Studholme, one of Otago’s older residential colleges, has seen many changes in its 99-year history. Today’s residents may be surprised to learn that their predecessors served as captive experimental subjects for Otago students learning about institutional administration – indeed that is one of the reasons Studholme was set up in the first place. The college had its beginnings when the university purchased two joined houses on the corner of Leith and Union streets (where Unicol stands today), converting them into the first home science hostel, opened in 1915. It was named after Colonel John Studholme, the Canterbury landowner and philanthropist who funded the chair in home science. Winifred Boys-Smith, who became the first Professor of Home Science in 1911, would no longer have to teach the practical aspects of the course, notably laundry work, in her own home. As early regulations for the home science course explained, “all Diploma Students must take the course in Practical House-management provided at the Home Science Hostel.”
Until the 1960s, all Studholme residents were home science students, and all home science students from out of town lived at Studholme. The original premises soon became too small for the expanding School of Home Science, and the university bought further houses to provide more accommodation. The most important was a large house at 127 Clyde Street, which remains in use as the west wing of Studholme today. It opened in 1930 as ‘Upper Studholme’, and the original hostel was christened ‘Lower Studholme’. By the 1950s, home science students were spread between Upper and Lower Studholme, St Helens (the former maternity hospital in Regent Road, lent by the government to the university since 1939), St Anne’s (a former private hospital at 305 Leith Street, next to Lower Studholme, purchased by the university in the 1940s), and various other smaller houses and flats. Lower Studholme was becoming old and decrepit, but deemed uneconomic to repair. The bedrooms had to be abandoned in 1951 after they partially collapsed. Sadie Andrews, who lived there in 1951, comments that she had a lucky escape – the students had already departed at the end of the year when the roof collapsed onto their beds. The kitchen and dining room remained in use for some years. In 1961, after about thirty years of planning and fundraising, a large new custom-designed block was finally opened in the grounds of Upper Studholme. That spelled the end of Studholme’s days as a residence purely for home science students – there was now room for other women students too.
Nancy Carr (nee Deal), who later returned to the Faculty of Home Science as a lecturer, has fond memories of her years at Studholme in the 1950s. Residents had breakfast in their various different locations, but ate their dinner together in the Lower Studholme dining room. Students specialising in dietetics were most involved in running the institution, but all the home science students were rostered on to assist with dinners. Nancy recalls being assigned to prepare that southern delicacy, swedes, as a newcomer from the north – she peeled the unfamiliar vegetable far too thinly! A bigger challenge came with a month-long block course in household management. Students worked in pairs to plan, shop for and prepare three meals a day on a limited budget, this time using the foods department kitchen. The dinners were served to invited guests, frequently university staff and students. Most appreciated the invitation – despite the strict budget, the meals were pretty good.
These days, Studholme provides accommodation for nearly 200 students, both male and female. About a quarter of them have rooms in six houses adjacent to the main block, but all residents share the main communal meals and activities. Long gone are the years of shared rooms – Sadie Andrews shared with four other women as a first year student at Upper Studholme in 1950, while more senior residents had the luxury of just one roommate! Long gone, too, are the days when Studholme was an exclusively home science domain and a place of experiential learning for future homemakers and managers of residential institutions. Do you have any memories to share of being a home science guinea pig or of practising your skills on other residents?