News & Events

Girtonians feature in New Year’s Honours List 2018

It gives us great pleasure to congratulate our alumnae on receiving recognition in the New Year's Honours List as follows:

Professor Pratibha Gai (1970), was a research student in Physics at Girton College. She is a Professor and Chair of Electron Microscopy at the University of York and has been appointed a Dame (DBE) for services to Chemical Sciences and Technology.

Dr Suzy Lishman (1986), read Medical Sciences at Girton College. She is a Consultant Histopathologist at the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust and has been awarded a CBE for services to Pathology.

Professor Pippa Tyrell (1975), read Medical Sciences at Girton College. She is a Professor and Consultant, Stroke Medicine, at the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Manchester and has been awarded an MBE for services to Stroke Medicine and Care.

For more information, please visit: New Year's Honours list 2018


Published: 16 January 2018


*To update us on your news, please contact the Development Office, email: JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING , or tel.: 01223 766672.


Book now: Girton College’s 57th Founders’ Memorial Lecture – Friday 16 February


We are pleased to announce Hisham Matar, a Libyan Author who was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in ‘Biography or Autobiography’ for his recent memoir The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in between will be speaking at Girton College’s 57th Founders’ Memorial Lecture on Friday 16 February 2018, about his Life and Work.

Academics, students and the wider public audience are invited to Girton College for what promises to be a stimulating evening. The event is free but with limited spaces available, please reserve your place before attending.

RSVP by email: JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING or, tel.: 01223 (3)38951

Doors open at 5:45pm for 6:00pm

Location: Stanley Library, Girton College

Hisham Matar is a Libyan Author, born in New York City, brought up in Tripoli and Cairo, and has spent most of his life in England, now residing in both Britain and America. He was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in ‘Biography or Autobiography’ for a memoir The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between.

His two novels also embrace the political and personal dimensions of repression, abduction and exile. The first, In The Country of Men, set in Tripoli in 1979, was short-listed for the 2006 Man Booker Prize. The second, The Anatomy of a Disappearance, partly written as a Visiting Fellow at Girton, was one of the best books of 2011 for The Independent, Chicago Tribune and many others.

An astute political commentator on Libyan affairs, a disarming interpreter of love and loss, The Guardian’s Rachel Cooke[1] observes: ‘Matar has a reserve that only makes his way with intimacy all the more moving’. Her colleague, Lisa Appignanesi[2], describes Hisham as a ‘brilliant observer of the inner world’ [who] ‘writes about the intricacies of love in the family like no-one else’.

The Founders’ Memorial Lecture, established in 1928, celebrates the values that underpinned the Foundation of Girton College: equality and inclusion, excellence in diversity, radical thinking and an ethic of care.

Published: 10 January 2018


Glimpses of Girton: Christmas in Girton College Library's Gamble Collection

The Gamble Collection is one of the Library’s Special Collections. At its core are the books that were donated to the College as part of a generous  bequest by Jane Catherine Gamble in 1885. She had no official connection to Girton but her name will be familiar to many Girtonians from the fireplace that now stands in front of the Porter’s Lodge, and bears the inscription: ‘the fund for the erection of this portion of the building was provided by the munificence of Jane Catherine Gamble.’ She is also remembered by the Gamble Prize, which was set up in 1888 and continues to be awarded to students every year [1] and will feature shortly in a “Glimpses of Girton” article in her own right.

The books that she left the College provide a fascinating insight into the types of everyday books read by a woman in the late nineteenth century. But the Gamble Collection has blossomed over the years with additions of books from many donors and on many subjects – including Christmas!

One example is a beautiful edition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in Prose with illustrations by Harold Copping (1863-1932), which was published around the year 1920 [2]. It contains a series of colour and black-and-white pictures which bring the story to life and was part of the bequest of Dr Jean Lindsay (McLachlan, 1929), Fellow of Girton 1946-1960, over a century after Jane Catherine Gamble’s.

Title page Title page
Ebenezer Scrooge, facing page 154

Illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge, facing page 154

Illustration of Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge, page 169 Illustration of Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge, page 169

There are several editions of Aunt Judy’s Christmas, a special annual issue of Aunt Judy’s magazine for children, published monthly between 1866 and 1885.  The Gamble collection includes several volumes spanning the years 1868 to 1881, all donated in 1948 by Miss M.A.B. Attlee, the sister of the then Prime Minister and a friend of former Girton student and Fellow, Mary Clover (Girton, 1898). The volume for 1874 [3], edited by Mrs. A. Gatty (London, 1874) includes this lovely picture of a Christmas dinner by W. H. Petherick, illustrating Alfred Scott Gatty’s story, ‘A Christmas dinner: an extravaganza in three scenes’.

IllustrationI Illustration from Aunt Judy's Christmas Volume for 1874

Peter Parley’s Annual for 1865: a Christmas and New Year's Present for Young People, published by Darton and Clark in London in 1865, is also now part of the Gamble Collection [4], although it was for a while housed in the Stanley Library.  It is filled with stories and illustrations, described in a review in The Spectator in 1864 as ‘a pleasant volume profusely illustrated with wood-cuts and coloured prints, showy if not very refined.’ [5] The wood-cuts are in fact rather exquisite and rich with detail, showing the world as seen by a child in the nineteenth century.

Title page Title page
Illustration of the month of December Illustration of the month of December

Published: 18 December 2017



[1] Susan Bain, ‘Tower Wing and Jane Catherine Gamble’, Girton College Annual Review (2009), p. 28

[2] Gamble collection 826.1 D55

[3] Gamble collection 829.96 G22

[4] Gamble collection 826 P44

[5] ‘Review of Peter Parley's Annual for 1865: a Christmas and New Year's Present for Young People’ in The Spectator (26 November 1864), p. 23-4, available online on The Spectator Archive at: (accessed December 2017).




