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Personal Papers of Constance Ryley, 1916 - 1976

 Fonds — Container: GCPP Ryley
Reference Code: GBR/0271/GCPP Ryley

Scope and Contents

The papers listed here comprise the following:
1) Six letters from Constance Ryley to her aunt, written 1916-1919, ie before and during her time at Girton. The letters cover subjects such as the entrance examination, daily life at Girton, her College room, College activities and societies (particularly chapel choir, musical society and Christian Union), the First World War (eg a zeppelin scare in October 1917), study, church, sport (netball) and singing lessons. The letters have been annotated in pencil at a later date with explanatory notes;
2) Testimonial for Constance Ryley, written 14 July 1920 by A Y Campbell, Fellow and Classical Lecturer of St John's College (who had given her tuition in Greek and Latin prose composition, 1919-20), in which he says that she intends to take up teaching work and notes, inter alia, that she had taken part in a recent performance at the Cambridge Theatre of Purcell’s ‘Fairy Queen’, which had excited ‘much interest among London critics’;
3) Scans (two jpeg images) of one page from Constance’s photograph album showing sepia photographs from her Girton years, as follows: group photograph of staff, including Katharine Jex-Blake (who was Mistress of Girton during C R’s years), 1919; photograph of Eleanor Allen (Bursar of Girton 1906-29) and Katharine Jex-Blake; photograph of 3 students with bicycles on the driveway; photograph of 3 students on the tennis court; photograph of ‘Bunny Swann’ [? Irene Gertrude Swann, née Bonnett, Girton 1916]; and two further informal photographs, possibly of Girton students, unidentified [no dates found but presumably 1917x1920];
4) Studio portrait photograph of Constance Whitehorn, head and shoulders, no date [circa 1940s?], photographer unknown, 10.5cm x 14.5cm;
5) Photocopy of the typed address given by the Rev Reg E Fenn, brother-in-law of Constance Whitehorn, at her memorial service at St Columba’s United Reformed Church, Cambridge, 22 September 1976;
6) Copy of Girton College Register entry for Constance Ryley, 1948.


  • 1916 - 1976


Conditions Governing Use

Copyright in the letters is assumed to lie with Constance Whitehorn's heir/s.

Biographical / Historical

Constance Ryley was born in Kenilworth in 1898, the daughter of John Albert Ryley, merchant, and Emily Mary Barber. She attended King Edward VI Grammar School and the High School, Birmingham and came to Girton College as a Higgens Scholar in 1917 to read Classics. Constance’s mother had died when she was six and she appears to have become very close to her aunt. In 1921 Constance married the Rev. Roy Drummond Whitehorn, who went on to become Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge. Their daughter, Hilary Whitehorn, came to Girton to study Natural Sciences in 1948. Constance served the wider church for many years, particularly in the form of committee work, writing and speaking for several church organisations, including the Central Organisation of Women's Church Work (Presbyterian Church of England) (later the Women’s Home Church Association?, of which she was ultimately President, 1946-55). Constance M Whitehorn, ‘Women’s Share in the Life and Work of the Church with special reference to English Presbyterianism’ (which she presumably based on her lecture of the same title to the Presbyterian Historical Society of England in 1957) was published in 1958. Constance Whitehorn died in 1976.


1 file(s) : Paper

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The letters were given in November 2000 by John Ryley, Constance Ryley's nephew. The remaining items were donated in January 2015 by John Whitehorn, Constance's son.

Existence and Location of Copies

A copy of the group photograph of staff, taken in 1919 is catalogued at GCPH 6/1/11. This includes a key to names.


Whitehorn, Constance Margaret, née Ryley, 1898-1976, church worker

Finding aid date

2004-07-21 14:56:02+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