In the mid-1890s, Daisy Warwick shocked society with her interest in socialist politics. At the time, British Socialism was a growing menace to the aristocracy and landed gentry, who viewed these working class rabble-rousers with disdain and anxiety. Daisy’s conversion to socialism came about when the Clarion, a weekly socialist newspaper, lambasted the lavish house-warming ball and party the naive Daisy felt sure was alleviating the poverty of the area. She traveled to Fleet Street as soon as possible to confront the editor of the newspaper, Robert Blatchford, only for Blatchford to rip apart everything she believed to be true. From then on, Daisy was determined to use her wealth and position to help the less fortunate. This of course caused much strain on her personal relationships, particularly with the Prince of Wales (though their romantic relationship quickly cooled, they remained great friends).
A few years after her conversion to socialism, Daisy grew just as interested in women’s rights, and was keenly interested in women’s education and employment. To that end, she decided to train educated women (that is, middle-class women) in horticulture and agriculture. She had already established a hostel for women pupils attending Reading College, and it seemed to her that “training at the Reading College in dairy work, market gardening, poultry-farming, bee-keeping, fruit growing, horticulture and grading, packing and marketing of produce, would appeal to many women of education, and would do something to meet the complaint that foreign competition was proving too much for our market gardeners.” She soon separated her hostel from Reading College and moved it to Studley Castle in Warwickshire in 1903, where it was named Studley Horticultural & Agricultural College for Women.
A contemporary description of the college:–
The park in which the College is situated is 340 acres in extent, and includes gardens and glass houses. The founder is responsible for the maintenance of the College, and Lady Warwick is assisted in its management by a committee of ladies and gentlemen. Instruction is given in horticulture, dairy-work, poultry keeping, bee keeping, fruit bottling and preserving, marketing, manual processes, and business methods, and students are prepared for the National Diploma in Dairying, the Certificates and Diplomas of the British Dairy Farmers’ Association, the College Certificate and Diploma in Dairying, and the examinations of the Royal Horticultural Society. The Certificate Courses are usually for one year, and the Diploma Courses for two years, with three years in the case of horticulture and bee keeping combined. The session is of forty weeks’ duration, and consists of three terms of about thirteen weeks each, beginning in September, January, and May. The number of students is between 30 and 40.
Fees.—Full training, with board and residence, £80 to £120 ($400 to $600), according to accommodation required, with extras for bee keeping, fruit bottling, etc. Non-resident students, £1 5s. a week or £13 6s. 8d. per term.
Nature Study Courses of two weeks for men and women are held in the summer, the women being accommodated at the College, and the men in farm lodgings. Fees, £5 5s ($25)., inclusive.
Staff.—Founder: Lady Warwick. Warden: Miss Mabel C. Faithfull. Horticulture: Mr. W. Iggulden, F.R.H.S.; Mr. W. Sarsons. Botany: Mr. W. B. Groves, M.A. (Cantab). Poultry: Mr. George A. Palmer. Dairy Farming and Agriculture—Dairy Instructress: Miss K. A. Baynes, N.D.D., B.D.F.A., Diploma. Book Keeping and Business Training: Mr. A. E. M. Long (Chartered Accountant). Apiculture: Mr. W. Herrod, F.E.S. Fruit Bottling and Jam Making: Miss Cran. Cooking Lessons: Miss Faithfull.
As it turns out, Daisy was right on the nose, for Edwardian England’s greatest garden designer was a woman–Gertrude Jekyll, whose partnership with Edwin Lutyens produced some of England’s finest gardens. Jekyll, however, studied at the South Kensington School of Art, but famous alumni of Studley College included Adela Pankhurst and Taki Handa a “student and instructor at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts, Japan, who studied at Studley from 1906-1907, and designed a garden at Cowden Estate in Muckhart, Scotland.” Studley College remained an all-female agricultural college until it closed in 1969 (the castle is now a Best Western hotel), long after Lady Warwick’s death, and it joined Swanley Horticultural College for Women in Kent, and Frances Wolseley’s School of Gardening for Ladies, as a tangible method for “surplus” Victorian and Edwardian women to control their destinies.
History of Studley Castle
Photographs of Studley College, ca 1910-1930
“Horticultural Education in England, 1900-40: Middle-Class Women and Private Gardening Schools” Garden History
Vol. 31, No. 1 (Spring, 2003) by Anne Meredith