5 Girton students selected for the 2017 Varsity matches at Twickenham


Congratulations to Chris Bell (no 9; History, 2016), Tamsin Banner (no 3; VetMed, 2012) and Alice Elgar (no 4; VetMed, 2015), as well as replacements Jacqueline Bramley (no 19; VetMed, 2013) and Rebecca Graves (no 22; NatSci, 2014), who have been selected to play in the Varsity Matches for the Men’s and Women’s Cambridge Rugby squads at Twickenham, on Thursday 7 December!


The Women’s match kicks off at 11:30 am and the Men’s match kicks off at 3.00 pm. You can still purchase tickets online here:


If you are unable to support the light blues at Twickenham, you can watch it live on BBC TWO from 14:45, or online here:


For more information, visit:


Published: 29 November 2017

Glimpses of Girton: P D James

Phyllis Dorothy James, later Baroness James of Holland Park, but better known as the writer, P D James, was an Honorary Fellow of Girton (2000). Born in Oxford in 1920, her Cambridge connection began at the age of eleven when the family moved there and she attended the Cambridge and County High School for Girls.

The College Archive houses over 60 boxes of her personal papers, including manuscripts of much of her work, research notes, lectures, articles and correspondence. Transferred to the Archive from various sources over an extended period, the cataloguing of these papers has been a major project this year and the catalogue is now available online on Janus here.


Photo caption: Page from the ‘Cambridge and County Girls’ High School Magazine’, 1936, showing Phyllis James listed among the competition winners, along with the opening of her winning story ‘Luve-Ni Wai (Blue Wings)’ (archive reference: GCPP James 2/1/1).

P D James had known from childhood that she wanted to be a writer: indeed, her first literary success was to win a competition at school with a short story entitled ‘ 'Luve-Ni Wai' (Blue Wings)’, published in the school magazine in 1936. She did not, however, begin writing in earnest until she was in her mid-thirties. Her working life had begun in a tax office in Ely, followed by NHS administrative work in London from 1948-68 (her first novel, ‘Cover her Face’, was published during this period, in 1962). She then entered the Home Office as a Principal: her eleven years in the Civil Service included work in the forensic and criminal justice departments. She retired in 1979 to become a full-time writer.

Her output was prolific. She wrote fourteen crime novels featuring the detective Adam Dalgliesh, two featuring the private detective Cordelia Gray, and three further novels. She also published non-fiction: ‘The Maul and the Pear Tree’ (1971, with T A Critchley, a historical reconstruction of the Ratcliffe Highway murders); ‘Time to be in Earnest’ (Faber 1999), which she described as ‘a fragment of autobiography’ and which includes childhood memories and her reflections on life and literature; and ‘Talking About Detective Fiction’ (2009), a personal look at the history of the genre. She also wrote short stories and a play entitled ‘A Private Treason’.


Photo caption: Page from P D James’ lecture notes on crime writing, circa 1972 (archive reference: GCPP James 3/1/1).

P D James lectured widely and produced scores of reviews, forewords, introductions and articles. Many of her lectures and articles were on crime writing, but she also wrote and talked about religious subjects, the preservation of the English language and other subjects of interest to her. Some of her work was adapted for film and television: Adam Dalgliesh was portrayed by Roy Marsden and Martin Shaw on ITV and the BBC respectively; her futuristic dystopian novel, ‘The Children of Men’, was made into a feature film of the same name in 2006; and in 2013, ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’, her sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, was dramatised for television.


Photo caption: Page from a typescript draft of ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’, 2011 (archive reference: GCPP James 2/4/3/1).

P D James' connections with Cambridge and East Anglia were strong. As well as attending school in Cambridge, she was elected an Associate Fellow of Downing College in 1986 and she became an Honorary Fellow of Girton College in 2000. She had a house in Suffolk and East Anglia was the setting for a number of her novels.

She was an active member of a number of literary societies and learned bodies. In particular she was President of the Society of Authors and a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Arts and the Royal Society of Literature. Elected a Life Peer in 1991, she served actively in the House of Lords.  She also served as a Governor of the BBC from 1988 to 1993 and was an active participant in a number of BBC programmes: while guest editing Radio 4’s Today Programme in December 2009 she conducted a no-holds-barred interview with the then Director-General of the corporation, interrogating him over some of the issues at its heart, such as discrimination against older female presenters.

P D James continued writing into her nineties. She died in Oxford on 27 November 2014.


Published: 23 November 2017

Modern Languages Taster Day - 18 October 2017

Girton College’s Modern Languages Taster Day ran for its third consecutive year on Wednesday 18 October 2017. The day is hosted in collaboration with the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, with the aim of introducing Year 10 and 11 students to the study of modern languages at university level. Almost eighty students from as far afield as South Wales and North Yorkshire travelled to Cambridge for a day of interactive sessions and workshops designed to promote the benefits, personally, academically, and professionally, of engaging in language study.


The day commenced with a talk by Amanda Norman from the Cambridge University Careers Service who spoke about the ways that studying languages increase employability in a competitive job market. Girton languages Fellows Dr Stuart Davis and Dr Claudia Domenici then followed on from this and spoke to our visiting students about the structure of the languages courses available at Cambridge University. Of particular interest to our visiting students was the ‘Year Abroad’ element of both the Modern and Medieval Languages course and the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course. We had the good fortune of having present two fourth year Cambridge languages students who had just returned from their respective time living abroad in Italy and Russia, as well as one of Girton College’s own Erasmus students living his year abroad in Cambridge. The session successfully conveyed the wide range of opportunities a year abroad offers.

