sir Charles, son of Sir George, the building was acquired by the newly founded Darwin College.


The parish church, called St Michael and all Angels, [3] is a former chapel of a parent church at Badby. The benefice has always been Badby-cum-Newnham, with the vicarage of Badby. As the church is perched high on a bank, the churchyard descends steeply east and south. The chancel, the north aisle and the present nave were built in the early 14th century, on the site of a 12th-century chapel. The western tower was built in the late 14th or early 15th century abutting the west wall and standing on three open arches. The tower has contained six bells since 1660. They were rehung on a new iron frame by John Taylor & Co in 1940.

On the green is the Romer Arms, a public house which was originally called the Bakers Arms. It was bought by a man named Romer Williams, who was a hunting man and a lawyer by profession. He renamed it the Romer Arms and it is his family coat of arms that is depicted on the sign. Translated, the Latin inscription on the coat of arms is, 'To do and to suffer is the better way for the Roman'. This is also "Maria's Kitchen" a Portuguese restaurant.

The village had another public house called the New Inn which is now a private residence. This former pub, cafe and hand-pumped petrol station, was on School Hill. A former proprietor, a Mr Howard, displayed a notice that read

You can have tea at teatime — you can have beer at beer time — you can have petrol at any time.

Newnham Hall dates from 1820 and is set in 120 acres (49 ha) of Northamptonshire Parkland. Newnham Hall was the home of the former Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire, Lieutenant Colonel John Walkelyne Chandos-Pole OBE, who died in 1993.

Another fine residence is The Grove. Located in the grounds of The Grove, which was owned by the Marriott Family, is the Nuttery which is the site of a hazel orchard. The Nuttery was planted by the Marriotts of Newnham House. Hazel nuts are still picked, sorted in the house and then sent to Covent Garden. Daffodils and snowdrops grow underneath the trees and are picked in the spring for market. The orchard is open to the public.

Newnham was the home of Thomas Randolph, a lesser-known 17th century poet. He was born, 15 June 1605, in Newnham at the brown stone gabled house in Poets Way. He was a poet and dramatist as well as a writer of English and Latin verse. He was an author of six plays including The Jovial Philosopher (1630) The Jealous Lovers (1632) The Muses' Looking-Glass (1638), and Amyntas (1638). It was recorded that Randolph was one of Ben Jonson’s cleverest disciples. Pleasant anecdotes are recorded of their relationship and one of Randolph's best poems is his, Gratulatory. Thomas Randolph died in 1634 at the age of 29.

Nigel Lawson Edit

The former Chancellor of the Exchequer of Margaret Thatcher, Nigel Lawson lived close to the village for some years. On 1 July 1992 he was created a life peer as Baron Lawson of Blaby, of Newnham in the County of Northamptonshire. Lawson is the father of journalist and food writer Nigella Lawson, Dominic Lawson, the former editor of The Sunday Telegraph and Tom Lawson, housemaster of Chernocke House at Winchester College.

At the summit of Newnham Hill near the edge of Beggars Bank is the village's most complete and prominent reminder of the rural industries. It is believed that a windmill has stood at this location as far back as 1661, when it was first recorded in an inventory of the then miller, John Bignell. The current building dates back to the early 19th century and was three floors high. The building was in a state of disrepair until the 1980s when a group was formed to repair and reconstruct the damaged building. Keys can be obtained to view the windmill by appointment through Daventry Tourist Information Centre.

Newnham College - History

Part 3 of the author's "Archival resources relating to the higher education of women in England"


Recommended Reading: Girton College

Bradbrook, M.D. 'That Infidel Place': a short history of Girton College, 1869-1969, with an essay on the collegiate university in the modern world . London: Chatto and Windus, 1969.

Jones, Emily E.C. Girton College . London: A. & C. Black, 1913.

Megson, B. and J. Lindsay. Girton College, 1869-1959: an informal history . Cambridge, England: W. Heffer & sons. Paper, 69 pp.

Stephen, Barbara N. Emily Davies and Girton College . Westport, Conn.: Hyperion Press, 1976. Reprint of the 1927 ed. published by Constable, London.

