So wrote Victorian business magnate Thomas Holloway (1800 – 1883) to Professor Henry Fawcett in a letter dated 20 February 1875.
This was Holloway’s philosophy on architecture, adapted directly no doubt from his philosophy on advertising. For it was global advertising on a massive scale which created the fortune that paid for two notable institutions, the Holloway Sanatorium and Royal Holloway College, only the latter of which remains active. What Holloway advertised was his patent pills and ointments, manufactured at his premises first in the Strand where the Royal Courts of Justice now stand, and then in Oxford Street. Here is a typical example.
Thomas Holloway and his wife Jane (d1875) had no children. In the 1870s the fabulously wealthy entrepreneur started to think about his legacy; it was very much the age of philanthropy. He first decided to found a sanatorium for the mentally ill and then, having consulted the ultimate philanthropist the 7th Earl of Shaftsbury, decided also to endow a college. But not any old college. Prompted by his wife Jane, from the start it was to be a women’s college (Holloway liked to call it a women’s university) and it was to be the equal of any college in the land. Girton had recently been established at Cambridge (as featured on last night’s One Show), and indeed Holloway attempted unsuccessfully to headhunt its founder, Emily Davies. Around this period when he was keeping rarified academic company and establishing himself as an educator, Holloway wisely suppressed his self-awarded title of Professor!
The tycoon also insisted that the college was to be secular and indeed no clergyman, lawyer or doctor was to sit on the Board of Governors. The college was opened by Queen Victoria in 1886, three years after the founder’s death.
Both the sanatorium and the college were designed by the architect William Crossland (1835 – 1908). Holloway and Crossland spent several weeks examining grand buildings in France and decided that the college should resemble Chateau de Chambord in the Loire.
Dictionary of National Biography (sub required)
Thomas Holloway, Victorian Philanthropist (1994) by Anthony Harrison-Barbet