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date: 29 September 2023

Lodge, Eleanor Constancefree


Lodge, Eleanor Constancefree

  • Frances Lannon

Eleanor Constance Lodge (1869–1936)

by Sir Gerald Kelly, exh. RA 1933

© reserved; Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London

Lodge, Eleanor Constance (1869–1936), historian and college head, was born at Hanley, Staffordshire, on 18 September 1869, the youngest child (of nine) and only daughter of Oliver Lodge (1826–1884), merchant, afterwards of Wolstanton, Staffordshire, and his wife, Grace (1826–1879), youngest daughter of the Revd Joseph Heath. Her eldest brother, Sir Oliver Lodge, remembered her as being always very thin and extraordinarily energetic as a child, and this remained true in adult life. She was educated at home, and in private schools in Wolverhampton, Newcastle under Lyme, and, after she was orphaned, Oxford, where two of her brothers, Alfred and Richard Lodge, were college fellows. By her own account she was a shy, self-conscious, and anxious child. In 1890, however, after a period of illness, she went up to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (LMH), which 'was simply a revelation to me of what life might be, and opened a new world of happiness' (E. C. Lodge, 41). She was a dedicated student—'I could imagine no greater misery than having to miss a lecture' (ibid., 53)—and gained a second in modern history in 1894, as well as playing hockey and tennis, rowing, cycling, and skating.

At the École des Chartes and the Écoles des Hautes Études in Paris, 1898–9, Lodge received an outstanding training as a medievalist, and embarked on research into English rule in Gascony, on which she produced several important studies, especially 'The estates of the archbishop and chapter of Saint-André of Bordeaux under English rule' in volume 3 (1912) of Oxford Studies in Social and Legal History and The English Rule in Gascony (1926). She published a number of other books and articles, and contributed to volume 5 (1926) of the Cambridge Medieval History. Her authoritative work was based on extensive research in French archives. She also walked and cycled frequently in France, sometimes with a companion, often alone. Her long familiarity with France stood her in good stead when in the spring of 1918 she took charge of the Oxford women's canteens for French soldiers in Champagne, shared in the retreat before German forces, and then nursed in Paris.

Eleanor Lodge was 'wild with joy' (E. C. Lodge, 83) when in 1895 Elizabeth Wordsworth, principal of LMH, asked her to return. She was appointed librarian, then from 1899 to 1921 history tutor, and vice-principal from 1906. She taught for many hours each week to supplement the small retaining fee she received, and was proud to be the first woman invited by the history board to lecture in the university, on the sources of Gascon history. She was deeply committed to women's and girls' education, and encouraged students to go into schoolteaching as well as organizing classes and lectures to help teachers study for degrees. She was active in the long campaign to persuade Oxford University to award degrees to women, finally achieved in 1920—not least as a result of the contribution her generation of academic women had made to the intellectual and institutional development of the women's colleges. With her dedication to scholarship and teaching, and her devotion to LMH, it was not surprising that she hoped to become the third principal of the college when Henrietta Jex-Blake retired in 1921; her failure to achieve this was a painful blow. She decided to move on, and applied for an assistant lecturership in history at Westfield College, London, but found herself instead being appointed principal there, in succession to Bertha Surtees Phillpotts.

During her ten years as principal of Westfield College, Eleanor Lodge oversaw major library development and the building of a chapel. She also continued to write, teach, and examine, and served on the history board, noting with appreciation the fuller integration of women into university life in London, and the treatment of women as equals by their male colleagues. In 1926, jointly with the chairman of the college council, Sir Thomas Inskip, she persuaded the commissioners responsible for drawing up new statutes for the University of London to reaffirm Westfield's standing as one of the eight component colleges of the university, a position which had been threatened by Westfield's small size. She was able to point both to Westfield's good academic record, enhanced by her insistence that students should pursue honours courses, and to the continuing demand for a residential college. She strongly believed that the college should be more than a hostel, and that academic staff should mix on a daily basis with the students. Under the new statutes she became, in 1929, the first principal of Westfield to take a place on the London University senate. With her usual energy she sustained a wide range of other responsibilities, including membership of Hampstead borough council, and her role as president of the Association of University Women Teachers.

Eleanor Lodge's personal life was enriched by her close friendship with Janet Spens, whom she met when Janet was appointed as tutor in English at LMH in 1911. Just before the First World War she spent some months with Janet in Harrogate, where she was convalescing, then they took rooms together in Headington. They 'began to hanker after a cottage of our very own' especially for the university vacations when no accommodation was available in LMH, and hired one in Steeple Aston from 1916 to 1925. They then bought 5 Fyfield Road, near LMH (where Janet Spens remained a tutor until 1936), which was Eleanor's base when not in London or France.

In 1928 Eleanor Lodge became the first woman to obtain the degree of DLitt from Oxford University, and in 1932 she was appointed CBE. She was elected an honorary fellow of LMH and of Westfield, and was awarded the honorary degree of DLitt by the University of Liverpool. She died at New Lodge Clinic, Windsor, Berkshire, after a long illness on 19 March 1936, and was buried at Wolvercote cemetery, near Oxford. Her vivid autobiography, Terms and Vacations (published posthumously in 1938), is an important source for understanding the experience of university women from the late nineteenth century to the mid-1930s. In its pages Eleanor Lodge is revealed as an honest, unselfconscious, almost naïve woman, of great energy and intellectual drive. She was a generous and distinguished servant of women's higher education, which had nurtured her, and a loyal friend.


  • E. C. Lodge, Terms and vacations, ed. J. Spens (1938)
  • O. Lodge, Past years: an autobiography (1931)
  • Lady Margaret Hall: a short history (1923)
  • registers and reports, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford
  • women's inter-collegiate reports, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, archives
  • J. Sondheimer, Castle Adamant in Hampstead: a history of Westfield College, 1882–1982 (1983)
  • M. Lodge, Sir Richard Lodge: a biography (1946)


  • L. L. Brooke, chalk drawing, 1916, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford
  • J. B. Souter, oils, 1931, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford
  • G. Kelly, oils, exh. RA 1933, Queen Mary College, London [see illus.]
  • photograph, repro. in Sondheimer, Castle Adamant in Hampstead, 98

Wealth at Death

£10,820 9s. 11d.: probate, 18 May 1936, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

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, 63 vols. (1885–1900), suppl., 3 vols. (1901); repr. in 22 vols. (1908–9); 10 further suppls. (1912–96); (1993)