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Higher Education Postcard: Royal Holloway

This week’s postcard from Hugh Jones postbag shows how patent medicine funded a French château in Surrey.
This article is more than 2 years old

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

Greetings from Egham!

This week’s postcard shows five, yes five, views of Royal Holloway College.

These are all of the Founder’s Building, the original building for the College – the statues in the central vignette are of Thomas Holloway, the philanthropist who funded the college, and his wife Jane, who suggested that he spent his fortune on education.

Thomas Holloway was born in 1800, and raised in Devon and Cornwall. His early career was in business, and included some time in France. In 1837, taking a cue from an Italian friend who manufactured and sold a general-purpose ointment, Holloway started making and selling his own ointment.

A range of pills followed, and very successful they were too. The key was advertising – for example, here in the Bucks Herald of 23 May 1863:

The key seemed to be marketing, rather than efficacy of product – later scientific analysis showed his medicines to have few medicinally useful ingredients. But oh, the advertising budget – £5,000 in 1843, £50,000 in 1883, the year he died. That’s about £6.5million today.

Regardless of whether he was a saviour or a quack, he was a rich man, and in 1879 founded Holloway College in Egham, Surrey. This was at the suggestion of his wife, Jane – the buildings were modelled on the Château de Chambord, in the Loire Valley (albeit in red brick rather than the striking white stone of the château).

The College was (initially) for women only, the first students starting at the college in 1887. From, 1900 it was a constituent school of the University of London – Queen Victoria’s blessing gave it the title Royal Holloway College.

In 1945 the College admitted male postgraduate students, and in 1965 male undergraduates too.

In 1985 Royal Holloway College and Bedford College merged, to create Royal Holloway and Bedford New College. Bedford College moved to Egham and the Regent’s Park campus was sold. Although it now refers to itself as Royal Holloway, University of London, to those of us who worked at Senate House in the 1980s and 1990s, it will forever be RHBNC.

The card was posted on 6 March 1953, to a patient in the Royal Infirmary, Leicester.

Dear Pop, Glad you are getting on alright (letter from Mother today). I thought you might like some pictures of the College – they don’t seem to sell any others round here anyway! Hope you got the letter. I’ll write again on Sunday. The others here send their best wishes and hope you’ll soon be better…”

If you look carefully at the lower right picture, you can see that the sender has marked her room.

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