St Hugh's College, Oxford

St Hugh's College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford. It is located on a 14.5-acre (5.9-hectare) site on St Margaret's Road, to the north of the city centre.[2] It was founded in 1886 by Elizabeth Wordsworth as a women's college, and accepted its first male students in its centenary year in 1986.

St Hugh's College
Blazon: Azure, a saltire ermine, between four fleurs-de-lys or.
LocationSt Margaret's Road
Coordinates51.765675°N 1.263406°W / 51.765675; -1.263406
Full nameSt Hugh's College in the University of Oxford
Latin nameCollegium Sancti Hugonis
Named forSaint Hugh of Lincoln
Sister collegeClare College, Cambridge
PrincipalElish Angiolini
Undergraduates420[1] (2017/2018)
Postgraduates377[1] (2017/2018)
Boat clubBoat Club Website
Location in Oxford city centre

It enjoys a reputation as one of the most attractive colleges because of its extensive, pleasant gardens.[3][4] In its 125th anniversary year, the college became a registered charity under the name "The Principal and Fellows of St Hugh's College in the University of Oxford".[5] As of July 2018, the college's financial endowment was £37.6 million.[6]


Founding and early years

St Hugh's was founded in 1886 by Elizabeth Wordsworth (great-niece of the famous poet William Wordsworth) to help the growing number of women "who find the charges of the present Halls at Oxford and Cambridge (even the most moderate) beyond their means".[7] Using money left to her by her father, who had been Bishop of Lincoln, she established the college at 25 Norham Road in North Oxford.[8] She named the college after one of her father's 13th-century predecessors, Hugh of Avalon, who was canonised in 1220, and in whose diocese Oxford had been.

The college was initially accommodated in properties in Norham Road, Norham Gardens and Fyfield Road.[9] Its first six students were Annie Moberly, Jessie Annie Emmerson, Charlotte Jourdain, Constance E. Ashburner, Wilhelmina J. de Lorna Mitchell and Grace J. Parsons.[10] Students were required to ask the Principal before accepting invitations to visit friends, and the college gates were locked at 9pm.[10] Records show that rent was between £18 and £21 a term depending on the size of the room, with fires being charged extra.[11]

The college began to move to its present site in 1913, when it purchased the lease of a house called "The Mount" from the Rev Robert Hartley for £2,500. This house was situated on the corner of St Margaret's Road and Banbury Road, and was owned by University College.[9] The house was demolished to make way for the Main Building of the college, which was constructed between 1914 and 1916 thanks to a gift from Clara Evelyn Mordan; the college's new library was named Mordan Hall in her honour.[10] The first book was a copy of Sale's translation of the Koran, which was given to the college by the then Bishop of Tokyo.[12]

The college soon took over other properties nearby. The leasehold of 4 St Margaret's Road was acquired in 1919; it became the first "College house".[9] The leasehold of 82 Woodstock Road was donated to the college by Joan Evans in 1924 and 89 Banbury Road was purchased from Lincoln College for £7,000 in 1927.[9] The college obtained the freehold to the main site in 1927 and a year later the first stage of the Mary Gray Allen building was constructed by building over the tennis courts.[9] The freeholds of 1–4 St Margaret's Road and 74–82 Woodstock Road were purchased from St John's College in 1931 and 1932 respectively.[9] The college received a Royal Charter in 1926.[13]

Between 1935 and 1936 1 St Margaret's Road was demolished and a new library was built in the Mary Gray Allen building; it was named the Moberly Library after the first Principal of the College[9] (the library was extensively renovated between 1999 and 2000 and renamed the Howard Piper Library after a St Hugh's alumnus, after his parents made a large donation to the college).

Second World War

At the outbreak of the Second World War the college site was requisitioned by the military for use as the Hospital for Head Injuries under the directorship of Hugh Cairns, the first Nuffield Professor of Surgery.[14] Brick huts were constructed in the college grounds with space for 300 beds. Between 1940 and 1945, over 13,000 servicemen and women were treated at the college.[14] Advances in medicine discovered at the hospital meant the mortality rate for brain-penetrating injuries fell from 90% to 9%.[14] Staff and students were relocated to Holywell Manor, Savile House and St Hilda's College for the duration of the war.[15]

In 1943 the college acquired the leasehold of 72 Woodstock Road (known as The Shrubbery) from Dame Gertrude Whitehead for £1,500. It was used as a club for American soldiers during the war.[15] In 1946, it was leased to the University of Paris as the Maison française d'Oxford, an Anglo-French educational establishment. One of the cottages in the grounds of number 72 was later leased by Barbara Gwyer after her retirement as Principal.[15]