After a short break to stock up on tea and biscuits the students headed off to a cultural workshop of their choice, giving them an option to learn about the art and propaganda of the Spanish Civil War, be introduced to Linguistics through the Italian language, or explore the great literary works of the German and French languages. These sessions provided a fantastic opportunity to experience the breadth of study involved in a languages degree course.


Over lunch, our visiting students had the chance to get to know each other and speak with current Girton students about their experiences of living and studying in Cambridge. They then attended a language workshop in either French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, or Chinese. Whilst some students opted to develop a language they were already studying, many chose to get a taster of a language from scratch. Students who attended the Chinese and Russian language sessions were introduced to whole new alphabets, with the Chinese language group exploring the origins of Chinese characters and the Russian language group getting an introduction to the Cyrillic script.


The last session of the day gave advice to the visiting students on their A Level choices and gave more of an insight into what studying at a Russell Group university offers. Girton Student Ambassadors from a variety of subjects were on hand to answer questions on societies, student life and their futureplans.

The Modern Languages Taster Day was a great success with many students enthusiastically talking about what they had learnt during their taster sessions. The feedback from the day revealed that more attendees were committed to studying a language at both A Level and university level after having participated in the Taster Day.

Many thanks to all the staff and student ambassadors who took part in the day, and to the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages for helping to fund this event. Please check back on the Girton College website in Summer 2018 when we will announce the details for next year’s event.


For more information, please visit:


Published: 31 October 2017

Glimpses of Girton: The Travels of the Power Sisters

The travels of Eileen, Rhoda and Beryl Power took them across the globe, leaving a fascinating trail of records that are now held in Girton Archive.  


The Archive holds small collections of personal papers for Eileen, Rhoda and Beryl, the daughters of Philip Le Poer Power and Mabel Clegg.  It is clear that even in childhood the sisters travelled abroad, as shown by  a photograph album taken during a family trip to Davos Platz in Switzerland in 1898.  The album shows the sisters on holiday with their maternal aunts, who raised them after the death of their mother. The photographs show skaters, sleighs and snowy landscapes (archive reference: GCPP Power, E 1/1).

The careers of the sisters enabled each to travel throughout their lives. Eileen and Beryl came to Girton in 1907 and 1910 respectively. Eileen became one of the foremost medievalists of her day, holding fellowships at Girton, King’s College London, and the London School of Economics. Beryl spent a distinguished career in the Civil Service, which she joined in 1915. Rhoda studied at St Andrews University from 1911 to 1913, before embarking on a career as an author and, later, a researcher and writer for the BBC.


Photograph caption:

Photograph of Eileen, Rhoda and Beryl Power as children on a trip to Davos Platz with their aunts in circa 1898, taken by an unknown photographer (archive reference: GCPP Power, E 1/1).


Eileen Power (1889-1940)

altAfter leaving Girton, Eileen went to France to study at the University of Paris and the École des Chartes. The Archive holds several of her letters from this time, wittily relating her experiences there. In 1920-1921, Eileen became the first female recipient of the Albert Kahn Travelling Fellowship, enabling her to travel throughout India, China, Burma and Indonesia. Eileen’s report on her travels was delivered to the Albert Kahn Fellowship’s Trustees in 1921 (archive reference: GCPP Power, E 3/7).


Eileen’s report and the letters she wrote to various friends during her travels provide an insight into how British travellers and scholars of this period viewed other countries, as well as recording her own experiences. A photograph shows her during the year of her Albert Kahn Travelling Fellowship (archive reference: GCPH 6/2/18/3).


For the catalogue of Eileen Power’s personal papers (archive reference: GCPP Power, E) see:


Photograph caption:

Photograph of Eileen Power, aged twenty-six, taken in 1915 by an unknown photographer (archive reference: GCPH 6/2/18/8).


Rhoda Power (1890-1957)

altIn January 1917, Rhoda Power travelled by train and ferry to Rostov-on-Don, near the Sea of Azov, to look after Maroosa, a businessman’s daughter. Rhoda kept diaries during her time in Russia, providing a personal account of the Revolution in 1917 and 1918 (archive reference: GCPP Power, R 1/1-2). Rostov, a Cossack town, came under siege by Bolshevik forces and Rhoda documents the face of growing chaos. She eventually fled across Russia, escaping on one of the last boats back across the North Sea. Her vivid and often humorous diary entries formed a basis for her book published in 1919, Under Cossack and Bolshevik.

After the Second World War, Rhoda travelled extensively in South and North America. She sent letters about her journey back to the UK for circulation among her friends. These are interspersed with snippets of historical knowledge and observations on the customs and politics of the countries she visited. The result is a vivid snapshot of a time and a place (archive reference: GCPP Power, R 2/1-3).

For the catalogue of Rhoda Power’s personal papers (archive reference: GCPP Power, R) see:


Photograph caption:

Photograph of Rhoda Power, aged twenty-seven, taken by Dorothy Hickling in 1927 (archive reference: GCPP Power, E 1/1).


Beryl Power (1891-1984)


Beryl Power’s career in the Civil Service allowed her to travel: firstly, as the recipient of a Laura Spelman Rockefeller memorial fellowship in 1925, to the USA to study the working conditions for women and children (archive reference: GCPP Power, B 2/1), then, in 1929, Beryl was appointed a member of the Royal Commission on Labour in India. She compiled scrapbooks of newspaper cuttings, papers, and photographs of her travels (archive reference: GCPP Power, B 2/2/1).

