News & Events

Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion Taster Day – 30 January 2018

On Tuesday 30 January 2018, Girton ran its first ever Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion (TRPR) Taster Day for Year 10 and 11 students. The day was hosted in collaboration with the Faculty of Divinity with academic speakers introducing the visiting students to a diverse range of topics from across the TRPR disciplines. Thirty-eight students travelled to Cambridge for the day, all seeking to explore the details of what the study of Theology, Religion and the Philosophy of Religion involves at university level, and the interesting research and careers this study may lead to.

The day kicked off with a talk from Hilary Marlow, the Director of Studies for TRPR students at Girton College, who introduced what Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion is and why it is important. The fact that 84% of the world is religious today seemed to surprise all the attendees and drove home the importance of understanding the religious, theological and philosophical reasons and motivations behind some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Emma Salgard Cunha, Access and Outreach Officer for the Faculty of Divinity, continued the message on the relevance of the study of TRPR in the world today as she looked at the array of careers Cambridge TRPR graduates have gone into. These careers ranged from law, the church, charity advocacy and even acting!

After a short break it was time for the taster sessions to commence, delivered by academics working in different areas of Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion.

Beth Singler’s enticingly titled topic ‘Will robots ever take over the world’ looked at how Artificial Intelligence is challenging how we understand ‘the human’ as a being, creator and worker. This led to interesting questions from our visiting students such as: ‘Should we treat all AI as sentient beings, unless we can prove otherwise?’ and ‘Who would be to blame if a self-driving car caused a fatal accident?’.

Jim Aitken then took over to introduce us to a different area of study encompassed within TRPR, the study of ancient manuscripts. The visiting students learnt that the way scripts are written and the physical properties of the script can be just as important as the content, even spelling corrections can tell us a great deal about the evolution of language!

Next up, it was time of lunch. This gave the visiting students the opportunity to talk to each other about their motivations for attending the day, as well as a chance to eat some pizza and meet Girton’s famous College cat, Buster (pictured below).

After lunch it was time for the last two taster sessions. Ruth Jackson started us off with her taster session on ‘How do you tell a good friend from a bad one?’. In this session students examined the different relationships between famous duos such as: R2-D2 and C-3P0; and Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. The following discussion questioned whether humans could ever be friends with robots.

The final taster session of the day was delivered by Hilary Marlow who delved into the complex issue of whether science has done away with God. The visiting students debated whether science can explain everything and whether science and God are really looking to answer the same questions.

Before the end of the day, the visiting Year 10 and 11 students got the chance to reflect on their own aspirations and ambitions and learn more about what university can offer. In the aspiring to university session the visiting students were given advice on their post-16 choices and got the chance to ask current Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion students questions about the course, university societies, student life and their future plans.

The Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion Taster Day was a great success with many students enthusiastically discussing the topical issues discussed in the taster sessions on their way out. The feedback and evaluation of the event showed that 88% of visiting students had a better opinion of studying TRPR after attending the event, with one comment noting the day had “sparked a passion that wasn’t necessarily there before.”

Many thanks to all the Girton College and University of Cambridge staff and TRPR Student Ambassadors who made the day possible.


For more information, please visit:


Published: 15 March 2018

Two College Fellows, Dr Stuart Davis and Dr Stelios Tofaris, awarded the 2018 Pilkington Teaching Prize!


Congratulations to Girton’s Admissions Tutor and Jean Sybil Dannatt Official Fellow, Dr Stuart Davis, and Brenda Hale Official Fellow, Dr Stelios Tofaris, who have been awarded the University’s Pilkington Prize for 2018, in recognition of their teaching excellence in Modern Languages and Law

They both join a distinguished coterie of 8 College Fellows who have previously won this coveted award including, Jochen Runde for Management Education (2017 winner), Sandra Fulton for Biochemistry (2016 winner), Nik Cunniffe for Plant Sciences (2015 winner), Andrew Jefferies for VetMed (2011 winner), Hugh Shercliff for Engineering (2011 winner), Martin Ennis for Music (2009 winner), Julia Riley for Physics (2009 winner) and Josh Slater for VetMed (2003 winner).

The Pilkington Prize awards were inaugurated in 1994 and endowed by Sir Alastair Pilkington to acknowledge excellence in teaching, this year marks the 25th anniversary. The prizes are awarded to individuals who make a substantial contribution to the teaching programme of a Department, Faculty or the University as a whole. There are twelve prizes awarded each year, with nominations made by each School.  The prizes are awarded annually by the Vice-Chancellor. 

