Higher Education Postcard: Bedford College

This week’s card from Hugh Jones’ postbag shows a pioneer institution of women’s education in the UK

Hugh Jones is a freelance HE consultant. You’ll find a daily #HigherEducationPostcard if you follow him on Twitter.

Greetings from London. This week’s card shows Bedford College, which exists now only as part of Royal Holloway, University of London, but whose buildings continue to be a base for higher education.

In 1849 Elizabeth Jesser Reid, musing money left by her late husband, established the Ladies College Bedford Square, at 47 Bedford Square, London. This aimed to provide a liberal, secular education for women, and 68 students enrolled in the first term. The college was overseen by a committee which – in a first for that time – included women.

The college grew – and opened a school, to prepare women for higher study and in recognition of the low standard of education many received at the hands of governesses. (This was clearly, it must be understood, an education aimed at the middle and upper classes).

In 1866 Elizabeth Jesser Reid died. She left a trust fund to support the college, and passed the leases of the college’s buildings to three women trustees. They put the college on a formal legal basis as an association, and it became known as Bedford College.

In 1874 the college moved to York Place, and was able to add more classrooms and laboratories. And from 1878 its students were able to study for University of London degrees, with awards at Bachelors and Master’s levels, in arts and sciences, occurring from the 1880s.

1900 saw a new set of statues at the University of London – it became a teaching body, not simply an examining body. Bedford College became a college of the university and, with a Royal Charter in 1909, became known as Bedford College for Women.

In 1913 the college moved to Regent’s Park. The architect also designed other university buildings, including the John Rylands Library at Manchester, as well as several Oxford colleges.

In 1965 the college became co-educational, changing its name back to Bedford College, and in 1985 merged with Royal Holloway to form Royal Holloway and Bedford New College.

Royal Holloway’s Egham campus was the chosen base, and Bedford College’s Regent’s Park buildings were sold on. They now house Regent’s University, and very splendid they are too!

The card was posted on 9 August 1976:

It was lovely to see you again and both looking so well. We enjoyed the rest and our holiday, especially a trip to Dartmoor. Richard was fascinated by the prison. We arrived back to find our garden looking very dry and hoses are now banned here.”

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