At the end of her appointment, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later British Petroleum) asked her to review working conditions in its oil fields in Persia (now Iran). A hand-annotated 1930 map held in the Archive shows 'good motor roads, roads suitable for light motor vehicles, caravan routes, and places of importance' across a part of Persia through which Beryl journeyed on her visit to the oil fields of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (archive reference: GCPP Power, B 2/5). Beryl’s journey through Burma (now Myanmar), Palestine, and modern-day Iran was recounted in typed letters intended for circulation among her friends back in England. These vividly describe her experiences and have been pasted into bound volumes, which also contain many of her photographs (archive reference: GCPP Power, B 2/4).

Beryl’s final great journey in the late 1940s was a return to India, Ceylon and Burma as part of the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East.

For the catalogue of Beryl Power’s personal papers (archive reference: GCPP Power, B) see:


Photograph caption:

Photograph of Beryl Power during her time working for the Royal Commission on Labour in India, circa 1929-31, taken by an unknown photographer (archive reference: GCPP Power, B 2/3).


Published: 03 October 2017


Glimpses of Girton: Robert Wood's books on Palmyra and Baalbek

The exact date of Robert Wood's birth is unknown (either 1716 or 1717, working backwards from the information that he was a third-year student at the University of Glasgow in 1732) but 2017 marks roughly the 300th anniversary. A classical scholar and tutor, in 1750-1751 he was part of a small group who toured the Near East. They visited both Palmyra and Baalbek in March 1751, measuring and drawing plans of the ancient buildings and recorded the inscriptions. Robert Wood's diaries of the expedition are held in the Joint Library of the Hellenic and Roman Societies, in London: see

Today, Palmyra and Baalbek are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and also household names due to the devastation wreaked at Palmyra by Islamic State (ISIS) but in the eighteenth century, the two cities were largely unknown except to scholars.  Little wonder, then, that the two books written by Wood following the expedition – The ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tedmor in the desart (1753) and The ruins of Balbec, otherwise Heliopolis in Coelosyria (1757) – were hugely popular and helped influence the neo-classical style in Britain.

Girton is fortunate to have a first edition of each book, donated in April 1939 by Lorna Johnson as part of a collection that included a 1539 edition of Petrarch. She had read Classics here in 1900-1903 and it is perhaps no surprise that she is described as "a generous benefactor of the Library". Both books are now part of the Rare Books Collection, one of the Library's special collections.

The first edition of Palmyra is recorded in the English Short Title Catalogue in two issues, distinguished by the errata page and form of the date on the title-page, with one issue giving the date in Roman numerals and the other using Arabic numerals. Ours is an unusual but not unique combination of both, with the date on the title-page in Roman numerals but containing the errata of the issue that used Arabic numerals on the title-page.


However, the first thing the reader really notices about the two books is their size; they are literally an armful. The catalogue record gives the height of each as 54 cm (librarians traditionally round up the height of books to the nearest whole centimetre), which belies their true enormity. As shown here by Palmyra, opening the book requires table space at least 75 cm wide and spreading open the plans can require up to 154 cm – not far off the height of the Librarian!


The second is the deceptive nature of the title pages. Here is Balbec's comparatively sparse title page:


Yet within the pages are glorious images such as these (not shown here to scale):



The neo-classical appeal can clearly be seen but perhaps what comes through more strongly to us today is the poignancy of what were then romantic ruins, as shown below by Palmyra, but have now lost that romance.



Published: 26 October 2017

Dr Christine McKie (née Kelsey) (1931-2017)

The Mistress, Fellows and Scholars are saddened to hear that Life Fellow, Dr Christine McKie, passed away on 23 August 2017 aged 86. Her death is a great loss to Girton as she was a greatly admired and respected member of the College.

In 1949, Christine came to Girton to read Natural Sciences and was awarded a postgraduate research studentship from 1953-1956 which enabled her to work on the structure of tobermorite in the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology. After 21 months’ post-doctoral research in Canada, she returned to Girton first as a Hertha Ayrton Bye-Fellow from 1956-57, then as a Research Fellow and College Lecturer, becoming an Official Fellow in 1963. She also held many College offices: Tutor (1963-69), Director of Studies in Physical Sciences (1968-98), Praelector (1968-73), Vice-Mistress (1987-96) and Registrar of the Roll (1989-93); she also served on numerous College committees. After her retirement in 1998 she became a Life Fellow of the College.

Christine was a University Demonstrator in the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology from 1958-63 becoming a University Lecturer in 1963, firstly in the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology and then, from 1980 until her retirement, in the Department of Earth Sciences. She published under her maiden name mainly in her field of mineralogical crystallography. She served on various University committees and was an Additional Pro-Proctor in the University from 1969-71 and 1973-74.

In 1968 she married fellow mineralogist the late Dr Duncan McKie, Fellow of Jesus College. She is particularly well-known for the book she wrote with him called ‘Crystalline Solids’. This book, familiarly known as ‘McKie and McKie’, remains one of the recommended texts for undergraduate courses in crystallography at Cambridge and elsewhere.

Alongside her academic work, her other passions – shared with Duncan – were gardening, birdwatching and walking and hiking in the Scottish Highlands.

Christine McKie will be remembered as a remarkable scholar, and an inspiring mentor. She was a superb source of advice and encouragement for all her students and colleagues both in Girton and in her department. Further details will follow on how Girton will mark her passing and pay tribute to her life.


