29 October 1917

I am afraid the sequence of these pages is a bit erratic, so have numbered them.

St. Hilda’s Hall,



                My dear Mother,

Very many thanks for your two letters, and the enclosure in the first, and also for the parcel, which arrived today.  It was a marvel of packing, and everything travelled beautifully.  The muslin is very pretty, and will do nicely for the curtains.  Also if there is enough left I would like to use it for the curtain behind which I keep my clothes.  The one I have at present is hideous, more like a dust-sheet than anything else.  But I shall want something to back the muslin, as it is too thin for the purpose.  Have you anything that would do?  It must be about 2 yds long and about 60″ wide.  If not I will use Grandma’s 5/- to get something here.  Don’t you think a pale yellow or biscuit colour would look nice behind the muslin?  It would not show the dirt so much as white.  The odd piece of muslin will make an awfully pretty cushion cover.

I think now I shall ask Gwen to give me a table, as I haven’t one in my room, and it would be a great convenience when I entertain.  Now the curtain difficulty looks like being solved, that is my greatest need.  I like the little tray very much – it is charming.  Next term I shall bring up my Goss1 tea-service, as I shall have to entertain the old people, and shall want more things – I could do with it now.  By the way, when next you send me a registered letter, could you enclose another of my spoons, as at present I have nothing for jam, which is distinctly awkward.  Next term I would like to bring up a pot of jam, as they don’t give you any here on Wednesdays and Sundays, but only some horrid kind of cake instead.

Last Thursday we had an awfully jolly Social in connection with the S.C.M. – cocoa and charades.  Earlier in the evening we had a really lively meeting on the reconstitution of the Literary Society, it being proposed to ask people to come here and read their own works, beginning with the Poet Laureate, who apparently resides in Oxford, and continuing with a Miss S., a local poetess who was the subject of much repartee – “Madam”, said a member, “have you met Miss S.?”  “Madam,” replied the Chair, “I have”.  The “be-Madaming” that goes on at these meetings is immense.  I’m aching to get up and “Madam, something or other”, myself.

On Friday evening I went to a lecture on Social Service at Barnet House2.  It was really more a discussion of a report on the employment of school-children in Oxford.  Several of the local education committee were there, so it was quite amusing.  On Saturday I got up with a stuffy head, and felt rotten .  I evidently had a regular cold, for complications ensued, so I decided to go to bed after lunch, which I did.  I had quite a nice time.  Slept all afternoon and sniffed Friars Balsam all evening.  The Bursar was angelic – she came to see me three times, and stayed quite a long time chatting.  She also lent me a book of perfectly charming Japanese Fairy tales, with exquisite pictures.  Also Ella came and had quite a long talk with me before dinner.  The result of all this was that I woke up with a perfectly clear head on Sunday morning, and got up as usual, although I did not go the walk I had planned to go, but my two friends went by themselves.

I went to the Wesleyan Chapel to hear Dr Glover3 of Cambridge, preach, and then got tea for my two friends on the return from their walk, and we had a lively tea party in my room.  Joyce Woodward brought in a tin of Devonshire cream, and Joan Fisher a pot of jam.  We also made hot buttered toast, and regularly enjoyed ourselves.  We talked chiefly about boys.  Joyce has a brother just a bit younger than herself, who is at Shrewsbury, and Joan’s father keeps a private school in Birmingham, so we had plenty of material to go upon.  I told them some of the antics of the Stantons, and we made a terrific row between us.  Joyce hails from Blackheath.  Joan comes from Birmingham, and plays the ‘cello.  Last Friday afternoon I accompanied her for an hour or so.  It was great sport, and she was kind enough to say she preferred my playing to that of Miss Lloyd, the musical person here, because playing an instrument myself I can follow her, and don’t run off on my own.  I am being pestered to bring down my fiddle, and I certainly shall next term, for only one other child plays, and I think not very well.  I had some idea of getting Gwen to bring it down, but even then I could not have the music.  But I would be awfully glad if you would put a handful of my songs in your next parcel, particularly the Somerset folk songs.