Stephen, Barbara N. Girton College, 1869-1932 . Cambridge, England: University Press, 1933.

Recommended Reading: Newnham College

Newnham College Register 1871-1971 . . Cambridge, England: Newnham College. In three volumes. Vol. I: 1871-1923. Cambridge, England: Newnham College, 1979. Vol. II: 1924-1950. Cambridge, England: Newnham College, [1981]. Vol. III: 1951-1970. Cambridge, England: Newnham College, 1990.

Newnham College Roll Letter . . [Published annually by Newnham College]. Novak, Tanya M. "Women's education: connections between America and Cambridge 1874-1914." Unpublished dissertation in the Newnham College Archives, May 1990. History Honors, Part II, 73 pp.

Phillips, Ann, ed. A Newnham anthology . Cambridge, England: Newnham College, 1979. Second edition, 1988.

Lucy Cavendish College

Bertram, C. Kate. Lucy Cavendish College Cambridge: a history of the early years . Somerset, Great Britain: Hillman Printers (Frome) Ltd., c1989 C.K. Bertram. Available in hard cover and paper.

Lucy Cavendish College: annual report and newsletter . [Published annually by Lucy Cavendish College.]

he emergence of women in Cambridge's long history begins in the 1860s with two events: the opening of the Cambridge Local Examinations to women in 1863, and Emily Davies's founding of a college for women at Cambridge, which opened first at nearby Hitchin (1869), and moved closer to the center of Cambridge in 1869, to the present campus in Girton, from which the college also takes its name. In 1871, Henry Sidgwick - differing from Miss Davies on many specifics, but convinced of the importance of educating women - opened a residence for women in Cambridge, which in 1875 relocated to Newnham Hall as Newnham College. Although women entered Cambridge lecture halls slightly earlier than those at Oxford, Oxford was the first of the two to admit women to degrees and full status in 1921, 26 years before Cambridge followed suit in 1947.

My expectation that women at Cambridge could be documented simply by surveying the records available at Girton and Newnham turned out to be mistaken. At the scene, I discovered a broader picture, and in a sense "another" Cambridge, dating from the years following World War II. Two additional colleges emerge in this broader context, both founded as women's colleges and both remaining so: New Hall (founded 1954) and Lucy Cavendish College, which began as a Dining Society in 1950, and passed through society and foundation status to become a college in 1986. Girton, indisputably the senior institution for women in Cambridge and arguably in England, has admitted men since 1977. Newnham remains committed to single-sex education, bringing the number of colleges for women at Cambridge to three.

Girton College

s. Kate Perry administers the Girton College Archives on a close to full-time basis, and reports directly to the Librarian. In the pattern that has emerged elsewhere, administrative records are clearly within the jurisdiction of the Archivist, while the responsibility for student records rests with the Secretary of the College, with access initiated by the Archivist. In its development within the administrative structure, and in the role of the archivist, Girton had the familiar feel of an American academic archives. Researchers are accommodated in office space that serves as an archives reading room, and initial access is accomplished through the Location Shelf List which identifies material located in a series of "bays", "cupboards" and numbered shelves. From this starting point, the researcher is led to detailed inventories which are shelved with specific collections and which function most efficiently to extend access, readily and effectively, to a wealth of detail about collection contents.

[Emily Davies Court] Girton College, . University of Cambridge. c. 1890-1900. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Girton: Administrative Records: These are comprehensive and offer insights into the establishment of Girton prior to its actual founding, since Executive Committee minutes start in 1867. Although the first volume of minutes is missing, volumes II through XXIII (1871 through Oct. 1924) are all indexed. Index books also exist for 1924-1928, although my admittedly cursory examination failed to turn up Executive Committee (after 1910, Council) minutes books to match. There is, however, no dearth of minutes of other administrative entities to span the years to the late 1980s. Unusual times seem to have called forth unusual minutes, such as those for the Air Warden's Committee (1931-1942). A joint Girton/Newnham committee of 1919-1921 suggests that Oxford's capitulation on the question of admitting women to full status by awarding degrees at that time may have precipitated some discussion at Cambridge, although the decision to follow suit was delayed for 25 years.

