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The Lawrence Room

Our very own museum collection – an outstanding resource for both teaching and research

In response to the impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and so as to protect the health and wellbeing of our visitors, staff and community, we have made the decision to close the Lawrence Room from today, Wednesday 18 March 2020, until further notice.

Girton’s Museum Collection – the Lawrence Room

Since its foundation, Girton has acquired a wide range of important artefacts and antiquities, often from its benefactors and supporters. Many of these were brought together early in the twentieth century in a small museum, later named the Lawrence Room in memory of Amy Lilian Lawrence (1891 Natural Sciences).

Below are a selection of artefacts and antiquities from the museum. From L–R (first row): Hermione, first century AD Roman portrait mummy; Shabtis (second row): Tanagra figurines; Map of large Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Girton College

Open Cambridge 2020


The Lawrence Room collection comprises three major elements

In 1881, an extraordinary discovery was made at Girton – a large Anglo-Saxon cemetery. Excavations revealed more than 70 skeletons along with well over 100 cinerary urns.

These were filled with cremation ash and the burnt fragments of personal possessions dating from the fifth and sixth centuries AD.

Discovered simultaneously were two second-century Roman graves indicating that the site may have been occupied almost continuously from the Roman into the Anglo-Saxon period.

The Lawrence Room contains pieces from the excavations including a handsome Roman stone lion.

Our Egyptian collection includes predynastic pottery, and significant collections of shabtis, scarabs, beads, and amulets.

The undoubted star of the show is Hermione – a first century AD Roman portrait mummy. The beauty of Hermione’s portrait and the intricate pattern of her linen wrappings make her remarkable.

The inscription Hermionê Grammatikê (‘Hermione the language teacher’ or ‘Hermione the literary lady’) makes her unique, and her resting place apt.

Our Mediterranean material offers a cross-section of the Classical and pre-Classical worlds of interest to scholars and students alike.

This includes an impressive collection of Tanagra figurines – small, mould-cast terracotta statues of humans, animals and birds – dating to the fourth and third centuries BC.


Opening Times

The Collection is currently closed until further notice. 




For Schools

If you would like to visit the Lawrence Room as part of a school group, please make an appointment to arrange curation and practical details by emailing the Lawrence Room Committee.

Please feel free to adapt the following resources:



Humanities Writing Competition

2020-21 Competition

This annual competition is an opportunity for students to research and write beyond the curriculum, using one or more of the Lawrence Room museum objects, as their focus. Essays or creative responses (such as dramatic monologues or short stories) are equally welcome. We are looking for the ability to connect different areas of knowledge, to think about details and to communicate clearly.

Open to: Students in Year 12 (or equivalent) who have an interest in the Humanities. 

Prizes: Up to £200 cash and £200-worth of books from Cambridge University Press, the latter to be shared between the winning entrant/s and their school/s. The prize fund may be divided between winning entrants.

Deadline for entries: 5pm on Thursday 1st April 2021

Contact information:

T: +44 (0)1223 338910

First prize:

Polly Shorrock of Hereford Cathedral School for her essay ‘Death of the Koroplast: Identification and Meanings of a Tanagra Figurine’. 

The judge commented: Very strong essay, clever, teeming with ideas, well argued, clearly structured, with impressive secondary readings and nice illustrations — not far from a proper scholarly paper.

Joint second prize:

Isabel Minty of Camden School for Girls for her essay ‘Identification of a Greek Terracotta Woman and the World that Surrounded Her’.

Crisp argument, original ideas … everything demonstrates a very solid background knowledge


Nora Besley of Parliament Hill School for her essay ‘Exploring the Significance of the Greek Brown Figure of a Stag’.

Very solid essay, informative, well illustrated, well written … demonstrates independent research … a clever use of comparative mythology.


Highly commended:

Susanna Freudenheim of Godolphin and Latimer School for her essay ‘The Enduring Power of a Vulnerable Woman: Interpretations of Sirens in Literature and Art’. Interestingly compares classical mythology and art with modern literature: a model of how to ‘bring together different strands of knowledge’.

Cal Gorvy of Eton College for his essay ‘Who, What, Why, How – an Exploration of Music and the Art of Collecting’. This was a bold interpretation of the Egyptian bull horn, containing some intriguing detective work.

Unfortunately, due to the closure of the college during the coronavirus epidemic, it was impossible to hold the usual award ceremony in April or to send the winners their prizes. Notification and certificates were sent in the post and the winners were directed to the Cambridge University Press website to select their book prizes. It is hoped that the cash prizes will be distributed as soon as possible.

Girton is grateful to Cambridge University Press and Miss C. Anne Wilson for their kind sponsorship of the competition.

There was a strong field of entrants to the 2020 competition, with a high proportion of entrants pushing their research in original directions well beyond the school curriculum. The enthusiasm often leapt off the page and a good number were polished and professionally referenced. The Tanagra ‘Siren’ figurine from Greece inspired many of the best entries, closely followed by the mysterious bull’s horn which may be a musical instrument from ancient Egypt.

Once again, the factual essays were of a higher standard on average than the creative writing. It is a difficult task to enter imaginatively and convincingly into a world of the remote past, without overwriting or anti-climax, but the best creative entries did manage this to a certain extent.

As a group, the entries gave food for thought and enhanced our appreciation of the educational and human value of Girton’s museum collection. We hope that entering the competition has been an equally positive experience for candidates and schools.

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