Our First Students - Class joining in 1921-22

Information on the first year of students to come through the University of Leicester.

Class 1921-22 photograph, taken 1922
Black and white photograph of some of the first students and staff, taken in 1922, (ULA/FG5/1/1).

 

The First Cohort

Although it is hard to believe, the exact number of students in the first year of the University College being open is unclear. Read our blog article on this subject to find out why.

Our most up-to-date information suggests that in the first year, there were just 11 full-time students: ten women and one man.

There were also part-time students, and those studying evening or weekend courses. As a result, more than 11 names appear in the records for the first year.

This is what we know about some of them.

Nellie Bonsor Winifred Bates Rhoda Bennett Nancie Capey
Dorothy Gilbert Mona Nevitt Daisy Ough Gweneth Smalley
Edith Webb Marie Tarbet Isabella Jones Rosalind Viccars
John Butler Miss H Sand Geoffrey Peach

 

Miss Nellie Bonsor

Photograph of Nellie Bonsor from the class photograph of 1922 (ULA/FG5/1/1).Nellie Bonsor was from Wigston and attended the Wyggeston School in Leicester. She had a County Council scholarship during her time at school. By the time she was interviewed by the first Principal, Dr Rattray, for a place at the University College on 24 June 1921, her father had died and her widowed mother earned a living as a laundress. Nellie Bonsor graduated in June 1925 with a BA English and her student record card shows that she returned in a Research role for 1925-26. She was a pioneering member of the new student community, and was the first ever President of our Students’ Union from 1923-1926. She was also a member, secretary, and president of the University Women (an internal club). She remained friends with the Rattrays for life, and was bequeathed the handpainted College Arms that were presented to Dr Rattray when he left Leicester in 1931. We believe this to be the copy that remains in the University's archives today (ULA/HIS/FOU/3). Nellie Bonsor became a private tutor to a debutante in Switzerland, and then taught in West Scotland. She then took secretarial roles in London, and returned to Leicester as an organising secretary to the RSPCA in southern Leicestershire from around 1932. Mr Harry Gee, Percy Gee's nephew, was RSPCA Chairman for many years and thought very highly of Miss Bonsor's administrative skills. She had taught French in New Zealand, and volunteered for the ATS during the Second World War. In 1939, a newspaper article about Leicester forming a committee to help refugees said that she became the committee's honorary Secretary. It also noted that she was Honorary Secretary of the Leicester branch of the Federation of University Women.

Sources:

Leicester Mercury, 30 January 1939, 'Leicester Help for Refugees' by Rita Wakefield, p.13

Leicester Mercury special supplement, 04 October 1971, University Golden Jubilee,' pp.4-5

ULA/P/AR/4 page 7 (Annual report for 1925), lists her as having “passed in their Subsidiary subject before taking their honours degree” in Latin (November 1924).

University of Leicester Archives, Student Records, Careers of Old Students book, ULA/SR4/1


Miss Winifred Victoria Bates

Photograph of Winifred Bates from the class photo of 1922 (ULA/FG5/1/1).Winifred Bates was a Leicester girl. Her father ran a local shoe manufacturing company. A special supplement to the Leicester Mercury in 1971 (that marked the University's Golden Jubilee) mentions Winifred Bates (later Mrs Brown) as having intended to go to Bedford College, but not being allowed to live in "digs" by her father after it became clear that she could not stay in halls of residence. She was encouraged by the Leicester Collegiate School's Headmistress, Miss Jackson, to attend higher education, and so entered the University College in Leicester instead, in 1921, leaving in 1924 with a BA. She returned in 1929 to do some research. She married the Rector of Saxby, Eric Brown.

Sources:

Leicester Mercury special supplement, 04 October 1971, 'Leicester University Golden Jubilee,' pp.4-5

Nottingham Evening Post, 02 September 1933, 'A £16,000 Leicester Estate,' p.8

 

