Whitelands College

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Whitelands College
University of Roehampton
LocationRoehampton, London, England
Named forWhitelands House on the King's Road in Chelsea

Whitelands College is the oldest of the four constituent colleges of the University of Roehampton.


Parkstead House, Roehampton, London

Whitelands College is one of the five oldest higher education institutions in England (predating every university except Oxford, Cambridge, London and Durham) and was founded in 1841 by the Church of England's National Society as a teacher training college for women. A flagship women's college of the Church of England, it was the first college of higher education in the UK to admit women. Associated with it was Whitelands College School, which opened in 1842;[1] indirectly, this continues as Lady Margaret School.

The college was named after a Georgian building, Whitelands House, on King's Road in Chelsea, where it was originally based. Whitelands House was demolished and rebuilt in 1890 due to the increasing number of students. (The original Chelsea building was sold to the British Union of Fascists in the summer of 1933 and became known as "the Black House".)[2]

The college outgrew Whitelands House in 1930 and moved to buildings designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in Southfields, near Putney. Whitelands college was formally opened by Queen Mary in 1931. The extensive campus was expanded over the following years, with additional residential and academic buildings constructed on site. The college remained in Southfields until 2005, when it relocated to the current Roehampton site.[3]

During the Second World War, the students of Whitelands College were evacuated to Homerton College (University of Cambridge), Bede College (Durham University) and Halifax.


The college has traditionally kept two major annual festivals - the St Ursula Festival in October, and the May Day Festival in May.

St Ursula[edit]

The college was placed under the patronage of Saint Ursula, and the College chapels at Chelsea, Southfields, and Roehampton have all been dedicated to her. A stained glass window by Edward Burne-Jones, depicting Ursula, was installed in the original Chelsea chapel, and has moved with the college on each of its relocations (1931 and 2005), along with a series of matching windows depicting other female saints.

May Day[edit]

The first May Day festival was held at Whitelands College in 1881 at the instigation of the Victorian philanthropist John Ruskin, a friend of the then College Principal, the Reverend Canon John Faunthorpe. The Festival is held annually, and includes the enthroning of a May Queen, or (since becoming coeducational) a May King, elected by the student body during the preceding academic term. The ceremony is presided over each year by a visiting Anglican Bishop.

Current facilities[edit]

In 2005, Whitelands College vacated the Southfields site in Putney and relocated to Parkstead House, a Grade I listed Neo-Classical Palladian villa on a 14-acre site overlooking Richmond Park, in Roehampton. (The main building on the Southfield site was later converted into luxury housing.)[4]

Parkstead House was built in the early 1760s for the 2nd Earl of Bessborough, and was extended and renamed Manresa House after the property became a Jesuit novitiate in the mid-nineteenth century. From the novitiate, the Jesuits founded St Joseph Church in Roehampton.[5]

University status[edit]

In 1975, Whitelands College entered into an academic federation with three other south-west London teacher training colleges – Digby Stuart, Froebel and Southlands – to form the Roehampton Institute of Higher Education (RIHE).

In 2000, the Roehampton Institute of Higher Education federated with the University of Surrey to become the University of Surrey Roehampton.

The University of Surrey Roehampton announced that it would submit an application for independent university status in late 2003. This was granted on 1 August 2004, with the name Roehampton University.

In 2011 the name was formally changed from Roehampton University to the University of Roehampton.

In 2016 the University of Roehampton celebrates 175 years since the foundation of Whitelands College, its oldest college, in 1841.


  1. ^ "Records of Whitelands College Girls' School Old Girls' Association". The National Archives. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  2. ^ Thomas P. Linehan, "East London for Mosley", Routledge, 1996, p. 254.
  3. ^ Move outlined at the College's official history page.
  4. ^ Whitelands College History, Roehampton University, 14 March 2009.
  5. ^ Welcome, Whitelands College Retrieved 17 February 2013

External links[edit]