Girton: Student and Alumnae Records: The Secretary's Office retains control of student records, but the picture of how old Girtonians occupied themselves as students and how they have pursued their lives as alumnae is also sharp and clear in such archival records as examination papers (dates and topics, from 1871) records of clubs and societies (1880s to 1940s) The Raven. "published by past and present Girtonians" (which dealt in 1922 with, among other things, Russian Famine Relief) and in Registers (published in 1946 and updated in 1969) which offer a wealth of demographic data, especially in the 1946 edition, not only about students but teaching/administrative staff and research fellows as well. At the time of my visit, two shelves contained essays and theses by students, as well as poems, songs, and parodies reflecting a number of aspects of student life.

The richness of Girton's holdings of personal papers was recognized in part by the project which filmed the papers of Emily Davies, founder of Girton, and the diaries of Constance Maynard, a significant figure not only at Girton but also the founder of Westfield College (Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, where her papers are available on microfilm at the College Library. See Women at the University of London, preceding). Collections of personal papers accessible by name of individual remain a significant part of Girton's archives, as are subject collections ranging from suffrage material (1909-1913, with a 2-page inventory) through records of the Working Women's Summer School (1945-1947), to "Women in the University" (1960s).

Collections are augmented by files of clippings, and by an indexed collection of photographs. Among the colleges I visited, only the archives at Girton and at St. Hilda's College at Oxford listed oral histories in their collections. The Girton oral histories consist of . interviews, conducted with . by. in [span of years?]

Fifteen years after the decision to admit men, Girton seems strongly aware of its origins as an institution for the higher education of women, an awareness absent at the University of London with the exception of Royal Holloway and Bedford New College. At RHBNC as at Girton, archives exist in richness and variety, and receive broad-based administrative support. It will be interesting to see, in the years ahead, whether these factors will serve to preserve the voices of the founders of institutions whose mission has changed significantly in this century, and enhance the likelihood that origins so documented and so supported remain visible in the emerging and evolving institution.

Newnham College

r. van Houts, a medievalist, is a Faculty Fellow at Newnham. She had been archivist for approximately 18 months at the time of my visit, devoting approximately six hours weekly during term to archives duties, expanding that if and as time allows during the rest of the year. She worked previously on an oral history project with Kate Perry, Girton Archivist, some of whose approaches she is incorporating into her work with the records of Newnham.

Newnham College, Cambridge designed designed by Basil Champneys

The Archives is growing administratively closer to the Library, and occupies space provided recently within new space acquired by the Library. The Arts Faculty has traditionally supported the archives function at Newnham, and the College Council continues to allot funds for limited archives staffing, and for the appropriate development of new space. Researchers are provided with access to collections through a 48-page printout, "Shelflist Contents Newnham Archives", compiled by Anne Phillips during the Summer of 1991 and updated by Dr. van Houts following the move to current quarters in1992. The typed shelflist was completed less than three months before my visit. Researchers select materials from this shelflist, and use them, three items at a time, in the reading room of the Newnham Library, immediately adjacent to the Archives.

As at Girton and elsewhere, the archivist may initiate access to student/alumnae records, which are retained by another office - in this case, the Rolls Office, similar in many respects to an American college alumnae association. These records are officially closed for 50 years (from date of generation? after graduation?), but staff will, as time permits, attempt to allow access to less sensitive materials for specific projects.

Newnham: Administrative Records: Material identified by the title "Association for the Higher Education of Women 1855-1895" predates the opening of Newnham in 1871. Interestingly, however, there do not seem to be ledgers or minutes clearly identified as those of the governing board, council, or its equivalent and dating from the established date of founding. The 19th and early 20th centuries are well represented in the minute books and notebooks brought together as the Newnham Hall Company records, and these are supplemented as well by financial and fund-raising records covering the century from 1879-1979, by "lectures" records from the 1880s on, especially those relating to "science students and lecturers", 1896-1904, and by General Committee Minute Books and Library Committee Minute Books from 1880 and 1882, respectively.

