World Theatre Day

World Theatre Day was established 55 years ago today, showcasing the performing arts and promoting all the varied forms of theatre . To coincide with this the University of Greenwich would like to share some exclusive behind the scenes photographs of The Critic: or, a Tragedy Rehearsed by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. First performed in 1779, and was recreated by students in November 1960 at Avery Hill College. These photographs show the creation of the set, costume making and even the students putting make-up on before the show.

The archive holds a lot of photographs of plays performed at Avery Hill College, so we rarely see these behind the scenes shots. From many of the former students testimonials, they all state how much they enjoyed the plays and mentioned how it was one of the best things to take part in at Avery Hill College.

Costume Making
Painting the Scenery

The Show must go on:

In Honour of Rachel McMillan

Today not only marks Rachel McMillan’s 158th birthday, but it is also the centenary of her death. Our very first blog post was about the woman who campaigned for better health and educational standards for children, along with her sister Margaret, so we would like to share some more treasures of her life that the Archive holds. The reason the McMillan sisters are fondly remembered is because they helped children by taking them out of the slums to improve their health and education through outdoor rehabilitation.  They believed that fresh air and play were the best things to improve a child’s health, so their nursery had open-air shelters for the children to learn and rest. Each child also had their own hair and toothbrush at the nursery.

Rachel’s reputation is remembered due to her sister, Margaret, naming the school the Rachel McMillan Nursery School after she had died , which is still continuing her legacy today on McMillan street in Deptford. She also went on to write a biogoraphy on Rachel in 1927 entitled The Life of Rachel McMillan.

We would like to share some photographs that the archive holds of Rachel’s life and the amazing work she carried out, as this is one of the biggest collections the University of Greenwich holds. From her childhood portraits with her sister, to Evelyn House and the daily life of the children who resided there which included outdoor play and drilling with the occasional celebrity visitor. The McMillan collection at the University of Greenwich is one of the most requested collections to look at in our archives, showing that her work is still relevant and inspiring to this day.

Rachel and Margaret c. 1879
Rachel McMillan with Students and Staff
A visit from Stanley Baldwin in 1928 during his second term as Prime Minister
Another special visit from Irish poet and playwright George Bernard Shaw and Margaret McMillan

International Women’s Day: The Education of Women and Girls at Woolwich Polytechnic, Day Schools For Girls

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we here at Greenwich Archives have decided to write a blog post about the Needham sisters who attended Day School For Girls At Woolwich Polytechnic from 1922 to 1927.

  The Woolwich Polytechnic School was very unique in that it was the only School to run mixed-gendered classes. The Girls’ Technical School was established in 1906, after much opposition, but only to teach Dress Making and Domestic Science which included courses such as Cookery, Laundry Work, and Housewifery. The school was opened to girls between 13½ and 15½ years of age. The Dress Making course extended for two years and all girls who entered for that full period were then awarded with certificates at the end.

The family of the Needham sisters gave a collection of fashion designs and needlework samples done by Irene and Nona to the Greenwich Archive; this is one of our most visually interesting collections in the Archive. The collection contains their original lesson notes for the Dress Making Course. The lesson notes appears to have been categorized into three parts; (1) Design (2) History of Fashion from Ancient Egyptian through to the 19th century (3) Student’s own designs.

Here are some of Irene Needham’s scanned examples from the sheets.




Here are some scanned examples of Nona Needham’s work.





World Wildlife Day

World Wildlife Day is dedicated to spreading awareness about the world’s wild animals and plants and the theme this year is ‘Listen to the Young Voices’. We would like to celebrate by sharing some incredible illustrations created by a former student at Avery Hill College which can be found in our archive. Ada Lightowlers attended Avery Hill College in 1921-23, she studied Biology and Nature Study whilst training to become a teacher. In her workbook she notes that Nature Study goes far beyond flora and fauna and that children should be taught more about the ‘natural phenomena’ and its dependence on the climate. One main problem the world faces today is the conservation of these ‘phenomena’, which is something that archives can also relate to in the wonders found within them.

Her workbooks range from Birds and Butterflies to Insects and flowers and are all incredibly detailed with lengthy descriptions of each species. She even goes as far as detailing the differences between a Moth and Butterfly. These illustrations are incredibly meticulous, however her teacher can be seen commenting on Ms. Lightowlers work questioning the scale of her drawings.



To commemorate it being World Book Day I will be posting up a blog presenting pictures from an old and rare book written by Italian Architect Andrea Palladio called ‘I QVATTRO LIBRE DELL’ ARCHITETTURA’ (The Four Books of Architecture), which was published in 1570.

The original copies are written in Italian and Latin, however there are English translations of this book which where published in 1716 in Britain. This book has remarkable artwork with a detailed front page to the book (the first picture below) and clear illustrations of buildings and the inner structure of such complicated and exquisite architecture.