Published: 13 September 2017

Swirles Court, Girton College – The Official Opening


On Saturday 14 October, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Stephen J Toope, and the Mistress of Girton College, Professor Susan J Smith, opened Swirles Court.

Girton, known for its pioneering spirit, is the first Cambridge College to establish a base in Eddington.

Around 150 College members, alumni and invited guests gathered on the lawn in the heart of the purpose built graduate complex to mark the opening of Swirles Court.

A model of sustainable accommodation, with state of the art facilities, this purpose-built postgraduate-focussed complex is linked by a new network of cycle routes to Girton, West Cambridge, central Cambridge, the Sidgwick site and, with a following wind, all the way to Addenbrooke’s.

Swirles Court is named after Girton Alumna, Fellow and Benefactor, Dr Bertha Swirles (Lady Jeffreys); an influential mathematician and physicist, she is just one of seven Girton alumnae whose names are inscribed in the landscape at Eddington.

Swirles Court includes 325 en-suite rooms, fully equipped shared kitchens-living rooms, laundry facilities, secure indoor cycle storage for all residents, social and study space, allotments, and beautifully landscaped grounds.


Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Stephen J Toope said:

“I am encouraged - thrilled - that Girton is taking this pioneering step to create a College presence in Eddington.

It is a reminder that the University and the Colleges together can create something much greater than the sum of their parts.

I am certain that our continuing success will depend on partnerships of the type we are witnessing here.”


Professor Susan J. Smith, Mistress of Girton College, said:

“Who would have thought, when the first resident graduate student arrived at Girton in 1901, that she would pave the way to a 325-room purpose-built, graduate-focussed facility to enable us to deliver our part in the University's vision for the future?

We can now underline the fact that Girton is fully a graduate college… just as we are fully an undergraduate college, and a College determined to embrace the University's growing body of postdoctoral researchers, many living in Eddington.”




Swirles Court, a graduate complex at the heart of Eddington has been designed by architects R H Partnership, and is part of the University of Cambridge’s North West Cambridge Development. The first phase of the development opened in 2017 and includes 700 homes for University and College staff, 700 market homes, community facilities including the University of Cambridge Primary School, Sainsbury’s supermarket and shops, as well as parklands and sports pitches. The development will meet high levels of sustainability.


For more information, visit:


Published: 18 October 2017


About Girton

Girton College was Founded in 1869 as the first UK residential institution for the Higher Education of Women. Today, having been mixed for nearly 40 years, and with an almost 50:50 gender balance, Girton retains a commitment to inclusion and diversity, and is known for its success in widening participation.

One of the larger Cambridge Colleges overall, admitting students to almost every subject in the University, Girton is growing its graduate school. Expanding into NW Cambridge and enlarging its residential offer is part of this. Equally the College is committed to supporting the work and wellbeing of its graduate members, providing personal tutors, interdisciplinary opportunities, and help with transferable and life skills.

Girton students who reside at Swirles Court are full College members. As well as enjoying the attractions of North-west Cambridge, they have ready access to everything on offer at the main-site, including formal and cafeteria dining and (from 2018) an all-day café, bar and social hub. There are 50 acres of gardens and grounds, some of the best on-site sports facilities of any College (football, rugby, cricket, hockey, lawn tennis, squash, gym, erg-room and an indoor heated pool), fine public rooms, study space, a well-stocked library and archive, and an incomparable range of musical opportunities including a mixed voice chapel choir, and various classical and popular instrumental ensembles.


About Eddington

Eddington is a new community setting the standard in sustainable living, delivered by the University of Cambridge. This visionary urban area will provide new homes, learning spaces, amenities and green spaces, creating a vibrant environment for people to live, learn, and socialise in.

Eddington will secure the long-term success of the university by providing homes for its academic staff and students, to maintain its status as a leading academic institution on a global stage. The community is beautifully and innovatively designed, inspired by the architecture of the city and of the University of Cambridge.

 The 150-hectare site will include:

  • 1,500 homes for University and College key workers
  • 1,500 homes for sale
  • 2,000 study bedrooms for post-graduates in the collegiate University
  • 100,000 square metres of research facilities
  • A wide range of community facilities

Phase one includes:

  • 700 homes for qualifying University and College staff
  • A 325-room residential complex for post-graduates
  • 450 market homes
  • Public green space
  • Facilities including a primary school, shops, community centre, nursery and a doctor’s surgery

The University’s approval will be sought for future phases, enabled through outline planning permission.


Glimpses of Girton: Puddings and Recipes c. 1900


Girton Archive holds three menu books which provide a glimpse of life in Girton between 1896 and 1903 (archive reference: GCAR 5/3/2/4/1-3). The books were updated daily with menus for each meal served, showing that students and research staff at the College enjoyed several hearty meals every day: breakfast was always cooked and typically consisted of ham, eggs, and fish. Meat featured heavily in student diets, being served for both luncheon and dinner, and the menu books also contain lists of meat cooked each day, as well as meat currently hanging and on order. Ingredients which have gone out of fashion today, such as sago, were firm favorites, with Sago Pudding, Steamed Sago, Sago Shapes, and even Sago Soup, occurring regularly.


A page from Girton College menu book covering the period from 1896 to 1899 (archive reference: GCAR 5/3/2/4/1).

