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Bruce, Alice Moorelocked

  • W. Gareth Evans

Bruce, Alice Moore (1867–1951), educationist, was born in London on 29 April 1867, the youngest of six daughters and two sons of Henry Austin Bruce, first Baron Aberdare (1815–1895), and his second wife, Nora Creina Blanche (d. 1897), daughter of General Sir William Napier. Among her brothers was the army officer and mountaineer Charles Granville Bruce; there were also two daughters and one son surviving from Lord Aberdare's first marriage. Her father's chairmanship of the departmental committee on intermediate and higher education in Wales (1880–81) generated the blueprint for educational reform in Wales. Her mother was one of the leading protagonists in the establishment of the Aberdare Hall for women students at Cardiff in 1883, and was president of the hall from 1883 to 1895. Educated at home and at Bedford College, London, Alice entered Somerville Hall, Oxford, in 1887, where she gained a second in modern history in 1890.

After four years at home Alice Bruce returned to Somerville in 1894 as secretary to the new principal, Agnes Maitland. From 1898 until her retirement in 1929 she was vice-principal. She was elected an official fellow in 1922 and honorary fellow in 1929. She consecrated years of devoted administrative and tutorial work in English and French to her alma mater, claiming to have held every office in the college except for the tutorships in science and classics. An accomplished tennis player, she encouraged sports in the college. Elsewhere, she gave devoted service on many committees at Oxford, and as council member and vice-president of the Girls' Public Day School Trust [see also Girls' Public Day School Company]. She represented the privy council on the council of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire.

From 1929 to 1936 Alice Bruce served as president of Aberdare Hall, Cardiff, where she consolidated her mother's efforts on behalf of women's higher education in Wales. The virtues of residence in a university hall were highlighted, a personal library of modern language books donated in 1935, and a £500 bequest given in her will. In character and temperament she was warm-hearted and impulsive, but also critical and discriminating. Generations of students, including Vera Brittain, recalled her 'gentle, diffident shyness' (V. Brittain, The Women at Oxford, 1960, 121), generous and deeply affectionate nature, love of music, and lively interest in public affairs. She was an effective participant in committees, where her knowledge of educational matters and wise judgement proved invaluable. In 1951 a former fellow of Somerville recalled her 'wise and tolerant view in college affairs' and her quest for 'the constitutional basis of any questions' (The Times, 20 Nov 1951). Alice Bruce died at her home, Whitegables, Headington Hill, Oxford, on 4 November 1951, and was buried at St Andrew's, Old Headington, Oxford, on 8 November.


  • The Times (9 Nov 1951)
  • The Times (17 Nov 1951)
  • P. Adams, Somerville for women: an Oxford college, 1879–1993 (1996)
  • S. B. Chrimes, ed., The University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire: a centenary history, 1883–1983 (1983)
  • Aberdare Hall: minutes of the Ladies' Hall committee, 1885–1936, U. Wales, archives
  • Daily Telegraph (6 Nov 1951)


  • photograph, 1929, repro. in Adams, Somerville for women, pl. 34

Wealth at Death

£18,988 16s. 9d.: probate, 29 Dec 1951, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

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