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