Miss Rhoda Bennett

Photograph of Rhoda Bennett from the class photo of 1922 (ULA/FG5/1/1).Rhoda Bennett (1896-1985) was one of the daughters of Dr F W Bennett, one of the earliest supporters and benefactors of the new University College and member of College Council. She grew up in Leicester and attended Collegiate School. Although she secured entry to St Hilda's College, Oxford, she felt that she could not leave Leicester so immediately after the First World War. Instead, she became one of Leicester's first students and one of the first Treasurers of the Students' Union. She entered in October 1921 and gained a BA Hons History in 1925, going on to study Librarianship at London University and to work at the Guildhall Library. Rhoda Bennett was recommended by the Honorary Librarian, F B Lott, to a professional post as Assistant Librarian for the University College in September 1931. She was our first full-time paid Librarian, and remained at Leicester for 30 dedicated years. After their father’s death in 1930, Rhoda and her sister Hilda made donations to the College amounting to £5,500 (in 1931). They also donated their family home, 104 Regent Road and had founded an £8,700 ‘Frederick William Bennett’ lectureship that was intended for the Geology Department. Rhoda was a significant member of the University community, playing a crucial role in making new members of staff feel at home at Leicester. She would only accept a nominal amount as salary, preferring to make her librarianship a gift to the new University College. It was largely her work that transformed the library’s early collections of books into a fully-functioning, professionalised library, servicing the University and its members. During her time at Leicester, she employed the poet Philip Larkin between 1946 and 1950 and continued her correspondence with him for years. She achieved an MA in History in 1936 and remained as University Librarian until retiring in 1961. Before the Second World War, she helped to settle Jewish refugees in America and the UK, often housing them temporarily in her own home. She continued to be a donor to the University, making a contribution to the new Medical School in 1977, her donation going towards the setting up of the Clinical Science Library. She was a Soroptimist, a member of the Association of University Women, and a supporter of the local RSPCA. She also remained lifelong friends with several of the first students of the University. The Bennett Building is named after her father Frederick, sister Hilda, and also after her. There remains a Frederick W Bennett lectureship in Geology, and an annual Rhoda Bennett Prize within the Geology Department. Rhoda died on 21 June 1985, aged 89.

Sources:

Annual Report for 1924-25. ULA/P/AR4, p. 7 (lists her exam results)

East Midlands Oral History Archive, Rhoda is recalled in memories recounted by Nora Waddington in this c.7 minute sound clip

Leicester Evening Mail, 21 November 1931, ‘£10,275 Gifts to University College: Further help by two sisters’

Leicester Mercury special supplement, 04 October 1971, 'Leicester University Golden Jubilee,' pp.4-5

University of Leicester Archives, Student Records, Careers of Old Students book, ULA/SR4/1

University of Leicester Archives, Library History boxes. Box 2, Folder H (includes clipping from unidentified source, dating to c.1970, mentioning a dinner given in her honour when the Bennett Building was named).

University of Leicester Archives, Press Cuttings Books

University of Leicester Archives, Personalia, obituary from Convocation Review 1986 (ULA/PER3/18)

University of Leicester Archives, Student Records, Careers of Old Students book, ULA/SR4/1


Miss Nancie Ella Capey

Photograph of Nancie Ella Capey from the class photograph of 1922 (ULA/FG5/1/1).Known as Ella Capey (1903-1986), she was the daughter of Arthur and Annie Capey, both from Leicester. Arthur was, on the 1911 census return, a printer and stationer. This Collegiate School girl from Leicester was another encouraged by her headmistress, Miss Jackson, to go onto higher education. She entered  the University College in Leicester in 1921 and is listed as getting French BA Hons in the first year that final exams were taken (Annual Report for 1924-25). In 1929 she secured a teaching post in New Zealand after apparently having worked for a time at Stockton Secondary School. The University College magazine, The Luciad, occasionally included a section on "Old Students' News," and the Midsummer Term 1930 issue mentions: "Miss E. Capey has resigned her post as Senior French Mistress at Stockton Secondary School, and has gone to join her brother in New Zealand." The UK Incoming Passenger Lists show her returning to Southampton from Auckland on the Rimutaka with her mother and two of her sisters, in February 1949. She is at that time listed as having an occupation as a clerk and the family had an address in Knighton Street, Leicester. She also appears in Passenger Lists that show she travelled on the Orontes in October 1960, returning to the UK from Sydney. At that time, she was travelling without any family members and was listed as a teacher with an address in Chesterfield Road, Leicester. At the time of a Leicester Mercury University Golden Jubilee supplement of 1971, she was living in Bushby, Leicestershire. On being asked about going to University, she recalled: "I'd intended to go to Nottingham. I suppose my idea was to launch away from home." (Leicester Mercury special supplement, p.5). At the Leicester University College, she liked games and got involved with tennis and hockey on Victoria Park (recalling for the Leicester Mercury 1971 supplement that "anyone who could play was in the team, never mind merit"), and noted the challenges of playing badminton in low-ceiling rooms. She died in Leicester in 1986.