1945 onwards

The college buildings were de-requisitioned in 1945. The hospital huts were initially leased as offices to university departments, including the Bureau of Animal Population, the Department of Zoological Field Studies and the Institute of Statistics, before being demolished in 1952.[15] Agnes Headlam-Morley, a fellow of St Hugh's, became the first woman to hold a chair at the University of Oxford in 1948.[16]

In 1951 the college purchased the freeholds to 85 and 87 Banbury Road and 9 to 13 Canterbury Road from St John's College. In addition, the freehold of The Shrubbery was acquired; this meant the college now owned the freehold of the entire fourteen and a half acre site.[15] The college extended the Main Building in 1958.[17]

The 1960s saw an extensive programme of building work at St Hugh's. The Shrubbery was converted into the Principal's Lodgings in 1963.[17] Between 1964 and 1965 the Kenyon Building was constructed to provide accommodation for students[17] (designed by modern architect David Roberts, the building has already been given a heritage listing).[18] This was followed shortly after by the Wolfson Building, which was constructed between 1966 and 1967 and opened by Princess Alexandra and Harold Macmillan in his role as Chancellor of the University.[17]

The Chapel was renovated in 1980; a new organ was installed.[17] The following year, 78, 80 and 82 Woodstock Road were also renovated. The houses are now named SH Ho House, Ho Tim House and KK Leung House in recognition of the gifts from the three Hong Kong benefactors that funded the renovations.[17]

A new boathouse was constructed (jointly with St Anne's and Wadham Colleges) between 1989 and 1990. This was followed by the construction of the Rachel Trickett Building between 1991 and 1992 at a cost of £3.4 million.[12]

Present day

Between 1998 and 2000 the Maplethorpe Building was constructed; the building contains conference facilities on the ground floor and student accommodation on the upper three floors.[12] The building missed its planned opening date of summer 2000, meaning students had to be accommodated in B&Bs throughout Michaelmas term. In addition, a new main entrance was constructed at the back of the college on Canterbury Road.[12]

Between 1999 and 2000 the library was extensively renovated.[12] It was reopened by Betty Boothroyd and was renamed after Howard Piper, a Maths student of the college who died shortly after graduating in a rafting accident. A major refurbishment of Mordan Hall, the old library, took place in 2007.[12]

There are statues of both St Hugh and Elizabeth Wordsworth on the library stairs. These were presented to the college as gifts for its Jubilee in 1936. St Hugh carries a model of Lincoln Cathedral, which would have been very familiar to Elizabeth Wordsworth, and has his other hand resting on the head of a swan, probably the famous swan of Stow, although the swan is also a symbol of purity. Elizabeth Wordsworth is depicted wearing her doctoral robes.

St Hugh's College celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2011; a summer garden party was attended by over 1,200 guests.[19] Aung San Suu Kyi sent a message to the college, saying "Happy moments are one of the pillars that keep the spirit uplifted during hard times. St Hugh’s and Oxford are inextricable from my happiest memories, those that I could draw on when the beauty of the world seemed dim. I so wish I could be with you at this very moment to relive old joys and to stir up new ones for the future. I would like to thank all my friends for the happiness we shared. To the present students of St Hugh’s I would simply like to say: Make the most of your time in this wonderful place."[19]

In 2012 the college was sued for allegedly discriminating against the poor by requiring evidence of funds for living costs.[20] St Hugh's, which filed defence papers to the court, accepted barring the student on financial grounds, but claimed the measure was necessary to ensure students can complete their studies. The College eventually settled the claim, with the University promising to conduct a review of the Financial Guarantee policy.[21] In September 2013, it was revealed that the University had decided to abolish the Financial Guarantee policy and replace it with a less restrictive 'Financial Declaration'.[22]

Recent development

In 2008, the college began a fundraising drive for a new building on the college site. In November 2010, it was confirmed that Hong Kong businessman Dickson Poon had made a £10 million donation to the college for the construction of the Dickson Poon China Centre. The Centre houses the university's China Studies department, as well as providing accommodation for St Hugh's postgraduate students.[2] The Dickson Poon building was opened by Prince William in September 2014.[23]

Buildings and location

St Hugh’s occupies a rectangular site in North Oxford. It is bordered by Banbury Road to the east, Woodstock Road to the west, St Margaret’s Road to the north (the front entrance) and Canterbury Road to the south (the back gate). The gardens of the college cover about ten and a half acres.[24][25]

The main entrance of the college leads straight to the Main Building, which usually accommodates first year students,[26] and also houses the chapel and the dining hall. Other first year students may be accommodated in the 1960s Kenyon Building,[26] named for Dame Kathleen Kenyon. Second years live in either the Rachel Trickett Building, named after a past principal of the college, or the Mary Gray Allen Building. Wolfson Building consists of nine staircases. Finalists usually live in the newer Maplethorpe Building,[4] whose rooms have en-suite facilities; clusters of eight rooms share a kitchen on each of the three floors, with four staircases altogether. All the rooms have views of gardens.


