News & Events

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

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

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


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

An interview with Claire Nellany our Schools Liaison Officer

Claire NellanyAs our Schools Liaison Officer at Girton College, I've really enjoyed engaging with thousands of young people over the last year with the aim of raising aspirations about what is possible for them when they leave school. We do this either by running sessions in their schools or by having them visit Girton and Cambridge and take part in activities, tours and sometimes subject Masterclasses while they are here.

I've found working with Year 7s through our new ‘Girton College Pathways to HE’ scheme to be particularly exciting, as we've been able to discuss the future and the idea of aiming for a top university with students who are at the very start of secondary education - generally before any misconceptions about university kick in!

It is such a rewarding job, which is why I was pleased to be asked to do an interview for ‘This Cambridge Life’, a set of articles written by the University focusing on some of the many people who make up this brilliant university, both staff and students.

You can see Claire’s full interview with ‘This Cambridge Life’ here:


Published: 14 July 2017

Glimpses of Girton: The Orchard


A sunny Sunday morning breakfast in the Orchard in 1916. None of the students have been identified. The photographer is unknown but the image comes from an album belonging to Nelly Margaret Scott, who came up to Girton in 1915, and later became Lady Walton. Archive reference: GCPH 10/8/14.

Elizabeth Welsh, Mistress of Girton from 1885-1903, is credited with the first planting of an orchard at Girton. Tradition has it that she climbed The Tower in order to survey the College grounds and plan the layout of new gardens, including the orchard, which were eventually completed in 1893. Elizabeth Welsh’s orchard was filled with many different varieties of fruit trees. It soon became an important part of College life. Photographs held by the Archive show groups of students having a Sunday morning breakfast in the Orchard in 1916 (archive reference: GCPH 10/8/14) and afternoon tea in 1917 (archive reference: GCPH 10/8/50).


Students sit under the trees in the Orchard enjoying a tea party in 1917. The students are unidentified. Archive reference: GCPH 10/8/50.

By the 1930s, many of the trees in the orchard were ageing: a report by the Garden Committee in 1934 indicates that several trees had to be removed due to disease (archive reference: GCAR 10/1/1/8). Fortunately, Chrystabel Procter came to Girton as Garden Steward in 1932 and did much to revitalise the College grounds during her tenure. Her photograph album, containing beautiful shots of the College grounds throughout the seasons, survives in the Archive (archive reference: GCPH 10/20).


Three gardeners stand in the Orchard with a handcart and holding basketfuls of fruit. The photograph was taken by Chrystabel Procter in the Autumn of 1937. The gardeners were identified by David Whitehead, Head Groundsman at Girton until 1977, as 'Reacher [or Reader]’, ‘W Cole [or Coe]’, and ‘WW [or EM] Collery'. Archive reference: GCPH 10/20/33.

A photograph dating to the Autumn of 1937,  taken by Chrystabel Procter, captures the annual bounty produced by the orchard as three gardeners pose with basketfuls of ripe fruit (archive reference: GCPH 10/20/33). In 1943, Girton’s orchard and gardens inspired a student to pen a sonnet, which was published in the Easter term issue of the Girton Review, the College magazine (archive reference: GCCP 2/1/3).


The apple harvest stored on wooden shelves in the Autumn of 1937. The photograph was taken by Chrystabel Procter. David Whitehead, Head Groundsman at Girton, identified the location as the top floor of Grange Cottage . Archive reference: 10/20/36.

The 1940s also saw the planting of the New Orchard behind Grange Cottage, leading to Elizabeth Welsh’s original orchard becoming known as the Old Orchard. Both orchards flourished under the care of William Stringer, who spent several decades tending Girton’s gardens, eventually becoming Head Gardener. Mr Stringer lists the many apple varieties planted in New Orchard in 1948 in his booklet,  A Garden Walk, a copy of which is held in the Archive (archive reference: GCAR 10/5/3).


The orchards were William Stringer’s pride and joy. He proudly exhibited Girton’s apples at fairs and shows around the county, regularly winning prizes throughout the 1960s and 70s, and establishing the fame of Girton’s orchards. A plan of the College made for the 1967 prospectus shows the Old Orchard in this period (archive reference: GCAR 10/3/7).  A newspaper article from The Times dated November 1979, preserved in Girton Archive (archive reference: GCAR 10/5/2), declares that “Girton College virtually swept the board in the late apple and pear competition, taking many of the first prizes!”


