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Personal Papers of Bertha Phillpotts, 1863 - 2002

Reference Code: GBR/0271/GCPP Phillpotts

Scope and Contents

The papers comprise personal and biographical records (of Bertha Phillpotts and her family), correspondence and academic records (including research, lecture notes and publications).


  • 1863 - 2002


Biographical / Historical

Bertha Surtees Phillpotts (BSP) was born in Bedford, the daughter of James Surtees Phillpotts, Headmaster of Bedford School, and Marian Cordery. She was educated at home before coming to Girton as a College Scholar to read Medieval and Modern Languages 1898-1901. She spent a fourth year at Girton studying Old Norse and Celtic and then three years as a Research Student split between Girton, Iceland and Copenhagen University. She stayed at Girton as Librarian 1906-09 before moving to the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography in Cambridge as Secretary to Baron von Hügel 1909-13. She then went to Oxford as the first Lady Carlisle Research Fellow at Somerville College 1913-16 followed by an attachment to the British Legation in Stockholm as private secretary to Sir Esmé Howard. In 1920, she was appointed Principal of Westfield College, London, and two years later she succeeded her aunt, Katharine Jex-Blake as Mistress of Girton College 1922-25. Later she was a Research Fellow of the College 1925-32. In addition, she held a number of University posts and public appointments: she was University Lecturer and Director of Scandinavian Studies 1926-32 and Head of Department of Other Languages 1930-32; a member of the Board of Education Consultative Committee 1919-21 and a member of the Statutory Commission for Cambridge University 1923-27 (the only woman member) and for London University 1926-28. In 1931, she married, as his second wife, Hugh Newall, Professor of Astrophysics. She was an authority on Scandinavian languages and history and a frequent visitor to Iceland (six times between 1903 and 1914). Her publications, of which the best known are ‘Kindred and Clan’ (1913), ‘The Elder Edda and Scandinavian Drama’ (1920) and ‘Edda and Saga’ (1931), reflect this scholarship. She held the degrees of MA and LittD (Trinity College Dublin) and in 1929 was created DBE for services to education. She died in 1932 and bequeathed her valuable collection of Scandinavian books and pamphlets to the College Library.


8 archive box(es) (8 boxes) : paper

Language of Materials



The papers are divided into two sections: those collected by BSP and her family and those collected by C Geoffrey Harlow.

Related Materials

Bertha Phillpotts' collection of prayers, used while she was Mistress of the College, is at GCAR 6/4/8.


Newall, Bertha Surtees, 1877-1932, nee Phillpotts, Scandinavian scholar Newall, Bertha Surtees, 1877-1932, nee Phillpotts, Scandinavian scholar

Finding aid date

1998-09-03 13:40:49+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Girton College Archive Repository

The Archivist
Girton College Archive
Huntingdon Road
Cambridge CB3 0JG United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 338897