St Hugh's College, Oxford

St Hugh's College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford, England, located on St Margaret's Road, Oxford. It was founded in 1886 as a women's college, and accepted its first male students in 1986. As of 2006 the college had an estimated financial endowment of £27 million. It enjoys a reputation as one of the more attractive colleges because of its extensive, pleasant gardens and as a friendly college, being one of the few where students are permitted to walk on the grass of the grounds.


St Hugh’s occupies a rectangular site in North Oxford. It is bordered by Banbury Road on the east, Woodstock Road on the west, St Margaret’s Road on the north and Canterbury Road on the south. The college is equally accessible via the main entrance on St Margaret's Road and the back gate, which opens onto Canterbury Road.

The gardens of the college cover about ten and a half acres and are noteworthy in particular for the numerous flowering trees and shrubs.

History of the college

Founded in 1886, St Hugh's was originally a college admitting only women, becoming co-educational a century later. It was founded by Elizabeth Wordsworth, great-niece of the famous poet, William Wordsworth. Using money left to her by her father, who had been Bishop of Lincoln, she established the college at 25 Norham Road in North Oxford. She named the college after one of his 13th-century predecessors, Hugh of Avalon, who was canonised in 1220, and in whose diocese Oxford had been. Elizabeth Wordsworth was a champion of the cause of women's education, and her foundation was intended to enable poorer women to gain an Oxford education.

There are statues of both St Hugh and Elizabeth Wordsworth, presented to the college as gifts for its Jubilee in 1936, on the Library stairs. St Hugh carries a model of Lincoln Cathedral, which would have been very familiar to Elizabeth Wordsworth, and has his other hand resting on the head of a swan, probably the famous swan of Stow, although the swan is also a symbol of purity. Elizabeth Wordsworth is depicted wearing her doctoral robes.

College life

Undergraduate students at the college and many graduate students are eligible for college accommodation on the main college site. There is a range of rooms and flats available which are decided by the room ballots organised by the student bodies.

The main entrance of the college leads straight to the Main Building, which usually accommodates first year students, but also houses the chapel and the dining hall. Other first year students may be accommodated in the 1960s style Kenyon Building, named for Dame Kathleen Kenyon. Second years either live in the Rachel Trickett Building, named for a past principal of the college, or the Mary Gray Allen Building. Wolfson Building consists of nine staircases. Finalists usually live in the newer Maplethorpe Building, whose rooms have en-suite facilities and clusters of eight rooms sharing a kitchen on each of the three floors, with four staircases altogether. All the rooms have views of gardens.

The college is big enough to accommodate all its undergraduates and a large proportion of its postgraduates for the duration of their studies. There are two big lawns which are for the use of students all year round. The gardens are also the venue for croquet, tennis and ultimate frisbee, and St Hugh's is the only Oxford college with its own basketball courts. There are a wide range of clubs and societies, both sporting, academic, and those supporting niche interests.


The Mordan Hall Suite and the Maplethorpe Building are the main parts used for hosting conferences. The original purpose of the Mordan Hall was as the college library. The Maplethorpe Building commemorates a benefactor, Cyril Maplethorpe, and the Mordan Hall Miss Clara Evelyn Mordan.

JCR presidents
MCR presidents

Like most other colleges in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, St. Hugh's has a choir which sings weekly evensong on Sundays. The choir draws its members from all three common rooms, and has performed for a wide variety of different guests, ranging from the Jamaican High Commissioner to many (Arch)bishops.

The present organ was constructed by the Italian organ-builder Tamburini in the 1970s. The college offers an organ scholarships along with four choral exhibitions each year, and employs a professional organist to oversee the chapel music.

Notable alumni

St Hugh's students are present in all spheres of public life. Theresa May is the incumbent Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equality and until recently Barbara Castle, former Secretary of State, was the woman MP with the longest continuous service. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner studied at the college, as did musician Joe Goddard (from electropop outfit Hot Chip) and the mathematical child prodigy Ruth Lawrence, who joined the college in 1983 aged 12. BAFTA Award winning actress and comedienne Rebecca Front began her career at St. Hugh's, touring with the Oxford Revue in 1984.

Building Activity

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