The “Blenheim Orange” was one of the most successful of the prize-winning apple varieties found in the orchard. Stephen Beasley, who was Head Gardener in the 1980s, writes in his A Short History of the Orchards (archive reference: GCAR 10/5/5) that the College’s “Blenheim Orange” trees are reputed to have been purchased directly from Woodstock, the original source of the apple variety (archive reference: GCAR 10/5/3). By the 1980s, they were well over 90 years old!


The College’s Garden Committee made a commitment to conserve the Old Orchard in the 1980s and revitalise the New Orchard. As part of this, Stephen Beasley introduced a wildflower meadow among the roots of the trees in Old Orchard. A list of seeds purchased for the meadow in 1983 gives a sense of the variety of flowers which were planned, including the well-named “Crested dog’s tail grass”, “Cat’s ear”, “Goat’s-beard” and “Fleabane” (archive reference: GCAR 10/3/6). The Archive also holds plans and planting lists from 1983 for New Orchard, also carried out under Stephen Beasley’s stewardship, showing the diversity of trees at Girton (archive reference: GCAR 10/3/5).


Girton’s orchards continue to flourish to this day. The spring blossom and autumn bounty of the trees provide a rich legacy for the many expert hands that have tended the orchards for well over a hundred years. 

Published: 23 June 2017

Girtonians give back generously in the 2017 Telethon


Over a period of three weeks in the Easter Vacation students enjoyed inspiring telephone conversations with Girton alumni from all over the world. We value the Telethon as an opportunity to stay in touch in a personal  and meaningful way, and many of the callers came away from the experience with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the College past, present and  future plans.


Thank you so much to all who contributed in cash, kind or conversation – 415 alumni made a gift raising £265,208 for Girton! Those of you were giving for the first time were particularly generous, and we were especially grateful to an alumnus, who matriculated in 1991, for providing a matched fund for new regular donors.


Key achievements of the Telethon included raising two thirds of the funding left to complete the John Marks Fellowship in Medicine, the endowment of an Emily Davies Bursary and raising over £88,000 for the College’s unrestricted permanent endowment which will help all aspects of College life according to need.

A very big thank you to all our alumni and supporters who took part in the telethon; you have brought us one step closer to achieving financial sustainability in the lead up to our 150th Anniversary in 2019.



For more information, please visit:

·         Annual Telephone Campaign

·         A Great Campaign

·         Giving to Girton


Yelena Popova, 2016-17 Artist in Residence, opens end-of-year exhibition 'Elements: A Girton Adventure'


‘…the weight and meaning of industrialism and feminist thought weave through her works across Girton College’.

Eliza Gluckman, Curator NEW HALL ART COLLECTION, University of Cambridge


Girton’s artist residency dates from 2013. It enables early career visual artists to live and work in the College for up to a year. The hope is that their creativity will be influenced by us - by the history, geography and materiality of the site, by the Fellows, staff and students who inhabit it  - and that our thinking and practices might in turn be shaped by their presence.

‘Elements’ is part of this engagement. It is an art trail created by Yelena Popova, the third incumbent of the artist-in-residence scheme. Yelena’s predecessors are Colden Drystone (2013-14), and Sonny Sanjay Vadgama (2014-15), whose end-of-year exhibitions were mounted in the Judge Business School. Yelena, in contrast, entices us on a journey - a tour of the College and of her work, including items co-produced with students.

Visitors are encouraged to pick up a booklet from the Porters Lodge which includes a map of the trail and a guide to the artworks. We think you will find some iconic spaces transformed by the new exhibits; equally, you will see that many new works are inspired by the environment and operation of the College - 53 acres of gardens, woodland and grounds, mud, earth and ashes, the material trace of past generations, the energy of today’s youth.

The artist-in-residence scheme is, in short, part of a unique educational adventure with Girton  at its centre. We are grateful to the founders and funders who have made it possible. They are Suling Mead (1975, Economics) and Ruth Whaley (1974, English): two Girton alumni whose vision and energy have, like that of the artists whose work they support, truly made a difference.

Open to the public, admission free. Mon-Sun 9am-7pm until September 25th 2017*

*NB Full exhibition available to view until Monday 26th June but please bear in mind when pieces are sold after this date they will be removed.

