College History

Janet Clarke Hall was founded in 1886 as Trinity College Hostel, and later renamed Janet Clarke Hall in honour of its major benefactor Janet, Lady Clarke.

The College pioneered collegiate education for women in Australia. It is the oldest residential college for women in Australia and among the oldest in the world. Today as a College ‘of and within’ the University of Melbourne, Janet Clarke Hall stands for equality of access and opportunity, for women and men, in a full and rewarding university education.

As The University of Melbourne’s former Vice Chancellor has noted, Janet Clarke Hall holds ‘an enviable reputation for academic achievement and social awareness that will stay with its graduates for life’. The College’s vision, that as a leading academic college it will provide a supportive and intellectual environment for students, builds upon the founding vision that women would find a supportive space within the University.

The first four students were all provided with scholarships, as the College has sought from its inception to make its collegiate education possible through scholarship or bursary. Janet Clarke Hall is committed to continue fulfilling its role as a leading college within the University, and to providing the best possible environment for students from around Australia and the world to benefit from a Melbourne education


Discover more with our interactive timeline below:


1886 | Dr Alexander Leeper, first Warden of Trinity College, admits the first four resident women to the Trinity College Hostel, at ‘Trinity Terrace’ on Royal Parade. The Rev’d T. Jollie Smith appointed first Principal. He noted that Hostel should ‘approximate as closely as possible to the tone and status of a University College’.

1888 | Miss Lucy Waltham appointed Principal. Issues under her care include safe carriage of students to and from lectures, and rules surrounding admittance of men to the Hostel. Ladies’ Council (including Janet, Lady Clarke) established ‘to assist in the management of the Hostel’. Janet, Lady Clarke offers £5,000 towards the building of a permanent house of residence. Mathew Davies offers £2,000. Land allocated on the Trinity site ‘next to the present Tradesmen’s Avenue’. 1889 Emily Eddes appointed Principal. Charles D’Ebro appointed architect for new building.

1890 | Foundation stone of new building laid as University holiday granted to mark the occasion. Emily Hensley appointed Principal, to supervise ‘the religious,moral and intellectual advancement of the Students who will be under your influence’.

1891 | Miss Constance Eyres elected first Senior Student (renamed Student Club President in 1973).

1891 | New building formally opened by Governor, Lord Hopetoun, on 15 April. Miss Hensley speaks of it as ‘a credit to the name of all Australian women’. Ladies’ Council submits series of proposals and seeks ‘recognised status’ from Trinity College Council.

1892 | Ladies’ Council resigns en masse. Miss Hensley resigns. Trinity College Hostel Tennis Club established involving students and staff. J.T. Collins appointed Principal

1897 | Trinity College Hostel Club (Student Club) established. Janet, Lady Clarke supports creation of Verdon Library (named after Sir George Verdon). College Visitor is appointed (Lady Clarke, wife of Governor Sir George Sydenham Clarke).

1899 | Trinity College Women’s Society established for past students.


1901 | Miss Lucy Bateman appointed Principal.

1902 | Hostel Dramatic Club established for drama and music.

1906 | Miss Lucy Archer appointed Principal.

1918 | Horsfall Chapel opens, providing compulsory meeting place for Trinity men and the ‘Hostiles’ at weekly chapel services.

1919 | Miss Susie Williams appointed Acting Principal, she names the four terrace houses housing ‘overflow’ students the Aedes Annexae. Miss Margery Herring appointed Principal.

1921 | Trinity College Hostel renamed ‘Janet Clarke Hall’. William ‘Billie’ Robinson appointed college factotum. That year students petition the Principal to ‘replace William with a more competent man’; Billie Robinson retains the position until he dies on the job in 1962.

1922 | ‘Great Row’ between Principal and Students regarding regulations surrounding ‘late leave’ and fraternisation with ‘Men’

1927 | Manifold Wing, gift of W.T. Manifold opens. Gift made conditional upon requirement for students to 'enter upon and prosecute to the end a course of study, having for its object the obtaining of a diploma or certificate in domestic economy and cooking'

1928 | Miss Enid Joske appointed Principal, a position she holds for 25 years.

1930 | Traill Wing Opens, with balconies for students to sleep out and shared studies.

1938 | Pedestrian Gate (Christopher Furness Gate) dedicated, having been recovered from the garden of Bishopscourt after removal by ‘Trinity men’ the night before.

1941 | Student Club Establishes Music Club and Music Library.


1952 | Miss Mary Bagnall appointed Principal, opening the College to conference trade out of term time (including the Melbourne Olympics press corps).

1956 | Enid Joske Wing opens.

1958 | Dr Helen Knight appointed Acting Principal.

1959 | Miss (later Sister) Margaret Dewey appointed Principal.

1961 | Trinity College and Janet Clarke Hall formally separate, in what becomes known as ‘The Great Divorce’. Janet Clarke Hall admitted as a ‘duly affiliated College’ of the University of Melbourne.

1962 | Lilian Scantlebury Wing Opens with support from Federal and State funding, named in honour of the long serving Chairman of JCH Committee (from 1939-1961).

1963 | Dr Helen Knight appointed Acting Principal.

1964 | Dr Eva Eden appointed Principal, a position she holds for 21 years.

1966 | College Council elects first Fellows, honoured for service to the wider community

1968 | Trinity Women’s Society renamed Janet Clarke Hall Past Students’ (later Janet Clarke Hall) Society.

1973 | Eva Eden Common Room opens. First male residents admitted to the College. Students found the Tiger Lily Rag (student magazine).

1984 | Mrs Phyllis Fry appointed Principal.

1996 | Dr Gail Tulloch appointed Principal. Fry Rooms opened in Main rooftop cavity.


2001 | Dr Barbara Fary appointed Acting Principal. Dr Damian Powell appointed Principal.

2009 | JCH aluma and Fellow, Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, is the first Australian woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize.

2012 | JCH aluma, Marita Cheng, is Young Australian of the Year.

2015 | Margaret Henderson House opens, named in honour of former Senior Student, Resident Medical Officer and College Fellow Dr Margaret Henderson OBE.

2021 | The Marjorie Coppel (rear) Courtyard is redeveloped through a major donation.  Dr Powell announces his forthcoming retirement. Ms Margie Welsford is appointed Interim Principal from February 2022.

2022 | Dr Eleanor Spencer-Regan appointed Principal.

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Our College is situated on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, whose stories, educational practices and connection to Country are part of the world’s oldest living culture.  We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, and pay our respects to Elders past, present and those emerging in our community.

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