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News from Bedford Society

All members will receive a termly newsletter. If you would like to be kept informed, please send your contact details to alumni@rhbnc.ac.uk. Please note that we use email as our preferred method of communication for event invitations to reduce costs, so please let us know if your email address changes. 

We also post news stories and features via our online Higher magazine for alumni of Royal Holloway and Bedford New College. Visit the magazine here.

Bedford Scholars Update - April 2018

Sophie MerringtonSophie, one of this year’s Bedford Scholars has written to thank Bedfordians who have supported the Bedford Society Scholarship Fund this year.

"As I near my final assignments for this course (early May deadlines and dissertation in August), I would like to say a big thank you to the donors of the Bedford Society, for without your support and generous funding I would not have been able to study a Marketing MA. This course has helped me to gain a more in-depth understanding of psychology, consumer behaviour and digitalisation, while also developing vital skills in research and analysis; all of which will help me to propel in my future career. Throughout the course, this Bedford Society Scholarship has given me confidence in my ability and continues to fuel me to reach full potential; I am truly grateful for this.  I have also thoroughly enjoyed meeting some of the alumni at various Society events and look forward to meeting more of you in the near future."

The Society’s long-term goal is to build up a sum large enough for an endowment so that the name of Bedford will continue to live on. If you would like to make a donation to the Bedford Society Scholarships Fund, you can do so on the College’s webpages, or by sending a cheque made payable to Royal Holloway and Bedford New College to the Development and Alumni Relations Department, RHBNC, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX. Alternatively call 01784 414 478 to give over the phone. Thank you for your kind intentions.

SUFFRAGE: Education, Activism and Votes for Women

Members of the Bedford Society were invited to a viewing of the ‘SUFFRAGE: Education, Activism and Votes for Women’ exhibition at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College (RHBNC) on Sunday 4 March 2018.  The visit was divided into two parts: first the exhibition itself and then time spent in the Archive Viewing Room to browse a varied selection of contemporary documents including copies of national leaflets and newspapers published by the suffragette movement together with some Bedford College photograph albums and some of Elizabeth Jesser Reid’s correspondence.

The exhibition, which consisted of source material from the RHBNC archives and other external sources, covered the period from the founding of Bedford College in 1849 until the passing of the Representation of the People Act in February 1918. Bedford College was founded by in 1849 Elizabeth Jesser Reid as the first higher education college for women in the United Kingdom; examples of her correspondence and the Bedford College Minute Book were on display. At Bedford College as at Royal Holloway College, founded in 1886, women had the opportunity in Political Society debates to discuss and vote on issues concerning women’s suffrage, firstly was this desirable and secondly how it should be achieved, by law-abiding means (suffragists) or more militant tactics (suffragettes); the College authorities tried to ensure that these debates were balanced and did not encourage their students to participate in suffragette marches.  

The first Student Register for Royal Holloway College shows that Emily Wilding Davison, later to die from injuries sustained in the Epsom Derby of 1913, had joined the college in January 1913; she had to leave the following year because her family could no longer afford the fees. There was also information about students from both colleges, who are perhaps not so well known: Barbara Bodichon (Bedford College), who formed the first Women’s Suffrage Committee, which organised the 1866 Suffrage Petition, signed by 1499 men and women and presented to Parliament by John Stuart Mill, and Rose Lamartine Yates (Royal Holloway College), who played a very active role in the suffragette movement, making speeches and going on marches, for which she was arrested and imprisoned.

Equally interesting were items on loan from the Women’s Library, London School of Economics including a suffragette demonstration badge and ribbon, a hunger strike badge in its box, photographs of the Great Hunger Strike procession in 1913 and of police on horseback using truncheons to control another suffrage demonstration probably in the same year. As examples of products sold by the suffragettes to advertise and finance their campaign there was a suffrage tea cup and saucer and a ‘Pank-a-Squith’ board game (the latter loaned by the Museum of London).

Being a small group, we could look closely at the exhibits and ask questions throughout the visit which led to varied and interesting discussions. Thanks are due to Harriet O’Neill, the Exhibition Curator, and Harriet Costelloe, the College Archivist, for welcoming us so warmly and sharing their knowledge with us.

Susan Riley
Latin & Greek 1963


Commemorating 100 years since the Representation of the People Act

February 2018 marks 100 years since the enactment of the 1918 Representation of the People Act which, for the first time gave some women and all men the vote. Royal Holloway and Bedford New College is playing a significant national role in celebrating women's suffrage and the calendar of events and projects taking place in 2018 will bring to life the legacy of suffrage and the development of democracy.

Explore the College's suffrage events >

Discover the range of research and projects that the College is involved with >

Read more about inspirational Bedford College alumnae who contributed to the Suffrage movement >

Join the College's free online course, exploring the campaign for women’s right to vote and its impact on women’s rights and equality to the present day >

Visit the Suffrage exhibition >

We are intending to have an item for sale both to commemorate the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, and the link with Bedford College. Watch this space for details!



Horns of a Dilemma

Bedford unicorn mascotWho else remembers this incident? I refer to an unnamed mascot, a wooden unicorn (pictured in 1960), which was routinely brought to all union meetings held in the common room, during my student days at Bedford (1962 -1965).

