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St Mary’s University College, Twickenham

Admissions Staff and University Ambassadors from St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, visited Year 12 today.

Strawberry Hill was originally a small cottage located in two or three acres of land by the River Thames. Horace Walpole, a son of the politician Robert Walpole, rented the cottage in 1717 and subsequently purchased it. He began to enlarge the house and added to the land, which now amounts approximately 35 acres.

Walpole did not follow the eighteenth-century fashion of classical building, but sought his inspiration in medieval styles. Some of his contemporaries imitated his design and so this house and the idea it embodied take their place in the history of architecture as Strawberry Hill Gothic. The house subsequently became known as Strawberry Hill House, and is known colloquially as Walpole House.

The Founding of St Mary’s

St Mary’s University College has a long and distinguished history as a Catholic college for the education of teachers. It was founded in 1850 by the Catholic Poor Schools Committee to meet the need for teachers to provide an education for the growing numbers of poor Catholic children. It started in Brook Green in Hammersmith in the charge of the Brothers of Christian Instruction with an intake of twelve young men. In 1899, the Catholic Hierarchy asked the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians) to undertake the administration of the College.

The Early 20th Century

Succeeding years saw an ever-increasing demand for Catholic teachers and by the 1920s the College at Brook Green was inadequate for its tasks. At Brook Green the College abutted onto Cadby Hall, the headquarters of the caterers, J Lyons & Company, and, at this time, Lyons also wanted to expand. They had money and St Mary’s had land.

The successful conclusion of negotiations on this happy juxtaposition enabled St Mary’s to purchase Strawberry Hill and build living accommodation and classrooms for about 250 students. The College at Strawberry Hill was officially opened in 1925; since then the College buildings have been enlarged to meet the needs of over 3,500 students.

Post World War II

The past fifty years have seen dramatic changes in the social life of the country and in the official provision of educational facilities for all able to take advantage of them up to university level. St Mary’s University College has reflected these changes in the way of life of the students and women were first admitted in 1966.

Whilst the college was primarily concerned with teacher training up to 1975, courses leading to the University of London BA and BSc external degrees had been offered from 1920. In 1967 it became possible to stay for a fourth year to convert the Teacher’s Certificate into a BEd degree.

The first students for the then new London University BA, BEd, BH and BSc unit degrees entered in 1975. These degrees marked a new phase in the life of the College – now only a third of our work is devoted to teacher education, and the title of the BEd degree has been changed to BA. Much effort is directed towards courses leading to BA and BSc two-subject degrees, together with taught MAs, research degrees and various diplomas. In the autumn of 1994, new single subject BA degrees were introduced. 

University of Surrey Validation

A policy decision was taken in 1979 whereby the College changed its validation from the University of London to the University of Surrey. Our first students to gain qualifications under the University of Surrey received their diplomas in 1983 but, with effect from September 1983, all students registered with the University of Surrey.

In July 1986, our first graduates from the University of Surrey received their degrees in Guildford Cathedral. The College’s degree conferment ceremonies are now held in either the College Chapel or Westminster Cathedral.

The relationship with the University of Surrey developed progressively. The Senate and Council of the University of Surrey accorded us ‘Affiliated College Status’ in 1990 and from that year all undergraduate students have been recruited through UCCA (now UCAS). In 1992 the College was accorded ‘College of the University of Surrey’ status and in the same year a lay Principal was appointed for the first time. From September 1996 were accredited by the University of Surrey for taught degree programmes.

The Present Day

In September 2006, St Mary’s was granted the power to award its own taught degrees by the Privy Council following an 18 month period of intense scrutiny by the Quality Assurance Agency. Following Privy Council approval, St Mary’s College became St Mary’s University College, and it can apply for full university status when it meets the criteria for this important stage. New students registering from September 2007 can look forward to graduating with a St Mary’s University College degree.

The University College’s current estate is in three parts: the main campus is on Waldegrave Road in Twickenham; St Mary’s Hall, a hall of residence, is located in central Twickenham (behind the Police Station); and the University College’s main sports fields are on the Teddington Lock site opposite theLensbury Club in Broom Road, Teddington.

In 2002 the Strawberry Hill Trust was formed with a mission to restore Walpole House and open it to a wider public. The Trust signed a 120 year lease with St Mary’s and is now embarking upon an £8.9 million project to restore Walpole’s villa and surrounding gardens. The Waldegrave Wing, including the Waldegrave Drawing Room and Senior Common Room, continue to be used by the University College.

Walpole House is a Grade I listed property and has been identified by many as a place in need of urgent assistance. It was featured on the BBC2 series ‘Restoration’ and was listed on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register. It was also included in the 2004 World Monuments Fund Watch list of the world’s 100 Most Endangered Sites.


2 responses to “St Mary’s University College, Twickenham

  1. Nicole ⋅

    I know St Mary’s University College is a good sports school but is it also good in science?

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