14 June 1919

St. Hilda’s Hall,



                My dear Mother,

Thank you very much indeed for the cake, your letter, and the money.  I regret to say that I have already spent the latter – but please listen before you gasp!  10/- went in books that I simply had to have – one a foreign book that couldn’t be got in Oxford, and the other a Pol. Sci. book necessary for the Master’s lectures.  5/- has to go to Swanwick as registration fee – 4/- went in two books for Ethel’s and Doris’ birthdays, which fall next week.  Could you ask Daddie if he can send me an extra £1 because I shall want 5/- as sub. to the B’s dinner, about 5/- for rowing, about the same for extras and washing, and also some week-end expenses.  Also I want about ¼ yd of ninon1 to put in the neck of my evening dress.  The latter I must have soon.  Do you think I could use the £1 still remaining out of Auntie Hilda’s money for books?  There are one or two Pol. Sci. books that I want very badly – the sort that you want to read a chapter of per day only, being as much as you can take in, and which are therefore inconvenient to borrow.  I would also like to own at least one of the books for my special.  Don’t you think it would be quite a legitimate use of the money?

I have got quite a nice programme for the week end.  Please come by the morning train – I have nothing to do that morning, so could meet you by either train.  The 9.0 something is the best train;  the 11.0 something stops quite a lot on the road.  I propose to have a tea picnic with Hall people that day.  From dinner onwards I am afraid I shall have to desert you, as the dinner is an exclusive affair.  But both Mr Cohen and Doris Coleman have offered to step into the breach, so you can take your choice!  On Sunday we lunch with Mr Cohen on the river, – and I am providing tea, for it is a joint affair.  On Monday I think you and I will spend a quiet morning on the river alone and have a sandwich lunch in a punt.

By the way, I think I shall put up at Doris Coleman’s for the night, as they seemed only able to guarantee you a single room at the Wilberforce.  Doris could then help me dress. I am sending you a little washing.  Could you bring with you the stockings, and pair of knickers, a camisole and some hankies?  Also could you bring some piece lace that would do for a temporary camisole?  We are going to do wonderful things with my old evening dress.  Also if you could pick up a pair of thin brown silk stockings – imitation – I could do with them, for all the silk sheen has gone out of mine.  Do you remember that shop in Soho where we saw those cheap silk stockings – any colour you like!

I have been elected member of the Intercollegiate Historical Society – largely owing to Joan’s efforts!  Have also got my boat whole, so feel correspondingly bucked with life, except for Divvers, which looms rather large just now!

Much love to Daddie and Max,

Your loving daughter, Margot.

1Ninon – a fine, strong, silky fabric.

The next letter will be posted on 30 July 2016, in the Long Vacation when Margot is in the north.


8 June 1919

St. Hilda’s Hall,



                My dear Mother,

Thank you very much indeed for your two parcels and letters, and also for the money, which was, as usual, urgently needed.  I am sorry I did not mention the hotel in my last letter.  I quite thought I did.  I have had lengthy negotiations with the “Wilberforce” all this week, owing to the fact that every time I went the lady was out, and I only saw a vague young thing, who declined to commit herself, though she took a note of my application.  However yesterday I got through to the lady proprietress herself, and got the arrangement confirmed, so if you let them know when you are coming – I mean the hour – the date I fixed according to Daddie’s letter – it will be all right.  By the way that is the only letter I have had from Daddie, the one about the hotel, since he was here.

That last week is going to be some scrum.  To begin with we are giving the B. a “bump” supper on Saturday night, which is a curse, as I wanted to have you to dinner.  This is of course strictly a Hall affair.  However I might be able to wangle you in for the garden fête afterwards.  On the Friday the B. is pic-nicking the 3rd and 2nd year.  On the Thursday is the Bach Choir Concert.  We shall all be dead by the end of term.  We’ve got to get a Sharp Practice Debate and a General Meeting into that last week as well.  By the way, there are to be more eights in Commem. Week so you ought to be able to see something of them.

Hall is packed with visitors this week-end.  All Miss Coate’s and Tommy’s year are up, Gwen, Gibbie and Edith are up, also the Bursar’s family, and Gerry’s mother and sister, whom I am to meet tonight.  Miss Coate and Tommy came to tea with Isabel and me on the river on Friday.  By the way the shortbread biscuits were delicious and much appreciated, likewise the cake.  We had a killing time!  Dorothea set out to “amuse the young” as Miss Coate put it.  She was so funny that Miss Coate was positively in hysterics.  Miss Coate has been perfectly angelic this term.

Last Thursday I went to the union;  the motion was “that  hereditary titles should be abolished” .  The hon. proposer was a little man in uniform from Balliol, with a talent for comedy, who made a very frivolous speech, and was occasionally witty.  Most of the time however he made atrocious puns, such as Beerage for Peerage, and interpretation of lord as loafer.  The Hon. Opposer was Marjoribanks of House, a regular aristocrat, long and thin – so tall that he stooped, and looking as though he had been born in his evening clothes.  He was a living example to either side being brother of Lord Bentinck.  The third speaker was Gray. Jones, a rabid socialist from S. Wales – he had more matter in his speech than there was in the rest of the debate.  The 4th speaker was Ivamy of Wadham, the personification of sweet reasonableness.  But the fun began with the discussion.  Chevallier, a big, clumsy, fair-haired, serious-minded and humourless person wished to prove that hereditary titles were un-eugenic.  You can imagine the mess he got into!  He produced statistics about heiresses – remarking incidentally that most heiresses came from entirely feminine families – that set the house off.  At every step he put his foot into it deeper and deeper!  Till finally the house rocked with laughter and drowned his figures.  The Union is truly a great institution!