When I was vice president of the student union in the spring of ’64 the students at the North London Polytechnic (as it then was) were determined to steal her/him and the open meeting was an ideal time when he/she would be on display.

They came hollering and shouting down the corridors and made straight for the top table.  Instinct made me act. Maybe I should have stayed and held a parley, but I gathered up THE MASCOT and ran from the meeting, away from the intruders.  It would be imprudent of me to say where I stopped to gain my breath back but, suffice it to say, they left. Unicorn and I returned to the meeting and it was business as usual.

Does anyone know if UNICORN had a name? I do not recall. And where is she/he now?  But I do recall that we had live equivalents in Regents Park Zoo - a nanny goat called Candida and her offspring, whose sex was not known to us, whom we called Dilemma.  If anyone has photos of any of these three then the archivist, and the editorial team of this Newsletter, would be delighted to have them

Rachel Whittaker
Sociology 1965

Image from the Royal Holloway and Bedford New College archives - PP60/2/1/1/4/3/49

The Big Give Christmas Challenge raises over £120,000

The Big Give Christmas Challenge was a huge success, raising over £120,000 to support scholarships and work placements at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College in just one week, including over £29,000 for the Bedford Society Scholarship Fund!

The Big Give Christmas Challenge is the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign which helps UK-registered charities raise funds for their cause. The campaign is run by the Big Give which was founded by entrepreneur, philanthropist and Honorary Fellow Sir Alec Reed in 2007. Donations made online between noon on 28 November and noon on 5 December were kindly doubled by our key supporters and the Big Give’s philanthropic partner, The Reed Foundation.

This year, over £11 million was raised through the challenge for more than 2,500 charity projects and we are delighted that the College was one of the top 3 most active institutions that have contributed to this figure this year.

Campus was a hub of activity throughout the week, with students and staff getting involved with fundraising activities including the Big Give Launch Festival, a bake sale, a movie night and the Santa Fun Run, all in aid of the challenge.

Thank you to our kind and active Campaign Ambassadors and student societies, who supported the campaign throughout the week, and to everyone who donated to support our talented students!

Activity collage - Bedford

An Evening at Maggs Bros - 48 Bedford Square

On 10 October I was privileged to join a group of 50 alumni in the splendid first floor library of the building that was the original home of Bedford College. We enjoyed drinks and nibbles, kindly provided by our hosts, Maggs Bros, before hearing about the early history of the building and its current use.

IMG_2292 croppedWe were welcomed by Ed Maggs, managing director of Maggs Bros, who explained that his company had spent a year restoring the building, which they had occupied for the past six months. His family had an interesting connection with the area as one of his forebears, Uriah Maggs, had been a footman at 38 Gower Street at the time when Bedford College was housed in Bedford Square.

Enid Light told us the story of the green plaque which adorns the front of the building, recording the foundation of the College by Mrs Elizabeth [sic] Jesser Reid in 1849. This was put up as recently as 2001. The 150th anniversary had highlighted the fact that no such commemorative plaque existed. She explained that in October 1849, when the College opened, the building, now 48 Bedford Square, was numbered 47.

Following on, Caroline Barron and Claire Daunton gave a talk about the building and its early history, illustrated by Mrs Reid’s correspondence in the College archives and the Bedford estate archives. We were shown head leases from 1777, 1855 and 1877 which prohibited the use of the building for commercial or institutional purposes; fortunately the College was given special exemption by the Duke of Bedford. The correspondence includes a letter from Elizabeth Bostock, a trustee, concerning furnishing and repairs in 1862, following the acquisition of the adjacent building. There is a lot in the correspondence about the education of women (Jane Martineau, a trustee, was the sister of Harriet).

Finally, Robert Harding of Maggs Bros introduced Michael Boulter, who told us about his recently published book Bloomsbury Scientists. This is dedicated to Bill Chaloner, his former PhD supervisor at UCL, and from 1979 chair of Botany at Bedford College.

Altogether it was a very convivial and informative evening. I learnt much about the early history of the College, and it is reassuring to know that 48 Bedford Square is in the good hands of Maggs Bros who have restored the building so sympathetically. Many thanks to them for their generous hospitality, which has enabled all proceeds from this event to go to the Bedford Society Scholarship Fund. Also a huge thank you to Caroline and Claire for telling the story of the building, and for the work they have done in researching the archives.

Enid Hunt (née Fairhurst)
History 1960-63

Botany and Zoology 40 year reunion

BC77group29Apr17_3Forty years after graduating from Bedford College Botany and Zoology Departments, (L-R) Kevin Jennings, Jenny Wellsteed, David Ashton, Sarah Clarkson (née Hiskett), Leen Vanherle, Linda Bennett (née Bygrave), Shane Winsor (née Wesley-Smith) and Steve Barlow are photographed outside the Herringham entrance of Regent's University at a 40 year reunion on the 29 April 2017.

Regent's University welcomed the group on a student open day for a nostalgic trip around the site which still retains many recognisable "Bedford" features amongst the modern changes. If any others from the 1977 B/Z group would like to be included in any future get togethers please contact the group via the Alumni office.

Unsung heroines of history - can you help?