On Sunday evening I went to New College Chapel, and there saw Mira Atkinson and Norah Coad.  They were staying with Mina.  I was quite pleased to see them, though neither are usually great favourites of mine.  The same night I went to cocoa with a Miss Mills, who hails from Manchester, was at the High School, and knew Nancy Harker4, Doleen, Jean Batcham, and Jessie Thorburn.

Today Dr Allen informed us at Bach Choir practice that he wants 80 voices to sing at a great memorial concert at the Albert Hall on December 15th.  I think people who live in and near London will get the preference.  It would be great sport if I were to be chosen, for of course I should be home by then, as we come down on the 8th or 9th.  Ella has hopes also, as she will spend Christmas at Croydon.

Did we decide I was to send you the silk pyjamas, or give them to Mrs Harris?  If you will let me know next time you write I will post them to you if you want them.  Would it be safe to give her the green embroidered cloth to wash?  Being on my Moab it gets rather dirty, as it is moved twice a day.  I must have a dark cloth for my chest of drawers, as there is a heavy bookcase on it and an ordinary white toilet cloth would get filthy in no time.  Tomorrow Mrs Fawcett5 is addressing the Women’s Suffrage Society at L.M.H.  I am looking forward very much to hearing her.

The electric light began to play tricks last night, and we thought there was going to be a raid.  However, after declining twice it recovered, so we went to bed.  These moonlight nights give me fits, although Magdalen looks a perfect dream by moonlight.  However, I see nothing about raids in the papers (We take Times, Telegraph, Chronicle, Punch, the Nation, and other oddments) so conclude all is well.  Tonight it is blowing great guns, so I feel quite happy.

I must stop now as it is getting late.  I’m sorry this letter did not get off before, but it had to be written by instalments, as there is so little time here for a long letter.  Much love to Daddie and Maxted – and also to Grandma.

Your loving daughter,



1Goss china is mainly known for commemorative china (little vases with a place name and its heraldic shield are typical).

2Barnett House (spelt with a double ’t’) was set up in 1914 as a  centre for the study of contemporary social and economic problems, and for education and training  in social work or social research, with the aim of linking the university more closely with the study of social conditions and their alleviation.

3Dr Glover, 1869-1943, had just published ‘The Jesus of History’ in 1917.  A lecturer in ancient history, a classicist and Cambridge Public Orator, he later became the President of the Baptist Union.  He was a preacher widely respected by both the Church of England and Nonconformists, and an entertaining lecturer who is quoted as saying ‘It‘s a poor subject that cannot be brought into a history lecture‘.

4Nancy Harker is a cousin from Lancashire but it’s not certain if the others are more cousins or their friends.

5Mrs Fawcett, 1847 – 1929, was the sister of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and became president of the National Union of Women‘s Suffrage Societies which adhered to constitutional methods to achieve their ends.  She also campaigned for a wide variety of causes, such as the fight against the white slave traffic and for government help to protect low paid women workers.

Next letter, 8 November 1917, to be posted 8 November 2014


24 October 1917

St. Hilda’s Hall,



                My dear Mother,

Very many thanks for your letter and the enclosure, which was very welcome, as I had come down to 4½d, the subscriptions, etc, of last week having quite cleaned me out.  There is still the Bach Choir sub. to pay, 10/- for the year.  Also I am sending in a bill for books and stationery.  It isn’t very heavy, but made a hole in my spare cash.  The Mill I am sharing with the Cheltenham child – we went halves in the price – that is the only book I have had to buy so far – the rest I am borrowing from three different libraries.  We could have borrowed a Mill, but J.A.R Marriott insisted on it being W.J.Ashley’s edition, which, of course,  none of them had.

Talking of libraries, I went this morning for the first time to the Bodleian.  Miss Levett gave me a ticket, and I had to walk up to the Bodleian to get it signed – that done, I went across to the Radcliffe Camera, commonly known as the Rad, and spent the morning there reading.  I actually got some work done which is impossible here in the Common Room, which 19 of us have to share, with people passing in and out all the time, and of course there is some chattering, although there is not supposed to be any.  The Rad is awfully nice to work in.  You sit in a most comfortable chair, have yards of desk space, and can take off as many garments as you please – there’s plenty of room to stow them away.  I shall go there every morning now.  By the way, in the Bodleian I saw the original of that portrait of Shelley, with the open collar, and also a chalk sketch of it.

