Intricate work of college’s earliest students on display in major exhibition

Some of the earliest examples of Victorian work by past students from the University of Roehampton’s Whitelands College, from as far back as the 1840s, are currently on display in a major showcase event.

Posted: 2 February 2016

image for news story Intricate work of college’s earliest students on display in major exhibition
Some of the early Whitelands College students at work.
The exhibition, entitled A Remedy for Rents highlights the intricate, impressive and exceptionally fine textile work which the college’s early staff and their students excelled at, alongside their academic studies, to prepare them for teaching work.

Whitelands College, which celebrates its 175th anniversary this year, is one of the pioneers of training women as teachers. The University, through Whitelands College, has provided higher education to women for longer than any other institution in the country.

As well as precision textile work, students at the time also studied English, arithmetic, art, history, geography, French and religious knowledge. As the college grew over the decades, botany, algebra, geometry and agriculture were also added to their curriculum.

Many of the students in the college’s early years were working class women aged 16-25, and studied for one or two years, with fees being paid either through scholarships or from earnings in subsequent employment. In keeping with the times, the college was created to educate a superior class of schoolmistresses, and one of the essential skills to master was needlework.

Today, Whitelands College, as part of the University of Roehampton, maintains a commitment to top quality teaching. Students who live in its eight modern halls of residence study in all of the University’s academic departments, from Life Sciences to Dance, Psychology and Business. The University retains its historic strength in education and teacher training: during the last five years, 7,513 students have graduated from our School of Education.

‘A Remedy for Rents’ refers to a quote by the celebrated Victorian philanthropist John Ruskin about clothes which had been ‘rent’ or damaged were repaired with darning work. The exhibition is being hosted by the Constance Howard Gallery, a specialist textiles research centre, at Goldsmiths, University of London. It runs until 10 March at Deptford Town Hall and includes dozens of ‘samplers’ showing the expert needlework which students created as part of their curriculum.

The exhibition will move to Whitelands College in May for six months, as part of the college’s 175 year anniversary celebrations.

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