Jane Robinson, author and social historian, is currently working on her 11th book, celebrating the centenary of women’s entry into the traditional professions following the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of December 1919. She will be following the stories of pioneer architects, lawyers, doctors/dentists, engineers and churchwomen, together with those working in academia (including secondary education) and the media during the 1920s and 1930s and she needs your help!

Jane is eager to write about the unsung heroines of history, so is focusing on women who have eluded the limelight in the past. With that in mind, if you think she should know about anyone in your family, field of expertise or alumnae network from this time, she would be delighted to hear from you. If you’re in one of these professions yourself, she would love to hear about your favourite female role models of that era. She is looking for strong (but not necessarily high-profile) characters and surprising achievements; inspirational women who through their own efforts and determination helped to shape the family and working lives of professional women today.

You can contact Jane on jane@jane-robinson.com or c/o Veronique Baxter, David Higham Associates, Floor 7, Waverley House, 7-12 Noel Street, London W1F 8GQ.

Memories of the Mathematics Department - by Joseph Spring

It was in the spring of ’81, the first time that I visited Bedford College. I had travelled from Bedford in Bedfordshire to meet members of the mathematics department and quickly came to realise that this was where I would continue my mathematical journey.

The department maintained an active supportive environment, inviting and friendly. Here be researchers, pure mathematicians, applied mathematicians preparing students for academic life and opportunities post their degree. London was on the doorstep. If you didn’t want the hustle and bustle of London, then the walk from Hanover Lodge on the Outer Circle of Regents Park, past the boating lake, across the little bridge, frequented close by, by squirrels that would run towards you stopping at your knee, led you to the College grounds without stepping into the hustle and bustle of London itself.

One of my earliest memories of the mathematics department was of my surprise in how different mathematics was for the first year of the degree. Analysis! What is this? I recall saying to myself. It’s like tennis. Tennis you say. Algebra, it’s so different. Mechanics, ah, a little more familiar. Probability, I thought I knew about probability. It was quite a shock. Staff were very supportive, accessible and patient. Explanations and calculations were discussed on the back of envelopes, in corridors, in lectures, rooms and offices which together with peer support and sheer doggedness led to problems that evolved into intriguing rather than daunting concepts and ideas. The game was (as some have said) afoot.

Mathematics demanded work, but was a wonderful subject to study. Applications in quantum theory and special relativity together with discussions on black holes, in rapid response to student requests have stood the test of time.

The Bedford experience was much more than life in one department or another. The relationships that developed with staff and peers, the different experiences shared by staff and students, the accessibility of staff, the mischief and support of colleagues, the history and reputation of the college, the range of students from different disciplines and cultures. These all contributed to the Bedford experience.

Joseph Spring
Mathematics 1981-1984

Year-End Review publication 2016/17

We have recently published our Year-End Review 2016/17 for supporters. The review celebrates the activities and achievements which have been made possible due to the funds generously donated to the College and the Bedford Society in 2016/17 by our alumni and friends like you.

We would like to thank you again for your ongoing support. The generosity of our alumni and friends is key to ensuring that Royal Holloway and Bedford New College remains one of the UK’s leading universities and continues to be a community that inspires individuals to succeed. We are truly grateful to you for playing your part.

Repurposing of Bedford Library 

Moving with the times; vital space freed for exciting developments

With the new Emily Wilding Davison Building creating state-of-the-art facilities to meet the needs of our current and future students, the movement of key services to the building will free up much needed space for academic departments to benefit from. 

Later this year, the Bedford Library will be renamed the Bedford Building and after a period of repurposing it will become home to the Departments of Mathematics and Information Security and Computer Science. This move recognises the synergies in research expertise, education and new technologies for our community of staff and students in these three areas and offers opportunities as a global centre of excellence.

The Physics Department will also use some of the space on the lower ground floor for a new state-of-the-art suite of clean rooms, which will operate as the UK centre for superconducting and hybrid quantum systems to expand our capacity for world-class academic research and commercial collaborations.

The move into the Bedford Building in turn vacates space within the McCrea Building. This will be used to move Management out of Founder’s East, creating much needed space for welfare and other services that need to be at the heart of the student facing operations around Founder’s Square. McCrea will be refurbished to house History, and parts of Management and Economics, as well as new teaching space.

The Founder’s West Reading Room will remain a library reading room, as it always has been, providing students with space to study and reflect in historic surroundings. The other areas in Founder’s that make up the library as it is today have been adapted and changed throughout our history to meet the changing needs of students – and today is no exception.  Some exciting opportunities are currently being reviewed, but as Founder’s is a Grade I listed building there are many factors that need to be considered. As soon as plans are confirmed they will be shared with our community.

Honorary Fellowships 2017

Gavin Drewry2We are delighted to share that Professor Gavin Drewry, former Bedford College staff member and a current Bedford Society Committee member, is to become an Honorary Fellow.

Honorary Fellowships are awarded to recognise the outstanding contributions made by individuals to the life and work of the College or to education generally and conferred annually at a ceremony at the College in May. This year, Gavin is one of three individuals to be awarded an Honorary Fellowship, alongside Professor Jane Broadbent, Former Senior Vice-Principal and Richard Williams, College Tour Guide and Former Senior Technician, Department of Chemistry.

