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Home > College archives > Exhibitions > Community > A Self Contained Community
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A Self Contained Community

Despite the isolation, the College building and estate provided plentiful amenities for it to be relatively self sufficient. The Founder's Building contained all the residential quarters, lecture room and laboratories, besides the Library, Dining Hall and a museum in what is now the east wing of Founder's Library.


Student Room in Founder's Building (RHC PH/116) and the East Wing Common Room, 1928 (RHC PH/285/1)


Classroom pre-1910 (RHC PH/285/6/3) and the Main Lecture Thearte circa 1896 (RHC PH/114/1)

The College had to adapt its facilities according to demand and expansion. In 1887, there were no laboratories for the four science students. They used 3 rooms in the North Tower, where the did Chemistry, Physics and Botany according to the way the wind blew since one chimney always smoked. To cater for the growing numbers of students, well equiped Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Botany laboratories were built in 1888 and 1892.


Physics Laboratory pre-1910 (RHC PH/285/6/3) and the Botany Laboratory circa 1900 (RHC PP/26/10/13)

The College also had its own nurse and infirmary where students and staff were confined when ill. We can see the sort of cases the nurse had to treat by looking at the Nurse's Day Book from 1937 (extracts below).

"A separate house in the grounds at some distance from the College has been set apart as an infirmary, so that when need arises any case of illness can be completely isolated. A hospital-trained nurse is on the permanent staff of the College, and good medical attendance is within easy reach."- From the Royal Holloway College Calendar, 1897-98 (RHC AR/243/2)


The College Nurse (RHC 25/10/14)

The following transcript comes from the Nurse's Book, 1935-37:


March 5th

Miss Wheatcroft  Cut finger L. hand badly. Stitched at Windsor Hospital   (3 stitches).

Miss Ashley  Burnt L. arm in laboratory. Bolic ointment dressing.

Miss Knight  Hand still swollen and painful.

Miss Hanby  L. ear discharging.

Maid Welsh  Finger much the same.

March 6th

Miss Ashley  Burn progressing satisfactorily. Bolic ointment applied.

Miss Knight  Hand opened by Dr. Hathaway under a local. Fomentation 4 hourly. Not discharging too well.

Miss Hanby  L. ear still discharging. Seen by Dr. Hathaway. Bolic powder inserted.

Miss Tarrant  Complaining of frequency of micturition. 11/2 pints of barley water a day.

Miss Williamson  Very heavy cold. In bed.

Miss Lea  Felt faint in lecture yesterday. In bed, bad head-ache last night. Better this morning. Up.

Miss Crunch  Small boil on forehead. Fomentations. Tonic ordered.

Miss Hocinden-Hauz  Complained of eyes. Seen by Dr. Hathaway. Lotion. Ordered a Tonic.

Maid Welsh  Advised by Dr. Hathaway for Convalescent Home. Finger not looking at all nice this morning.

(RHC AS/506/1)


Visit to the College Nurse

The reminiscences of Joyce Pentelow, and RHC student from 1938-42 were taken down by Caroline Bingham. Here she describes a visit to the Nurse.

“Attendance at the Medical Room could be an experience. Sister Moss could make one feel small; I was once lectured about wearing nail varnish on my toes, and another time about the brevity of the knickers that I was wearing when the doctor came to examine my knee. Sister Moss had a soft side though if one was in real trouble. On one occasion several of us were hurrying back up Egham Hill in the blackout when I walked into a lamp post and split my eyebrow open. I have never forgotten sitting there while she phoned the doctor and then, on his instructions, stitched up my wound. She was kindness itself.”

(RHC RF/132/7)

The Gymnasium


(RHC AR/240/1/7)

"The Gymnasium Classes are held twice a week, during the Michaelmas and Lent terms, under the direction of Miss Stuart Snell, with two assistants. All students are expected to attend them, unless medical advice is against their doing so. A special costume is required, the cost of which, including belt and shoes, is one guinea.

The practice consists of free exercises, exercises with Indian clubs and wands, and with apparatus, with which the Gymnasium is well provided. Students are weighed and measured every term, and care is taken to adapt the exercises to the powers of each individual." - From the Royal Holloway College Calendar, 1897-98 (RHC AR/243/2)

The College lands also provided a source of recreation, with tennis courts, a hockey pitch and a heated swimming bath (shown below). The swimming pool building still exists by the wooded path below the south front of Founder's building. The pool was covered over in the 1980's, and the building is now used for classes and exams. College games were an important means of sustaining University connections with Colleges in London, and matches and boating races were often heald with the College's London counterpart, Bedford College.

The College Swimming Pool



"The Swimming Bath is sixty feet long by thirty feet broad. A course of swimming lessons is given in the summer term, and students are not allowed to use the bath in the teacher’s absence until they have obtained a swimming certificate of competence from her. The water is always warmed." - Description from the Royal Holloway College Calendar, 1897-98 (RHC AR/243/2)

Founder's Ground Floor Plan


Apparently Founder's Building was designed so that female students would not have to venture outside to classes and activities is it was raining. In the College's early days it was possible to walk right around the inside of the building before the library and picture gallery were sealed off. The corridors running North to South are one tenth of a mile, affording some opportunity for exercise when the girls were confined to the Founder's Building.

The land has also been put to productive use as a source of food during the College's history. Pigs, kitchen gardens, asparagus and potato patches were kept down were the International and Student Union Buildings are now.


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