St Hilda's

Unlike most of the boarding houses, St Hilda’s has remained on the same site since it was founded well over a century ago. Its status, though, has changed dramatically in that time.

It actually began as a separate institution: a residential college primarily for trainee teachers, with a Council and Warden (or Lady Principal) of its own. Until the last quarter of the nineteenth century there were no teacher training colleges for secondary teachers in England, so that it was very difficult , especially for girls’ schools, to recruit staff of a sufficiently high calibre. Miss Beale’s solution was to make her own provision for teacher training; thus, within a few years, she had a ready supply of teachers trained in her own methods.

The origins of St Hilda’s can be traced back to 1876, when Miss Margaret Newman, a friend of Miss Beale, opened a modestly-priced students’ home (mainly for trainee teachers) at 5 Grafton Terrace in Cheltenham. That same year Miss Newman died, and Miss Beale appealed for money to continue her work. For a time she rented Jersey House in Hewlett Road, but by 1884 enough money had been raised to buy a site for a purpose-built house. The architect was John Middleton, who had designed the original College buildings; he unfortunately did not live to see the opening of St Hilda’s on 27 November 1885. It was Miss Beale’s choice to name the house after the 7th century Abbess of Whitby, who had been a patroness of learning as well as the founder and ruler of a great religious community.

Initially St Hilda’s took 14 boarders, some of whom were members of staff studying part-time. There was a great demand for places, and in 1890 twelve more rooms were added. The following year there were 20 ‘Foundationers’ (students on assisted places) and 21 regular students. In 1895 electric light was installed and the house was further enlarged to take 60 students, some of them studying for degrees or other public examinations rather than training to be teachers. In the same year St Hilda’s was incorporated under the Companies Act as ‘St Hilda’s Incorporated College’.

In 1901 it was formally amalgamated with St Hilda’s College, Oxford (then still called St Hilda’s Hall), which had also been founded by Miss Beale. This association was not dissolved until 1925, when St Hilda’s, Oxford, received a Royal Charter. By that time the Secondary Training Department had closed and external degrees were no longer taken at College. St Hilda’s, Cheltenham, was then absorbed into College to become the sole senior boarding house, for second year sixth form girls only. Boarding fees at that time were 33 guineas per term for a single room and 26 guineas for a cubicle.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 the whole of College was requisitioned by the War Office and most of the boarders, divided by age rather than by house, were accommodated in ‘temporary houses’ in and around Cheltenham. Some of the boarding houses and the main College buildings were handed back within a few months, but St Hilda’s remained in Government hands until December 1944.

In the decades following the war St Hilda’s was for most of the time a junior house, becoming re-established as a senior house only in 1982. In the 1970s two other houses were temporarily lodged at St Hilda’s: first St Bridget’s, which had closed but was revived on a small scale for a few years, and then Hatherley Court after that property was sold. Since 1985, like the other senior houses, St Hilda’s takes first-year as well as second-year sixth formers. In 2001 it closed for several months for extensive alterations and refurbishment, inside and out. It now has single rooms for 59 girls.


1929 Miss Fowler
1932 Miss E Veitch
1935 Miss F Baron
1945 Miss A Truesdale
1947 Miss A K Clarke
1948 Miss R Wace
1951 Miss G Epitaux
1955 Mrs Prosser
1965 Mrs Brockington
1973 Mrs Y Kirby
1957 Mrs M Douglas
1980 Mrs E Miller
1982 Miss S Cleary
1983 Mrs J McCallum
1987 Mrs A G Boll
1996 Mrs A G Roberts (formerly Boll)
2001 Mrs M Anderson
2003 Mrs S Kay
2005 Mrs L Roca-Aguilera


1885 Miss R Holmes
1894 Miss A Lumby
1901 Miss C Cooke