Gavin has enjoyed a half-century association with the College, beginning in 1966 when he was appointed as an assistant research officer in the Legal Research Unit at Bedford College. He was then Lecturer at Bedford College in 1969 and Reader in 1984. After Bedford College’s merger with Royal Holloway College, Gavin was appointed Chair in Public Administration in 1989. In 1990 he became the first Director of the newly established Centre for Political Studies and subsequently served as Head of the Department of Social Policy and Social Science between 1992 and 1996. He is presently Emeritus Professor of Public Administration at the College, a position he has held since his formal retirement in September 2009.

Gavin told us “I have very many fond memories of Bedford College and of its successor, Royal Holloway and Bedford new College, which continues to go from strength to strength both in reputation and achievement. So I am very grateful now to be given this opportunity to continue my long and much valued association with the University, as an Honorary Fellow.”

Gavin is now the fifth current serving Bedford Society Committee member to be awarded an Honorary Fellowship, alongside Professor Caroline Barron (History Department), Jennifer Glastonbury (French with German 1969), Enid Light (German, 1955) and Dinah Nichols CB (History 1965).

He also joins a wealth of well-known Bedford College alumni who have been given this honour, including environmentalist, writer and broadcaster Professor David Bellamy OBE (PhD Botany, 1960), former Chief Executive of English Heritage Simon Thurley (History 1985) and Robert Childs (History, 1973) Non-Executive Chairman at Hiscox.

History at St John's Lodge - by Claire Gobbi Daunton

St_John's_Lodge,_Regent's_ParksquarePaddy was sometimes on duty at the door, and sometimes not. Paddy was caretaker, jack-of-all trades and master of none. We never quite knew what he did, but he was a friendly presence and part of the fabric of the place that we called home for three years, our precious ‘St John’s’.  From the moment one walked in one knew that the place was different and special, and all the more so because it was ‘ours’. Of course we knew that we were sharing the building with Classics, but they were nice, fewer in number and no trouble; and in any case we had the best parts of the building.

St John’s, a beautiful early nineteenth-century villa, had been refurbished by the third Marquis of Bute, in the later years of the century, with a fascinating decorative scheme. This added to its unique appearance and atmosphere, and its special appeal. We listened to lectures and sat exams in a ballroom, had a country house-style library, and a domed entrance hall with painted ceiling. But we also had a basement café and common room that were both utilitarian and welcoming. The ‘upstairs downstairs’ aspect of the building felt quite appropriate: students ate in the basement, academic staff met and ate their sandwiches in a rather grand first–floor room overlooking the garden. We even had a ‘secret’ garden at the front of the building.

The joy of returning each term and each year to ‘our building’, and to meeting each other again after the vacation, was somewhat tempered as we gathered in the ballroom to write ‘collection papers’ or termly-exams after – supposedly – spending the vacation on preparatory revision. And then of course there was the posting of the results on the noticeboard by the pigeon-holes! There was no escape. Nor was there any escape from the care and conscientious attention to our personal and academic well-being that teaching staff offered to us. I believe we probably knew even then, as assuredly we know now, that this care and attention would stand us in very good stead as we moved on from St John’s.

The rhythm of the academic year was marked not only by termly collection papers but also by end-of-year reviews. With these we discovered the musical and dramatic talents of both staff and students: and the competition to outdo each other, with satirical sketches, musical interludes, recitations, dancing in the ballroom, could be quite fierce. I hope someone has kept photos or other memorabilia from these very special times. Let us know!

Claire Gobbi Daunton
History, 1971-74

Competition time!

Bedford crossword
Our very first Bedford crossword has been created! Download a printable or editable version and, once completed, submit your entry to the details on the form and a winner will be chosen from all correct submissions. The solutions will be provided in the September newsletter. Good luck!

Spot the ball
94 years after a game of cricket at Bedford College, we are inviting you to 'spot the ball'! For your chance to win a prize, please download the photograph and mark clearly where you think the ball is positioned before submitting it as outlined in the document. The original photograph will be shared in the September newsletter.

Professor Ann Oakley talk - 23 March 2017

Words by Professor Gina Rippon (Psychology, 1972)A critical woman bookcover 150

On Thursday 23 March, Professor Ann Oakley, herself a Bedford college alumna, spoke about her biography of Barbara Wootton, A Critical Woman. Barbara Wootton was long-lived (as ruefully observed by her biographer), a member of staff at Bedford College from 1921 to 1952 and, as we learned, a highly active public figure in the twentieth century.

I have to confess that I used notice of this talk as an excuse to arrange a mini-reunion with some fellow old Bedfordians (1972 graduates). Thus it was that a psychologist, a botanist and two zoologists found themselves at a sociology talk last week. Maybe outside our everyday comfort zones, but the talk was interesting and informative and provided an evening of insights.

These were, obviously, insights into Barbara Wootton herself. She became a life-long pacifist after her first husband, Jack Wootton, died at Passchendaele after 3 weeks of marriage. She achieved many ‘firsts’ -  the first woman to give lectures at Cambridge University, the first to be a member of a national policy commission, the first to become a life peer in the House of Lords, where she became deputy speaker in 1965. She was, apparently, inordinately fond of donkeys, even writing an article about their love of peppermint creams for Donkey magazine.

