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Katharine Feilden (1864–1954)

Miss Katharine Feilden

Katharine Josephine Dolores Feilden built High Wall in Pullen’s Lane, and Feilden Grove is named after her.

She also played an important part in the development of the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford. Not only was Feilden Ward named after her, but also Cecil and Randle Wards were named after two of her nephews.

Katharine's father, Randle Joseph Feilden, was born in Clifton, Bristol on 21 March 1824 and baptised at Blackburn, and her mother Jane Campbell Hozier (sometimes known as Jean) was born in Blackburn, Lancashire and baptised at Edinburgh on 22 December 1828.They were probably related, as Jane's mother's name was Catharine Margaret Feilden, and they were married in Scotland at Carluke, Lanarkshire on 21 March 1861.

The Feilden family seat was established in the fifteenth century at Witton Park, Blackburn, Lancashire, and their coat or arms had the motto “Honours is the reward of virtue” (shown below right).

Katharine was born in her mother's home town of Carluke in Scotland on 2 August 1864. She was the third of five children:

Family crest

  • Randle Joseph Francis Campbell Feilden
    (born in Edinburgh on 15 January 1862)
  • Cecil William Montague Feilden
    (born at Witton Park on 13 March 1863)
  • Katharine Josephine Dolores Feilden
    (born at Carluke, Lanarkshire on 2 August 1864)
  • James Hartley Feilden
    (born in Scotland in c.1867)
  • Percy Henry Guy Feilden
    (born at Witton Park in 1870).

Katharine Feilden

Katharine’s father was in the army, and her parents were presumably abroad at the time of the 1871 census when Katharine (left) was six years old and living at Witton Park with her widowed grandmother Frances Mary Feilden (73) and her unmarried aunt of the same name. Also living in the house was a teacher, a cook, and three lady's maids.

At the time of the 1881 census, Katharine (16) and living in London with her parents at 41 Eaton Place, Hanover Square. This was just a few doors away from the office of the architect Walter Cave who, some thirty years later, was to design a house for her on Headington Hill. She was described as a scholar and had a live-in German governess. Her father, then aged 55, was described as an M.P. and a Major General in the Regular Army. All four of her brothers were away. The family of three had an impressive staff of ten (not including the governess): a housekeeper, two ladies’ maids, two housemaids, a kitchenmaid, a scullery maid, and no fewer than three footmen.

Katharine’s eldest brother Randle Feilden had been matriculated at the University of Oxford from Christ Church at the age of 18 on 15 October 1880; but just six months later at the time of the 1881 census he was a lieutenant in the 3rd Lancashire Militia, based at Fulwood Barracks near Preston. He became a captain of the Scots Guards, and in 1887 died at the family’s next home in Grosvenor Crescent after catching enteric fever while serving at Aldershot.

At the time of the 1891 census Katharine's father Randle Joseph Feilden (67), described as a retired Lieutenant General, was staying alone at Witton Park with three servants. Katharine (26) and her mother are hard to find, and may have been abroad.

Katharine's father died at his London home, 32 Grosvenor Gardens, on 19 May 1895. His effects came to £158,290 15s. 9d., with a further £18,336 14s. 5d. granted in 1910. The family never lived in Witton House again.

At the time of the 1901 census Katharine (36) lived with her mother Jane at 36 Wilton Place or Road in Knightsbridge. The two ladies still had nine servants (a cook, two ladies’ maids, a housemaid, kitchenmaid, housemaid, butler, footman, and hall boy).

Katharine’s brother Cecil Feilden, who chose to live at Mollington Hall near Chester rather than at Witton Park, was now a Major in the 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys). He fought in the Boer War, and on 19 February 1902, at the age of 39, he died at Klippan as a result of a wound. In his will he left £101,021, and willed his Cheshire estate to his brother, Lieutenant Percy Guy Feilden, and the Witton estate to his other brother, Captain James Hartley Gilbert Feilden. (The latter did not spend much time at Witton Hall, which became very dilapidated in the 1920s, and was demolished in the 1950s.)

On 11 November 1902 Katharine’s youngest brother Major Percy Henry Guy Feilden married Dorothy Louisa Brand, daughter of Henry Robert Brand, 2nd Viscount Hampden. In 1908 they moved to Crawstone Hall, Cokethorpe, near Witney and restored it lavishly. (His home is now Cokethorpe School, and one of the school houses is named after him.) They had three children:

  • Major-General Sir Randle Guy Feilden (b. 14 Jun 1904)
  • Major Cecil Henry Feilden (b. 19 Mar 1907)
  • Dorothy Priscilla Feilden (b. 25 Oct 1909).