On Monday night after the Bach Choir practice I gave my first cocoa.  My vis-à-vis was another fresher, Joan Fisher, an awfully nice girl from Birmingham.  It was quite jolly, and now I want to do it again, but must wait for supplies.  I have all but finished your cake, and would like some more, please! 1  I don’t mind what, exactly.  I always have tea in my own room now, it is much more comfortable, so I have nearly eaten up the cake – also I like a piece and something hot to drink at night.

Mrs Harris returned my wash today, very nicely done.  Am I to pay her by the week or fortnight, or shall I tell her to send in the bill at the end of the term to you?  If I am to pay I shall want more money.  The oddments here do mount up so – for instance, you can easily lose a shilling in various church collections on Sunday.

Yesterday there was an intercollegiate debate at the High School on the desirability of passing Mr Fisher’s Education Bill2.  It was most amusing.  One speaker at least had read the bill, the others hadn’t.  She got up and floored them with facts.  The St. Hilda’s people practically conducted the debate.  I understand that sometimes they do so entirely.  Also it is the only woman’s college that rows in a four, (or six, I forget which) like the men, with a trainer.  So you see we are most progressive.

Yesterday morning I received a billet-doux from Miss Burrows asking me to come for a constitutional with her in the afternoon.  She was awfully nice, and took me round Christchurch Meadows, and on the towing path.  Previous to that I went to a Fire practice which was most amusing and involved descent from a first-floor window by a rope.  Apparently I managed quite creditably, for I was among those asked to repeat the performance – however, I was not finally chosen for the Brigade, much to my relief.  The first time I came down I took a few inches of skin off my knuckles on the window sill, but the second time I was more wary.

Rita has sent me “Poems of To-day” – do you remember my borrowing it from Ethel once?  It is a ripping collection of modern verse.  She didn’t enclose a letter but merely a laconic note of change of address, written in pencil on a visiting card.  She has apparently shifted her abode into the High Road.  Why, heaven only knows!  I understand from Ethel that Rita and Claude have parted in anger for ever, and that once she got over the shock, Rita was quite sensible about it!  Now perhaps she will consider her duties and responsibilities as a friend.  I have had two long letters from Ethel since I came up.

Gwen’s sister-in-law has been to see me twice.  The first time I was out, but the second time she came into my room where I was working, and stayed quite a long time talking.  She was awfully nice.  My coach for European History, Mr. Stampa, reminds me awfully of Uncle Tom Hooley3.  He is short and grey and very correct in his attire – just like him.  He is awfully amusing, too, and puts things humourously, which is a blessing!  He has just Uncle Tom’s accent;  I think he must come from the North.

My window measures 85″ from the top of it to the floor (I don’t mean there is 85″ of window, but I want that much curtain).  There is already a rod with rings.  The width of the window is 33″, and I want the two curtains together to stretch right across it, so as to hide the blind at night.  It must be a very light material, as I don’t want the room any darker, the window being quite small.  Mine is not really a dark room, like some in the old part of the Hall, but heavy curtains would most certainly make it so.

Best love to Daddie and Maxted,

Your loving daughter, Margot.

1Margot’s mother is for ever sending parcels of cake and shortbread, odds and ends wanted from home, money (which is perpetually in short supply), and letters.  Postage must have been relatively so much cheaper than it is now.  Another constant theme is the washing of Margot’s clothes.  No possibility of clothes washing facilities in the college, no washing machines, no launderettes, and underwear and stockings made of substantial materials not easy to wash out and dry in a student room.

2Mr Fisher’s Education Bill:  H A L Fisher was the minister responsible for the 1918 Education Act which dealt with the teaching of  religion in state elementary schools, who could or need not teach it, and the possibly clashing interests of the established Church of England and the Non-Conformists.  He was also the father of a future Principal of St Hilda’s, Mrs Mary Bennett.