There was Barbara Wootton the politician – she championed the bill to abolish capital punishment in the House of Lords Lords and on to the statute book. There were two Wootton Reports; one, on cannabis, published in 1968, and one on alternatives to prison, published in 1970. As a result of this latter report, community service orders were introduced into Britain for the first time.

There was Barbara Wootton the academic, founding the British Sociological Association with Ann Oakley’s father, Richard Titmuss.  She is hailed as the founder of evidence-based social policy and set up higher education’s first social policy research unit at Bedford College. Made a professor in 1948, she then had to resign her chair to take up some disputed grant funding. Ann Oakley described Bedford as a mixed blessing for Barbara Wootton and there was the impression that she was treated as something of a second-class citizen, perhaps because sociology was not viewed as a traditional classical discipline. She was (rather belatedly, I think!) made an Honorary Fellow of Bedford College in 1970, and fought hard in the 1980s to save the Regent’s Park site (we should have a portrait at 11 Bedford Square!).

During questions at the end, Ann Oakley suggested that Barbara Wootton has largely been forgotten because she was ahead of her time, an early multidisciplinary academic. Asked if perhaps Baroness Wotton had spread herself too thinly over different arenas, the response: “no, she spread herself thickly over so many areas” was the quote of the evening for me!

My first time at 11 Bedford Square was a real pleasure – good food, drink and company and a chance to hear one distinguished Bedford alumna talking about another. 

Women in Science oral history project update 

Last year, eight Bedford College alumnae were interviewed as part of a Women in Science oral history project undertaken by current MA Public History students at the College. You can now listen to clips from these oral histories online at livesofwomeninscience.wordpress.com

Big Give Christmas Challenge raises £17,500 for Bedford scholarships

The Big Give Christmas Challenge was a huge success, raising £17,500 to support the Bedford Society Scholarships Fund in 72 hours!

The Big Give Christmas Challenge is the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign which helps UK-registered charities raise funds for their cause. The campaign is run by the Big Give which was founded by entrepreneur, philanthropist and Honorary Fellow Sir Alec Reed in 2007.

Since the Big Give launched the campaign in 2008, it has raised over £71 million for more than 2,500 charity projects. Donations made online to the College between noon on 29 November and noon on 2 December were kindly doubled by our key supporters and the Big Give’s philanthropic partner, The Reed Foundation. In total, the challenge raised over £90,000 for students at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, £17,500 of which is for the Bedford Society Scholarships Fund. We look forward to updating you soon about the scholarship recipients.

Thank you to everyone who donated to support talented Bedford Scholars!

Margaret Maddock (10 July 1919 - 9 December 2016)

It is with sadness we have learned of the passing of alumna Margaret Maddock (née Walton) at the age of 97.

Margaret studied Geography at Bedford College, graduating in 1940. Earlier this year she took part in our oral history project where she recalled some of her fascinating memories of Bedford during the Second World War, including her evacuation to Cambridge from Regent's Park.

You can read Margaret's memories of being an alumna evacuee on Higher online.

Departmental memories - by Professor Gavin Drewry

Professor Gavin Drewry, Bedford Society Committee member, joined the staff of the Sociology Department at Bedford College in 1966. Here he offers just a small sample of his many memories of the Department in the 1960s and ‘70s.

The Sociology Department was, by some margin, the largest in our small College (we had, uniquely, no fewer than four professors). We were located in the Reid Building, in rooms that had once served as student accommodation. There was a bathroom, with an old-fashioned bath (there is a story to tell about that bath, but I won’t repeat it here!) – and I remember that one of our external examiners, having noticed that the taps on the wash basins were, for some perverse reason, labelled ‘cold’ and ‘cold’, congratulated us on our commendable monastic discipline.

Staff and students of that era will no doubt have their own favourite memories of their contemporaries. One enduring memory for me is of Madge Simonis, our Departmental Secretary, who kept the show on the road during the Head of Department’s not-infrequent absences. Madge smoked like a chimney (a lot of staff and students did in those days – often in classes and lectures) and the gravelly timbre of her voice bore eloquent testimony to this. She had an endearing habit of touch-typing at great speed while, at the same time, engaging in animated conversations with the frequent visitors who stood gossiping in the doorway of her office. Unfortunately, the carriage return mechanism on her typewriter was permanently broken, which meant that - as she wasn’t always looking at what she was doing - the right hand portions of her messages, including a lot of important communications to staff and students, often ended up typed on the roller instead of on the page!

Other Bedfordians are warmly invited to submit informal accounts of their own personal memories of their Bedford days for future editions of this Newsletter – limit of 200-300 words, please.

Calling all Bedford historians - Remembering Conrad Russell

Penelope Corfield, historian, lecturer and education consultant, recently contributed to the Institute of Historical Research's panel discussion on Remembering Conrad Russell, Historian of Stuart Britain and 'Last of the Whigs'. As many of you will know, Conrad Russell (1937-2004) was a History Lecturer at Bedford College from 1960-74.

