he Royal Charter to confirm and recognize the University of Durham was issued June1,1837, and the University conferred its first degrees seven days later. Students had actually established residence four years earlier in Archdeacon's Inn on Palace Green, in response to an 1832 Act which enabled the "Dean and Chapter of Durham" to use some of its property for a University "in connection therewith". St. Hild's College, the first at Durham for women, was founded in 1858 asa Church of England training college for teachers. It remained a college for women until its amalgamation with St. Bede's College in 1975 as The College of St. Hilda and St. Bede, the name it currently has. St. Mary's College opened as a Hall of Residence for Women Students in 1899 and was constituted a college in 1920. It remains a college for women in 1992. Trevelyan College opened as a college for women in 1967, and became coeducational with the admission of male students in 1975. The University admitted women during the 1890s, and permission to grant degrees to women was obtained in1895. In Michaelmas Term 1896, the first four women students (all members of St. Hild's College) matriculated.
The records of St. Mary's College were the most readily accessible for this survey and additionally interesting to me because St.Mary's has retained its single-sex status. Those for St. Hild's, founded 40 years earlier, were in the Chief County Clerk's Office at the time of my visit, and access would be relatively difficult to arrange.
St. Mary's College
here is no archivist, and the librarian has no role in relation to the records of St. Mary's. Access is granted by the Principal of the Colllege, Miss Joan Kenworthy, who has also taken the major responsivility for the preservation of records, their storage and future arrangement for researchers. To the extent that Miss Kenworthy's personal interest in archival records is high, their continued development seems assured, although the complexity of the principal's role might allow for a total reversal of the situation should her successor assign a lower priority to the archives function. As St. Mary's looks to.its 100th anniversary in 1999, Miss Kenworthy is developing support among alumnae, one of whom, Marilyn Hird, has produced a survey of existing records and drafted a policy for the retention of archival records, both documents available to researchers. Ms. Hird recommends in her policy draft that records be retained and sought which reflect "college development" and the "'lifestyles' of its members", categories which I have treated throughout this survey as administrative and student records, respectively.
St. Mary's Administrative Records: Minutes of the Governing Body, 1950-60 contains an index to minutes for 1940-50, but I found none earlier than 1950. This relatively late opening date, post-World War II, suggests that researchers interested in St. Mary's beginnings prior to the second World War, and especially from1920-1949 would need to turn to the University Library for the published record (catalogues, newspapers, records) and the University archives for legislation, records of student organizations, etc., to document the place of women within the University. The proedure for obtaining access to these places and sources falls outside St. Mary's, and assistance in initiating such procedures might be obtained with the help of Ms. Beth Rainey, sub-Librarian in charge of Special Collections and Rare Books in the University of Durham.
The scope of the Minutes of the Governing Body is broad, encompassing what researchers might identify at institutions in the United States as Bursar/Treasurer concerns; Principal's Reports (which provide information about staff, buildings and financies); calendars of traditional and special events; notices of gifts and furnishings; and student records relating to applications, admissions, fees and scholarships,similar to those kept by Registrars and Admissions Directors in American colleges. There are extensive additional financial records in a basement storage room, but a cursory examination indicated that these, too, are post-World War II.
St. Mary's Student and Alumnae Records: Records that relate to students date from the formation of St. Mary's as a Hall of Residence in 1899, and the ledgers for those years supply a wealth of demographic data in the form of entering age, father's occupation, and in some cases notes about activities post-St. Mary's. Approximately 48 boxes in basement storage (comparable in size to document boxes used in archives in this country) hold student records, A-Z, 1950s-1970s (possibly with some earlier, since I turned up one box for 1928-1932).
Photographs, clippings, memorabilia were gathered and identified for a major exhibit in 1982. Junior and Senior Common Room Minutes Books currently store for the approximately 1940s-1960s may have earlier and later counterparts in the hands of graduates and faculty. A recently issued and hopefully ongoing publication in newsletter form of the St. Mary's College Society gathers information like a traditional American women's college alumnae quarterly and goes well beyond, with Junior Common Room news in the form of individual essays by current residents, notices of degree awards and information about St. Mary's graduates in the work force as well as those engaged in graduate study.
As St. Mary's rests uneasily between the choices of single-sex and mixed education, both documentation of the beginnings of women's education with the University of Durham and current dialogue relating to its continuance in some form could hold promise for researchers, especially if the records are recognized as an institutional resource, and institutional responsibility for their maintenance and development is established to support the personal commitment of the current principal.
Last modified 18 March 2013