31Uncle Tom Hooley – a Collinson relative

19 October 1917

St. Hilda’s Hall



Dear Mother

Very many thanks for you letter and also for the bank book, which arrived quite safely.  I have used the green bordered cloth for my “Moab” = my washpot = washstand.  It shuts up and becomes a kind of cabinet affair.  If I have a visitor I shall use the other cloth for my drawers.  I shall want more cushions – two, if not three, but there is no tearing hurry, they will do next term.  I am thinking of suggesting to Gwen a length of stuff, out of which I can make all I want, including a pair of curtains, which, for some reason or other, my room lacks.

When you send my eider-down will you please put in some strong stuff, with which I could make a “humpty”, or large floor cushion, which is very useful as an extra seat.  I propose to use the straw in which my china was packed as stuffing.  I think it would be best to make about three ordinary sized cushions then put them one on top of the other, and then cover all with something suitable.  Will you also put in the little red photo frame off the bookcase in my room?  I should also like the tray, which would be very convenient.  I understand we are not expected to return cocoa invitations this term, which is a blessing.  We shall, however, want to have our own friends just privately.  Next term we shall have to ask all the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years.  Also you can have tea in your own room.  You just go down to the dining room and commandeer bread and butter, milk and jam.  Will you also include that cotton shirt of mine that was once striped with blue, but has washed out;  some very small linen buttons for my camisoles (6), the pearl ones having come off and got broken; and also a reel of green cotton, as I tore my green skirt out walking this morning.

I want the blouse for hockey, as we are required to play in college ties, and I can’t wear a tie with my serge blouse.  I always wear a coat so it doesn’t matter about its being cotton.  I enjoy the hockey here immensely – there are some quite good players, and two of the Cheltenham1 First Eleven among the freshers.  Yesterday I played goal, and today I see I am down to play in the same place tomorrow.

I am sending you my white silk shirt and some dainty handkerchieves to be washed.  I have had a letter from Mrs Harris2, and am asking her to meet me tomorrow morning at the corner of the road as the Bursar hinted that they didn’t like too many odd people coming up to the Hall.

Many thanks for your letter this morning (Sunday) about the raid.  I was very anxious about you, but last night Miss Hallam relieved my mind by telling me she had heard from London, and that there was little or no damage.  We had the alarm here, and had to spend the evening in the dining room, which was beastly.  The electric light went out, we had only a few candles, and the two top floors were not allowed to go to bed until it came on, which was not till about 2.a.m.  The whole affair was a most uncomfortable farce, and most unnecessary, as they were nowhere near.

The Bach choir is a priceless institution.  Dr Allen3 will one day be the death of me!  I nearly died of laughing last Monday.  He twists round and round on the piano stool, flings his arms about wildly, tears his hair, and pours out floods of imprecations at sopranos, altos, tenors and basses each in turn and all together.  But he can just play!  and knows what he is talking about all along the line.  On Friday we went to have our voices tested.  All the St. Hilda’s people passed.  He bullied Miss Hallam and Miss Fisher, who were in with me.  He only kept me a moment – asked if I came from Edinburgh – tested how high I could go – gave me a few notes to read – and said “You’ll do”.  I nearly died with laughing.  We are singing some Mystical Songs of Vaughan Williams4, a motet (6 part) by Parry5 dedicated to the Choir – and are going to do the Messiah.

I enclosed a statement of accounts and also Miss Burrows’ receipt.  I am by now almost broke, so would be glad if you could refund the balance.  The Hall subscription is fixed, and includes all sports, tips, etc.  I paid the Delegacy Fee out of Auntie Hilda’s £10, but do you think it ought to come of that?  I think I can share most of the books I have to get with someone, so that the cost will be halved.

I am glad to hear Maxted did so well last week.  There is a Cheltenham child here whose brother is at Dulwich College6 – Commins is the name.  There are four Cheltenham people here – two crack hockey players – another the Dorothy Beale Scholar – all very young.  Miss Commins is going to the Mill lectures with me – has done no Political Economy before and is hopelessly at sea, so I am doing my best to help her.  She is an awfully nice child and charmingly ingenuous.

