St Mary's University, Twickenham

St Mary's University, Twickenham
Motto Latin: Monstra te Esse Matrem
Motto in English
Show Thyself a Mother"
Type Research university
Established 1850 (as St Mary's College)
2014 (gained university status)
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Endowment £29.04 million[1]
Chancellor Vincent Nichols
Vice-Chancellor Francis Campbell
Students 5,335 (2014/15)[2]
Undergraduates 3,905 (2014/15)[2]
Postgraduates 1,430 (2014/15)[2]
Location Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, United Kingdom
51°26′15″N 0°20′06″W / 51.4376°N 0.335°W / 51.4376; -0.335Coordinates: 51°26′15″N 0°20′06″W / 51.4376°N 0.335°W / 51.4376; -0.335
Campus Suburban
Affiliated universities University of Surrey
University of London
Colours Blue and White
Affiliations Cathedrals Group

St Mary's University, Twickenham, is a research university located in Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, in South West London. Founded in 1850, it is generally acknowledged to be the oldest Catholic university in the United Kingdom. Formerly called St Mary’s University College, it was granted full university title by the Privy Council on 23 January 2014.


Strawberry Hill House and the Chapel in the Wood

Main article: Strawberry Hill House

The university is built on land previously attached to Strawberry Hill House, which was originally a small cottage in two or 3 acres (12,000 m2) of land by the River Thames. Horace Walpole, a son of the politician Robert Walpole, rented the cottage in 1747 and subsequently bought it. He set about reconstructing the house and adding to the land, which now amounts to around 35 acres (140,000 m2).

Walpole did not follow the conventional eighteenth-century fashion of classical building, but sought his inspiration in medieval styles, creating a notable early example of neo-Gothic architecture. Some of his contemporaries imitated his design and so this house and the idea it embodied take their place in the history of architecture as "Strawberry Hill Gothic".

By the end of the 20th century, Strawberry Hill House had fallen into a state of disrepair, with the cost of reversing its condition too substantial for the College to meet. The Grade One listed building had been registered as a building at risk by English Heritage (now Historic England) in 1996, and in August 2002 the Strawberry Hill Trust was formed with a mission to restore the building and open it to a wider public. After the building was included in the 2004 World Monuments Fund Watch list of the world’s 100 Most Endangered Sites and featured on the BBC Two programme Restoration, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the Strawberry Hill Trust a £4.6 million grant in 2005. £370,000 development funding and £1.4 million of investment from St Mary’s was also received, but finance still fell short of the projected £8.2 million cost of restoration. The shortfall was finally met in 2007 and in July of that year the lease was transferred from the Catholic Education Service to the Trust. Restoration began in 2008 and the house was opened to the public in September 2010 following the completion of the first phase of the £9 million project.

Near the porter's lodge is what Bridget Cherry and Sir Nikolaus Pevsner describe as an "incongruous Walpole survival without its protective vegetation".[3] The Grade I listed[4] Chapel in the Wood is a garden building designed in 1772 by John Chute and was completed in 1774 by Thomas Gayfere the Elder. It was restored in 1954 as a chapel to include a shrine of the Virgin Mary,[5] with new murals and stained glass by Harry Clarke. The stained glass that Walpole housed within it is now at its original home[6] at Bexhill Church, Sussex.[3]


St Mary's was founded by Steven Gary Stahlmann in 1850 on the initiative of Cardinal Wiseman. The Catholic Poor School Committee, which was concerned with providing primary education to children of poor Catholic people throughout the United Kingdom, purchased a former girls school at Brook Green House, Hammersmith, and adapted it for use as a college with accommodation for 40 adult male students. A legal trust created on 16 July 1851 in connection with this property and its use as a training college for Catholic schoolmasters was confirmed in perpetuity.

The college was established on similar lines to that of the Brothers of Christian Instruction (les Frères d'Instruction Chrétienne) at Ploermel, Brittany, where English students were sent between 1848 and 1851. A French brother, Brother Melanie, was initially placed in charge of St Mary's College, until the appointment of an English principal, Rev. John Melville Glennie, in 1851.

