When you have the rich history of a leading global university to call upon, choosing the right people to honour is both a challenge and a joy.
The University of Birmingham has a long tradition of independent thought, creativity, intellectual curiosity and towering achievement. For the hotel team tasked with naming new event spaces and bedrooms, it was important to pay due attention to the many women who have been part of that story.
Dame Hilda Lloyd was a pioneer in obstetrics and gynaecology, and a powerful advocate for women in medicine. Her ‘flying squads’ provided mobile emergency obstetric care, and saved countless women’s and children’s lives. A University of Birmingham graduate, she became the university’s first female professor in 1944.
Lloyd’s name has been chosen for the grand event space in Hornton Grange. This new extension, with a long skylight and dramatic floor-length windows opening onto the lawn, is perfect for weddings and parties, seating 112 banqueting style.
Margery Fry was a pioneer of British prison reform, and campaigned for the abolition of the death penalty. In 1904, she became the first Warden of University House, the first women’s hall of residence in this country, providing pastoral care for women students. She went on to become one of the UK’s first women magistrates.
Fry is honoured in the largest room in the new conference centre. This impressive modern space seats 250 banqueting and theatre style, and can also be used for exhibitions, weddings and events.
Novelist Marie Corelli was once the best-selling writer in England. Author of baroque romances and fantasies, she was also a vocal protector of local heritage in Stratford-upon-Avon. Mason Croft, the home she shared with her companion Bertha Vyver from 1901 to 1924, is now the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute.
Corelli’s name is celebrated alongside novelist David Lodge and poet Louis MacNeice in the Writer’s Suite. This collection of three meeting rooms in the conference centre can be used individually, or combined to form one larger space, offering boardroom-style seating for 10 to standing space for 145.
Dame Ethel Shakespear, née Wood, was a British geologist and philanthropist. She was assistant to Charles Lapworth at Mason College, the forerunner of the University of Birmingham, and provided the essential illustrations for British Graptolites, the standard palaeontological reference work of its age. During World War I, she worked to secure care for soldiers with disabilities, and helped to develop a plan for foster care in Birmingham, inviting many working-class girls and women to stay at her own home.
Wood was selected by the Lapworth Museum of Geology to name one of the bespoke bedrooms in Garth House. This luxurious room in the newly-restored 1900 house features unique design, custom-made furniture and a striking bathroom.
Newill and Gaskin
Mary J. Newill and Georgie Gaskin were artists of the Birmingham Group, a loose collective of artists and designers linked by the Birmingham School of Art.
Newill is celebrated for her embroidery, painting, book illustration and especially her stained glass; she had her own studio in central Birmingham in 1906, at a time when the profession was still male-dominated.
Gaskin was a jewellery and metalwork designer, who began her professional career as a children’s book illustrator. Her jewellery designs are fine examples of the mediaevalist, Romantic style that characterised the Arts and Crafts movement.
Both women have been selected by the curators at Winterbourne House and Garden, another fine Arts and Crafts building just across the road from the hotel, now a museum and seven-acre botanic garden. Newill and Gaskin will also be luxurious bedrooms in Garth House.
These outstanding women join Lady Barber, whose name graces one of the meeting rooms in Garth House. Throughout the hotel, their contributions will be celebrated in artwork and artefact displays, information panels and in print, to ensure every visitor takes away an understanding of the University of Birmingham’s proud heritage.