It is easy to tell that this book was very informative for its time with such detail to its illustrations and its various translations over the years, making this book that much more fascinating. (The copy available to us is written in Latin by the way)


Restoring Dreadnought

To mark the start of restoration of the Dreadnought the Archive Display Cases in the basement of Stockwell Street Library contain two sets of archival records:

The first shows architects’ plans from April and September 1993 to create an Administration and Conference Centre; the April scheme suggests a hall in the NW corner of the Dreadnought (damaged by bombing in WWII), the September scheme a hall in an extension to the Stephen Lawrence Building.

Neither scheme was adopted as the ORNC became available and it was decided to make the Dreadnought into the University Library instead. The second case contains photographs of the restoration work which didn’t begin until August 19th 1997.

Below are more images from the same collection, along with descriptions and images by Dannatt, Johnson Architects showing the final plans and end results.





Plays at Avery Hill College

Here are some of the photos of the plays the archive has found from the 1940’s to the 60’s.

The Devil to Pay, performed 24th November 1946
Iphigenia in Tauris, performed 30th November and 1st December 1956
The Coventry Nativity, performed 12th and 13th December 1952
The School of Scandal, performed 25th and 26th November 1955
The Critic or A Tragedy Rehearsed, performed 25th and 26th November 1960
The Well of the Saints, performed 30th November and 1st December 1951
Noah, performed 29th and 30th November 1957
The Women Have Their Way, performed 27th and 28th November 1959

More photographs can be seen on display near the Green Room at Avery Hill Campus Library.

Nature Study Workbook, 1907-1909

Following on from our last blog, the latest project the Archive has been digitising is our collection of student workbooks and albums, we’ve found one that links to our last post on the botanical works of Henry Trimen’s A Handbook of the Flora of Ceylon and had to share it. This blog looks at one student, Lena Pike who attended Avery Hill College in 1907-09 and her Nature Study workbook.

Nature Study was the only science subject studied at Avery Hill College, with biology being optional in schools for girls at the time. This is a really fascinating document to look at as it shows Pike’s observations as she writes her analysis in great detail and her illustrations look like they could have been taken out of Trimens’ handbook. There is even what is now over a century old flower pressing of a Pansy and some Ferns, which was extremely delicate to digitise.

Illustration of a Pansy
Analysis of a Pansy
Flower Pressings from a Pansy
Tulip Illustration
Buds Illustration
Description of Buds











Description of a Scilla
Scilla Illustration







Holly Illustration
Orange Illustration
Fern Pressings

In an essay on why Nature Study was included in the schools’ curriculum, Pike wrote that “the class minds are greatly broadened, their knowledge is widened, and they are able to appreciate the beauties of nature. A child will be mystified at the wonders of nature.” She goes on to talk about the experiments and observations and how teaching this in schools would mean that children can learn about the protection nature gives to all living things as well as the economic benefit of nature as she notes the different aspects of a tree.

Nature Study Laboratory in the former stables

First Digitisation of the Year

The archive has just finished digitising one of our rare book collections using our new digital camera.

Here are some of the images taken from Henry Trimen’s A Handbook of the Flora of Ceylon. It was considered to be one of the most comprehensive floras available of a tropical area.

This is one of the rare books that the archive holds as it is a complete collection, as many botanical books at this time had the pages taken out to resell at a more profitable price than the book. However, we don’t recommend doing this.


Plate I - Acrotrema Lyratum. From the Dilleniacea family . The common name is Arnott's Acrotrema
Plate I – Acrotrema Lyratum.
From the Dilleniacea family
Plate III - Wormia Triouetra Part of the Dilleniaceae family.
Plate III – Wormia Triouetra
Part of the Dilleniaceae family
Plate VI - Aeeria Gardneri
Plate VI – Aeeria Gardneri
Plate X - Dipterocarpus Zeylanicus Part of the Dipterocarpaceae family
Plate X – Dipterocarpus Zeylanicus
Part of the Dipterocarpaceae family
Plate XV - Stemonoporus Affinis
Plate XV – Stemonoporus Affinis
Place XVII - Hibiscus Angulosus
Place XVII – Hibiscus Angulosus
Plate XXXI - Pericopsis Mooniana Part of the Fabaceae family.
Plate XXXI – Pericopsis Mooniana.
Part of the Fabaceae family
Plate XXXIII - Cassia Auriculata
Plate XXXIII – Cassia Auriculata
Plate XLII - Trichosanthes Integrifolia
Plate XLII – Trichosanthes Integrifolia
Plate LX - Orchrosia Bobonica Part of the Apocynaceae family
Plate LX – Orchrosia Bobonica.
Part of the Apocynaceae family
Plate LXXI - Barleria Arnottiana Part of the Acanthaceae family.
Plate LXXI – Barleria Arnottiana.
Part of the Acanthaceae family
Plate XC - Cymbidium Ensifolium
Plate XC – Cymbidium Ensifolium
Plate LXVI - Ipomoea Jucunda
Plate LXVI – Ipomoea Jucunda
Plate LXXXI - Balanophora Thwaitesii
Plate LXXXI – Balanophora Thwaitesii