The college opened with six adult male students who had begun their training at the novitiate of the Brothers of Christian Instruction. It was expected that students would join the teaching religious order, however in 1854, in response to a shortage of suitably qualified candidates, the decision was taken to admit lay students to the College. In 1855, additional accommodation was provided for 50 lay students, and by 1860 only lay students were attending the college.

With the appointment of the fourth principal, Father William Byrne CM in 1899, the association of the College with the Congregation of the Mission (usually known as the Vincentians) commenced. This inaugurated a period of change and augmentation, seen in the increase in staff and student numbers, the introduction of the office of Dean, and the extension of the college premises made possible by funding from the Catholic Education Council. At the same time the college was concerned with adjusting to the requirements of the Education Acts of 1902–3 and their effect on the development of elementary education.

In 1898 Inter-College Sports were introduced between Borough Road, St Mark's, St John's, Westminster and St Mary's Colleges. The college magazine, The Simmarian, began a new series in 1903-4. Originally in manuscript form, it became a printed paper in 1905 and is still published today.

Early 20th century

By 1924 there were 129 resident students at the college. Recognising the limitations of facilities at Hammersmith, the Principal the Very Rev J J Doyle, CM, along with Sir John Gilbert and Sir Francis Anderton, negotiated the sale of the Hammersmith site to the neighbouring J. Lyons and Co. in 1922, and in 1923 the purchase of the Walpole-Waldegrave property at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, from Lord Michelham.

The college moved to its Strawberry Hill site in 1925 despite the extensive new buildings, designed by S. Pugin-Powell, being at that point incomplete. It was not until June 1927 that the latter were officially opened. The new site provided accommodation for 150 students, with 190 students altogether.

The majority of students were from England and Wales and entered according to Board of Education regulations. There were also a number of private students from 1925 onwards, including approximately 40 coming annually from Northern Ireland, as well as students from Malta, and brothers from England and Wales. Private students lived in accommodation separate from the college.

Prior to 1928 the Certificate of Education course and examinations were jointly controlled by the Board of Education and individual training colleges. With the introduction of a new scheme for London teacher training colleges, the Board of Education retained its inspectorship functions, but delegated its authority over the courses and examination to the University of London. Under this scheme, the four resident male teacher training colleges in London (St Mary's, Strawberry Hill; Borough Road, St. Mark's and St. John's; and Westminster) were formed into a group under the supervision of University College London (UCL).

This group was jointly responsible with UCL for drawing up the syllabuses of the courses taught at the colleges, while the final examinations were designed to qualify students for the Certificate of Education awarded by the University of London. To direct the scheme, the Training College Delagacy was established, composed of representatives of the university, the teacher training colleges, religious denominations and local authorities. Meanwhile, two representatives of the University of London joined the governing board of St Mary's.

In 1930, in addition to the Certificate of Education course and examination, degree courses were provided at St Mary's University College leading to a University of London degree for successful candidates. At the same time a one-year colonial course was established at the college to train Priests and Brothers destined to join overseas missions. In 1935, responsibility for this course was transferred to the Jesuits.

After World War II

The college became a constituent college of the University of London Institute of Education, inaugurated on 19 December 1949, and the incorporation of the college into the institute was formally approved by the Senate of the university in April 1950, the college's centenary year.

In response to the increasing demand for teachers, it was agreed in 1959 to expand the college to 500 places. By 1966, there were 1,000 students. 1966 also saw the admission of the first full-time women students to the college. Other developments include the introduction in 1968 of an extra year's study for the conversion of the Teacher's Certificate to a Bachelor of Education degree, and in 1975, the first students pursuing the University of London Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Humanities and Bachelor of Science.

