Founded 1893 by Dorothea Beale. College status 1991. Named after Anglo-Saxon Saint, Hilda of Whitby. Sister College -– None. Women and Men – Undergraduates 395 Postgraduates 191.
St Hilda’s has the distinction of frequently producing a greater percentage of English exam firsts than any other in the university. It was founded as a women’s institution in 1893 and only recently (2006) admitted men. It is situated south east of the central cluster of colleges, along side the enchanting River Cherwell whose banks are sometimes breached by floodwaters. Many student rooms overlook the river on which the college has a fleet of punts. The site grew steadily from Cowley House, with the acquisition of neighbouring properties, along with various piece-meal extensions, followed more recently by new commissioned buildings. This organic development has resulted not in quads, but a series of lawns and buildings that follow the bend of the river.
Radical groups demanded higher education for women
The end of the 19th century saw many educated and powerful women, along with influential liberal men, calling for more organised and properly funded educational opportunities for academic women. One such woman was St Hilda’s founder, Dorothea Beale, who had previously been involved with establishing Cheltenham Ladies’ College, where she was principal. Her inspiration was St Hilda of Whitby, a figure from ancient times (614-680), who had presided over an important educational house, Whitby Abbey.
Three years after foundation, St Hilda’s was recognised as a hall, a request for full college membership was lodged in 1959 and granted in 1961.
The demands of the day resulted in the young ladies having to negotiate all sorts of perceived etiquette of...
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...c Building was opened in 1995 and offers students superb, purpose built, practice rooms as well as a large auditorium where regular concerts are held – a glass foyer was addedin 2002. The Christina Barratt Building, a crisp modern, no frills, pale brick accommodation block with bands of windows, opened in 2001 and the work of Batterton Tyack.
All first and final year undergraduates are usually offered rooms in college, most of which have internet connections. Accommodation for disabled students is available. The food in hall is considered to be very agreeable. Sports and the arts are taken seriously, especially rowing in which St Hilda’s has an enviable track record.
While the move to co-ed was broadly welcomed, some questioned if the feisty siege mentality associated with St Hilda’s might be somewhat diluted by the arrival of male colleagues? Hmm... don’t think so!