In its 125th anniversary year, the college became a registered charity under the name 'The Principal and Fellows of St Hugh's College in the University of Oxford'.[5] As of July 2018, the college's financial endowment was £37.6 million.<[6] This was amongst the lowest of the Oxford colleges; by comparison, St John's college had a financial endowment of £551.5 million.[27]

Student life

The college is big enough to accommodate all its undergraduates for the duration of their studies.[28] There are three large lawns for the use of students all year round. The gardens are also the venue for croquet and ultimate frisbee. There are a wide range of clubs and societies - sporting, academic, and those supporting niche interests, such as horticulture.

Like other more recently founded Oxford and Cambridge colleges, the college has Formal Hall -- a formal three or four course dinner served with wine -- once a week. Grace is said by the presiding fellow, usually the principal, immediately prior to the meal: Benedic nobis, Domine Deus, et his donis, quae ex liberalitate Tua sumpturi sumus, per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Junior Common Room

As is the practice at all Oxford Colleges that offer undergraduate degrees, the undergraduate body is represented by a committee, known as the JCR Committee. The committee is made up of 16 representatives and seeks to ensure that the undergraduates are provided for in academic, welfare and social matters.

Otherwise, 'JCR' refers to a literal room in the college that hosts social events and is generally seen as a place to relax.

The Swan is a weekly student-managed newspaper.[29] It was founded in 2010.

Middle Common Room

The college is also home to a Middle Common Room (MCR) Committee. The Committee, elected every year, regularly hosts social events for the graduate students.

The MCR building is located on 87, Banbury Road.[30]


St. Hugh's has a choir which sings weekly evensong on Sundays. The choir draws its members from all three common rooms, and has performed for a wide variety of different guests.

The present organ was constructed by the Italian organ-builder Tamburini[31] in 1980. The college offers organ scholarships along with four choral exhibitions each year, and employs a professional organist to oversee the chapel music.[32]


St Hugh’s adopted two non-pedigree British Shorthair kittens on 22 October 2018. They were just four months old when they arrived, born on 22 June 2018. They are brother and sister: the male ginger is Professor Biscuit, and the female tabby is Admiral Flapjack. Her name was decided via a poll open to staff and students; Iona Brooke suggested the winning entry.[33]

In the trinity term of 2019, the College library organised an exhibition named Animals of St Hugh's to celebrate the cats, dogs, and other animals that have belonged or been significant to the College.[34] One notable example is the famous Alpaca Day arranged by the MCR committee.[35] This prompted a JCR motion to investigate the practical aspects of getting two alpacas for the College, which passed by twenty-six votes to four.[36] The College considered the proposal, but decided not to adopt any alpacas.

People associated with St Hugh's


Years Principal
1886–1915 Charlotte Anne Moberly[37]
1915–1924 Eleanor Jourdain[37]
1924–1946 Barbara Gwyer[37]
1946–1962 Evelyn Procter[38]
1962–1973 Kathleen Kenyon[39]
1973–1991 Rachel Trickett[40]
1991–2002 Derek Wood[41]
2002–2012 Andrew Dilnot[42][43]
2012–Present Elish Angiolini


Notable alumni

St Hugh's students are present in all spheres of public life:

In politics, Theresa May, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Nicky Morgan, former Secretary of State for Education; Barbara Castle, former Secretary of State; Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and State Counsellor of Myanmar, studied at the college.

Emily Davison, the famous suffragette who died after being hit by the king’s horse when she walked onto the track during the 1913 Epsom Derby race, enrolled at St Hugh’s for one term to sit her finals.

In the arts, the musician Joe Goddard (from electropop outfit Hot Chip) studied at St Hugh's. BBC arts broadcaster and writer Suzy Klein read Music at St Hugh's. TV writer Richard Hurst wrote his first play at St Hugh's. BAFTA Award winning actress and comedian Rebecca Front began her career at the college, touring with the Oxford Revue in 1984. Writer Mary Renault studied as St Hugh's too.

