The history of Newnham begins with the formation of the Association for Promoting the Higher Education of Women in Cambridge, in 1869. A house of residence was opened in 1871 in Regent Street where there were five students under the care of Miss A.J. Clough. As the number grew, the community moved first to Merton Hall, then to premises in Bateman Street, and then with the foundation of the Newnham Hall Company in 1875 into what is now the Old Hall of Newnham College.
The college formally came into existence in 1880 with the amalgamation of the Association and the Company. Women were admitted to titles of degrees from 1881. In 1948 Newnham, like Girton, attained the full status of a college of the University.
In the early years of the college Miss A.J. Clough was the principal. She came of the family of Clough of Plas Clough, Denbighshire, which bore: Azure, between three mascles a greyhound’s head couped argent. The out-students were under the care of Miss Marion Kennedy. She bore: Argent, a chevron gules between in chief two crosses botonny fitchy sable and in base a boar’s head couped sable langued gules – a coat slightly differing from that of Kennedy of Kirkmichael, Ayrshire, which has crosses crosslet fitchy.
The other great benefactors of the college were Mr (later Professor) Henry Sidgwick, and Miss E.M. Balfour, whom he married in 1876. Mrs Sidgwick later became a principal of one of the halls of Newnham College. Their arms were – Sidgwick (assumed arms): Gules, a fess between three griffins’ heads erased or; and Balfour (of Balbirnie): Argent, on a chevron engrailed between three mullets sable an otter’s head erased argent.
In the college arms the chevron links them with the coats of Balfour and Kennedy, while its colour and the mascles refer to Clough. The crosses come from Kennedy, the mullet from Balfour, and the griffin’s head from Sidgwick. No crest was granted, for although a corporate body may have a crest, it was thought that a crest and helm would be inappropriate to one composed entirely of women.
The Cambridge Armorial