All pieces in ‘Elements’ are for sale and the proceeds support both the Artist and the Artist in Residence scheme at Girton. Please see the tour booklet for some images and price guide. If you would like to purchase any of Yelena’s work, please contact Tamsin Elbourn-Onslow.

Email: JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING or by phone: 01223 765685

Free entry to see Daphne Todd’s Portrait of The Mistress, Professor Susan J Smith

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2017 is taking place at Mall Galleries from Thursday 4 May to Friday 19 May.

The exhibition includes a portrait by Daphne Todd OBE PPRP NEAC Hon SWA of Professor Susan J Smith, Mistress of Girton, and the Mall Galleries are offering free entry to those who are interested to see the painting and the rest of the exhibition, which includes over 200 portraits. Daphne’s portrait has also won the Face Equality Changing Faces Award. In order to gain free entry, please print off the invitation: Mall Galleries Invitation.


You can find out more about the exhibition visit:


Published: 4 May 2017

Girton's great scheme: a purpose-built graduate complex at Eddington (North West Cambridge)


Photo (L-R): Girton College Bursar, Ms Debbie Lowther, The Mistress of Girton College and Heather Topel, Project Director for the North West Cambridge development

  • Eddington is a visionary £350 million new urban-academic community delivered by the University of Cambridge
  • Swirles Court – a purpose-built graduate complex for Girton College – is the first completed accommodation development on the site
  • Swirles Court offers some of the most sustainable student accommodation in Cambridge.

Swirles Court, a development of 325 en-suite rooms, purpose built for students, has been completed at the North West Cambridge Development of Eddington. Leased to Girton College, this is the first completion of many scheduled for 2017 at the new community, which is setting the standard in sustainable living and delivered by the University of Cambridge. The scheme has been designed by award winning architects practice, R H Partnership (RHP).

With a total construction value of £26 million, Swirles Court sits at the heart of Eddington, a 150 hectare site which will comprise 3,000 homes (private for sale and for rent to University and college key workers), 2,000 student rooms, 100,000 square metres of research facilities, a community centre, shops and a primary school. Girton is the first Cambridge College to establish a base in Eddington, offering state-of-the art facilities to its growing graduate community.

Professor Susan J. Smith, Mistress of Girton College, said: “Girton, known for its pioneering spirit, is proud to establish a College presence in Eddington. By extending our estate into North West Cambridge – just a short walk from the main site – we have the potential to link a thriving undergraduate community with a growing graduate school, in close proximity to a unique residential complex for postdoctoral researchers and other key workers. This is the collegiate University at its best, offering new possibilities for interdisciplinarity, cross-community mentoring, lifetime learning and public engagement. Girton looks forward to adding to, and benefitting from, everything this unique residential complex implies.”

Swirles Court


Swirles Court – named after mathematician and physicist, Bertha Swirles (Lady Jeffreys), a Girton alumna, Fellow and Benefactor – is itself a microcosm of the sustainable ethic which underpins Eddington as a whole.

Heather Topel, Project Director for the North West Cambridge development, said:“It is incredibly exciting to see the University of Cambridge’s vision for Eddington start to come to fruition with the completion of this innovative residential development that is part of the Collegiate University.

“The new community is the University’s response to the need to provide homesfor its academic staff and student accommodation. To maintain its status as a leading academic institution on a global stage, Cambridge University has created, in Eddington, a development that is unprecedented in scale and ambition.

“Swirles Court will be part of a new sustainable urban community featuring green open spaces, facilities and amenities such as local shops and a community centre, all linked by strategic cycle routes to promote connectivity to Cambridge centre and beyond. To future-proof the University’s position on the global stage as a research leader we need to provide an inspiring, sustainable place for our people to live and thrive.”

The complex is linked to the site-wide sustainable urban drainage system, the largest water recycling network in the country, and to the district heating system, and benefits from the underground waste storage system. Students will be encouraged to grow their own produce in the integrated allotment areas.

Each student will benefit from secure indoor cycle storage (there are 325 spaces in total) and Swirles Court’s location on the main Ridgeway cycle route will provide easy access to all typical student destinations including West Cambridge, Cambridge city centre and the Sidgwick site; public transport connections are already in place to Addenbrooke’s hospital and the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

Innovative features like solar shading screens to prevent overheating in summer and perforated window surrounds to allow natural ventilation help cement Swirles Court, and Eddington, as an exemplar of sustainability.

