Royal Holloway College, University of London. Location: Egham, Surrey (19 miles from London). Architect: William Henry Crossland. 1886.

Royal Holloway College is one of the outstanding examples of Victorian philanthropy, whilst its premises, tucked away in north Surrey near the water meadows of Runnymede, are an astonishing sight to come upon and reflect Victorian taste at its most extravagant and least parochial. The college was built by Thomas Holloway (1800-1883), using by the proceeds of his patent medicines, with the intention of providing university education for woman. The inspiration for this idea came from Vassar College in America, while the inspiration for the building itself came from the Chateau de Chambord and other such chateaux in the Loire valley. The architect was a Yorkshire man, W. H. Crossland (1835-1908), who had been a pupil of Sir George Gilbert Scott. It took two years in the planning and six years to build, during which six years Crossland was housed in a bungalow on site.

This spectacular white marble and brick building, whicih cost £700,000, takes the form of two quadrangles, with a statue of Queen Victoria in the upper one, and one of Thomas and Jane Holloway in the lower one. Both are the work of Count (Victor) Gleichen. Like the Albert Memorial, the exterior of the building itself is decorated with sculptural relief, the figures on the pediments, for example, representing Commerce, Medicine, Poetry, Science, Charity and Education, as well as Surrey and Agriculture supporting a portrait bust of Holloway himself. These and the other external ornaments were the work of the sculptor Ceccardo Fucigna, brought over from Italy by Crossland. Fucigna was also responsible for the figures along the chapel ceiling, while the apse, loosely inspired by the creation scene at the Sistine Chapel, but showing God pointing at Eve rather than Adam, was the work of his assistant, Baldini.

Royal Holloway was opened by Queen Victoria in 1886, hence its royal name. Originally planned to accommodate 250 students, the college grew and became part of London University in 1900. Male undergraduates have been admitted since 1965, and in the mid-eighties Royal Holloway was amalgamated with another former women's college, Bedford College, which had previously occupied a site in Regent's Park, London. It is now registered as Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, but is known for all usual purposes as Royal Holloway College.

Of particular interest is the college's art gallery, which Holloway filled with a fine collection of Victorian paintings by Luke Fildes, William Frith and so on. This was intended to cultivate the sensibilities of the students. Recently, alas, some of the famous works have had to be sold, as the cost of maintaining the college premises has escalated in recent years.

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Photograph 2006 by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Mee, Arthur. Surrey: London's Southern Neighbour. (The King's England series). London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1938.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford UP.

The Chapel: A Brief Guide, Royal Holloway leaflet.

Last modified 29 June 2006