Opening of Darbishire (East as was)

As the opening of the new ROQ buildings grows nearer, it seems appropriate to show the opening ceremony of a Somerville building from years gone by.  This is an informal snap taken at the 1935 opening of the East Quadrangle (now know as Darbishire).  The ceremony took place at the Gaudy for that year, when Dorothy L Sayers happened to be Chairman of the Somerville Association.  She can be glimpsed, third from the right,  turning round to talk to someone in the back row.  DLS immortalised this particular Gaudy in her novel Gaudy Night written the following year,  which was set in  fictional Shrewsbury College – a thinly disguised Somerville!

Maude Clarke

Maude Clarke was a tutor in history at Somerville from 1919 till her early death in 1935.  A noted medievalist in a still largely male academic world, she published important and sometimes controversial work on fourteenth century England with a particular focus on constitutional history.  We have eight of her publications in the College library but many more books that she gave the College during her sixteen year career at Somerville and on her death.  One of her first pupils when she arrived at Somerville was Vera Brittain who based one of the characters in her first novel Dark Tide on Maude Clarke.   

Maude Clarke was highly respected by colleagues and students for her charm, wisdom and clarity.  She was particularly valued for her contributions to college governance and administration where she combined a sense of due process with a skilful tact and diplomacy.

Maude Clarke’s study in East Quad (now Darbishire) c 1934

Somerville Section – 3rd Southern General Hospital 1914-18

3rd-southern-general-hospitalAn 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.

Approaching House in the 1880s

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

Demeter 1904

The cast on the steps of the library loggia, featuring Edith Pearson (1903) as Dis, Octavia Myers (1903) as Persephone & Henrietta Escreet (1903) as Demeter

Demeter was the College Masque, performed to celebrate the opening of the Library in 1904. It was written by Robert Bridges (husband of Margery Fry’s cousin Monica) with music by Sir Henry Hadow, brother of Somervillian Grace Hadow (1900). The librarian, Margery Fry, (later Principal of Somerville) was the producer.

Hall and Maitland c 1913


Hall and Maitland

 Hall and Maitland shortly after construction almost a hundred years ago and below as it is today.  The building was designed by Edward Fisher (brother of historian and politician H.A.L.Fisher) and built in 1913 to house a dining hall, senior common room, private dining room, kitchen and a block of twenty new student rooms and allowed the College to dine together in one place for the first time.