Royal Holloway University of London

Over 150 years of historic discoveries, notable alumni, and academic innovation 

Royal Holloway was founded by the Victorian entrepreneur and philanthropist Thomas Holloway in 1886. The self-made multi-millionaire made his fortune in patent medicines and, after initiating a public debate inviting suggestions as to ‘how best to spend a quarter of a million pounds or more’, he took his wife’s advice that a college for women would prove ‘the greatest public good’.

Royal Holloway College, largely inspired by the Chateau Chambord in the Loire Valley, was opened by Queen Victoria in 1886. The Founder’s Building, which is built around two quadrangles and includes a beautiful gilded chapel and picture gallery, is one of the most spectacular university buildings in the world.

Thomas Holloway was not the first Victorian visionary to realise the benefits of an education for women. Elizabeth Jesser Reid, a pioneering social reformer, founded Bedford College in 1849 as the first college in Great Britain for the higher education of women. In 1900 Royal Holloway College and Bedford College became part of the University of London, the first institution in the UK to award degrees to women. 

Both Bedford and Royal Holloway admitted male undergraduates for the first time in 1965, but their commitment to women’s education remained. The 1982 partnership agreement between the two colleges paved the way for the merger in 1985.

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