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Ella Sophia Armitage

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Ella Sophia Armitage
Born(1841-03-03)3 March 1841
Liverpool, England
Died20 March 1931(1931-03-20) (aged 90)
Middlesbrough, England
Occupation(s)Historian and archaeologist
SpouseElkanah Armitage (1844–1929)

Ella Sophia Armitage (3 March 1841 – 20 March 1931) was an English historian and archaeologist.


Armitage was born Ella Sophia Bulley in Liverpool, the second daughter of Samuel Marshall Bulley, a cotton merchant, and Mary Rachel Raffles, daughter of Congregational minister Thomas Raffles.[1] In October 1871 she was one of the first students to enter Newnham College, Cambridge. Two of her sisters also attended Newnham, including Amy Bulley who sat the tripos.[2] A brother was Arthur Bulley.

In 1874 Armitage became the college's first research student.[3] In the same year she married the Reverend Elkanah Armitage, with whom she had two children.[4] From 1877 to 1879 she taught history at Owens College, Manchester with her sister Amy,[2] and in 1919 was awarded an honorary degree from Manchester.[5] In Manchester she developed her interest in mediaeval earthworks and castles.[3] In 1887 she became the first woman on the school board at Rotherham, and in 1894 she was appointed assistant commissioner to James Bryce on the Royal Commission on Secondary Education to investigate girls' education in Devon.

Armitage – along with John Horace Round, George Neilson, and Goddard Henry Orpen – proved in a string of publications that British motte-and-bailey castles, which had previously been assumed to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, were not constructed until after the 1066 Norman conquest of England. Her book The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles is considered a seminal work on the subject.[1] She also contributed to volume 2 of the Victoria County History, of Yorkshire, writing on ancient earthworks.[6]: 332 

She was also known as a hymnwriter,[7] apparently saying "I believe I was intended by nature for an archaeologist, but life has made me a hymn writer, and I shall be content to be known as such when my archaeology is forgotten."[8]: 13  In 1881 she published sixteen hymns in the collection The Garden of the Lord.[9]


  • Armitage, Ella S. (1877). The Childhood of the English Nation or the Beginnings of English History. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.
  • Armitage, Ella S. (1881). Richard I and Edward I. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.
  • Armitage, Ella S. (1885). The Connection Between England and Scotland. London: Rivingtons.
  • Armitage, Ella S. (1905). A key to English Antiquities: with special reference to the Sheffield and Rotherham district. London: J. M. Dent & Co.
  • Armitage, Ella S. (1912). The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles. London: J. Murray.


  1. ^ a b Counihan, Joan (2004). "Armitage , Ella Sophia (1841–1931)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ a b Linda Walker, ‘Bulley , (Agnes) Amy (1852–1939)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2010 accessed 22 Feb 2017
  3. ^ a b Ogilvie, Marilyn; Harvey, Joy (2000). "Armitage, Ella Sophia A (Bulley) (1841–1931)". The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science. London: Routledge. p. 52. ISBN 0-415-92038-8.
  4. ^ Counihan, Joan (1986). "Mrs Ella Armitage, John Horace Round, G. T. Clark and Early Norman Castles". Anglo-Norman Studies. 8: 73–87.
  5. ^ Manchester, University of (1940). Calendar. p. 86.
  6. ^ Beckett, John (September 2014). "The Victoria County History in Yorkshire: The Past, the Present and the Future". Northern History. 51 (2): 330–343. doi:10.1179/0078172X14Z.00000000068.
  7. ^ 'Obituary: Mrs. Ella Armitage', The Manchester Guardian, 26 March 1931, p.10
  8. ^ Kelynack, William Sydney (1 January 1950). Companion to the school hymn-book of the Methodist Church (First ed.). Epworth Press.
  9. ^ "The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology". The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Retrieved 15 December 2022.

Further reading[edit]

  • Counihan, Joan (1990), "Ella Armitage, castle studies pioneer", Fortress: The Castles and Fortifications Quarterly, 6: 51–59
  • Counihan, Joan (1998), "Mrs Ella Armitage and Irish archaeology", Anglo-Norman Studies, 20: 59–68
  • Fyfe, Morag (2012), "Ella Armitage and Norman castles in France 100 Years Ago", The Castle Studies Group Journal, 26: 216–229
  • Hulme, Richard (2012), "The enduring influence of Ella Armitage", The Castle Studies Group Journal, 26: 230–244

External links[edit]