Dinner at Girton was always served with a pudding: Apple Charlotte, Cabinet Pudding, Crimean Pudding, Nottingham Pudding, Baked Tapioca, Capital Pudding, Castle Pudding, Winchester Pudding, Nottingham Pudding, and Vermicelli Pudding, among many others. Some, such as Vermicelli Pudding, still have recipes readily available. Others are less common today: for example, it is difficult to find a recipe for Crimean Pudding, even in nineteenth-century recipe books. The pudding is briefly described in a book by George Buchanan, entitled Camp Life as Seen by a Civilian, published in 1871, as an unappealing mixture of ‘boiled rice, rum and sugar’![1] Quite what Patriotic Pudding consisted of – served to Girton students in the early 1900s – is equally perplexing.


Recipe for ‘Amber Pudding’, from a cookery book dating to 1893, which belonged to Marion Greenwood (later Mrs Bidder), who came up to Girton as a student in 1879 and returned as a researcher in the 1880s (archive reference: GCPP Bidder 6).

Some puddings, such as the aptly-named Amber Pudding, sound more appetizing: a recipe for Amber Pudding survives in book owned by Marion Greenwood (later Mrs Bidder), who came to Girton as a student in 1879 and then returned as a staff member (archive reference: GCPP Bidder 6). Marion pinned a recipe for Amber Pudding – published by the Norwich School of Cookery – into her personal cookery book and annotated it: when the recipe stipulates simply candied peel and marmalade, Marion has added in her own hand ‘luscious, dry lemon and apple instead of marmalade’. This, with egg yolk, gave the pudding a warm, amber colour, and must have been a welcome sight for hungry students in the cold Cambridge winters.


Another recipe book held in Girton Archive, dating to the late nineteenth century, contains a miscellany of handwritten recipes, and gives us an idea of how the puddings served at Girton tasted (archive reference: GCRF 10/1/1). For example, it includes instructions for Cabinet Pudding, which was baked almost weekly at Girton:


‘Butter a mould thickly, stick it over with stoned raisings, line it with sponge cakes cut in halves – first soaked in sherry. Fill the mould with cold custard, tie a buttered paper and floured cloth close over and boil 1 hour. Turn out carefully and pour over cold custard.’


The menu books bring to life photographs of the pre-1900 dining hall, now known as Old Hall (archive reference: GCPH 2/7/5/1) but by the time they fell out of use in 1903, meals were being served in the current Hall, which was completed in the Lent Term of 1901.  Photographs from 1902 show what was then the new dining hall ready for use (archive reference: GCPH 2/8/1).


The Old Hall, which was built as part of the original College buildings,  served as the dining room at Girton until 1901 (archive reference: GCPH 2/7/5/1).

The menu books are also a testament to the College staff and the work that went into preparing the meals: the books are handwritten by many different people, who carefully updated and cared for them. Slips of paper containing corrections have been stuck onto pages, careful amendments made to entries, and details neatly inserted. The books also document the dinners eaten by staff: mutton, dumplings, salt beef, cutlets and sausages appear frequently, followed on most days by a pudding. Staff must have been somewhat disappointed one Thursday in March in the 1890s when they were simply served ‘Plain Pudding’! Crimea Pudding was eaten as often by staff as by students so, whatever it contained, it was clearly popular.


Girton’s College’s Dining Hall, completed in 1901. This photograph was taken in 1902 and shows the tables, including the High Table, laid for dinner (archive reference: GCPH 2/8/1).

The menu books were practical, workaday records but the care and precision with which they were kept, and the details they contain, conjure up a unique image of daily life at Girton in the years around 1900.


Published: 22 August 2017


[1]George Buchanan, Camp Life as Seen by a Civilian: a Personal Narrative (Glasgow, 1871),p. 203

For Body, Soul and Spirit - a special tapestry for Girton College by Artist in Residence 2016-17, Yelena Popova



Artist in Residence 2016-17, Yelena Popova, has donated her newest piece to the College; a tapestry produced on a digital jacquard loom.


 ‘I am very glad you like the idea of the College – people take to it so kindly that I have great hopes of seeing it done some day… It is to be as beautiful as the Assize Courts at Manchester and with gardens and grounds and everything that is good for body, soul, and spirit. I don’t think I told you how intensely we enjoyed the beauty of the Assize Courts. I have seen no modern building to be compared with it, and the delight we felt in it made one realise how much one’s happiness may be influenced by external objects.’

             From a letter from Emily Davies to Miss Anna Richardson, 25 October 1866.


The design of the tapestry is strongly connected to women’s history but also comes from Yelena’s long standing interest in industrialisation. The tapestries of William Morris provided a starting point, with their rich decorative quality, frame within a frame design, and female figures.

The design is inspired by a letter from Emily Davies in which she wrote that the College was to be ‘everything that is good for body, soul, and spirit’. The free standing figure in the centre also references the pioneering tradition of Girton, the cycles of the moon, the Cambridge eight week term, as well as the ideal proportions of the human body as propounded by Leonardo’s Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man.  The colours echo many of the colours to be found around the College, including the red of the bricks and the green of the grass.


Published: 13 October 2017

College Visitor appointed the first female president of the UK’s Supreme Court

altAs you will have seen in recent news, the College Visitor, Lady Hale, has been appointed the first female president of the UK’s Supreme Court. She will succeed Lord Neuberger and will be sworn in on 2 October 2017.


Lady Hale has pursued a varied career as an academic lawyer, Law Commissioner and Judge. She was educated at Richmond High School for Girls in Yorkshire and Girton, where she graduated in Law in 1966. She then went on to teach Law at Manchester University for 18 years, also qualifying and practising as a barrister for a while, before concentrating on her academic career. She specialised in Family and Social Welfare Law and published several books, one of which is now in its 6th edition and another about to enter its 5th.