For more information, please visit:


Published: 12 February 2018


Official Fellow, Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, appointed Director of The Royal Institution (Ri)


It has been announced that Official Fellow, Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, will be the new Director of The Royal Institutions of Great Britain (Ri), an independent charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science.

Its mission is to create opportunities for everyone to discover, discuss and critically examine science and how it shapes the world around us, by building on its heritage and success in creative ways. These activities include their world-famous CHRISTMAS LECTURES, started by Michael Faraday in 1825, which are now broadcast on UK national television every year.

Reflecting on the appointment, Dr Fitzgerald said:

‘The Ri is a much-loved institution with a rich heritage and a purpose to connect people with science, which is more important today than ever before.

‘Science and its applications are core to the development of society. As an engineer, I have seen the ways in which scientific advances can dramatically transform people’s lives, and it has made me particularly passionate about public engagement with science. Hence I am genuinely excited to be leading the Royal Institution in its important mission to create opportunities for everyone to discover, discuss and critically examine science and how it shapes the world around us.’

Dr Fitzgerald is also a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Energy Institute, a Fellow of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, and the CEO of Breathing Buildings Ltd, a leading technology company pioneering hybrid ventilation systems.


For more information, visit:


Published: 08 February 2018

Glimpses of Girton: Advancing Towards 1918

100 years ago today – 6 February 1918 – the Representation of the People Act granted the vote to women rate-payers over the age of 30.  The same Act gave the vote to all men over the age of 21 and it was another ten years before the passing of the Equal Franchise Act finally gave women the same voting rights as men.

The campaign for women's suffrage is writ large at Girton – from the suffrage posters on display in the Lawrence Room…



Presented by Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern (right) and Professor Liz Stanley (left), and previously owned by Joyce Evans, who had been a member of the Women's Freedom League.

Girton College Archive reference: GCRF 8/1/9 (

to the Library's Blackburn Collection…



The Blackburn Collection was bequeathed to the College by Helen Blackburn in 1903. The collection was formed by her in memory of Lydia Becker and Caroline Ashurst Biggs and consists of books, pamphlets, periodicals and newspaper cuttings which relate to the worldwide position of women during the nineteenth century.

Each book contains the bookplate shown here, designed by Edith Mendham and printed by the Women's Printing Society.




… to the papers of the suffragists such as Nellie Crocker[1], Agnes Lake[2], Beatrice and Edith Clayton Pepper[3], and Marilyn Wallace-Dunlop[4] in the Archive, the reports of the activities of both the Women's Suffrage Society and the Anti-Suffrage League in the Girton Review, and elsewhere within the College's walls and collective memory.

The earliest history of the College is entwined with that of the suffrage movement. Emily Davies and Barbara Bodichon had met in Algiers in 1858.  Barbara was already by that time an active promoter of women's rights and Emily threw herself into the cause when her family moved to London two years later.  Both were instrumental in the 1866 petition to Parliament [link].  But even in the year before that petition, Emily had written "I don't see much use in talking about the Franchise till first principles have made more way. The scoffers don't seen how much is involved in improved education…"[5] and gradually devoted her energies to women's education. Finally retiring from Girton in 1904, at the age of 74, she returned to the issue of suffrage although she remained opposed to the militancy of the suffragettes.

One letter held in the College Archive perhaps encapsulates the link between Emily Davies and women's suffrage.  It is a letter to Emily Davies from the Organisation Committee of the London Society for Women's Suffrage, dated 19 June 1917 – the day that the bill was passed in the House of Commons.


Resolution from the Organisation Committee of the London Society for Women's Suffrage, 19 June 1917 – Girton College Archive reference: GCPP Davies 17/46 (

The Archive also contains the draft of Emily's reply, dated 26 September that same year, in which she modestly thanks the Committee for their appreciation of the small share she had been able to take in "our great campaign" [6].

Emily Davies voted for the first time in the General Election of 1918. In her memoir, Family Chronicle, written 13 years earlier, she had recalled a prophecy made by Barbara Bodichon in 1865 that Emily would be voting on crutches and Barbara would rise from her grave to vote in her winding sheet [7].  In that, she was at least partly correct.


Further reading:

Bennett, Daphne. Emily Davies and the liberation of women, 1830-1921. London : Andre Deutsch, 1990.

Crawford, Elizabeth.  The women's suffrage movement: a reference guide, 1866-1928. London : UCL Press, 1999.

Davies, Emily. Collected letters, 1861-1875, edited by Ann B. Murphy and Deirdre Raftery. (Victorian literature and culture series). Charlottesville : University of Virginia Press, 2004.