Newnham: Student Records: Issues of student life seem well represented in Newnham's archives, in a wide range of records of societies ranging from the Debating Society (1878-1904) to the Newnham College Boat Club Records (1918-1950), succeeded by records of the Cambridge University Women's Boat Club (1955-1960). The major issues of the post -World War II years resonate more forcefully here than elsewhere, although that could simply be a reflection of titles and terminology, and I could easily have missed similar materials elsewhere which are less clearly named. The papers of R.L. Cohen, Principal 1954-1972 document student unrest of the 1960s/70s in files titled "sit-in of 1969", "women student quotas", "mixed colleges. 1972", et al. The controversy about degrees for women pulses across the years, in materials dated 1897, 1918, and ca. 1934.

Post World War II: New Hall, Lucy Cavendish College

New Hall and Lucy Cavendish are quite dissimilar, and I group them in this section for two reasons only: neither has a college archives as such at the moment, and both may in the near future be part of a very interesting plan to consolidate the archives of five post-World War II colleges at Cambridge - their own, as well as those of Fizwilliam, Churchill, and Robinson Colleges.

New Hall

hen I was at New Hall, Angela Heap was on leave, and I spoke with Miss Sarah Newman, Miss Heap's predecessor, who had come back as Acting Librarian in Miss Heap's absence. It was Miss Newman who first informed me about the concern for archives of the five colleges which has led to discussions about how, in a period of tight funding, they might pool resources. All is in early stages as yet, perhaps not beyond considering an archival consultant to assist with planning. Timing has been partly determined by a fund-raising campaign for a new building (for which college? all colleges? . ) in which hopefully space could be incorporated for the consolidation of archives of the five institutions. The physical space problem would be thus addressed, leaving administrative problems to be faced jointly and for each institution. At New Hall, which has a tradition of full-time librarianship, the Library appears at this time to be the administrative unit involved in the planning process, although I did not raise this for confirmation during my interview with Miss Newman.

Miss Newman figures largely in the materials which have been collected and listed as "Archives Accessions and useful books" - a list which is available to researchers. Miss A.R. Murray, who was President of New Hall at the time, completed a history of the institution in 1979, which acknowledges the use of "papers" given to New Hall by the New Hall Association and its predecessor, the Third Foundation Association. It seems a safe assumption that these are regarded as the nucleus of New Hall's archives. (NOTE: The progression from founding as an association, through approval as a foundation, to acceptance as a college by the University is not one I will attempt to describe here, although understanding it is basic to the understanding of the origins and evolution of both New Hall (founded 1954, granted collegiate status 1972) and Lucy Cavendish (founded 1965, granted collegiate status 1986). There are full explanations in the histories of Lucy Cavendish and New Hall, written by C. Kate Bertram and A.R. Murray, respectively, which are helpful guides for one attempting to relate them to the American system - a relationship which, at least for me, was often so difficult it establish that it seemed, in many respects, not to exist at all.

Lucy Cavendish College

t Lucy Cavendish as at New Hall, materials used for the published history of the college are regarded as the foundation for a future archives. In addition, the College owns correspondence and diaries of Lucy Cavendish (b. 1841), the noblewoman for whom the College is named, and whose diaries especially mirror the issues of her time relating to education, politics, and the like. At present, access to them is provided by Dr. Renfrew of the Tutorial Office. Unlike New Hall, however, where the archives seems to be conceptualized as an administrative unit within or reporting to the Library, at Lucy Cavendish, it seemed at the time of my visit more likely to evolve under the responsibility of the Office of the President. Dr. Marie Lawrence, a Governing Board Fellow and assistant to the President, represents Lucy Cavendish in discussions regarding a consolidated archives.

Rear view of College House, Lucy Cavendish College . University of Cambridge. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

The Newnham College Mendelians

Jasmine Charles shows the history of genetics in a new light, populated by women like Edith Saunders and Florence Durham of Newnham College, Cambridge.

