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(Click on image to enlarge.)
click here to enlarge "1809 - 1909"
oil on panel 30 x 24 inches
Owned by Newnham College


At the top of this composition, visually inspired by William Morris and the Arts & Crafts movement, we find a Head of the River blade from the 1884 May Bumps bearing the name of Australian Steve Fairbairn (7), later a world-famous rowing coach, who was instrumental in the dominance of Jesus College on the river around this time. Fairbairn rowed for the University no less than 4 times; his crewmate, Hutchinson (6), twice. Jesus College held the Mays headship for eleven consecutive years, from 1875 to 1885. A clock tower was built on the boathouse to commemorate what is often referred to as the Golden Age of rowing at Jesus.

The first Oxford vs. Cambridge Boat Race took place in 1856.

Below the blade is a tennis dress from the 1880s, used in tennis tournaments between the individual Newnham halls and between Newnham and Girton College. "Lawn tennis is by far the most popular form of exercise for students of both Halls. Each Hall possesses a Tennis Club of select players, in which the members are arranged in order of merit, matches between individual members of the club being played each term for the purpose. Each club has a separate tennis dress which has been designed with a view to the artistic combination of beauty and freedom of movement."

The silver owl trophy below was used in the Oxford vs. Cambridge Ladies’ Double-handed Lawn Tennis Perpetual Challenge from 1882 to 1934.

The book in front of the tennis dress bears the coats-of-arms of the colleges founded in this period, namely Girton (1869), Newnham (1871), Selwyn (1882), Hughes Hall (1885) and St. Edmund’s (1896).

The other books on the left-hand side of this composition are: Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (1903), by Jane Harrison; The Playground of Europe, by Leslie Stephen; Thomas Babington Macaulay’s History of England from the Accession of James the Second (1848-55); The Golden Bough, by J.G. Frazer; Herschel’s Outlines of Astronomy (1846); On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859), by Charles Darwin; A Shropshire Lad (1896), by A.E. Housman; Poems by Two Brothers (1827), by Lord Alfred Tennyson, written with his brothers Charles and Frederick; The Water-Babies (1863), by Charles Kingsley; and G.E. Moore’s Principia Ethica (1903).

At the centre we have Charles Darwin's achromatic microscope (Wh.3788, Whipple Museum), made by James Smith in 1846. Darwin used the microscope to work on barnacles and plants. Many of the anatomical variations that divide the sub-species of cirripedia can only be observed under a high power microscope, and so, with the advice of his microscopist friends in mind, Darwin decided to buy a large compound microscope. He bought the microscope, which is now in the collections of the Whipple Museum, for £34 in 1847. In a letter of May 10th 1848 he wrote:

"I have purchased a 1/8" object glass, & it is grand. - I have been getting on well with my beloved cirripedia, & get more skilfull in dissection."

To the right of the microscope we find the Prospectus of the Dictionary of National Biography by Leslie Stephen, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Edward Fitzgerald, and a poem, “The Bastille”, written by Rupert Brooke while he was at Rugby School. Below these pamphlets is the Girton College Fire brigade inkstand. The Fire Brigade was founded in 1879, on the initiative of two students who witnessed a nearby haystack go up in flames and realised that the College would be vulnerable in the event of fire. The idea of a student brigade was greeted with enthusiasm, and immediate training was given by Captain Shaw and his men of the London Fire Brigade.

Below the inkstand we have Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904) by M.R. James, Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (1873) by James Clerk Maxwell, Principles of Economics (1890) by Alfred Marshall, and The Methods of Ethics (1874) by Henry Sidgwick.

In the lower right-hand corner, behind the red velvet curtain representing the founding of the ADC in 1855, we have the first page of Beati Quorum Via (1905), one of Three Latin Motets by Sir Charles Villier Stanford.

This composition sits atop a mahogany inlaid ivory chest of drawers belonging to Emily Davies, pioneer and leader in the campaign for women's education, and one of the founders of Girton College.
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