Herstein, Sheila R. A mid-Victorian feminist, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon. New Haven : Yale University Press, 1985.

Hirsch, Pam.  Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, 1827-1891: feminist, artist, rebel. London : Chatto & Windus, 1998.

Lacey, Candida Ann (ed). Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon and the Langham Place Group. (Women's source library). New York : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987.

Living heritage: women and the vote.


Published: 06 February 2018

[5] Extract of a letter from Emily Davies to Henry Tomkinson, 10 November 1865 – Girton College Archive reference: GCPP Davies 8/126 (

[6] Extract of a draft letter from Emily Davies to the Organising Committee of the London Society for Women's Suffrage, 26 September 1917 – Girton College Archive reference: GCPP Davies 17/47 (

[7] Family Chronicle, An account of family and other matters written by Davies for her nephew Theodore in 1905 – Girton College Archive reference: GCPP Davies 1/1 (

Girton Graduate breaking barriers with new 3D Nanomagnets research


Dédalo Sanz Hernández (right) and Dr Amalio Fernández-Pacheco (left), by the 3D system (Photo: © Dédalo Sanz Hernández).

Current Graduate scholar, Dédalo Sanz Hernández, is Lead Author of a new study that explores, for the first time, the physics of magnetic domain wall motion in 3D systems; a task impossible up to now due to the lack of suitable fabrication and characterization techniques.

For this research project Dédalo is working with Principal Investigator, Dr Amalio Fernández-Pacheco at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. Together they have demonstrated a new way to fabricate and characterize 3D magnetic systems at the nanoscale. This was done by combining advanced 3D nanoprinting and dark-field magneto-optics. This breakthrough opens a new path to develop devices which can store and transmit information in a non-volatile and energy-efficient way, which is of great interest for applications such as mobile phones and the emerging internet of things.


The experimental setup of the 3D system (Photo: © Dédalo Sanz Hernández).

At the Cavendish Graduate Student Conference (CGSC) on 30 November 2017, Dédalo was awarded the Abdus Salam Prize for excellence in Graduate Research, for his breakthrough in spintronics.

Dédalo is supported by the Girton College Graduate Pfeiffer Scholarship.


Dédalo Sanz Hernández (left) and Dr Amalio Fernández-Pacheco (right) with the Abdus Salam Prize (Photo: © Jake Zipfel).

For more information, visit:


Published: 30 January 2018

Glimpses of Girton: Jane Catherine Gamble


A portrait of Jane Catherine Gamble by Alfred Edward Chalon, dating from 1838 (Archive reference: GCPH 4/4/1)

Jane Catherine Gamble is today remembered in Girton College as an early and generous benefactor, but she was also an author, heiress and traveller, with connections that spanned across international borders. The rich variety of her life is reflected in her collection of personal papers, which are preserved in the College Archive.

For the catalogue of Jane Gamble’s personal papers (archive reference: GCPP Gamble) see:

Jane was born in England in 1810 to a family originally from Virginia, and she returned briefly to the States following her mother’s early death. However, after her father’s remarriage, she was sent back to London to be raised alongside the son of her wealthy aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Dunlop, who provided her with a good education and a secure childhood.

Jane composed a journal called Fragments of a Life which is preserved in the Archive, written by hand onto unbound quires (reference: GCPP Gamble 1/35). It seems to have been created towards the end of Jane’s life, although based on diaries she kept from 1837 onwards, and provides a retrospective account of her activities. The journal describes Jane’s many encounters as a young woman with well-known artists and authors, such as Samuel Coleridge, Washington Irving, and Sir Walter Scott. There are letters from both Irving and Scott addressed to the Dunlops among Jane’s papers preserved in the Archives (archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/2/2 and 3/2/3). These letters are a reflection of the literary circles in which the Dunlops moved and in which Jane was brought up.


The watercolour accompanying Alfred Edward Chalon’s signature in Jane Gamble’s autograph book, dating from circa 1831 to 1841 (Archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/13pt).

Jane kept an autograph book, dating from 1831 to 1841, in which she collected the signatures of her distinguished acquaintances, including Charles Robert Leslie, John James Chalon and Alfred Edward Chalon, each accompanied by a tiny watercolour by the artist (archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/13). In 1838, the latter painted the only portrait of Jane to survive (reference: GCPH 4/4/1). Perhaps inspired by the creative environment in which she grew up, Jane eventually published her own play in 1846 under the pseudonym, Miss D. Nutt. In the 1880s, she would publish a further eighteen plays under the same nom de plume. The Archive also holds manuscripts of Jane’s poetry and translations from Italian, French and German, attesting to her learning.

