St Austin's

St Austin’s is one of College’s oldest boarding houses, although we know little about its early years. It originated at 21 Lansdown Place, which was bought by Miss Beale in the 1880s and used primarily as lodgings for mature students (of whom there were many at College in those days), rather than as a boarding house for younger pupils. In the early 1900s its head was Miss Nellie Wilderspin, whose two sisters ran a similar establishment nearby at 24 and 25 Lansdown Place. Their house was the first St Helen’s.

In 1910 St Austin’s closed, and the name was not used again until 1919. In that year two small houses called Fernside and Belsize, which occupied 1 and 2 Fauconberg Terrace (on the site of the present West Wing), were amalgamated to become the new St Austin’s.

There were six tall early Victorian houses in Fauconberg Terrace, originally leased by Council in 1878, purchased in 1891 and used more or less continuously as boarding houses for 45 years. They were pleasantly situated, backing on to the College garden, where, in the 1920s, there were four tennis courts; the backs of the houses were screened by pergolas covered with climbing roses. Internally, however, they were never ideal for their purpose, particularly as they had no electricity until 1927 and no central heating even after that.

St Austin’s remained in the terrace until just before it was demolished in 1933, by which time the new St Austin’s and St Helen’s were ready for occupation. In 1930 College had bought Bayshill Court and the adjoining piece of land at the top of Parabola Road, and it had been decided that, to mark the centenary of Miss Beale’s birth, two new boarding houses should be built. These purpose-built houses, designed by Stanley Hamp as symmetrical structures linked by Bayshill Court, were opened in September 1933. ‘The domestic arrangements are of the most modern,’ remarked the Principal, Miss Sparks. College spent £2,500 on furnishing the new buildings, even though as much furniture and equipment as possible had been transferred from Fauconberg Terrace. The move into more comfortable surroundings brought with it an increase in fees from 26 guineas to 30 guineas per term. There was always a scale of fees for boarding (St Austin’s being among the least expensive houses), until a standard charge of £141 - £159 per annum, depending on age, was introduced in 1934.

St Austins in 1933

In September 1939, at the outbreak of war, the whole of College was requisitioned by the Government. Most of the boarders, divided for the time being, by age rather than by house, had to be temporarily accommodated in various hastily-leased properties in and around Cheltenham, where, to some extent, they were taught as well as housed. St Austin’s and six other boarding houses were handed back within a few months, as were the main College buildings, but boarding house life did not return to normal until after the war.

The post-war history of St Austin’s has been, for the most part, happily uneventful. While other houses have faced occasional crises ranging from staff shortages to fires and floods, the memorable events of each year at St Austin’s have generally been in the nature of house outings, parties and success in inter-house competitions. As at other houses, from time to time considerable energy is devoted to fund-raising for charity, often by ingenious means. 

HOUSEMISTRESSES

1903 Miss N Wilderspin
1905 Mrs Ridley
1919 Miss D Waller
1922 Mrs Stogdon
1925 Miss L Fry
1929 Miss E Robinson
1940 Mrs H Hursthouse Smith
1941 Miss E Robinson
1942 Miss M Garside
1946 Miss L Heyworth
1948 Miss M Shipman
1956 Miss R Morgan
1961 Miss P Lindley
1969 Mrs Davis
1970 Mrs E Hayward
1977 Mrs M Taylor
1991 Mrs M Beamont
2004 Mrs P Rawlinson
2017 Mrs R Grundy