Surprise Benefactions

As Girton grew, it also gained attention in the wider world, bringing donations from those outside the initial community.

Miss Jane Gamble was an American brought up in London by her aunt and uncle. After their deaths in 1851 and now an heiress, she travelled to Italy pursued by the American novelist and adventurer Henry Wikoff. In Genoa he tried to abduct her and shut her up in a palace – fortunately she escaped, and he was convicted of her abduction and imprisoned there. Her bequest came as a complete surprise to Girton.

Miss Jane Gamble

Miss Gamble left her residuary estate of £19,000 to Girton in 1876, and was the first donor of this magnitude to Girton. The bulk of the money was used to purchase seventeen acres of land, bringing the property up to the junction of the Girton and Huntingdon roads, and allowing for a large extension of the buildings. She also gave 400 volumes to the library as well as sculpture, manuscripts of her own plays, and the romantic portrait of herself seen above.


Early Benefactors: Lady Stanley and Madame Bodichon

altWhen the initial idea of a College for women was decided upon, it was a novel and surprising idea. Emily Davies hoped to raise £30,000 – and initial donations were sought. The largest such by far was £1,000 given by Madame Bodichon, and formed half of the total raised in this first fundraising campaign! Madame Bodichon's donation showed faith in the scheme becoming a reality – an ambition beyond most people's imagination at that time.

In reality, the initial buildings at Girton were largely funded by a loan, with an intention to extend the facilities as student numbers grew and a design by Waterhouse that allowed for this to be done seamlessly. Then as now, this expansion was only possible due to the support of individual benefactors. 

Madame Bodichon and Lady Stanley of Alderley were involved in Girton from the beginning, and along with Miss Davies, formed the first Building Committee.

In 1876 when eighteen students' rooms and three lecture rooms were added, Lady Stanley gave £600 with which to build the first laboratory. In 1880 she gave money to build the lodge at the front gate of Girton.

In 1884 the Orchard Wing was added, the first library and the Mistress's rooms were built, the dining hall and accommodation for servants were enlarged, and the pond was made. Of the cost of over £12,000 Madame Bodichon gave £5,000, subject to a payment of £250 per annum to be made to her during her life. Madame Bodichon died in 1891 and left a legacy of £10,000 to the College.


Lady Stanley of Alderley

The First Library at Girton

Lady Stanley gave £1,000 towards the cost of the first library at Girton – "the library which we have so long and so urgently needed" as a student wrote in the Girton Review. The library was built in 1884 fifteen years after the College began. After her death in 1895, the library was renamed the Stanley Library, the name it still bears today.   

The Stanley Library was particularly important to Girton because students had no access to libraries beyond the College. It not only provided a place for the College's collections, but a comfortable reading room; in addition to the beautiful stained glass, plain panes were also incorporated to ensure a good light for reading. Early donations of books came from George Eliot, John Stuart Mill, Tennyson, and Ruskin. Today the Stanley Library is largely unchanged and provides a beautiful setting for weddings and other gatherings.