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Personal papers of Dame Rosemary Murray, 1880 - 2004

Reference Code: GBR/3124/NHPP 1/11

Scope and Contents

The collection includes the following: personal and biographical records; academic papers; correspondence; papers relating to New Hall and the University of Cambridge; travel and conferences; events attended; and papers relating to RM's advisory and business activities. See also NHAR 1/1 for papers collected by Dame Rosemary Murray relating to the Third Foundation Association and to the establishment and early years of New Hall. There is a degree of overlap between the two collections, eg there are papers relating to New Hall and to Cambridge University business in this collection as well as at NHAR 1/1. However, the two collections are separated according to provenance, ie papers which were transferred in a personal capacity on Dame Rosemary's death are listed here, whereas those which were transferred on her retirement from the Presidency of New Hall remain at NHAR 1/1. Some papers, including many photographs, are retained by Dame Rosemary's family as at May 2005.


  • Creation: 1880 - 2004

Biographical / Historical

Alice Rosemary Murray was born in Havant, Hampshire, on July 28th 1913, the daughter of Admiral Arthur John Layard Murray and Ellen Maxwell Spooner (daughter of Dr William Spooner, Warden of New College, Oxford). She inherited their belief in the equality of the sexes, exemplified in the way in which they raised their six children. After gaining a B.A. in chemistry at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, in 1935, followed by a D.Phil., 1938, Rosemary Murray held teaching posts at Royal Holloway, London (1938-41), and Sheffield University (1941-42). In 1942 she entered the WRNS as a rating, finishing in 1946 as a Chief Officer at Chatham, dealing with the demobilization of thousands of Wrens. This was a formative period in her life. She then moved to Cambridge as a lecturer at Girton College and Demonstrator in the Department of Chemistry. Her Girton career spanned 1946 to 1954: a lecturer from 1946-54, a Fellow from 1948-54, and a Tutor from 1951-54, she was also made an Honorary Fellow of Girton College in 1975.

In Cambridge, Rosemary Murray became an active member of the Third Foundation Association, which established New Hall as the third college for women. She became Tutor in Charge and lead the new institution with the assistance of Miss Robin Hammond. New Hall began in 1954 with sixteen students in a converted guest house. Rosemary Murray managed the admission and direction of students and made the day-to-day decisions which would establish the character of the embryo college. She also acted as handyman, gardener, and boatkeeper, whilst keeping in sight the goal of achieving permanence for New Hall as a full college of the University.

She oversaw the setting and marking of New Hall's innovative examination paper, and the interviewing of candidates. Her aim was to widen access to all bright girls, regardless of background and schooling. Some found her austere, but those who penetrated her reserve found her the kindest of women, and a wonderful teacher.

The New Hall endowment appeal took off slowly, but crucially a gift of land on Huntingdon Road in Cambridge was received from descendants of Charles Darwin. The architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon were appointed in 1959 and large donations came from the Wolfson and Elizabeth Nuffield Foundations. From 1962 onwards she oversaw every detail of the plans and made some important contributions to the design of the new buildings. She was designated the college's first President in 1964 and was still in post to celebrate the College’s Silver Jubilee, retiring in 1981.

When New Hall achieved its royal charter and became a full college in 1972, its President became eligible to be Vice-Chancellor of the University. Rosemary Murray was not only the first woman to hold the position (from 1975 to 1977) but also the first head of a modern college to do so, and only the second woman to be vice-chancellor of a British university.

In the world outside the University Dame Rosemary held many other responsible positions. She was a JP for thirty years; she served on the Lockwood Committee which recommended a second university for Northern Ireland and on the Armed Forces Pay Review Board; she was also a director of the Observer and chair of the governors of Keswick Hall, which later became part of the University of East Anglia. Significant breakthroughs were as the first woman director of a clearing bank (the Midland), the first woman liveryman, in the Goldsmiths’ Company, and the first woman Deputy Lieutenant for Cambridgeshire. She received honorary degrees from five British and three American universities and was appointed DBE in 1977. She died in Oxford on October 7th, 2004, almost exactly 50 years to the day since the establishment of New Hall.


126 item(s) : paper

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Dame Rosemary's sister on her death in 2004, transferred to New Hall by Alison Wilson, Librarian, in October and December 2004.

Related Materials

NHAR 1/1.

Related Materials

Further papers have been retained by the family.


Murray, Rosemary

Finding aid date

2005-05-09 15:53:27+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Murray Edwards College (New Hall Archive) Repository

Archivist, Rosemary Murray Library
Murray Edwards College
Cambridge CB3 0DF United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 762297