Written by Gilly King
2021 marks the centenary of Froebel College being at Roehampton. Roehampton University, as we know it today, evolved from four separate female teacher training colleges with long and unique histories. Whitelands College opened in 1841; first located on the Kings Road in Chelsea, the college moved to Putney in 1930 and subsequently moved to Roehampton in 2005. Southlands College opened in Battersea in 1872, from 1927 it was located in the Burlington Hotel, Dover prior to moving to Wimbledon Parkside in 1930. Southlands moved to a bespoke campus in Roehampton in 1997. Digby Stuart College, originally known as Wandsworth College, opened in 1874 and its first permanent home was in Wandsworth. In 1905 the college moved St. Charles College, North Kensington and was renamed “St. Charles”. The college moved to Roehampton Lane in 1946 and became Digby Stuart College. Froebel College, originally known as the Froebel Educational Institute opened in 1892 in West Kensington, and moved to the Grove House Estate, Roehampton in 1921. Froebel College is the youngest of the four colleges but has been part of the Roehampton community for the longest.
In August 1921, Dr Claude Montefiore bought the freehold of Grove House with 33 acres of land for £29,750, he was acting on behalf of the Froebel Educational Institute. The move was instigated by the Principal, Miss Esther Lawrence, who wished to expand the college. Grove House had been used as a base for the Royal Flying Corps during World War One and by 1921 was in a somewhat dilapidated state. Extensive work had to be carried out, so the move from West Kensington to Roehampton was not completed until January 1922.
Many of the students were accommodated in ‘the bungies’ [bungalows], which were temporary buildings erected in 1921. The journal Architect (Dec. 1921) reported, “By careful standardisation in every part, and above all by efficient organisation and team work on the part of the contractors and sub-contractors [understood to be Canadian lumberjacks], and the willingness on the men’s part to work both by day and night…, the whole of the work was completed and eighty students were in occupation of the study bedrooms in exactly three weeks from the date of starting.”
This is the only known image, taken in 1933, of ‘the bungies’ situated on the lawn between the house and lake.
In February 1923 the college’s new premises were visited by Queen Mary.
The college archive hold fascinating images of the new college circa 1925, which illustrate that the last 100 years have seen many changes, but the historic beauty of the site remains unchanged.
Now 2021, Froebel College is home to the Department of Education – renowned for being one of Britain’s major centres for Initial Teacher Training, the Department of Dance, with excellent theatre, studios and recording facilities and the academic year 2019/20 started with much excitement when Roehampton University welcomed its first-ever Student nurses. Over the summer of 2019 a bespoke Clinical Simulation Centre was constructed in Froebel College. This Centre is the University’s newest teaching environment and is designed to simulate various clinical and community environments.
With thanks to Dr Peter Weston and the Froebel College archives
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