By 1851, Jane’s aunt, uncle, and cousin had all passed away, leaving her an heiress with the freedom to travel. Jane had been courted by a wealthy American, Henry Wikoff, who had followed her from London across Europe. The matter came to a head in Italy, where Henry was put on trial for conspiracy to force Jane to marry him. A report on his trial printed in The Athenæum Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts on the 13th of March 1852 refers to it as the ‘extraordinary trial at Genoa, which has excited so great a sensation all over the Continent’. Henry was convicted and imprisoned. Shortly afterwards, Henry published his own account called My courtship and its consequences in 1855, which proclaimed his innocence. Jane, on the other hand, remained resolutely silent and no mention is made of the episode in her journal. Instead her account of her travels in Italy is filled with picturesque vignettes, such as sailing through the canals of Venice accompanied by a singing Gondolier.


Relics from site of site of Battle of Waterloo, acquired on 29th of August 1825 by Jane Gamble (Archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/17). Photograph courtesy of the Digital Content Unit, Cambridge University Library.

Jane’s later years were also filled with travel and adventures abroad. The Archive holds many varied and wonderful mementos gleaned from her journeys, including oak leaves and wood from Torquato Tasso’s oak in Rome, dated to the 19th of November 1852 (archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/12). There is also charcoal and cannon shot from the Battle of Waterloo, wrapped in paper with a note in Jane’s handwriting, stating that it was 'Brought from La Belle Alliance, Monday 29 August 1825  Waterloo' (archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/17). Jane also acquired artefacts from her international network of friends and acquaintances, such as a piece of George Washington’s coffin, accompanied by a handwritten note that reads ‘Part of the Coffin of Washington lately removed at Mt. Vernon to me by Mrs. Lewis. GSN’. Mrs. Lewis, also known as Eleonora Curtis, was George Washington’s adopted daughter and part of Jane Gamble’s circle of acquaintance.


Pieces of George Washington’s coffin with outer wrapper labelled: ‘Part of the Coffin of Washington lately removed at Mt. Vernon to me by Mrs. Lewis GSN’ (Archive reference: 3/18).

It is not entirely clear quite why Jane Gamble chose to leave her residuary estate to Girton, comprising about £19,000, as well as several possessions and her sizeable library. Her intelligence and learning may have made her sympathetic to the College’s purpose. Nevertheless, the bequest made Jane the first major benefactor of the College and enabled its expansion: the College used the bequest to finance the construction of Tower Wing, as well as allowing the College to purchase the adjoining seventeen acre field. This field, which sat between the fork of the Huntingdon Road and Girton Road, doubled the size of the College site. The College could now house one hundred and four students.[1] Jane Gamble’s generosity to the College is commemorated by the fireplace which 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, set up in 1888, and which continues to be awarded to students every year.[2]


Picture of the inscription commemorating Jane Gamble’s bequest to the College on the fireplace in Girton College Porter’s Lodge.

Jane passed away in 1885. Her papers only came to Girton in 1935 when her bankers, Coutts of London, discovered that they held two boxes in Jane Gamble’s name, containing old documents and manuscripts, which were forwarded to the College and are now preserved for posterity in the Archive.  


Published: 25 January 2018


[1]Susan Bain, ‘Tower Wing and Jane Catherine Gamble’, Girton College Annual Review (2009), pp. 25-28

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

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!



Update: Both teams were victorious!

See the Varsity Match website for a write up of the Women's match and the Men's match.


For more information, visit:


Published: 29 November 2017

Girton College's National Jane Martin Poetry Prize opens for 2018

Girton College is delighted to invite entries for the 2018 Jane Martin Poetry Prize. Now in its eighth year, the national prize for young poets is a key part of the College’s support for poetry and will be of interest to all those who are serious about literary excellence.

The competition will be judged by experts drawn from across the literary world and academia. We are thrilled that this year the panel will be led by Adrian Poole and Jeremy Noel-Tod. The winner will receive a cash prize of £700 and will have an opportunity to give a reading at a celebratory event at Girton College, at which the prize will be awarded. There will also be a second prize of £300 cash.

The competition opens on 22 January 2018 and closes at noon on 19 March 2018. Please find the 2018 information pack and entry rules here.

Click here to enter the 2018 Jane Martin Poetry Prize.

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

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


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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

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: 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

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).




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.