OXFORDSHIRE BLUE PLAQUES SCHEME

Walter PATER (1838–1894)

Author and scholar

Clara PATER (1841–1910)

Pioneer of women’s education

2 Bradmore Road, Oxford
Walter Pater
Walter Pater (1838–1894), author and scholar

Born into a family of surgeons in 1839, Walter Pater attended King’s School, Canterbury. He read Greats at Queen’s College, Oxford and became a non-clerical Fellow of Brasenose in 1864. Gerard Manley Hopkins, Earl Haig and Oscar Wilde, a devoted admirer, were among those he taught.

Pater became famous as a literary and art critic and exquisite prose stylist who rejected religious dogma and considered the intense sensation of aesthetic response to be the essence of the happy life, a philosophy which might be summed up as ‘art for art’s sake’. His seminal work was Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873). His delicate air, wit, irony and apple-green cravats made him the embodiment of aesthetic values.

Although his natural milieu was his Brasenose study overlooking Radcliffe Square, from 1869 to 1885 he took a lease on 2 Bradmore Road to create a family home for himself and his sisters. After a subsequent period in Kensington they returned to Oxford in 1893. Their new home was at 64 St Giles where Pater died in 1894. He rests in Holywell Cemetery. A memorial plaque in Brasenose ante-chapel shows a cameo of Pater flanked by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Plato and Dante together with quotations in Greek from Plato and St Paul.

Clara Pater (1841–1910), pioneer of women’s education

Clara was the younger sister of Walter. She was tutored privately at home and spent three years on the Continent extending her cultural knowledge. When she came to live at Bradmore Road, she began the serious study the Greek and Latin with other women from the academic families living in the new North Oxford suburb. The class was taught by Henry Nettleship of Corpus Christi and included Mrs Humphry Ward, Louise Creighton, Mrs Max Muller, Charlotte Green and Bertha Johnson. These women were also part of the Ladies’ Committee for Higher Education which in 1878 became the Oxford branch of the Association of (Higher) Education for Women. When under its auspices the first two women’s halls were established in 1879, Lady Margaret Hall (Anglican) and Somerville (non-sectarian), Clara became the first Classics Tutor at Somerville and first Resident Tutor in 1885. She retired in 1894 when she and her sister left Oxford after their brother’s death.

Sources: Pater’s own writings; papers presented at the unveiling and published in the Oxford Magazine nos. 230 and 233; David Cecil, Walter Pater, the Scholar Artist (1955); A. C. Benson, Walter Pater (1926).

  • The unveiling of the blue plaque was organised by Professor Laurel Brake of Birkbeck College, University of London and President of the International Walter Pater Society
  • Pictures: The Paters’ former home and Unveiling ceremony
Pater plaque

The joint plaque was unveiled at 2 Bradmore Road, Oxford on 3 July 2004 by the Pater scholar, Professor Billie Inman of the University of Arizona, and learned contributions were made by Mr William Thomas, Professor J. Mordaunt Crook and Professor Katherine Duncan-Jones.

Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board

WALTER PATER
1839–1894
Author and Scholar
CLARA PATER
1841–1910
Pioneer of Women’s Education
Lived here / 1869–1885 

International Walter Pater Society

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