I have been a walk today with two other people – we took our lunch (provided by the Hall) and climbed up on to the surrounding hills and got a blow.  I felt quite invigorated, but now am dead tired.  We found some gorgeous berries – one spindle tree was just a cloud of pink berries.  I have never seen anything like it.  The trees here are glorious just now, all brown and yellow, and the leaves have not yet begun to fall.

I hear from Miss Burrows that Miss Thompson is at Manchester doing research and teaching in the High School.  May I write and offer her an introduction to Auntie Lucy7?  We had a lecture on Persian Art last night, very interesting and the lantern slides killingly funny.  I sat next the Bursar and we giggled the whole time.

Please give my love to Daddie and Maxted, and also to Grandma8.  Please take care of yourselves, and let me know immediately after an air raid.

Your loving daughter,


Books, etc.

s. d.
Note books 2 7
Pad 10 1/2
Mill 2 1
5 6 1/2
Dr Cr
To Daddie’s Cheque £16.0.0 By Fees
(Grant) Miss Burrows’  5.0.0 Residence (less Room and Exhibition) £15.  0.0
P. Office  4.7.6  Tuition  8.15.0
Balance  19.2  Delegacy Fee  12.6
 _______  Registration of Certificate  1.  0.0
 £26.6.8  Hall Subscription  12.0
 Library  5.0
 Luggage       2.2
 £26.  6.8

1There are frequent references to Cheltenham Ladies College where Miss Beale had been headmistress so there were strong links between the school and the college.

One of the constant themes is the War and Margot’s fear of bombs dropping on South London, where her parents lived. Her home was untouched  in this war, but took a direct hit in the World War II.  Margot’s parents had been evacuated to near Oxford, but the house suffered devastating damage.

2Mrs Harris does some of Margot’s clothes washing and some is sent home by post.

3 Dr Hugh Allen, 1869-1946,was the Professor of Music at Oxford and was about to become Director of the Royal College of Music.  He kept on his Oxford professorship, as well as conducting London choirs and was described by Ravel as ‘notre ami qui fait chanter tout le monde’.

4Vaughan Williams  Mystical Songs – very new music as it was only written in 1911.

5Sir Hubert Parry – Dr Allen’s predecessor as Professor of Music at Oxford.

6The South London school Margot’s brother attended as a day boy.

7Auntie Lucy is Margot’s father’s sister and a teacher.  There are a number of photos of her, in which she shows a strong resemblance to Margot.

8Grandma is Margot’s maternal grandmother, Angelina Fagg.

Next letter: 19 October 1917, to be posted 19 October 2014

13 October 1917

St. Hilda’s Hall



Dear Mother

Miss Hallam1 and I went down by the 11.40 train after all, and had lunch in Oxford.  We only just caught the train, and it was packed, but we were able to get seats.  I saw Windsor as we came down for the first time.  It had always been too misty when I went down before, but today was quite clear between the showers.

I was able to unpack everything except my china and get it all stowed away before dinner, which was convenient.  My room is right up at the top of the place, in the roof.  There are three of us up there, one a girl whom I met here in April.  It ought to be very cosy.  It is so far away from anywhere that I  believe I could practise without causing anyone any inconvenience.

My room is very small, and will want a lot of things to make it comfortable – a table-cloth – quite a small square one – a drawers cloth and curtains, among other things – I shall accumulate these by degrees, and shall see Gwen before I make any move in the matter.  I also need something in the ornamental way for the mantlepiece – I wish my little china clock still went – that would do beautifully.  What about suggesting that to Auntie Lizzie2?

I have to write this letter by degrees, whenever I can snatch a few moments in the common room.  Tomorrow I shall buy a bottle of ink.  I found a letter from Miss Roseveare3 for me on my arrival, and this morning I received an awfully nice one from Miss Macrae4, as well as yours for which thank you very much.