The RHP designed accommodation also provides:

  • A 24 hour porters’ lodge reception
  • General meeting area
  • Quiet study area
  • Laundry facilities
  • Shared kitchen/sitting rooms suitable for self-catering
  • Access to three landscaped gardens which draw inspiration from traditional courts in Cambridge colleges
  • Some of the kitchens are large enough to host whole-house meetings/events

Swirles Court has been built by Graham Construction.


For more information, please visit:


For media enquiries, contact:

West and North West Cambridge Estates Syndicate:

PR Manager - Biky Wan


Telephone: 01223 (3)32253


Girton College

Communications Officer – Hannah Sargent



Published: 13 June 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.

The National Jane Martin Poetry Prize 2017 winners are announced

Girton College is pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 Jane Martin Poetry Prize, a national poetry competition established in 2010 in memory of Girton alumna Jane Elizabeth Martin.

The winning poems can be found here:

First prize: Katie Hale

Second prize: Andrew Wynn Owen

Katie Hale's student life was split between London, Melbourne, and St Andrews, where she completed her MLitt in Creative Writing a few years ago. She now lives in Cumbria, where she runs poetry workshops in schools and hosts Word Mess open mic night. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Review, The North and Interpreter's House, and her inaugural pamphlet, Breaking the Surface, is forthcoming from Flipped Eye. She was recently shortlisted for the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize, and came second in the Tannahill International Poetry Competition. She is currently being mentored by Penguin Random House on their WriteNow scheme, and her new musical, The Inevitable Quiet of the Crash, co-written with composer Stephen Hyde, will be showing at the Edinburgh Fringer this summer.

You can hear Katie reading some of her poems on her Soundcloud page.

Andrew Wynn Owen is an Examination Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. He received an Eric Gregory Award in 2015 and Oxford University's Newdigate Prize in 2014. A recent narrative poem, The Dragon and The Bomb, is published by The Emma Press.'

Katie and Andrew will be visiting the College on Thursday 4 May, along with the Judges Grevel Lindop and Malcolm Guite, to attend the presentation evening and read some of their poems, which will be held in the Stanley Library from 6-7pm. All are welcome to attend and refreshments will be served.

2017 Humanities Writing Competition Winners


The annual Humanities Writing Competition for current Year 12 students is now in its sixth year. The prize-giving ceremony was held on Thursday 27 April 2017 in the Fellows’ Rooms at Girton College. The aim of the competition is to encourage students of any subject to research, think and write about one of the five chosen items from the College Museum of Antiquities at Girton College, known as the Lawrence Room.

The chosen items for this year’s competition were a carved stela and a tilapia-fish amulet from ancient Egypt, a Greek aryballos (flask), a pair of terracotta tortoises from Greece, and a brooch found in the Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Girton’s grounds.

A record number of entries was received, including essays, short stories and poems. The terracotta tortoises in particular seemed to capture the entrants’ imagination this year, accounting for the majority of the submissions, but each object inspired at least one piece of work. All showed evidence (sometimes highly impressive) of interests and research outside the set curriculum. The general standard of proof-reading, referencing and written style was good. A few entrants did not observe the requirement to base their work on one or more of the museum objects, and we must point out that this is one of the conditions of the competition. It was also evident from this year’s work that creative writing should not be regarded as an easy option compared to essay-writing: not everyone avoided the pitfalls of clichéd style, stereotyped story-lines and an unrelieved emphasis on the awfulness of the past, with childbirth trauma being a particular ‘flavour of the year’.  The best of the creative entries, however, opened arresting windows on life in the remote past, and all gave food for thought and enhanced our appreciation of the educational and human value of Girton’s museum collection. 

First place was awarded to Maria Telnikoff (Leicester Grammar School) and second prize to Harry Dearlove Still (Lewes Old Grammar School), who both wrote fine essays on the cultural significance of tortoises in the ancient Hellenic world.   A joint third prize was awarded to the authors of two creative pieces: Sophie Al-Hussaini (The Maynard School) and Catherine Ogilvy (Cheltenham Ladies’ College), who wrote respectively about the tortoise figurines and the tilapia amulet playing pivotal parts in their characters’ lives.

In addition, the judges wished to highly commend the entries by Isabella Jakobsen (North London Collegiate School), Hannah Lewis (Oxford High School), and Peter Mumford (King Edward’s School, Bath).