In 1984 she became the first woman to be appointed a member of the Law Commission, a statutory body set up to promote the reform of the law. There she led the work of the family law team, which eventually resulted in some major pieces of legislation, principally the Children Act 1989 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005.


She was appointed to the High Court (Family Division) in 1994, and subsequently a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1999. She was the first woman to be appointed to the House of Lords as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 2004, and on 1 October 2009 she became one of the first Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. 


Lady Hale became an Honorary Fellow of the College in 1995, before being elected Visitor in 2004. She was also appointed Chancellor of the University of Bristol, as ceremonial head of the University in March 2004 and stepped down in December 2016. In January 2017 she was appointed Master Treasurer of The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn.


Published: 26 July 2017


Make a Difference: Girton’s lasting impact embedded in Eddington, North West Cambridge


We are delighted to announce that Girton has extended its operation to embrace Swirles Court, a purpose-built, 325 room graduate complex in Eddington, the University’s visionary £350 million urban-academic community which is a short walk from College. Read our latest press release here.

The official opening of Swirles Court will take place on Saturday 14 October, a special plaque will be unveiled by the new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Stephen J Toope. Swirles Court is named after the Girtonian mathematician Bertha Swirles, but this not the only impact the College is having on the local area geographically. A further seven Girtonians have been selected by the local community to give their names to streets, neighbourhoods, and buildings on the Eddington site as it grows. A full list can be found here.

Here is a little more information about these extraordinary Girton Alumnae:

Hertha Ayrton (Mathematics)


Photograph archive reference: GCPH 7/3/3/2

Sarah Phoebe (Hertha) Ayrton (née Marks) first came up to Girton in 1876 to study Mathematics. She later turned to Physics and made a number of important discoveries. In the late 1800s electric arcs were widely used in public lighting but the fact that they flickered and hissed was a serious problem; Hertha's remarkable investigations into the relationship between the length of the arc and the pressure in the surrounding gas and the voltage used allowed significant improvements in the design of electric arcs to be made. She also discovered the causes of, and mechanism for, the formation of sand-ripples on the seashore, and invented an anti–gas fan, of which over 100,000 were used during WWI to protect troops. In 1899 Hertha was elected to become the first woman member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and in 1906 she was awarded the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society for her work. The Hertha Ayrton Science Fellowship was founded at Girton in 1925 in her memory.

Google celebrated Hertha’s 162nd birthday on 28 April 2016 with a Google Doodle (See here).

Read more here.

Muriel Bradbrook (Mistress; English)


Photograph archive reference: gcph5-14-6pt1mbradbrookbw

Professor Muriel Bradbrook, fourteenth Mistress of Girton (1968-76), was a literary scholar and an authority on Shakespeare. In all Professor Bradbrook wrote over fifteen academic books, received numerous honorary degrees from institutions around the world and was appointed as the first female Professor in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge in 1965. In 1969 she wrote a history of Girton under the ironic title That Infidel Place.

Read more here.

Mary Cartwright (Longest-Serving Mistress; Mathematics)


Photograph archive reference: gcph5-13-3marycartwrightbw

Dame Mary Lucy Cartwright was the thirteenth Mistress of Girton. She was a renowned pure mathematician, who worked on complex function theory, and, in wartime and thereafter, on nonlinear differential equations, making contributions which led to the development of chaos theory. This subject has had many applications, from weather forecasting to the study of coffee futures. Such was her standing in the mathematical world that Dame Mary was elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1947, a mere two years after the Society was opened to women, and she became the first woman to serve on its Council. In 1949 she took up her appointment as Mistress of Girton College, a post she held until 1968, the longest tenure in the College's history.

Read more here.

Emily Davies (Founding Benefactor; Mistress)


Portrait of Emily Davies by Rudolph Lehmann, 1880. (archive reference: GCPH 11/33/53)

Emily Davies was the leading figure in the campaign to open higher education to women in Britain. It was her vision and tenacity that led to the founding of Girton College, the first residential college in the country offering women a university education. She later served as the fourth Mistress of Girton (1871-1874). Determined that women should have the same educational experience as men, Emily demanded that the women follow the same curriculum and petitioned the Senate to allow women to sit the Tripos exams officially. The Senate initially rejected her proposal (it was not until 1881 that women could officially sit the exams) but Davies insisted the women were taught the full curriculum in any case.

In addition to her role championing women’s education Miss Davies was a dedicated supporter of the women’s suffrage movement. In 1866 she was heavily involved, alongside one of the other Girton founders, Barbara Bodichon, in organising the 1866 petition to Parliament, that marked the start of the organised campaign for votes for women in Britain.

Read more here.

Joan Robinson (Honorary Fellow; Economics)


Photo credit: Joan Violet Robinson by Walter Bird, 1959

© National Portrait Gallery, London [link]

Joan Violet Robinson (née Maurice) matriculated in 1922 to read Economics. She had studied history but chose to read for the Economics Tripos at Cambridge because she wanted to understand the causes of poverty and unemployment. Her story is intricately entwined with the story of Cambridge economics in the twentieth century, taking in major changes in the way economics was thought about, executed, and taught - changes which Joan Robinson and her circle, the first generation of what may loosely be called Keynes’ pupils, were instrumental in advancing, from the 1920s until well into the post-war years. A very large part of her post-war writing was concerned with development issues. During her life Robinson sought to find, perhaps help to create, a more just and equitable society than the ones she had grown up and lived in.

Joan Robinson by GC Harcourt and Prue (Palgrave USA, 2009)

Professor Robinson is considered to be amongst the greatest economists of the twentieth century and the fact she was never awarded the Swedish National Bank's Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize in Economics, is considered one of the greatest oversights of the modern economics profession.

