Chancellor unveils stone marking conclusion of Lady Margaret Hall’s long architectural metamorphosis.

Oxford’s first women’s college completed 138 years after it beganNew front entrance to Lady Margaret Hall, with the porter’s lodge on the left

By Richard Lofthouse

Lady Margaret Hall, the first women’s college of the University of Oxford when it opened in 1879, has just heralded its completion. What began as a solitary house at 21 Norham Gardens in leafy north Oxford has reached its full extent for the first time, acquiring a new front entrance and quadrangle, a new porter’s lodge, and perhaps most notably the Clore Graduate Centre.

Addressing a large crowd of alumni and friends on an overcast but dry day in the new Leatare Quadrangle, current Principal and former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger praised the ‘extraordinary vision’ and ‘determination’ of his predecessor, Dame Frances Lannon, who is centrally credited with making the project happen since the early 2000s, including a major milestone in 2010 with the opening of Pipe Partridge, the first of several new buildings.

Oxford’s first women’s college completed 138 years after it beganOxford Chancellor Lord Patten of Barnes unveiled a stone marking the completion of LMH on 31 May, with current LMH Principal Alan Rusbridger and former Principal Frances Lannon

Oxford’s first women’s college completed 138 years after it beganRusbridger noted that the physical basis of the college was now ‘settled’, and that ‘no more buildings’ are planned following the major phase of work by architect John Simpson (pictured right at the unveiling celebrations). Lannon then reflected on a decade of fundraising that had begun in June 2007. She said that the new buildings had allowed all undergraduates to live in the college for the duration of three-year degrees for the first time, ending a much reviled ‘living-out ballot’ that would see certain students forced out into the private rented sector in Oxford. She added that the Clore Graduate Centre would contribute to the University’s stated aim to encourage and expand its graduate student provision.

University Chancellor Chris Patten, Lord Patten of Barnes, then spoke, insisting that ‘we need to be bigger’, noting the importance of graduate students and research to Oxford’s standing in the intensely global world of competition for funding and resources, but sounding a note of caution over the as-yet-unknown impact of Brexit on student visa numbers.

The set-piece view of LMH, as the college is colloquially referred to within the University, consists of Talbot Hall viewed from the former front entrance. Talbot Hall was designed by the Edwardian architect Sir Reginald Blomfield, who rejected the Gothic for a Queen Anne revivalist style that set the pace for the college and still accounts for its airy and light character — a million miles away from some of the older male colleges.

Oxford’s first women’s college completed 138 years after it beganLMH has been defined by the Queen Anne Revival style shown here with Talbot Hall, by Reginald Blomfield, 1910

A more severe modernism came to LMH via Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1930s, who added a chapel and dining hall, but the current extension picks up where Raymond Erith finished in 1961, his further plans postponed for lack of funding.

Ever since then the fortress-like entrance at the bottom of Norham Gardens in a north Oxford location was considered to be off-putting, although the college’s extensive plot of land bordering the Cherwell River is viewed as one of the finest in Oxford. Famous alumni include British politician Michael Gove and former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007), the latter a benefactor of the college’s recent building phase through her estate.

Oxford’s first women’s college completed 138 years after it beganThe old front entrance, now one side of the Leatare Quadrangle, betrayed the fact that the college was incomplete

All photographs by Oxford University Images / Richard Lofthouse.


By Iain campbell

Very impressive. I wish it had been done by 1981!

By Lady Susan Will...

The results are an elegant and classical statement for such an important historical college for women. Bravo to John Simpson for his artistic sensibilities to LMH's Queen Anne architecture and to the visionary leaders who made it all happen.