|Administrative / biographical background:
In the Christmas number of The Land Magazine for 1897, Frances Evelyn, Countess of Warwick (1861-1938), published a scheme for training women in the lighter branches of agriculture. She proposed the opening of an Agricultural Training College for Women and the establishment of Women's Agricultural Settlements in different parts of the country. Her chief purpose was to find suitable forms of employment for gentlewomen, the daughters of professional families, whose opportunities for useful activity were at that time rather limited. In August 1898, she rented Coleyhurst, a spacious house in Bath Road, Reading, which became known as the Lady Warwick Hostel. Here, on 6 October 1898, a course of training began in association with Reading College, which had been founded only six years earlier. The students received theoretical instruction from the College staff, while their practical work was done partly in the grounds of the Hostel itself. At first, the training comprised dairy work, horticulture, market gardening, poultry farming, bee-keeping, fruit-growing and the marketing of produce. It soon became clear that the Hostel was too small to accommodate all the students who wished to enrol. In 1899, therefore, two extra houses were opened: Maynard Hostel and Brooke House. Miss Edith Bradley was the first Warden.
In July 1902, the Lady Warwick Hostel severed its connection with Reading College and afterwards provided its own classes and lectures. In a letter to The Times of 10 May 1901, Lady Warwick had proposed an endowment of £30,000 or £50,000 to build a separate agricultural college for women but this appeal produced few results. On her own initiative, therefore, Lady Warwick bought Studley Castle in Warwickshire for £25,000 and in December 1903 the students and staff of the hostel moved there. The castle was built in 1833 on an estate adjoining an Old Castle dating from the end of the 16th or the early 17th century. The first owner, Sir Francis Lyttleton Holyoake Goodricke, went bankrupt in 1863. His successor, the Walker family, also became insolvent in 1890, when the castle was bought by Samuel Lamb. It passed through several other hands until it was purchased by Lady Warwick.
In 1903, the name of the College was changed to Lady Warwick College and again in 1908 to Studley College, when Lady Warwick ceased to be responsible for its support. Some years of financial hardship followed but in 1912 the Ministry of Agriculture made a grant of £1,000 the first of the annual grants which continued up to the closure of the college. One condition of aid to the College by the Government was that the castle should be leased by Lord Warwick to Trustees. This was done and in 1916 a Company was formed under licence from the Board of Trade, to manage the College through a Board of Governors. On the expiry of the 21 years' lease in 1929, the buildings and estate became (at a cost of £12,000) the freehold property of the College. In 1926 the College received official recognition as a training institution from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
During these years of development, the pattern and content of the courses given by the College were also changing. A Colonial Training Scheme had existed since 1900. To this were later added a housewife's course, residential short courses and (in 1912 when the College farm and dairy herd was established) a course in agriculture. From 1924 until 1947 an extended three-year course for the Diploma in Horticulture was provided and from 1934 until 1954 a three-year degree course for B.Sc. (Hort.) of the University of London. In 1948 the College began to provide a two-year Diploma course in Dairy Farming and reduced the length of the course in Horticulture to two years. New buildings for these courses were erected in 1938. During the Second World War, members of the Women's Land Army received training at the College. In 1961 a one year course for Farm Secretaries was begun. This included shorthand and typing, farm records, economics, accountancy and farm management.
In 1967, acting on the recommendation of the Pilkington Report of 1966 on agricultural education that training should be concentrated in fewer institutions, the Government decided to withdraw its grant from the College in 1969. Despite petitions, personal approaches to the Minister and pressure in the House of Commons, the College had to close in August 1969.
Administrators of the hostel and college were:
1898-1905, Miss Edith Bradley, Warden of the Lady Warwick Hostel, Reading, and of the Lady Warwick College, Studley.
1905-1908, Miss Mabel Faithfull, Warden of the Lady Warwick College, Studley.
1908-1922, Miss Lillias Hamilton, M.D., Warden of Studley College, Studley.
1922-1924, Miss E. Helen Ekins, O.B.E., B.Sc., Acting Warden and from 1926-1946, Warden of Studley College, Studley.
1946-1949, Mrs. K.G.Woolacott, M.B.E., B.A., Principal of Studley College, Studley.
1949-1956, Miss D.M. Garstang, Principal of Studley College, Studley.
1956-1969, Miss Elizabeth Hess, Principal of Studley College, Studley.
Farm size, etc.
Studley College: 340 acres; heavy loam soil derived from Keuper Marl. Tenant of Lady Warwick from 1903-1929; freehold thereafter