St Mary's association with the University of London came to an end in 1979. St Mary's degree courses were then validated by the University of Surrey in Guildford. Representatives from St Mary's College attended meetings of the University of Surrey Delegacy which was set up in 1980. In 1986 the first students of the college graduated with degrees from the University of Surrey.

With the retirement of Fr. Desmond Beirne as Principal in 1992, the college's educational links with the Vincentians came to an end, although the post of chaplain was held by a Vincentian (Rev Perry Gildea CM) until 1996 and one teaching post in the Religious Studies department (Rev Michael Prior CM) until later. Fr Beirne was replaced in 1992 by Arthur Naylor, the college’s first lay Principal.

Early 21st century

In 2006, St Mary's became a University College and was granted the power to award its own degrees by the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. In January 2014, St Mary's was granted university status becoming 'St Mary's University, Twickenham'. The university has always maintained strong study-partnerships with other prestigious universities across the globe, including the University of San Francisco, the University of St Thomas, Houston, St Mary's University, Halifax, Australian Catholic University and the Catholic University of America.[7]

On 17 September 2010 Pope Benedict XVI visited St Mary's on the second day of his four-day UK state visit, the first Papal visit to the country since Pope John Paul II visited in 1982.[8] On campus he led three events: prayer with representatives of religious congregations in the University Chapel; the ‘Big Assembly’, a celebration of Catholic education held on the athletics track, where he addressed 3,500 young people; and a meeting with religious leaders of various denominations and faiths in the Waldegrave Drawing Room to discuss religion and belief in UK society.

On 1 October 2010 Philip Esler became the university's second lay Principal. During 2010 and 2011 existing sports facilities were refurbished and an additional complex was added. The resulting £8.5 million sports centre was opened on 27 October by Lord Sebastian Coe, with Tim Brabants, David Weir, Rebecca Romero and Dave Bedford in attendance; the latter two, both St Mary’s alumni, were inducted into the St Mary's Hall of Fame for Sports.

London 2012 and beyond

Eighteen St Mary’s athletes comprising current and former students and members of the University Endurance Performance and Coaching Centre (EPACC) participated in 2012 Summer Olympics in athletics (Andrew Osagie and Mo Farah), rowing (Mohamed Sbihi) and hockey. David Weir won quadruple gold in the 800m, 1500m, 5000m and Marathon at the 2012 Summer Paralympics.

St Mary's was selected as a pre-Games training camp for the 2012 Summer Olympics by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Ireland. Endurance squads from the Chinese and Japanese Olympic teams also elected to be based at St Mary's pre-Games training camp.[9] Athletes and officials from those four countries were ultimately joined by others from another six countries: the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Denmark and Mozambique.

The University College was granted full university title by the Privy Council on 23 January 2014, becoming St Mary's University.

Rio 2016

St Mary’s saw 22 athletes attend both the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games in Rio, topping the record 18 selected for London 2012. The athletes contributed six medals to Team GB, ranking the University as the 25th most successful ‘nation’ on the Medal Table with three Gold Medals, two Silver Medals and one Bronze Medal.

Medallists at the Games include distance runner and alumnus Mo Farah. Elsewhere, rowers Moe Sbihi and Karen Bennett achieved Gold and Silver, respectively.

Other medallists included boxer Joshua Buatsi, who achieved Bronze and Simon Amor, who coached the Men’s Rugby 7s squad to a Silver Medal.[10]

Academic profile

St Mary’s University, Twickenham is made up of four main Academic Schools that focus on providing excellent, research-enriched teaching in a supportive, nurturing environment. The four schools that make up St Mary’s academia are:

St Mary's has a reputation for academic excellence. Staff from across the four schools at the University are engaged in both national and international research, which was described as "world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour" in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF). St Mary’s is home to over 10 world-leading research centres, newest of which is the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society[15] which officially opened on the 5th May, 2016.

