Today, 19th October 2023, marks the 128th anniversary of Hughes Hall at Wollaston Road.
On this day in 1895, the building that is now known as the Margaret Wileman Building – after the College’s seventh Principal – officially opened.
In the ten years since its founding in 1885, Hughes Hall, then known as Cambridge Training College for Women Teachers, saw immense growth. In its first year, the College took just 14 students; by 1890, this increased to a cohort of 40, reaching the upper limit of what the College could support in their rented premises. A more permanent location for the College needed to be found.
The new building on Wollaston Road was funded in large part by a bequest from Edward and Emily Pfeiffer, philanthropists who left money on their deaths to support the cause of women’s education. Today, visitors to the College can still see evidence of this bequest in the name of the Pfeiffer Room, and the bronze plaque commemorating the donation.
In attendance on opening day were educationists, past and present students, and representatives from Cambridge University and town. Current students turned the new rooms of the College into classrooms and demonstrated with example lectures to pupils from local schools.
According to Elizabeth Hughes’ own account of the day, so many people filled the marquee in the gardens that “the governing body and speakers had to get down, as best they could, the steep grassy slope, and enter the tent by a hole in the back!” Even more disastrous, when the speakers retreated to the library for cream cake and hot scones, they found the room “swept and garnished by the hungry hordes which had passed through it.” (This account published in Margaret Bottrall’s book, Hughes Hall: 1885-1985, p. 20-23.)
Since the opening of the new building 128 years ago, Hughes Hall has continued to grow, in our student numbers and the size of our site. Additions include the Pavilion (1980s), Chancellor’s Court (1990s), Fenner’s Building (2000s) and Gresham Court (2010s).
You can find more of our favourite views from Hughes on our Instagram.