A group of tutors and students from 1921 under the Principalship of Emily Penrose (seated in the second row from the front directly under the central pillar). Sitting next to Miss Penrose is Professor Gilbert Murray, noted Classical scholar, internationalist and strong supporter of women’s higher education. He was a member of the Somerville Council from 1908 to 1957 and chaired the Library Committee untill a few months before his death at the age of 91.
Members of staff are featured in the second row and include Hilda Lorimer, Emily Penrose, Alice Bruce, Mildred Pope, Maude Clarke and Vera Farnell. Unfortunately we do not have student names for this photo and we would be very interested if anyone can provide any information about them – please use the comments box below or email the library@some. ox.ac.uk
In this group from 1891, Miss Maitland the Principal (with dark bonnet) is surrounded by her staff and students, including future principal Emily Penrose (3rd from the right in the 3rd row), pioneering Indian lawyer Cornelia Sorabji (far left end of the second row from the front) Indian princesses Bamba and Catherine Duleep Singh (front row far left) and Clara Pater (on the right of Agnes Maitland).
An unremarkable view of House, at first glance, taken in high summer. But instead of a student wheeling her bicycle on the right, it’s an injured soldier in his Bath Chair, and hospital beds have been placed in the shade of the tree. This is from a postcard series of ‘No.965 Somerville Section 3rd Southern General Hospital’, issued after the College was requisitioned by the War Office in Hilary, 1915. Somerville was thought particuarly suitable for convalescent officers and was dedicated for this purpose in 1916. Somerville students were rehoused in an empty wing of Oriel College but many volunteered to help at the hospital in their spare time. Some famous patients of the Somerville Section of 3rd Southern General Hospital were Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves.
There was a strong dramatic tradition at Somerville in the first half of the twentieth century with plays being written and performed in College most years. In its dramatic heyday, the College could boast a Second Year play in Michaelmas Term, a First Year play in Hilary and The Going Down Play (by the finalists) in Trinity. This scene is taken from the 1921 production of Twelfth Night. Comments gratefully received from anyone who can identify the actors!
Many Somervillians have gone on to great things and in this photo from 1915 we see Somerville College students Dorothy L Sayers (first standing row from the front, far left) and Vera Brittain (same row but at the far right). Dorothy L Sayers went on to write fiction including the well-known detective novels featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. One of her novels, Gaudy Night, was set in the fictional Oxford College ‘Shrewsbury’ which was based on Somerville. DLS was also a noted playwright and Dante scholar.
Vera Brittain is most famous for her autobiographical ‘Testament of Youth’ which she wrote following her devastating experiences of the First World War. She wrote many other books and journalistic articles and was a dedicated peace campaigner. The Somerville archive contains a collection of her letters, diaries, photos and books left to the College by her friend and one-time literary executor Paul Berry.
Approach to House in the early days of Somerville, almost unrecognisably rural! The cottages on the right were originally used to house students but were demolished in 1930s to make way for the East quadrangle which is now known as Darbishire. Below is the roughly equivalent view today.
View towards House through Darbishire Quad
In the early days of Somerville Hall, the grounds were described in the College Log book as being quite rural and included a meadow, cows and a pig which were later replaced with a donkey and a pony. The pony, pictured here, was ocasionally pressed into service to transport students and staff on weekend outings.