Read more here.

Charlotte Angas Scott (Mathematics)


Photograph archive reference: GCPH 6/2/118 1876-80

Charlotte Angas Scott matriculated in 1876 to read Mathematics. In 1880 she received special dispensation to take the Mathematical Tripos exam (women were usually not permitted do so at the time) where she came eighth overall and was the first female Wrangler (that is, she was placed in the First Class). Due to her gender, however, the title of ‘Eighth Wrangler’ was officially given to a male student.

During the ceremony to announce the Wranglers the audience shouted Charlotte’s name after the ‘Seventh Wrangler’ had been announced.

"The man read out the names and when he came to 'eighth,' before he could say the name, all the undergraduates called out 'Scott of Girton,' and cheered tremendously, shouting her name over and over again with tremendous cheers and waving of hats."

— contemporary report,"Charlotte Angas Scott (1858–1931)" in Women of Mathematics: A Biobibliographic Sourcebook

Charlotte’s success together with that of other women in other subjects led to formal admission of women to Tripos examinations in 1881. Scott herself become a Resident Lecturer in Mathematics at Girton and in 1885 she became the first British woman to receive a doctorate.

Read more here.

Lucy Slater (Mathematics)


Photograph credit: With thanks to Lucy Cavendish College for supplying this image (photograph archive reference: LH2/15)

Lucy Joan Slater matriculated in 1951 to do a PhD in Mathematics working on hypergeometric functions. Her research was based in the Cambridge Computer Laboratory, where she worked on EDSAC, the first operating programmable electronic computer. Subsequently Dr Slater took up a post as a Junior Research Officer at Cambridge’s newly formed Department of Applied Economics and later became a Fellow of Newnham College. Her research helped to develop computer programs for econometrics providing calculations for the ‘Project for Growth in the British Economy’ which was a large research project that until 1987 was used to forecast economic growth in the UK.

Bertha Swirles (Mathematics)


Photograph archive reference: GCPH 6/2/94/5

Bertha Swirles (Lady Jeffreys)matriculated in 1921 to read Mathematics before becoming a research student and then the Hertha Ayrton Research Fellow, receiving her PhD in 1929. Her research focussed on quantum theory, a field then in its infancy, and led to lectureships in Manchester, Bristol and then Imperial College, London. In 1938 Lady Jeffreys returned to Girton College to take up the post of Fellow and Lecturer in Mathematics and remained closely associated with the College until her death in 1999. She continued to publish important papers on quantum theory, but her most widely known publication is the influential text Methods of Mathematical Physics, written with her husband Harold Jeffreys. It was first published in the 1940s and is still a recommended text for several Cambridge undergraduate mathematics courses today.

Published: 12 October 2017

Glimpses of Girton - Mary Somerville's scientific library

Self-taught mathematician and scientific best-seller, Mary Somerville's most recent claim to fame is as the winner of a public vote to decide the face of the Royal Bank of Scotland's new £10 note, due out this year:

Somerville College in Oxford (founded in 1879, six years after her death) bears Mary Somerville's name but it was to Girton College that her daughters, Martha and Mary, gave her scientific books and offprints.  There is no extant correspondence about the gift but the minutes of the Executive Committee meeting of 19 May 1873 read:

"Miss Davies having reported that the books given by the Misses Somerville had been received, it was resolved that the cordial thanks of the College be offered to the Misses Somerville for their valuable gift of books from the late Mrs Somerville's Library & that the Committee desire to express their sense of the honour thus conferred upon the College."[1]


Mrs Somerville had links to both Emily Davies and Barbara Bodichon through her good friend Frances Power Cobbe. Mary and Frances had met in Florence in the late 1850s and bonded during an anti-vivisection campaign there.  Mary later described Frances as "a brilliant, charming companion, and a warm and affectionate friend. She is one of the few with whom I keep up a correspondence."[2]  Frances was one of the earliest members of the Kensington Society and helped to organise the 1866 suffrage petition: Mary wrote of herself:

"I joined in a petition to the Senate of London University, praying that degrees might be granted to women; but it was rejected.  I have also frequently signed petitions to Parliament for the Female Suffrage, and have the honour now to be a member of the General Committee for Woman Suffrage in London."[3]

In editing her mother's Personal recollections, published in 1873, Martha Somerville noted:

"She took the liveliest interest in all that has been of late years to extend high class education to women, both classical and scientific, and hailed the establishment of the Ladies' College at Girton as a great step in the true direction, and one which could not fail to obtain most important results. Her scientific library… has been presented to this College as the best fulfilment of her wishes."[4]


The ebonised bookcase that was sent from Naples to the College still stands in the corridor outside the Library.  A bust of Mary Somerville, presented to the College by Frances Power Cobbe, stands in the niche at its centre.  The books and offprints themselves are housed in the environmentally-controlled store in the Duke Building, still as a discrete collection but linked to others of the College's special collections, as well as the collections of the College Archive, through the determination and passions of their former owners.  Not far away, Barbara Bodichon's own copy of Personal recollections is shelved, as is the copy belonging to the Blackburn collection, bequeathed by Helen Blackburn in 1903. Even now, when the role and number of women in science continues to be a controversial topic, Mary Somerville shows how far we have come – and how far we have left to go.


Published: 24 July 2017

[1] Girton College Archive reference GCGB 2/1/3

[2] Personal recollections, from the early life to old age, of Mary Somerville. With selections from her correspondence. By her daughter, Martha Somerville. London: John Murray, 1873, page 359

[3] Personal recollections, page 346

[4] Personal recollections, page 347