The four finalists were invited to Girton where they browsed the Lawrence Room with two of the College’s Fellows and judges of the competition, Dr Helen Van Noorden and Dr Gillian Jondorf, before going on a tour of the College led by one of our undergraduate finalists. They then enjoyed tea with the Mistress and judges in the Fellows’ Rooms, where they were presented with their prizes and certificates. 

The winning entries are now on display in the Lawrence Room, which is open to the public from 2 - 4pm on Thursdays. Girton are grateful to Cambridge University Press and to Miss C. Anne Wilson for their kind sponsorship of the competition.


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Published: 05 June 2017

Glimpses of Girton: The Personal Papers of Ethel Fegan, 1877-1975


A close up of Ethel Fegan, taken from the 1896 First Year photograph (archive reference: 6/2/29/4).

Ethel Sophia Fegan was Librarian at Girton from 1918-1930, and notably, became Lady Superintendent of Education for the Nigerian Government, receiving the George V Jubilee Medal for her educational work in Africa.

The College archive holds a collection of her personal papers (GCPP Fegan), ranging from her manuscript copies of lectures delivered as part of the Library Association to her collection of pamphlets on the subject of bibliography. This collection has recently been re-catalogued and is now available to view in the archive.

Born in Kent and educated at Blackheath High School, Ethel read Classics at Girton, 1896-1900. She studied for the Library Association examinations while teaching classics, receiving an MA in 1907 from Trinity College Dublin (quasi ad eundem). She then became Librarian at Cheltenham Ladies’ College (1908-17) and was elected a Fellow of the Library Association circa 1910.


View of Old Hall as part of the Library, taken circa 1902, just after Ethel’s time as a student at Girton (archive reference: GCPH 2/7/1).

At Cheltenham, she inaugurated courses for professional training in librarianship, conducted correspondence classes for the Library Association, and devised the ‘Cheltenham Classification’, a library classification for schools. Her lectures were varied, from bibliographic study to the typography of Wynkyn de Worde, and her notebooks show a woman who was deeply committed to the study of words, librarianship and literature (GCPP Fegan 2/1). Perhaps surprising to us nowadays, female librarians were scarce in the early 20th Century, yet Ethel was certain that openings would come if one only worked hard (GCPP Fegan 1/1/1).

Ethel returned to Girton as Librarian (1918-30). Described as a ‘benevolent despot’, she reorganised the Library under more scientific lines from her ‘cubby-hole’ in Old Hall where the books were then kept (GCPP Fegan 1/1/1). She also worked with Dr A. C. Haddon to build up the Haddon Library, and under his influence she took the Cambridge Diploma in Anthropology (1929). In 1948 she became an Honorary Fellow of the College.


Formal group of staff (taken before the term Fellow was in use) in Emily Davies Court, by Bassano in 1919. Ethel is furthest left in the back row (archive reference: GCPH 6/1/11).

Her interest in anthropology and intrepid nature led her to Nigeria, with funding from the Gilchrist Trustees.  Her ‘Gilchrist Report’ (GCPP Fegan 3/1/2) gives an account of women's education in the then British colonies on the West Coast of Africa. She toured these during 1928 and 1929, learning Hausa and collecting data about the people, statistics, education, the curriculum, and the need for teachers.

She was then appointed Lady Superintendent of Education for the Nigerian Government (1930-35): in this role she pioneered the first official attempt to educate the women of that area.

She stayed in Nigeria as a lay worker at Zaria Leper Colony (1938-39) and returned (1945-46) for the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association, maintaining her links with Girton by writing a piece for the Girton College Review entitled ‘Life in a Leper Colony in Nigeria’, where she discusses her work frankly and mentions teaching boys to knit socks using old bicycle spokes (GCPP Fegan 3/1/12). Her articles emphasise her warmth of feeling for the places visited and the people met, and it is no surprise that at the age of 97 she still remembered Nigeria with amazing clarity, discussing men who sold her dolls, much like those selling ‘penny dolls’ from her childhood in Kent (GCPP Fegan 1/1/1).

Ethel later resumed library work: she investigated library conditions in British West Africa for the Carnegie Corporation of New York; worked in libraries in the UK; and trained Africans for library work at Achimota College on the Gold Coast, continuing to work well into her retirement. On her return to Britain, Ethel Fegan worked as a volunteer in Cambridgeshire Archives until she was over 90, her hard-working nature continuing to the last.