Yesterday I went for my first swim this season.  It was a broiling afternoon, and the water

was most gratefully cool.  I don’t seem to have forgotten how to swim, I am pleased to say.  I wish we could swim in the open river – it would be glorious.  Is Max swimming this term with his usual enthusiasm?

I must dry up now if I want to catch the 9.30 post.  Tom is just tolling.  Have not done anything exciting today.  Practised a little in the morning – tackled Handel with Matthias.  Christine and I went to tea at the Selbies, and met all the freak undergrads in Oxford.  I talked to one from Golder’s Green.  We had quite an interesting conversation which embraced the Union, Hampstead Heath, and Ashdown Forest.  I like these freak entertainments.

Best love to Daddie and Max,

Your loving daughter,


The next letter to be posted on 14 June 2016.

1 June 1919

St. Hilda’s Hall,



                My dear Mother,

Very many thanks indeed for the cake, your two letters and the note, which last I was very pleased to see, for the reason I did not send any washing last week was because I simply had no money to send off the parcel, so it is all coming this week.

Last week – being Eights Week1 – was really most thrilling!  By the Tuesday we had found out that the best view of the races was to be had from a punt on the towing path side of the river between the New Cut and Long Bridges.  We used to see all the bumps from there, always one – and sometimes two – per race.  Bumping races are really most exciting.  Magdalen finished head of the river – it was easily best.  By the fourth day we had nearly distinguished all the colours, and learnt to prophesy what would happen.  During the races there was a boom across the end of the New Cut, opened only at intervals.  Two Thames Conservancy tugs panted up and down – clearing the course for each race and cursing the audience through a megaphone – “Get over to the towing path side, sir – the towing path side …that’s not the towing path side!” – “Look Ahead – punt!” – “There now, sir, you’ve quite spoilt that eight!” that eight only being the head of the river doing a little preliminary canter!  Then after it is all over for the day, there is a perfect scrum to get through the boom into the New Cut again – you really could walk right across the Isis from the towing path to the Green Bank by stepping from punt to punt.  Thereafter a great exhibition of incompetent punting!  But, oh it was fun!  I never had such a glorious time in all my life.  I am so glad I did not go to Cambridge!

I have been elected on to the W.E.A. central committee, so feel rather proud of myself.  Mr Cohen was also elected.  By the way I propose to ask Mr Cohen to a river picnic while you are up, so that you can make his acquaintance before the dance.  I am looking forward to your coming immensely.  Just at the moment I feel I want my brother very badly.  I suppose you could not lend him to me for the day next Saturday?  It would be during his half term.

I go to Swanwick on July 23rd and leave on July 29th, so could be at Heaton Moor on the latter date.  The station for Swanwick is Butterly on the Midland Railway, so perhaps Daddie could find out how I could get to Heaton Moor from there.  By the way I must have that Rhodes boy introduced to me while I am up North, for I find the Elsa Lowe, one of our First years, who lives in Manchester, knew the George Rhodes family quite well and says they were all nice, particularly the K.C.  Elsa is typical Manchester, so they can’t be very sniffy!  Anyway he would be jolly useful, so will you please write to Auntie Nellie and ask her to wangle it?

Could you please time your next cake to arrive on Friday morning like the last, because Tommy and Miss Coate are coming to tea with me on the river on that day, and I want to do them well, so would like a home cake as a foundation.  Isabel is coming to support me, so I think we ought to have some fun.  Tommy arrives here on Wednesday.

I went to cocoa with the B. last Tuesday and talked about my future.  Do you know, I believe I want to teach, after all!  The B. quite approved of the plan and we sketched out a programme of how I could train for an educational expert – for example – one year’s training as continuation school mistress, then two years in an ordinary High School – the B. says this is best as a beginning – then continuation school teaching2, and finally, inspections or other expert work under the Education Office.  The B. gave me some addresses, and also instructed me about getting into the Civil Service, but she seemed to think that latter rather a waste of energy!  Still all this is in the air – the Moberly may have something different to suggest, or the Levett.  This is really all the result of my finding out that I can coach.

My best love to Daddie and Max

Your loving daughter


P.S. I am so sorry to hear about Frank Prescott – I should think they ought to be all right though, both Frank and Ada were pretty warm, weren’t they?

P.S.S.  I am so [sorry] to have missed the post, but have been out all day with Doris Coleman.  We sculled down the river to Abingdon lock, past Nuneham Court below where we were that day last summer time.

1Eights Week ie 8 oarsmen in a long, narrow boat with a cox, racing one behind the other because the river is so narrow.  Every boat chases the one in front and, if it catches up, bumps into it, – and then starts the next day’s racing ahead of that boat.  If a boat achieves a bump every day (6 days in Margot’s day, 4 more recently), the oarsmen ‘win their oars‘, ie get an old oar painted with the crew names, dates, etc, to keep.

2The continuation schools were for 14 -17 year olds, in the area of technical and general instruction, taking into account local needs of different trades, together with ‘ training for healthy living and for the duties of citizen ship’ (MS Sadler: ‘Continuation Schools in England and Wales‘, 1907).  Presumably Margot was thinking of teaching in areas of social need.  The Continuation Schools extended to adult evening classes, which were already being promoted by local societies, the Co-operative Society and the Workers Education Association, with a broad curriculum particularly in the arts.

The next letter will be posted on 8 June 2016.