Sources:

Ancestry.com. 1911 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011

Ancestry.com. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010

Ancestry.com. UK, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008

Leicester Mercury special supplement, 04 October 1971, 'Leicester University Golden Jubilee,' pp.4-5

University of Leicester Archives, Annual Report for 1924-25 (ULA/P/AR4, p.7)

University of Leicester Archives, Publications, The Luciad, Midsummer Term 1930, p.12


Miss Dorothy Lucy Gilbert

Photograph of Dorothy Gilbert from the class photograph of 1922 (ULA/FG5/1/1).Dorothy Gilbert appears as a child on the 1911 census return. She was the daughter of Thomas Higginson and Maude Gilbert. Her father was a farmer (employer) who was born in Broughton Astley. Dorothy was also born there. She entered the College in October 1921. She left in 1925 with a BA Hons Maths (the first year that final exams were taken) according to the Annual Report for 1924-25. She was Secretary of the Students' Union in 1923-24. A note on her student record card also says that she married W D Whitfield in 1929 and moved to South Africa, although the UK Incoming Passenger lists suggest his name was Arthur Thomas Whitfield and was a medical man. Corroborating this, the student magazine at Leicester, called The Luciad, mentions in the Midsummer Term 1930 issue:"Mrs A. Whitfield (nee Miss D. L. Gilbert) is living at Duyvelskloof, South Africa,where her husband is District Surgeon." They appear to have settled in Nyassland (today part of Malawi), where Arthur was the Medical Officer. Dorothy appears to have later spent some time living as a housewife in St Helier, Jersey. We do not know anything else about her at present.


Sources:

Ancestry.com. 1911 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

FreeBMD. England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 [database on-line]

The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 1227

University of Leicester Archives, Annual Report 1924-25 (ULA/P/AR4, p.7)

University of Leicester Archives, Publications, The Luciad, Midsummer Term 1930, p.12

University of Leicester Archives, Student Record Cards, ULA/SR1/G/23

 

Miss Mona Amelia Nevitt

Photograph of Mona Nevitt from the class photograph of 1922 (ULA/FG5/1/1).Mona Nevitt (1903-1989) was the daughter of John and Kathleen Nevitt, from Quorn. She was born about 1903 in Bolton, Lancashire. She attended the Leicester Grammar School and entered the Leicester University College in 1921. After leaving in 1925 with BA Hons English in the first year that final exams were taken, she became a buyer for the John Lewis Partnership and lived in London. She married William Alder in 1934 and moved to Kirkham Farm near Lower Slaughter, adapting to life at the farmhouse. She made and sold butter, kept poultry, ran her household and raised three children. Her youngest had Down's Syndrome, but Mona worked tirelessly to modernise the treatment of the mentally handicapped, to secure better help for her son. She helped the NSMHC (now MENCAP) for many years. She was also a keen member of the Women's Institute. In the 1960s, she began a new career as a teacher. She also travelled around the world, keen on cultures, local history, an nature. She survived a stroke in 1985 but died in 1989, aged 85.

Sources:

Ancestry.com. 1911 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011

Evesham Journal, 30 November 1989, Obituary of Mona Amelia Alder

University of Leicester Archives, Annual Reports, Annual Report for 1924-25 (ULA/P/AR4 p. 7) gives her exam results

 

Miss Daisy Winifred Ough (1922)

Photograph of Daisy Ough from the class photograph of 1922 (ULA/FG5/1/1).Born 30 June 1899, Daisy Ough (1899-1976) attended school in Leicester. The 1911 census shows that her father, Lewis, was the manager of a Wholesale Pharmaceutical Chemist. Her student record card shows that she matriculated in 1919, and entered the Leicester College in 1921 (although the Student Register books gives her start date as February 1922), and left in 1926 with a BA Hons Geography. The Student Register books also highlight that she stayed in the Women's Hostel. There is a note saying the she went to Exeter University College in October 1926. On the 1939 England and Wales Register, she appears to have been living alone in Exeter and working as an Assistant Schoolmistress. She died at the age of 77 on 15 September 1976 at Exeter.

