As we commemorate 100 years since the Act giving some women the vote in 1918, it is incredible to recall that in the very early years of the 20th Century, a woman, Evelyn Hopkinson, was leading the development of two residential houses for women, Hopkinson House and Brabazon House, both in Westminster. Then, in the late 1930’s, her granddaughter, Alice Roughton, inspired by her grandmother’s example, was responsible for developing Vincent House, a new residential club for men and women in Notting Hill.
The amazing achievements of both women were despite the experience of terrible family tragedies. Evelyn, born in 1850 in Bavaria to the Oldenburg family, lost her husband John Hopkinson, a renowned British physicist and electrical engineer, and three of their six children in a mountaineering accident in 1898; whilst Alice’s father, Bertram, died in a plane crash in 1918 when she was just 13, a year after her uncle had died from injuries sustained in the First World War.
Alice was very close to her grandmother, spending a lot of time with her until her death in 1933 and it is clear that Evelyn’s strength and determination as well as her liberal values influenced Alice. In 1925 Alice had joined the board of Hopkinson House and, in the 1930’s, by now living in Cambridge with her husband and two children (Geoffrey and Rosemary) and working in medicine, Alice started to envisage a new club style residence for both men and women in London.
With some preliminary financial help from Brabazon House Limited, Alice pulled together a team, including her husband Jack and, identifying three dilapidated properties on the corner of Pembridge Square and Pembridge Gardens in Notting Hill as the perfect location, they set about developing Vincent House.
Hopkinson and Brabazon Houses were eventually sold for other purposes; however, the legacy of these two inspirational women, from an era when females had few rights and limited opportunities to be successful in a career or in business, continues in Vincent House which still provides residential accommodation almost 80 years later and is testimony to their values and their vision.
For more read ‘Vincent House – The History’.