Book shelves in Kathleen Major Library, St Hilda's College

College Library and Archive

Treasure Of The Month

St Hilda's in the (not so) bleak midwinter

The College grounds and proximity to the Cherwell river has long been a source of winter entertainment for our community. Ethel Collinson (St Hilda’s, 1917-1920]) wrote in a letter home to her mother in February 1919:

“Today and yesterday have been brilliantly fine, though frosty.  The meadows are frozen and everyone who knows how is skating… Meadow skating is ideal for beginners, as there is nowhere more than a foot of water - mostly the ice is just a thin sheet over the ground itself.  The river has gone down, so we expect the return of the punts and canoes tomorrow.” [St Hilda’s Archives/PP 13/51]

During the great freeze of 1963, some College Fellows’ literally went one step further and walked down the river Cherwell outside the Milham Ford Building. This is not a recommended course of action by the way…

St Hilda’s College has a rich tradition of celebrating the festive season. ‘Carols on the Stairs’ has been a cherished feature of College life since at least the 1930s. Scout, Madge Bootes, who worked at St Hilda’s between 1947-1973 recalled the following in her 1970s MS recollections:

“ The carols which are sung by St Hilda’s choir… are sung in South Building a few days before Michaelmas Term ends. The Hall and Staircase are decorated with evergreen and people sit in the hall, the landing and also on the wide staircase. By candlelight, the singing of old, as well as new carols is really lovely and at the interval, mulled claret is served.” [St Hilda’s Archive/Reminiscences: 2nd sequence Bootes M]

St Hilda's Fellows walking on the frozen river Cherwell, c 1963, Snow-covered grounds of St Hilda's in 1922