In a recent blog Penelope has shared notes from her talk which can be viewed at penelopejcorfield.com

Geeta Alvares Meneses 15 September 1952 - 6 February 2016 

Words by Andrea Thomas

It was the kind of occasion Geeta would have loved, hundreds of smartly dressed friends assembled, a smattering of titled folk, with Geeta as the centre of attention followed by fine food and plenty of it served by self effacing waitresses. Sadly she wasn’t there to enjoy it. Geeta had died suddenly on 6 February 2016 at the age of 63.  It was her funeral.  Eight Bedfordians attended  and several hundred others, a microcosm  of all the thousands of people she had charmed and irritated in equal measure.  The Church's sun- drenched nave was full to bursting waiting for the coffin which arrived fashionably late for the requiem mass. The affectionate  eulogy captured Geeta to a tee, full of amusing anecdotes from stories of the infant Geeta being dandled on Ho Chi Min’s knee to persuading  a luckless Indian Ambassador in pre-Revolution Tehran to entertain her and two back packing friends for several days, no expenses spared.  It evoked the old spirit of Geeta whom we remembered from the Bedford College History Department  in 1970-73 located in what was our very own ivory tower, the Regency villa,  St John’s Lodge, on the Inner Circle of Regent’s Park. We will not see her like again.

Bedfordians donate over £100,000 to keep the spirit of Bedford College alive

The College has been overwhelmed by the generosity of Bedford College alumni and former staff members who have donated more than £100,000 towards the refurbishment of 11 Bedford Square and towards Bedford Scholarships, and in doing so are continuing the legacy of the College and its founder, Elizabeth Jesser Reid.

Elizabeth Jesser Reid, a pioneering social reformer, put up her own money to found Bedford College (which later merged with Royal Holloway College) in 1849. It was the first college in Great Britain for the higher education of women.

Built in 1783, 11 Bedford Square, a Grade 1 listed Georgian building, sits in the heart of Bloomsbury. Students from Bedford College attended classes there just as current students do today. The property was leased to Royal Holloway and Bedford New College from the University of London thirty years ago and is now undergoing a renovation project to restore it to its original splendour.

The refurbishment, which will be completed later in the year, will ensure that the building is not only fit for the purposes of teaching and learning in the 21st century, but also reflects its heritage. Renovations to the ground floor will include opening up the entrance hall to showcase the highly significant cantilevered staircase, as well as a new shared common room for alumni, the Bedford Room. The basement will benefit from a new kitchen, new toilets, a refurbished student common room, improved computer facilities and better access to the garden. On the first, second and third floors there will be new teaching, office and small group spaces as well as computer facilities.

Once refurbished, the building will be available for alumni events, small conferences and exhibitions and book launches. It will also be used for special interest seminars, enabling the impact of research undertaken by our researchers to have the broadest reach possible.

Professor Rob Kemp, Deputy Principal and Chair of the 11 Bedford Square Project Board, said, “On behalf of the College, I would like to thank the several hundred Bedfordians who recently gave to the appeal that supports the refurbishment of 11 Bedford Square and Bedford scholarships, and to extend a special thank you to those who have supported the College regularly for more than a decade already. The College is overwhelmed with the support we have received and the Bedford Society holds a very special and valuable place in all that we do. I look forward to seeing you all in 11 Bedford Square in the near future.”

Donors who have enabled the completion of this project will be invited to visit the building when it re-opens. Anyone who has donated £1,000 or more will be recognised on a donor board that will be displayed in the newly restored building.

Donors have also helped to increase the number of Bedford Scholarships the College can fund. The scholarships help to provide students with access to higher education in today’s difficult economy, enabling them to carry out life-changing research and participate in programs that are having a positive impact on the world.

Class of 1965 Sociology alumnae hold reunion in London

In June 1965, some 28 Sociology undergraduates sat their finals examinations in Tuke Hall, Bedford College. We were reunited in spring of the next year at the degree presentation ceremony, conducted by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother at The Royal Albert Hall and a service on the same day at St Paul's Cathedral. We have met intermittently between then and now.

Fifty years on, in June this year, the group held a reunion with 16 acceptances from as far afield as Belgium, Scotland and Yorkshire; although on the day two were unable to make the event. We sadly have no contact for three who respectively went to the Caribbean, the Far East and Africa.

Thus, fourteen of us on a bright and warm sunny day gathered at the RAF Club in Piccadilly. We were splendidly looked after by Gillian and John Allison and were able to enjoy the Club's sumptuous surroundings, which included our own private dining room for lunch, a bonus when the decibels of our catching up talk reached a crescendo! The conversations ranged widely from the politics of today, the change in the standards of accommodation students expect today compared to fifty years ago, the tolerance of today's society compared to the taboos of the '60s and what had happened to our many august professors and academic staff. To quote one email after the event, ‘It is especially moving to realise that there is still a powerful feeling of solidarity in our group, when so many of us travel long distances and set aside other commitments to be there on the day. We all know it, but the group really is greater than the sum of its parts!’
And another; " What I like about meeting you all – apart from the goodwill that – is that our three formative years gave us much that we don’t need to explain to each other (like how old we are!). We can have an interesting conversation about the last election, for example, with differing views but with an agreeable harmony of approach. There’s confidence there."
We remembered too, those who had died since our previous get together when many of us met at the House of Commons tea party, in particular, Iva Mildon, Teresa Goodman, Sandra Hosker, Diane Fallows and Dorothy John.