I had a very nice time at Miss Hallam’s cocoa last night.  There were three third years there, besides three freshers.  I liked the third years immensely.  One was very like Mrs Lionel Selfe, but without the sallow complexion, and with rather larger features.  She is most awfully good looking – quite eclipses Miss Hallam – and very lively.  You remember the Miss Sadler who resigned her exhibition owing to private affairs?  These same private affairs were matrimonial – she got married!  Silly ass!  By the way Miss Hallam is engaged – apparently to the son of those people she stays with at Beddington.  So that accounts for that!  I thought all the men she had met must have been unaccountably blind!

I think I shall want my eider down if it gets any colder.  I was very comfortable last night, but had my coat over my feet, so if it comes in very cold I shall want something else.

I interviewed Miss Levett5 yesterday.  I am not to coach with her for Foreign History, but am to coach with a Mr Stampa6, and attend a series of lectures by C. Grant Robertson7.  I know he writes very interesting books.  I hope he lectures well.  I am to begin Political Science straight away, as I am fully qualified, and attend  J. A. R. Marriot’s8 lectures on “Mill and his Critics”.  I am also to begin some English History final work with Miss Levett, as I have no qualifications to get up, and the Final work is rather heavy.  I am to go to an L.M.H. 9 tutor for Latin unseens.

I am off to Mansfield Chapel 10 at 11.10, so must go and get ready.   Much love to Daddie and Max 11,

Your loving daughter,


1Miss Hallam – a fellow student.

2Auntie Lizzie- A Collinson aunt.

3Miss Roseveare is presumably another Streatham Hill teacher

4Miss Macrae – Margot’s recent history teacher at Streatham Hill H.S.

5Miss Levett, History Tutor and Vice-Principal, St Hilda’s, Miss Thomson’s friend and contemporary at St Hilda’s.

6Mr Stampa – a history tutor but far inferior to Grant Robertson in Margot‘s view.

7C Grant Robertson aka Grant Bobs: Sir Charles Grant Robertson CVO, 1869 – 1948, a Fellow of All Soul’s College, Oxford who later became Vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham.

8J. A. R. Marriot, fellow of Worcester College and Conservative MP for Oxford City, 1917-22.  He wrote on constitutional and imperial subjects, on modern diplomacy in relation to the ’Eastern Question’ and on European history from Waterloo to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles.

9 L.M.H. is the women’s college, Lady Margaret Hall, founded in 1879, the same year as Somerville.  St Hugh’s was established in 1886.  From 1888 there was a register of Home Students which  gained a Principal in Mrs AH Johnson, Secretary of the Association for the Education of Women, and later became St Anne‘s College.

10Mansfield Chapel is the chapel of the theological college for the Congregational Church, founded in 1885.  Margot’s mother’s Kentish family was Church of England but  Margot was a member of the Streatham Congregational Church, South London.  The Collinsons, coming from the Preston area, may well have been Non-conformists.

11 Max is Margot’s much younger brother, William Maxted Collinson, who discovered that his first name could be abbreviated to the comfortably ordinary ‘Bill’, though his mother always called him ‘Max’.  He was born in 1905 when Margot was nine.

Next post:19 October 1917,to be posted 19October 2014

Prologue: A Place at Oxford

Kettlewell P.O. Skipton – Yorks

                Aug 10th

Dear Margaret

Congratulations on your exam results.  What do you mean by “scrape”?  Do you know your marks or do you only think you were near the bottom of the list?  And if you do know your marks what were they?  I am coming to London towards the end of August and will let Mrs Collinson know as soon as I arrive.  I am making inquiries about a History coach, and am trying to find one in your neighbourhood, so as to save bus fares.  I may or may not be able to manage that, as now so many people are doing war work it is difficult.

