Phyllis Barron & Dorothy Larcher 1930s

Girton College

Girton’s new wing, Woodlands Court, was designed in 1931 by Michael Waterhouse in consultation with Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Michael was the grandson of the architect Alfred Waterhouse, who had designed the original Old Wing in 1873 in Gothic Revival red brick and terracotta style. This was the first college exclusively for women at Cambridge, set well out of town to avoid distractions! Michael was the third generation of his family to work for the college. His father Paul had been responsible for the design of the extension of 1887, the Tower Wing and Gatehouse.

Woodlands Court comprised a Fellows Dining Room, a ‘Combination’ or Sitting Room and a room for the Mistress. Michael Waterhouse also designed a new library and accommodation for staff and students.

The architect Detmar Blow had given Baron and Larcher a glowing reference for this commission. They had already designed furnishings for Blow’s own house and for his patron, the Duke of Westminster’s yacht and houses. The Fellows of Girton College, in my opinion would never regret the choice of Misses Barron and Larcher to undertake the entire decoration and furnishing of the rooms, with the choice of electric fittings, tables, chairs, carpets etc. Misses Barron and Larcher understand to perfection how to obtain the biggest and simplest results. All the work they have done for me has been entirely satisfactory.1

The Gothic Revival architecture of Waterhouse with its wide stone mullioned windows, and the Arts & Crafts approach of Barron & Larcher, complimented each other well. Barron & Larcher’s revival of hand block printing and their use of natural dyes harmonized with the designer/craftsmen furniture of the Cotswold school, whose principles were based on the Arts and Crafts Movement, and craft revival accessories.

Producing highly original, innovative and unique designs, Phyllis Barron (1890-1964) and Dorothy Larcher (1884-1952) both trained as graphic artists and had turned a passion into a professional successful enterprise, at a time when it was unusual for women to run any business.

They were part of a small group of artist/designer/craftsmen of the early twentieth century who produced high quality products using traditional methods and avant garde designs. The potter Bernard Leach. Ethel Mairet the weaver and Roger Fry’s Omega Workshops, were all part of this English craft revival.

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