The catalogue for the personal papers of Ethel Fegan is now available to view on Janus:


Articles by Ethel Fegan available in the Girton Review:

  • Fegan, Ethel, ‘Some Africans’, Girton Review, (Michaelmas Term, 1929), pp. 10-14.
  • Fegan, Ethel, ‘Life in a Leper Colony in Nigeria’, Girton Review, (Easter Term, 1946), pp. 15-19.
  • Fegan, Ethel, ‘Women in Northern Nigeria’, Girton Review, (Michaelmas Term, 1954), pp. 6-9.


Published: 26 April 2017

Glimpses of Girton: 'Terracotta dog'


Catalogue ref: LR.783: ‘DOG’

As soon as I saw this figurine, the words of a fable by La Fontaine came into my head. The fable is no. 2 in the first book of the Fables, and begins:

Maître corbeau, sur un arbre perché,

Tenait en son bec un fromage.

Maître renard, par l’odeur alléché,

Lui tint à peu près ce langage…

If you say the first two words to a French person they are likely to be able to continue, having been made to learn the poem at school. La Fontaine goes on to tell us how the fox, to obtain the cheese which the crow had in his beak, praised the bird’s beauty and suggested that if his voice was as handsome as his plumage, he would be the finest bird around. Eager to earn this accolade, the crow opened his beak to demonstrate his voice, and dropped the cheese. Job done.


However, the story was not invented by La Fontaine. He probably adapted his version from the 1st-century Roman poet Phaedrus, who surely based his version on a Greek source, such as one of the prose versions associated with the name Aesop.


So what are the chances that this figurine represents not a weird and inexplicable grouping of a dog with a round cake in his mouth and a bird on his back (as the catalogue puts it) but the moment at the end of the fable when the fox has obtained the cheese?


Our figurine comes from Boeotia, in central Greece, north of Attica. It has been dated to about 500–450 BCE. Although several accounts of Aesop’s life are plainly fictitious, serious scholars like Aristotle believed he was a real person, and that he was born in Thrace (in mainland Greece) and spent some time on Samos. He lived in the early sixth century, and may have died in 564 BCE. By the time Aristophanes (c. 446–386) was writing his comedies, the Aesopic material was obviously well known and appreciated, and Aristophanes often refers to it. It seems safe to assume that the potter who made our figurine could have come across the fable.


So is the figure a dog or a fox? I would argue that the pricked ears and the shape and angle of the tail are fox-like. I also think that the bird looks more like a bird of the crow family than anything else. Is there anything that goes against this identification? Possibly. There are traces of red colouring on the figurine (inside the pricked ears, round the nostrils, and on the bird’s beak). It would be nice if the fox’s whole body had been red, but the cataloguer tells it that it seems to have been painted with white slip, apart from those touches of red. Well, I have a collection of small animal figurines from Oaxaca in Mexico which are all bright green… Perhaps this Greek figure was part of an all-white collection, with a few coloured highlights?


How does the figurine compare with Aesopic texts? The online Thesaurus Linguae Graecae gives two versions of this fable, and in both of them the bird (korax, crow or raven) is holding not a cheese but a piece of meat (kreas). The object in the fox’s mouth does not look like meat (unless, of course, it is a hamburger patty…) but, though identified by the cataloguer as a cake, it could perfectly well be a small round cheese. Indeed, it is a cheese (caseus) in the first extant verse form of the fable, composed by the Roman poet Phaedrus, probably in the first half of the first century CE, so perhaps he knew a Greek version in which the object of desire was a cheese and not a piece of meat. And perhaps the Greek potter who made our figurine also knew such a version. We shall never know, but we can speculate.


Written by Dr Gillian Jondorf, Life Fellow.


Published: 25 May 2017

Gates Cambridge Scholarship - Class of 2017 Announced

We are delighted to announce that Wanyi Jia will be joining the College in Michaelmas 2017 as a Gates Cambridge Scholar. Wanyi will be taking a PhD in Clinical Neurosciences and hopes to profile neural-glial communication in health and disease and understand the role of myelin using the optic nerve as model.

Wanyi is one of 55 successful scholars who have been selected as the most academically exceptional and socially committed people from across the globe.

“Gates Cambridge Scholars come from all over the world, but they have some important things in common: great leadership potential, a commitment to improving the lives of others and an unparalleled passion for learning,” said Bill Gates, co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Melinda and I are pleased to welcome the class of 2017. We have no doubt they will have an incredible impact on topics of global importance.”


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Published: 21 April 2017