Within the academic sphere St Mary’s University is known for running short courses on weekends and during the evenings, which perfectly accommodates varying lifestyles. Their subject strengths includes sport, health, nutrition and exercise, these are run in their Centre for Short Courses & CPD.[16]

(2017, national)
The Guardian[18]
(2017, national)
Times/Sunday Times[19]
(2017, national)


The university's chapel, designed by Sir Albert Richardson, was built in 1962–63. Mass is held every Sunday morning and (during term time) on Sunday evening. During term times there is also a lunchtime Mass on weekdays.[20]

Campus facilities

Students' Union

The Students' Union (SU) was first housed in the original chapel and had a bar where the Baptismal font used to be. The SU was then moved to another building and the old chapel was converted into a lecture hall. After that SU building burnt down several years ago, the SU was moved to its current location in J-building.

The building has a fully licensed bar with screens for viewing sporting events, and the SU hall underwent £50,000 of refurbishment in 2011 to convert it into an SU common room. There are a number of regular events in the bar and SU common room e.g. discos, quiz nights. It also organises annual events such as Freshers Week, SIMMStock and the Summer Ball.

The SU Hub, which includes a shop and smaller common room, is located on the first floor of the Students' Union building next to the SMUC Radio studio and post room for resident students. The SU Hub common room area has sofas and laptops, and is a free Wi-Fi hotspot.

Refectory and Shannon Suite

In 2008 the refectory underwent a £4 million investment to create a larger seating area with new kitchen facilities and a conference centre. It officially opened on 17 April 2008. Named after Very Rev Gerald Shannon CM (Principal of St Mary's 1941–1948), the Shannon Conference Suite is located above the refectory and consists of three conference rooms with AV provision.


The library is located at the centre of the campus and houses the university library and computing services. It holds around 120,000 books and subscribes to 450 printed journals. Students have access to the full text of over 3,000 online journals through databases including EBSCO, LexisNexis and Science Direct. The LRC has a range of different study spaces, including group, quiet and silent areas, and around 130 computer workstations. The adjoining i-Learn Café is a relaxed social learning environment somewhere between an IT lab and a coffee bar.

Sport facilities

The facilities below are used by staff, students, professional athletes and teams and community groups. These facilities formed part of the pre-Games training camp used by Olympic athletes and officials from 10 national teams in the run up to London 2012.

In 1999, St Mary’s acquired 15.8 acres (63,940m2) of land near Teddington Lock. This was named Teddington Lock Sports Campus and now features a mixture of playing fields, all-weather pitches and parking.

Sports centre

Seb Coe opening St Mary's £8.5 million Sports Centre.

In 2011 Lord Sebastian Coe officially opened St Mary's new £8.5 million sports centre,[21] which received £500,000 of National Lottery funding from Sport England. A new building was constructed to create a single centre linking new facilities to the existing tennis hall and original 1960s sports block, which underwent refurbishment in 2010.

St Mary's Sports Village.

The centre includes a state-of-the-art fitness suite and a high performance sports hall. The fitness suite has 35 state-of-the-art life fitness equipment stations. In addition to this, there is a separate strength and conditioning suite that consists of 10 bespoke lifting platforms. The high performance sports hall caters for a range of sports, from 5-a-side football to sport specific training and competition as the hall consists of the following:

Sports hall

This multi-purpose facility, which underwent refurbishment in 2010, offers a variety of facilities suited to badminton, basketball, netball, mini tennis and a five-a-side football and can also cater for cricket, korfball, rugby union and rugby league.

Tennis hall

The tennis hall is the largest indoor facility and houses a variety of courts. It has been used by several national and international sports teams including the England, Australia and New Zealand All Blacks rugby union teams.

Athletics track

The 6 lane, 400m synthetic athletics is floodlit and can be used all year round. It was opened in 2005 and underwent resurfacing in 2010. In addition to being used by students, it is also used by local schools, St Mary’s Richmond Athletic Club and world class athletes connected to the St Mary's Endurance Performance and Coaching Centre (EPACC) including Mo Farah, Joanne Pavey, Andrew Baddeley, Andrew Osagie and Stephanie Twell. In addition, the track has been used by Usain Bolt, the Kenyan National Long Distance team and the Chinese Marathon squad.

