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Crewdson, Gertrude Gwendolen Bevanlocked

(1872–1913)
  • Barbara E. Megson

Crewdson, Gertrude Gwendolen Bevan (1872–1913), college administrator and benefactor, was born on 28 March 1872, in Manchester, the second daughter among the four children of William Crewdson, a manufacturer and a member of the Society of Friends, and his wife, Ellen Waterhouse, sister of Alfred Waterhouse, the architect. She was left an orphan in 1881 and was thereafter brought up by a housekeeper, Miss Loader, who was also a governess with considerable experience of preparing students for Cambridge. At first they lived in Reading, and then at Bournemouth, in the hope of improving Gertrude's health: she had a tendency to consumption all her life. Her formal education began late. Because of its bracing air, and on the advice of Elizabeth Welsh, mistress of Girton College, Cambridge, she chose to go to St Leonard's School, St Andrews, at the age of twenty-one. She went as a by-pupil in a house which then trained teachers, to prepare herself for university entrance. She made rapid progress there and in 1894 entered Girton, whose buildings had been designed by her uncle. Mistrusting woolly abstractions, she had a penchant for expressing ideas in diagrammatic form, and she chose to read for the natural sciences tripos part I. She then took a fourth year at the college to study geology. Her beauty and charming personality, together with great talent as a pianist, ensured the respect and affection of her fellow students, who elected her senior student during her final year (1897–8), to represent them in college affairs.

When she left Cambridge, Gertrude Crewdson was elected by the former students who had received certificates that they had fulfilled the conditions necessary for a Cambridge degree, as their representative on the governing body of Girton College. In 1906 she graduated MA, taking advantage of the offer of Trinity College, Dublin, between 1904 and 1907, to confer degrees on women with appropriate qualifications. She had returned to Girton in 1900 as librarian and registrar, becoming junior bursar in 1902. A woman of means, she was a quiet and generous donor, providing the college with small requisites of plants and books. She resigned in 1905 to live in her own home.

From 1892 to 1899, Miss Crewdson had her permanent home with her older brother, Wilson Crewdson (1856–1918) and his wife, Mary Bevan, in Reigate, Surrey. In 1899, she bought her own house, Homewood, Aspley Heath, near Woburn Sands in Bedfordshire. She furnished it with great taste and care, buying antique furniture, Japanese pictures and ornaments, some of these being curios from her travels abroad. She opened the house and its extensive garden during the summer months as an inexpensive holiday home for professional women, putting aside the small sums raised. On her death these amounted to £250, which she left to Girton College, resulting in the Frances Buss Loan Fund. Among her other benefactions to the college was a large piece of land to the north of the buildings, which she had purchased in 1902 to save it from housing development.

Her Quaker upbringing had instilled in Gertrude Crewdson a high sense of purpose and service. A teetotaller, she had firm principles, but never obtruded them on her associates. She supported the non-militant women's suffrage movement. She took a particular interest in the Quaker School for Artisans at Sibford, near Banbury. She travelled widely in Greece, Crete, Sweden, and Norway, but her first love was for Egypt and its ancient past. Characteristically, she took a course in Egyptology before spending a winter and spring in Khartoum. On her death, Girton was the recipient of her collection of Egyptian antiquities.

Gertrude Crewdson was active, to the point of being restless, all her life, an attribute consonant with her lifelong battle with tuberculosis, of which she died, at home, on 14 October 1913, at the early age of forty-one. A memorial brass was unveiled in her memory in the chapel at Girton College. Her successor as bursar, Eleanor Allen, when she died in 1929, bequeathed money to the college to found the Crewdson memorial prize for natural sciences.

Sources

  • K. T. Butler and H. I. McMorran, eds., Girton College register, 1869–1946 (1948)
  • Girton Review (1913), 10–15
  • W. Crewdson, ed., Gwendolen Crewdson (privately printed, 1914)

Likenesses

  • photographs, 1894, Girton Cam.
  • portrait, Girton Cam.

Wealth at Death

£61,460 3s. 4d.: probate, 1 Dec 1913, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]