Founder and Principals

The Founder

Dorothea Beale (1831-1906)

Our founder Dorothea Beale was formerly Principal of Cheltenham Ladies College. Miss Beale continued her work to promote women’s education when in 1892, she purchased Cowley House in Cowley Place, for ladies wishing to attend college lectures. In 1893 the Hall, renamed St Hilda’s, opened as an Oxford Hall for women with seven students. 


The Principals

1893–1910 Esther Burrows (1847–1935)

When Miss Beale started St Hilda's in Oxford, she appointed Mrs Burrows as Principal. This was a housekeeping rather than an academic role, and in the early days Mrs. Burrows was responsible for everything, from buying the furniture to chaperonage and discipline.

1910–1919 Christine Burrows (1872–1959)

Originally a student at Lady Margaret Hall, Miss Burrows assisted her mother in the foundation of St Hilda's whilst still a student. She became a tutor immediately after completing her studies and was Vice Principal when aged 23. She succeeded her mother as Principal, and was later Principal of the Society of Oxford Home Students (1921-1929).


1919–1928 Winifred Moberly (1875–1928)

A former scholar of Lady Margaret Hall, Miss Moberly oversaw the move to the newly acquired South Building, but her term of office was marred by increasing ill health, and she died less than a week after it ended.


1928–1955 Julia Mann (1891–1985)

After studying at Somerville and the London School of Economics, Julia Mann was appointed Vice Principal and Tutor in Economics at St Hilda's in 1923. Miss Moberly's illness meant that Miss Mann had been running the College before her election as Principal. She oversaw considerable development and growth at St. Hilda's, and was a generous benefactor to the College.

1955–1965 Kathleen Major (1906–2000)

Kathleen Major's first post at St Hilda's was as President of the JCR as an undergraduate. She went on to be Librarian and Lecturer at the College. She is recognised as one of the pioneers who established the disciplines on which the archive profession was based. As Principal she improved the administrative systems of the College and presided over a major building programme.


1965–1980 Mary Bennett (1913–2005)

The first Principal with a husband, Mary and John Bennett broke new ground, encouraging students in the Lodgings and leading the musical life of the College. On being proposed for the Principalship, she is reputed to have said 'it can't be much worse than running the WI'.

1980–1990 Mary Moore (1930–2017)

After reading History at Lady Margaret Hall, Mary Moore made her early career in the diplomatic service, from which she was obliged to resign when she married fellow-diplomat A.R. Moore in 1963. When Mary became Principal in 1980, she and her husband, Tony, presided over a very sociable era in the Principal's Lodgings. Although the centenary of the College in 1993 fell during her successor Elizabeth Llewellyn-Smith's time as Principal, Mary was instrumental in launching the Centenary Appeal which by the end of her tenure had raised over £2 million, contributing to the permanent endowment of ten named Fellowships in the College.


1990–2001 Elizabeth Llewellyn-Smith
2001–2007 Lady English
2007–2014 Sheila Forbes

2014–Professor Sir Gordon Duff

Esther BurrowsChristine BurrowsWinifred MoberleyJulia MannKathleen MajorMary BennettMary Moore