Matilda Ellen Bishop

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Miss Matilda Ellen Bishop by James Jebusa Shannon

Matilda Ellen Bishop (12 April 1842 in Tichborne, Hampshire – 1 July 1913 in Camberwell, London) was the first Principal of Royal Holloway College, University of London. Her father was a scholarly Church of England clergyman.[1]

Early life[edit]

She was educated at a seminary for young ladies in Brighton, where she had to learn passages of the Bible by heart. She taught at Sunday School from the age of eleven. At sixteen (c.1858) she was sent to Queens College, Harley Street, London, and was deeply influenced by Revd F. D. Maurice.[1]


She then followed a teaching career becoming the first deputy and the second headmistress of Oxford High School from 1879 to 1887. She was appointed as the first Principal of Royal Holloway College on its opening in 1887. The founder, Thomas Holloway had stipulated that the principal was to be an unmarried female, or a widow without children, under the age of 40, though the age restriction was lifted when there were no suitable applicants.[2][3]

She initially encouraged the students to take Oxford degrees though Oxford did not admit women to its degrees until 1920. However, students were also entered for London University degrees where successful candidates had been awarded degrees since 1878. She later expressed the opinion that the college should become a constituent school of London University. This was established by her successor, Dame Emily Penrose in 1900[2] with Penrose becoming a member of London University Senate.

In 1897 she resigned when the governors wanted to introduce nonconformist services in the college chapel on alternate Sundays. The college founder, Thomas Holloway had stipulated that the college should be non-denominational.[2]

In 1899 she became Principal of the newly founded St Gabriel's Church of England Training College for Women Teachers in Camberwell, and died in office in 1913.[2] She never married though she had been engaged for a time before her appointment to Royal Holloway.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 21 June 2011
  2. ^ a b c d Bingham, Caroline (1987). The history of the Royal Holloway College 1886-1986. London: Constable. ISBN 0-09-468200-3. 
  3. ^ Miss H A C Green MA (December 1966). College Letter. Englefield Green, Surrey: Royal Holloway College. p. 5. 
Academic offices
Preceded by
New Creation
Royal Holloway College
University of London

Succeeded by
Dame Emily Penrose