I am glad you think of getting Responsions1 over at Christmas.  The Greek exam is not difficult but it is tricky – therefore it is well to have plenty of time to try more than once – though I see no reason why that should be necessary for you.  Still it is much more difficult for girls than for boys who have had several years of Greek and therefore ought to know their Greek Grammar inside out.  Let me have a list of the subjects you took in Matriculation and in Intermediate, so as to make quite sure that you are exempted from the rest of the exam.  I am very sorry that I shall not see you when I come to London.  I have noted your dates and if I come earlier than I expect I will arrange a meeting but I am not likely to arrive by the 18th.  I am very glad that you are going visiting.  I hope you are reading a succession of “gnovels”2, and “thinking as little as possible” – for an Oxford scholarship depends much less on how much you know, than on freshness of point of view and a certain facility for putting things down, and I think you have been a little overcrammed, so I am very anxious that you should have a slack time.  Try and cultivate a good letter style.  Write newsy letters – not necessarily long ones – but letters that give a more or less graphic account of what you are doing and how life is using you.  You see how many things there about your exams that I want to know and which you might as well have put in this letter, which is rather a bare recital of facts, leaving me to gather that you are somewhat overdone and rather bored.

Please tell Mrs Collinson how sorry I am that she has been ill.  I hope she is better again now – this weather until lately has been so trying that it is a wonder that anyone is well – but now it seems to have had a change of heart.

Let me have a letter from you while you are with your friends.  Who is your classics coach? and what is his or her university?

Yours very sincerely

A . D. Thompson3

P.S. Convey my congratulations to Freda if you see her.

1 Responsions were a qualifying exam as part of a degree, usually taken before matriculation at a time when school exams were not standardised.

2 Gnovels

3 A D Thompson has been Aunty Margot’s one-time history teacher.  She was a St Hilda’s student and visits from time to time, aka ‘Tommy’ and ‘Dorothea’.  There is a problem over the sequence of Miss Thompson’s letters as they are dated by day and month but not the year.  Neither are they in envelopes whereas all Margot’s letters have the full date on the letter and are often clearly date-stamped on the envelope.  (During the war, beside the date stamp is printed either ‘Buy National War Bonds’ or, later, ‘Feed the Guns with War Bonds’.)


113 Beverley Road


May 15

My dear Margaret

I am so glad you have the bursary.  I knew Miss Burrows would get it for you if she could, and she will do all she can for you with the L.C.C.1  I feel sure she will let you enter in July, and you must leave no stone unturned to impress them, the L.C.C.1, for a £15 bursary is not much to go on.

As regards your doing the course in two years I have considered the matter very carefully and I do not think it would be worth either your time or your parents’ self sacrifice.  You see the benefit of an Oxford course is that it develops personality.  If you are going to work yourself to skin and bone you may as well do it cheaply at London.  You could not hope to take more than a third in two years, and you might take a fourth so a plough.  To do well you must stop working now and forget all you have learned.  We must not be ungrateful to Miss Macrae but her usefulness is now past.  You must read interesting light books and practise assiduously a decent epistolary style.  You must make a point of writing an interesting letter about nothing at least once a week.  Your trouble is that you have learned too much.  You have been overcrammed, and nothing can help you except lying fallow for a bit and then doing work on broad lines with sufficient time to do it in.  Therefore you do not accomplish any real object in going to Oxford for two years.  You see that Miss Levett who would be your tutor and responsible for your work is unwilling to take it on on those terms..

My kind regards to you Father and mother.

Yours affectionately

A D Thompson.

PS  Have you written to Miss Macrae telling her of your success and thanking her for her efforts?

1 LCC  – London County Council


S. Hilda’s Hall


June 14 1917

Dear Miss Collinson

We have just heard from Miss Sadler resigning her Exhibition for private reasons –  I am very sorry that she cannot come up, but it enables me to offer you an increase in the amount of your Exhibition of £5 per annum for 3 years, so that it will stand at £20 instead of £15.  We should of course have been glad to do this earlier had it not been exceeding the amount originally offered in Scholarships.  If you would like to accept this, it might be well to tell the L.C.C. authorities know that you have now been offered a rather larger exhibn. – It might make some difference to their consideration of the case in principle –

Yours sincerely

CME Burrows1

1C M Burrows is Miss Burrows, the Principal of St Hilda’s Hall, Oxford, when Margot arrives. She had been Vice-Principal when her mother was the first Principal and preserved the family atmosphere of the college.