In science and academia, mathematical child prodigy Ruth Lawrence joined the college in 1983 aged 12. Dorothy Bishop, a psychologist specialising in developmental disorders, studied at St Hugh's. Other academics include philosopher Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe, linguist and revivalist Ghil'ad Zuckermann and mathematician Mary Cartwright.

In law, human rights barrister Amal Clooney graduated with a BA degree in Jurisprudence (Oxford's equivalent to the LLB) from St Hugh's.


  1. "St Hugh's College". University of Oxford.
  2. "St Hugh's College | University of Oxford China Centre". Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  3. Wintle, Justin (2008) Perfect Hostage. Random House, p. 177.
  4. "St Hugh's College Alternative Prospectus" (PDF). St Hugh's JCR. p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 August 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  5. "Charity framework". Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  6. "St Hugh's College : Annual Report and Financial Statements : Year ended 31 July 2018" (PDF). p. 25. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  7. St Hugh's College Spring Newsletter 2010; p. 2
  8. Judy G. Batson, Her Oxford, Vanderbilt University Press, 2008. St. Hugh's: Life on a Shoestring, pp. 51–56. ISBN 978-0-8265-1610-7.
  9. St Hugh's College Spring Newsletter 2011; p. 9
  10. St Hugh's College Spring Newsletter 2011; p. 13
  11. St Hugh's College Spring Newsletter 2011; p. 14
  12. St Hugh's College Spring Newsletter 2011 at page 12
  13. at page 2
  14. St Hugh's College Spring Newsletter 2011 at page 20
  15. St Hugh's College Spring Newsletter 2011 at page 10
  16. "Women at Oxford". University of Oxford. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  17. St Hugh's College Spring Newsletter 2011 at page 11
  18. Historic England. "St Hugh's College Kenyon Building (1392941)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  19. Archived 23 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  20. "Oxford college 'sued for discriminating against the poor'". 20 January 2013.
  21. Daniel Boffey. "Oxford University settles 'selection by wealth' case". the Guardian.
  22. Daniel Boffey. "Oxford University axes 'wealth test' for post-grads". the Guardian.
  23. "Oh baby! Royal fans pass on best to Kate". Oxford Mail.
  24. Alden's Oxford Guide'. Oxford: Alden & Co., 1958; p. 123
  25. "Of the women's colleges S. Hugh's has indisputably the best garden, and for many years now it has been under the loving care of Miss Rogers. It is a well-planned garden, and ... full of interest all the year round."--Rohde, Eleanour Sinclair (1932) Oxford's College Gardens. London: Herbert Jenkins; pp. 173-78
  26. "St Hugh's College Alternative Prospectus" (PDF). St Hugh's JCR. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 August 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  27. "Saint John Baptist College in the University of Oxford : Annual Report and Financial Statements : Year ended 31 July 2018" (PDF). p. 18. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  28. "Your Academic Home". Retrieved on 2018-08-09.
  29. The Swan on the official JCR website
  30. "About St Hugh's MCR | MCR - St Hugh's College, Oxford". MCR - St Hugh's College, Oxford. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  31. "St Hugh's Freshers Guide 2009" (PDF). p. 91. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 August 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  32. "St Hugh's College - Chapel Music". Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  33. @StHughsCollege (5 November 2018). "Congratulations to Iona Brooke for suggesting the winning name for Admiral Flapjack!" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  34. @StHughsLibrary (23 April 2019). "There's a new #exhibition in the library: #Animals of St Hugh's College" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  35. St Hugh's College (8 November 2017). "Alpacas come to St Hugh's!". Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  36. Parr-Reid, Maxim (20 May 2017). "St Hugh's JCR votes for "the alpacas this college deserves"". Cherwell. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  37. Jalland, Beatrice. The Victoria History of the County of Oxford Volume III: The University of Oxford. University of London Institute of Historical Research. pp. 347–348.
  38. Highfield, J. R. L. (September 2010). "Procter, Evelyn Emma Stefanos (1897–1980)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 23 November 2010. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  39. Parr, P. J.; Bienkowski, Piotr (2004). "Kenyon, Dame Kathleen Mary (1906–1978)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  40. "Trickett, (Mabel) Rachel" ((subscription required)). Who Was Who 1920–2008. Oxford University Press. December 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  41. "Wood, Derek Alexander". Who's Who 2010. Oxford University Press. November 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  42. "Mr A Dilnot". St Hugh's College, Oxford. Archived from the original on 20 January 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  43. "Message from the Principal, Andrew Dilnot CBE". St Hugh's College. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
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