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!

Dorothy L Sayers and Vera Brittain at Somerville in 1915


dls-vbMany 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.