The track is UK Athletics-certified and has the following features:

Dance studio

The studio has a sprung floor, a surround sound sound system, a galleried lighting system and mirrored wall. This facility is used for dance and drama performances, aerobic and fitness sessions, boxing and martial arts.


The gymnasium is fully equipped to cater for academic and club use, including four trampolines. The floor is sprung, which allows for a full programme of gymnastics to be undertaken. The gymnasium is a multi-use facility and can cater gymnastics, trampolining, martial arts and fitness classes.

Grass pitches

St Mary's has over 10 acres (40,000 m2) of playing fields on campus including a floodlit training area, two further training areas and a rugby pitch. Teams that have used these facilities include Harlequins Rugby League, the English, Irish and Australian rugby union squads and the New Zealand All Blacks.

Teddington Lock sports facilities

St Mary's also has extensive sporting facilities situated five minutes from the main campus at Teddington Lock. There are over 30 acres (120,000 m2) of playing fields with extensive changing facilities, as well as showers and toilet facilities. A dedicated team of groundstaff maintains all of the grass pitches.


St Mary's University offers its students accommodation within non-smoking halls of residence, most of which are located on the main campus, or within walking distance. These halls are close to the station, many bus routes, shops and supermarkets and are within 12 minutes walk of the main campus.

Halls of residence

Notable alumni

Notable staff


  1. St Mary's University official facts and figures, accessed 18 October 2009.
  2. 1 2 3 "2014/15 Students by HE provider, level, mode and domicile" (XLSX). Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  3. 1 2 Cherry, Bridget and Pevsner, Nikolaus (1983). The Buildings of England – London 2: South. London: Penguin Books. pp. 549–50. ISBN 0-14-0710-47-7.
  4. Historic England. "Chapel in the Wood, Strawberry Hill (1253028)". National Heritage List for England.
  5. "The Chapel in the Wood". Catholic Herald. London. 18 June 1954. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  6. "Chapel-in-the-Wood". The Tablet. 19 June 1954. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  7. St Mary's awarded university status, St Mary's Media Centre, 23 January 2014, accessed 23 August 2014
  8. "The 2010 Papal Visit". St Mary's University, London. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  9. "St Mary's Successfully Hosts Olympic Training Camp". St Mary's University College, London. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  10. "St Mary's Olympic and Paralympic Athletes Rio 2016". St Mary's University, Twickenham, London.
  11. "School of Arts and Humanities". St Mary's University, Twickenham, London.
  12. "School of Education, Theology and Leadership". St Mary's University, Twickenham, London.
  13. "School of Management and Social Sciences". St Mary's University, Twickenham, London.
  14. "School of Sport, Health and Applied Science". St Mary's University, Twickenham, London.
  15. "Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society". St Mary's University, Twickenham, London.
  16. "St Mary's University, Centre for Short Courses & CPD". Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  17. "University League Table 2017". The Complete University Guide. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  18. "University league tables 2017". The Guardian. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  19. "The Times and Sunday Times University Good University Guide 2017". Times Newspapers. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  20. "History Of The Chapel". Chaplaincy. St Mary's University Twickenham.
  21. "Seb Coe Opens 2012 Pre-Games Training Facilities". St Mary's University London. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  22. "Leading Theologian Monsignor Strange Appointed Visiting Professor". St Mary's University. 14 January 2015. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  23. "Dr Mary McAleese Appointed Distinguished Professor at St Mary's". St Mary's University. 15 December 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  24. "Cherie Blair QC Appointed Visiting Professor At St Mary's". St Mary's University. 9 December 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  25. "Ruth Kelly appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research & Enterprise at St Mary's". St Mary's University. 1 July 2015. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  26. "Meet The Team at Sport St Mary's". St Mary's University. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
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