Friday May 22 2020, 10:35am

The names that, for most, are synonymous with genetics itself include Gregor Mendel, William Bateson, Reginald Punnet, James Watson and Francis Crick. As with much of science history, it’s not hard to notice the common masculine theme. The fact that many of these names were Cambridge men was proudly noted on the front cover of my Genetics handout, but with half the attendees being female, the overarching male theme that would continue for another 5 lectures was tiresome and a let down to us all. Little did we first year scientists know that genetic research (indeed, the origin of the word “genetics” itself) not only took root in Cambridge but in the gardens of Newnham College with its apparently unremarkable female Natural Sciences graduates.

The overlooked nature of the accomplishment of women across all subjects is not a surprise given their historical position in society. The idea of women in science made men so uneasy that the first female scientists to sit the Natural Sciences Tripos at the University were required to attend lectures without men, were refused the rights to work in male-run laboratories or to gain a degree (the rejection of Degrees for women in 1897) despite often outperforming their male counterparts in Tripos examinations. This hostile environment meant William Bateson’s plea for accomplices in the research of genetics was the perfect opportunity for women to carry out postgraduate study.

Bateson was researching the internal mechanisms of variation (a subject not entirely welcomed by the traditionalist views of the University) by undertaking hybridisation experiments, requiring assistance in the field that male co-workers did not appreciate. Edith Saunders, a well-established Newnham botanist, formed a partnership with Bateson. She investigated whether hairy or smooth leaves in Biscutella laevigata were inherited discontinuously or, over generations, tended towards a mean mixed phenotype, thus leading the way for Bateson’s butterfly cross breeding experiments.

“This makeshift nature of the Newnham Mendelians highlights the sidelining of women in science and the misattribution of the field of genetics to solely male scientists.”

Both sets of results returned inconclusive and no explanation could be found for this until the rediscovery of Mendel, who provided them with his tools of statistical analysis. This inspired the pair to expand their hybridisation experiments and primarily recruit Newnham students to help. Saunders went on to validate Mendel’s results by repeating his experiments with Atropa and Datura, publishing her results in reports to the Evolution Committee of the Royal Society (1902) and introducing terms like allelomorph (now ‘allele’), homozygote and heterozygote.

Saunders is not the only female geneticist deserving of appreciation, of course. The sheer number of women working with huge variety in genetics is pointed out by Beatrice Bateson:

“Besides the work in our garden and barns, enthusiastic pupils had begun to experiment. Miss E. R. Saunders continued the plant-breeding… Miss Sollas reared guinea-pigs in a field behind Newnham College Miss Killby goats. Miss Wheldale worked on flower-colours in Antirrhinum…Miss Durham hybridised mice in a kind of attic over the Museum.”

This makeshift nature of the Newnham Mendelians highlights the sidelining of women in science and the misattribution of the field of genetics to solely male scientists. With the perseverance of any truly dedicated scientists, they were willing to persist with lack of funding and backing by the University.

Two experiments by Newnham Mendelians stand out the most. Saunders, through her experiments with Matthiola, was able to explain the heredity of the linked characteristics of flower colour and hoariness of leaves by suggesting the “surface character is dependent on flower colour… [in a] system of inter-relationships”. This discovery was lauded by plant geneticist Erwin Baur with Bateson regarding her as his “colleague” and “a name so deservedly honoured tonight” at the 1906 International Conference of Genetics. Using Saunders’ inter-relationships, Florence Durham explored the dominant relationships present in determining coat colour of mice, concluding that a 3-gene combination produced various coat colours, though the presence of a fourth governed whether or not coat colour is expressed at all, thus introducing the theory of epistasis (the interaction of two nonallelic genes where one masks the phenotypic expression of the other), now foundational in evolutionary genetics.

As a woman in science, Newnham has given me newfound confidence

I wish I could conclude that this outstanding contribution of Newnhamites to the development of genetics elevated their eligibility as scientists. Unfortunately, in 1908, Bateson left Cambridge, taking with him all the support and encouragement of female education. His departure was soon followed by the closure of the only female laboratory in Cambridge and the failure of a second Degrees for Women campaign in 1921 (only to be successful in 1947). The sad truth was that these women worked in a highly misogynistic environment in which only some, like Saunders, recognised for their work in collaboration with a male mentor and never in their own right ironically, like a recessive allele overshadowed by the dominant

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