We are looking forward to holding our next reunion in the alumni common room at Bedford Square!

Rachel Whittaker, MBE JP
Sociology 1965

Professor Martin West OM 1937 - 2015

It is with great sadness that friends and family of Professor Martin West OM learned of his passing in July, aged 77. 

Professor West was one of the most distinguished Classical scholars of his time, as Professor of Greek at Bedford College, London, and later as Senior Research Fellow at All Souls, Oxford. A full obituary can be found here.

Dr Clingbine (Biological Sciences 1972) releases new books

Disclosure: The Future is Now - to be released on 28 October
A story of strange experiences about what happens when events in the future affect the past.

A story of strange experiences about what happens when events in the future return to affect the past. Disclosure traces the life of Kevin Powell as he undergoes strange experiences that his young mind cannot interpret. As a teenager, Kevin supports his mum when she falls ill and requires surgery to remove a mysterious object of unknown origin and function. In adulthood, he has a number of realistic nightmare-like visions. He sees his wife and mum in a bizarre, unfamiliar environment. Revelations of a depopulated planet Earth are shown to him from the distant future. He is placed in a dilemma which sets his love for his daughter against an uncertain future on Earth.

About the author
Dr Graham Clingbine has BSc and MSc degrees from the Bedford College in the areas of Biological Science and Neurobiology. His award of PhD followed a research programme on the memory mechanisms of the brain and led to a long career in education.

Dr Clingbine has co-authored a number of paperback books related to model answers to biology examination questions. He has a keen interest and extensive research knowledge in the subject area of unidentified flying objects (UFO’s) and related phenomena including alien abductions and possible secret governmental conspiracy theories which cover up cases of alien contact.

Dr Clingbine's two publications are Disclosure and Release From Stasis: The Future is Now by Matador. His second book, set in the distant future, will be available to order from 28 January 2016. Disclosure will be available to order in most UK bookshops from the Publisher’s bookshop, Amazon and Dr Graham Clingbine's website from mid-October.

Eleanor Vollans 1921 - 2015

Eleanor_Vollans_croppedIt was with great sadness that those who knew Eleanor Vollans heard of her death in April. Eleanor studied geography at St.Hughes, Oxford, with which she maintained lifelong links, and after a short time teaching at Bradford Grammar joined the geography staff at Bedford College in 1948. Initially she taught biogeography but eventually specialised in historical geography and a main research interest in the landscape archaeology of southern England and urbanisation in Belgium. She retired as Senior Lecturer in 1981 but after retirement maintained her interest in medieval Romney Marsh.

One of the interviewers on her appointment board apparently said of Eleanor that “she is a scholar” and no one who knew her would dispute this view. Many students were undoubtedly inspired by her gentle enthusiasm and the meticulous and orderly character of her lectures which made for ease of note taking. Many students were to be grateful for her wise, kindly and never judgmental help, calm demeanour, and the time she devoted to them. Her calmness was equally appreciated by her colleagues in occasional situations of departmental chaos or mishaps on field classes. For a time she acted as the secretary of the departmental board and to quote one colleague remained calm “while all around her were losing their individual and corporate rag!” We all remember the sometimes lengthy wait for her to collect her thoughts before speaking knowing full well that she would only have something intelligent and useful to say.

Her early career interest in biogeography was undoubtedly reflected in her move in retirement from Hampstead to Oakham and being able to satisfy the lifelong dream of being able to open her door on to a lovely garden. Perhaps we are not altogether surprised to learn that she derived intense pleasure from music and that as an 18 year old she got on the last boat to leave France on the day that war was declared.

David Hilling, May 2015

11 Bedford Square renovation has begun

Renovation works start on 11 Bedford Square at the end of March and the building is due to open to alumni in January 2016..

The impressive Georgian building lies on the opposite side of the Square from no. 47, which was the first home of Bedford College. At the time of the merger it was used for teaching a number of Bedford College courses. The building will provide an important centre for teaching, study and research for students in the heart of Bloomsbury.

An additional element of the refurbishment is a common room where we can all meet each other, as well as other members of the College community. We will let you all know in due course when the common room can be used and how to book.

The Society is planning a grand opening of the common room in December and will send invitations to donors nearer the time.

Bedford Alumna Remembered by the Royal Society

At the Royal Society, on International Women’s Day (8 March 2015), the first two women to be elected to the Society were remembered. The achievements of these two women were celebrated at Suffrage Science, an Awards Event for the Clinical Sciences Centre of the Medical Research Council. These two remarkable women were Marjory Stephenson from Cambridge and Kathleen Lonsdale who went to Bedford in 1919 aged 16.

In 1922, Kathleen became top of the BSc honours examinations for the whole of University of London, and later a world renowned crystallographer, as well as a campaigner for peace and improvements to prisons. Married with three children, her advice to women scientists was ‘to become a first class scientist she must first choose the right husband, who will recognise her problems and be willing to share them.’

Marjory and Kathleen became Fellows of The Royal Society in 1945.  Suffrage Science celebrated their lives and work at the annual event established to recognise the achievements of young women scientists today.
Kindly provided by Andree Molyneux Hook.