Sources:

Ancestry.com. 1911 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2007.

University of Leicester Archives, Student Record Cards, ULA/SR1/O/18

University of Leicester Archives, Student Register books, ULA/SR2/1

 

Miss Gweneth Kathleen Smalley

Photograph of Gweneth Smalley from the class photograph of 1922 (ULA/FG5/1/1).Gweneth Smalley (1902-1990), was born in Peterborough on 11 November 1902. She entered the Leicester University College in 1921 and left in 1926 with BA Hons English. As one of our blog articles explains, her father was a railway clerk living in Barclay Street, Leicester. After graduating, she became a teacher, and is known to have enrolled on a National Froebel Foundation Certificate course at the Maria Grey Training College in 1928. From 1945 to 1966 was Headmistress of the Warwickshire Preparatory School in Leamington Spa. She was a lifelong friends and travelling companion of Rhoda Bennett, and in 1986 she gave £10,000 to the University Library, the largest cash gift the Library had ever received up to that point. She had sailed from Liverpool to New York on 13 August 1934 on the SS Scythia, apparently with a fellow teacher, Constance A Booth. She retired in 1966 and became a Conservative Councillor in Leamington Spa until 1974. She has also founded a branch of the Soroptimists Club. In January 1989 she returned to her school to open the New Nursery Building. She died at Leamington Spa on 14 December 1990, aged 88.

Sources:

Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2007.

Ancestry.com. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010, from: Year: 1934; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5528; Line: 12; Page Number: 184

University of Leicester Archives, Library History Box 2, Folder H, unidentified clipping from a newspaper, reporting the death of G Smalley and featuring a photograph of her

University of Roehampton Archives, NFF Froebel Teacher Training Certificate Register, 1928 (NFF/4/17)

 

Miss Edith Aileen Webb

Photograph of Edith Webb from the class photograph of 1922 (ULA/FG5/1/1).Edith Webb (1902-?) was born on 07 January 1902 in Leicester. On the 1911 Census, the family lived at 'The Chestnuts' in Wigston Fields. Her parents were Samuel and Edith Webb. Her father, Samuel Henry, was an electrical engineer. Edith entered the Leicester University College in 1921, and left in 1925. She studied Botany, Maths, Chemistry and Physics. We do not know about her later life.

Sources:

Ancestry.com. 1911 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

 

 

Miss Marie Lorimer Tarbet (1922)

Marie Tarbet, from the Leicester Mercury, 1939
Marie Tarbet, from the Leicester Mercury, 1939
Marie L Tarbet (1902-1971) was born on 1 August 1902. She was the niece of a local man, Alderman Swain, and her address as recorded in the Student Register book was his house in Letchworth Road. Her parents appear to have been based at Caldicote, Newport Pagnell. Her student record card shows that she was privately tutored between 1920-22. She entered in 1922 to study for the BA (taking Latin, French and History) but she left in 1924. The 1939 England and Wales Register appears to show her living with her father, sister and aunt in Torquay.
Clipping pasted to the back of M L Tarbet's student record card, following her literary career. From the University of Leicester Archives, ULA/SR1/T/4.
Clipping pasted to the back of M L Tarbet's student record card, following her literary career. From the University of Leicester Archives, ULA/SR1/T/4.
Her father, William, ran a rubber trade company and her sister, Jane, had been a teacher. Marie became an author, writing Down Blue Moon Street and Swing of the Sea, lighthearted romances that won prizes. Her taste for writing may have begun when she wrote 'The Mock Trial' for the first student publication, Leicester University College Magazine, April 1925 issue (pp. 5-7). 'The Mock Trial' is signed 'M.L.T.' In the first edition of the University Magazine (which came to be called the Luciad), a Miss Tarbet was recorded as having been involved in the Debating Society, and is likely to be one and the same. She died in London in 1971.

