Scope and Content

Contains: letter books of Lady Warwick Hostel 1898-1903; letter books of Studley College 1903-1905; correspondence files concerning the buildings and estate, courses and examinations, agricultural education, Pilkington report and closure of the college 1900-1969; account books of Lady Warwick Hostel 1901-1909; financial papers of Studley College 1909-1962; sale catalogue of Studley Castle 1893; Certificate of incorporation 1916; certificate of redemption of land tax 1954; deeds 1900-1957; estimates for alterations to buildings 1936-1953; committee minutes 1899-1969; newspaper cuttings 1892-1967; pass books of appeal funds 1929-1932; photographs 1898-1960; reports submitted by the Governors to the Ministry of Agriculture 1959=1964; inventory and valuation of furniture, fittings, equipment 1930; visitors book of Lady Warwick Hostel, Reading 1898-1965; rollcall of students in Lady Warwick Hostel, Reading 1900-1905; list of members of Guild of the Daughters of Ceres c 1910; memorandum and articles of association

Administrative / Biographical History

In the Christmas number of The Land Magazine for 1897, Frances Evelyn, Countess of Warwick (1861-1938), published a scheme for training women in the lighter branches of agriculture. She proposed the opening of an Agricultural Training College for Women and the establishment of Women's Agricultural Settlements in different parts of the country. Her chief purpose was to find suitable forms of employment for gentlewomen, the daughters of professional families, whose opportunities for useful activity were at that time rather limited. In August 1898, she rented Coleyhurst, a spacious house in Bath Road, Reading, which became known as the Lady Warwick Hostel. Here, on 6 October 1898, a course of training began in association with Reading College, which had been founded only six years earlier. The students received theoretical instruction from the College staff, while their practical work was done partly in the grounds of the Hostel itself. At first, the training comprised dairy work, horticulture, market gardening, poultry farming, bee-keeping, fruit-growing and the marketing of produce. It soon became clear that the Hostel was too small to accommodate all the students who wished to enrol. In 1899, therefore, two extra houses were opened: Maynard Hostel and Brooke House. Miss Edith Bradley was the first Warden.

In July 1902, the Lady Warwick Hostel severed its connection with Reading College and afterwards provided its own classes and lectures. In a letter to The Times of 10 May 1901, Lady Warwick had proposed an endowment of 30,000 or 50,000 to build a separate agricultural college for women but this appeal produced few results. On her own initiative, therefore, Lady Warwick bought Studley Castle in Warwickshire for 25,000 and in December 1903 the students and staff of the hostel moved there.

In 1903, the name of the College was changed to Lady Warwick College and again in 1908 to Studley College, when Lady Warwick ceased to be responsible for it's support. Some years of financial hardship followed but in 1912 the Ministry of Agriculture made a grant of 1000 the first of the annual grants which continued up to the closure of the college. One condition of aid to the College by the Government was that the castle should be leased by Lord Warwick to the Trustees. This was done and in 1926 a Company was formed under licence from the Board of Trade, to manage the College through a Board of Governors. On the expiry of the 21 years lease in 1929, the buildings and estate became (at a cost of 12,000) the freehold property of the College in 1926 the College received official recognition as a training institution from the Ministry of Agriculture.

During these years of development the pattern and content of the courses given by the College was also changing. A Colonial Training Scheme had existed since 1900. To this later was added a housewife's course, residential short courses and (in 1912 when the College farm and dairy herd was established) a course in agriculture. From 1924 until 1947 an extended three year course for the Diploma in Horticulture was provided and from 1934 until 1954 a three year degree course for BSc (Hort) of the University of London. In 1948 the College began to provide a two year Diploma course in Dairy Farming and reduced the length of the course in Horticulture to two years. New buildings for those courses were erected in 1938. During the Second World War, members of the Women's Land Army received training at the College. In 1961 one year course for Farm Secretaries was begun. This included shorthand and typing, farm records, economics, accountancy and farm management.

In 1967 acting on the recommendation of the Pilkington Report of 1966 on agricultural education that training should be concentrated in fewer institutions, the Government decided to withdraw it's grant from the College in 1969. Despite petitions, personal approaches to the Minister and pressure in the House of Commons, the College had to close in August 1969.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation

Acquisition Information

Presented on permanent deposit in September 1969. Accession number 769


Compiled by Caroline Gould, 20 November 2002

Other Finding Aids

A detailed catalogue is available at the Museum of English Rural Life

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