Suffragette programme on BBC2 presented by Professor Amanda Vickery

Alumna and former member of the History Department, Professor Amanda Vickery (BA History, 1984 Bedford College; PhD History, 1991), presented a recent series on the history of the suffragette movement on BBC2.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin to become Chief Executive of new charity

Bedford College alumna, Baroness Delyth Morgan of Drefelin (Physiology, 1983), Chief Executive of the research charity Breast Cancer Campaign and previous head of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, which campaigns for earlier diagnosis, will become Chief Executive of the new charity formed from the merger of the two. Read more here.

Bedford College photos from the Archives featured in the Guardian

The Guardian recently featured photos of Bedford College as part of International Women’s Day and to promote women’s education.

Bedfordians in the news

A Grand Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) was awarded to Bedford College Social Science alumna and Honorary Fellow, Baroness Cathy Ashton, who recently stepped down as High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Bedford College alumna, Society Committee Member and Honorary Fellow, Baroness Diana Warwick, has been chosen as the new Chair of the National Housing Federation, her term beginning in September. She was Chair of the Human Tissue Authority until last year, and CEO of Universities UK for 14 years.

Emerita Professor Katharine Worth 1922 - 2015

It is with great sadness that I announce the death of Emerita Professor Katharine Worth, founder of the Department of Drama and Theatre at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College.KatharineWorth
Katharine, an alumna of Bedford College, set up a joint degree in English and Drama at Royal Holloway College in 1978. A couple of years later, Katharine launched the single honours degree and with it the Department of Drama and Theatre. The early eighties were a tough time to found a Drama Department; several others were closing across the country, but Katharine battled and defended the department, leading it from strength to strength right through the 1980s.

Even after Katharine retired, she continued to contribute to our College, playing a leading role in the Boiler House fundraising campaign, among other things. She was a leading scholar of Modern Theatre, particularly the work of Beckett, with whom she had strong affinity, both as a scholar and a practitioner, producing several acclaimed productions of his plays.

Katharine was a remarkable and historic figure in the discipline of Drama and Theatre. She pioneered the integrated practical and theoretical study of theatre that is still reflected in the curriculum today. In 2013, the building complex occupied by our Drama and Theatre Department was renamed the Katharine Worth building in her honour.

Katharine was a great leader, teacher and researcher, who will be greatly missed. Over the next few months, we will be celebrating Katharine’s life and we will share more information about this on iQuad. In the meantime, our thoughts are with Katharine’s family.

Katie Normington, Vice Principal (Staffing) and Dean of Arts and Social Science

Sally Chilver 3 August 1914 - 3 July 2014

Sally ChilverElizabeth Millicent Chilver, known as Sally Chilver to all, died on 3 July 2014 at the age of 99, just a month short of her centenary. A historian, political scientist and anthropologist, she was a very much liked Principal of Bedford College, University of London from 1964-71 and of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford from 1971-79. Always very approachable, she was a kind and understanding person with a great sense of humour, and it was never beneath her dignity to cross the Quad and attend one of the student parties in Tuke.

Sally was the daughter of Philip Graves, a notable foreign correspondent for The Times, and niece of the poet Robert Graves. She was educated at Benenden School and read History at Somerville College, Oxford, graduating in 1932. She worked as a journalist from 1937-39, saw war time service in the civil service and returned to journalism from 1945-47. From 1948-57 she was Acting Principal and Secretary of the Social Science Research Council (precursor of the ESRC) and the Economic Research Committee of the Colonial Office. Sally was then appointed Director of the University of London's Institute of Commonwealth Studies, a post she held from 1957-61, before shifting to work as a senior researcher at the Institute until 1964.

Sally took over from Dr Lillian Penston on her retirement as Principal of Bedford College in 1964, a time of change for the College. The Robbins Report had been published the year before and recommended immediate expansion of all universities. Sally came as a dynamic new force with an enthusiasm for democracy. She made a great point of circulating amongst and getting to know both staff and students. Under her leadership, the College recognised that the products of scholarship and research were crucial to teaching and that to play its full part in higher education it should abandon its traditional, if implicit, policy of sacrificing individual research to teaching. She established Bedford as a co-educational college in 1965, brought management systems up to date with the help of the Registrar and the College Secretary, encouraged scholarship, introduced Sabbatical Years and improved and expanded student amenities.

Prior to joining Bedford College, Sally worked closely with the anthropologist Phyllis Kaberry in Cameroon, where she was known locally as "Mama for Story". In later life, her accounts of anthropological adventures in Africa and of her early family life enthralled generations of Oxford students who visited her. Sally was also variously a trustee of the British Museum, a member of the governing body of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and Editor of Volume 2 of History of East Africa (Clarendon Press, 1965). In 1995 and 1996 various Festschrift publications appeared to celebrate her work, especially in the field of Cameroon Studies. She married Richard Clemenston Chilver, a civil servant, in 1937 and they were together until his death in 1985.

A Memorial Service will be at Lady Margaret Hall Chapel in Oxford, at 2.30pm on Saturday 22 November.

Picture courtesy of RHBNC Collection.


100 Years of Higher Education in Regent's Park, book by Nicholas Bowen
This book was written with help from Bedford College alumni and is available to buy for £25 from this online store.


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