Sources:

Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2007

Leicester Mercury, Fri 17 March 1939, p.16, includes a photograph

Nottingham Journal, Tues 31 May 1938, p.4 announces release of Down Blue Moon Street

University of Leicester Archives, Leicester University College Magazine, December 1924 (ULA/P/MN1/1)

 

Miss Isabella Kinloch Jones

Isabella Kinloch Jones (1903-1993) was one of the adopted children of the Reverend E, and Mrs, Kinloch Jones. Isabella appears to have been born in France in 28 February 1903. The family had been based at Silverstone (until 1908) and Clipston (instituted January 1908-1912). During a swap of livings, they left Clipston in 1912 and moved to Leicester, where the Rev. Kinloch Jones became rector to St Saviours church and the family took up residence in St Saviour's Vicarage. The Rev. Kinloch Jones had served on the Leicester Education Committee (and many others), resigning in 1915 when he joined the Forces. His daughter Isabella entered the Leicester College in 1921, and left in 1923. A note on her student record card says that at this point the family relocated to Norfolk. Isabella is probably the Isabella K Jones to have married an Andrew Stephenson (Schoolmaster) in Depwade, Norfolk in 1934, as per a marriage record for such that exists in the England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. The 1939 England and Wales Register notes them living at 'Woodhay', Norwich. She lived until the age of 90, dying in March 1993 in the Norwich area (Sproxton).

Sources:

Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Register [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2018

Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA), 1911

General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.

Northampton Mercury, 01 January 1909, p.5., 'Religious,' (his institution at Clipston reported as taking place late January 1908)

University of Leicester Archives, Student Record Cards, ULA/SR1/J/38

 

Miss Rosalind Viccars

'The Homestead' where Rosalind Viccars' family lived. Photograph courtesy of Mrs Caroline Wessel.
'The Homestead' where Rosalind Viccars' family lived. Photograph courtesy of Mrs Caroline Wessel.
Rosalind Viccars (1903-1988) was the daughter of Bertha Elizabeth and William Arnold Viccars (William was a worsted spinner). Rosalind was born in Leicester on 17 March 1903. The 1911 Census shows the family living at 'The Homestead' in Rothley. Viccars entered the Leicester University College in 1921, and left in 1922. She had studied English. She married Geoffrey Andrews in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the Anglican Church, in 1929. The Passenger Lists showing her going out to Rio de Janeiro before the wedding say that she was living with her parents in Rothley and with no profession at that time. It also shows that she departed with the intention to make Brazil her permanent home. Later Passenger Lists show her returning to the UK with her husband and young son on a visit to Buckinghamshire from Buenos Aires in May 1935. The 1939 England and Wales Register shows the family living in Tring, Hertfordshire. Rosalind's occupation is given as 'unpaid domestic duties.' She appears to have died in York in 1988, aged 85.

Sources:

Ancestry.com. 1911 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011

Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Register [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2018

Ancestry.com. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012

 

Mr John H Butler (part-time)

John Butler was from Wigston Magna, He entered as a part-time student in 1921-22 studying for Latin for inter BA. Nothing else is known about him.

 

Miss H Sand (part time, 1922)

Miss Sand was also from Leicester. She entered in 1922 and left the same year. She studied English. Nothing else is known.

 

Mr Geoffrey Peach

Geoffrey Peach (1903-1975) was a son of Harry Hardy Peach, one of our founders and founder of the Dryad Furniture and Dryad Metal Works. Geoffrey was born in Leicester. The 1911 census shows the family living at Portland Towers in Leicester. He entered the University College in 1921, but left in 1922 to go to Oxford. He studied Maths (and other?). He married Betty in Leicester in 1931. At the time of the 1939 England and Wales Register, he was living in Market Harborough with his wife whilst managing the Dryad handicrafts and publishing. Passenger lists show that he was travelling from Trinidad to New York in 1945 as a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. He appears to have been living in Kensington since at least 1946. He died in March 1975 in Kensington.

Sources:

Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Register [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2018

Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2010

Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010

 

ULA/SR1/2, Register of Students from 1923, showing names of students admitted during the first academic year.
ULA/SR1/2, Register of Students from 1923, showing names of students admitted during the first academic year.

Fees, Accommodation, and Dress

The first full-time students paid £20 per annum. Those taking courses separately paid £6. Women could stay in the women's hostel on campus, and men generally took lodgings locally until men's accommodation was later established.

Students had to wear academic gowns all the time while they were on campus, and the style of gown adopted was the Trinity Hall, Cambridge gown; a dark blue with black facings at the front.

They studied for three terms of 10 weeks each.

In a speech by Mrs Rattray upon Dr Rattray's resignation, she recalled having the eleven students for a Christmas party around her dining table. There were almost 300 students by the time he left. (PCB2 p137)

Share this page: