Establishing a College for Women

Hillcrofts first students arrived at 'The Holt’ located in Beckenham, Kent. 1920

The College adopted the motto "Through Rough Ways to the Stars"

The end of the First World War in 1918 generated new thought about women arid their role in society. Working women had left education at 14 years of age or less without regard to achieving their potential.

The number of women workers had increased dramatically during the first world war, they had taken the place of men drawn into the armed forces and maimed essential industries which had to be maintained and expanded to meet the needs of the war effort Three quarters of a million men had been killed by November 1918 and it was clear that a fresh drive to secure what had been gained for women and increase their opportunities was needed.

In 1919 the YWCA National Education Committee met to consider the areas of educational opportunities for working women after the war. The scheme for founding a Residential Working Women’s College was born, although regrettably the YWCA was unable to provide funding for the scheme. Mr. Thomas Wall (of sausage fame!) pledged £1,000 initially with £500 in the following year for the purpose.

A large house was required to take 20 residential students Subjects to be studies would include: History, Literature, and Social Science with religious teaching at the core.

Miss Walters trailed the country fund raising for the scheme, there was total reliance on voluntary subscriptions, bursaries provided by private individuals and companies and student contributions. Debenhams, Cadbury's and J.E. Robertson were among the companies providing bursaries in support of their own employees enrolled as students.

In 1919 a house known as 'The Holt’ located in Beckenham, Kent, was rented on a six-year lease. The accommodation comprised of 18 residential student rooms together with lecture rooms - the Residential College for Working Women had begun! Miss Fanny Street was appointed as Principal and the college was opened in February 1920 with eleven students (aged 18 - 35) and two staff in residence. The curriculum at that time was devised to meet students’ needs as expressed in their applications forms.