Katherine Feilden's mother died at 36 Wilton Place, Middlesex on 20 March 1909. Her effects came to £54,529 14s.9d.

In the following year (1910), Katharine engaged the architect Walter Cave to builf High Wall in Pullen's Lane, Headington.


Entrance to High Wall

Above: Miss Feilden’s early years are celebrated in a series of four fine stained-glass paintings at High Wall by her architect friend Walter Cave. They tell of four Anglo-Saxon Saints associated with events that were clearly very important to the young Katharine:

  • St Bega commemorates her Lancashire roots
  • St Margaret of Scotland her place of birth in Carluke
  • St Werburgha brought learning and order to her childhood years in the person of her German governess
  • St Frideswide, the patron saint of the city of Oxford, lived at Binsey, once part of the manor of Headington where she had come to build her new home.

All four Saints are associated with acts of healing which, in a sense, became an important part of Miss Feilden’s own later life.

Right: The Entrance to High Wall

Jean Cottage

Jean Cottage

About 30 metres north of the main entrance to High Wall is Jean Cottage Lane, a curving service drive, and this led to Jean Cottage (right), a largish house

This is now a separate residence approached from Harberton Mead/Feilden Grove to the north, but it used to nestle comfortably into a corner of High Wall’s substantial grounds.

With its cosy interior and attractive octagonal corner bay windows, Jean Cottage formed an integral part of Cave’s idea of a fine country residence. It served at its domestic quarters and incorporated its coach house, and its garden was High Wall's kitchen garden.

At the time of the 1911 census Jean Cottage was occupied by Miss Olga Wanda Bertha Holtzmann (61), who was Miss Feilden's Prussian housekeeper, and a parlourmaid; but there is no listing for High Wall itself, and Miss Feilden is hard to locate.

First World War and the beginnings of the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre

Auxiliary hospital

In 1913 Miss Feilden had joined the Committee of the original Wingfield Convalescent Home.

In the First World War Miss Feilden's great friend G. R. Girdlestone was appointed Captain of the 3rd Southern General Hospital in Oxford, and Miss Feilden moved into Jean Cottage in order to open High Wall to officer casualties. The photograph on the left, dating from about 1917, shows officers in the library at High Wall, and the caption reads:


Cecil Henry Feilden

More beds were needed for orthopaedic injuries, and in 1915 Miss Feilden paid for the construction of two wooden huts comprising forty beds at the Wingfield Convalescent Home, enabling it to open its doors to soldiers with orthopaedic injuries. These became known as the Oxford Orthopaedic Hospital, marking the beginning of the present Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre.



Right: Cecil Henry Feilden (1906–1983), Miss Feilden’s nephew


Further substantial donations followed and in 1917 the Wingfield Convalescent Home itself was taken over for military purposes. The 22-bed Feilden Ward opened with rooms for serious cases and a small operating theatre. The same year Miss Feilden became the Commandant of the Wingfield Military Hospital (as it then became known), a post she held until 1920. In 1936 another endowment enabled the creation of the Feilden Nursing Scholarship, which is still awarded annually.

Randle & Feilden wards

Feilden Ward

Between the wars

Between the wars Miss Feilden employed four gardeners to care for her beautiful garden at High Wall. It had been her practice to open it to the public under the National Gardens Scheme for the benefit of the Queen’s Institute of District Nursing.

The 1939 Register lists Miss Fielden at High Wall, with her occupation listed as “unpaid domestic duties”. Living with her was a poetry student Miss Barkeet Maird (b.1871), the retired army officer Thomas Hunt and his wife Mabel, three domestic servants, and a widow called Agnes Fraser, described as a pensioner. Her friends Miss V. Wroughton and Miss Jones were not far away in Jean Cottage.

In 1940 she (along with others in Pullen’s Lane) again relinquished her home to help the war effort. High Wall was transformed into a 50-bed Joint War Organisation Auxiliary Hospital, and she never moved back.

Second World War and after

Miss Feilden preferred the quiet informal atmosphere of Jean Cottage (left) and continued to live there, first with Miss Wroughton, and then, after the death of her brother Percy on 25 March 1944, with his widow Dorothy, the Hon. Mrs Feilden. In 1946 Dorothy moved up to High Wall, leaving Miss Feilden (now aged 75) living on her own in Jean Cottage.


Katharine Feilden died on 3 September 1954 at her beloved cottage within yards of the spot where Cave had depicted St Frideswide standing on Headington Hill nearly half a century earlier. She was her parents' last surviving child.

Her obituary appeared in the Oxford Times of 10 September 1954 (p. 12) under the heading: “Great hospital benefactress Miss K. D. Feilden dies, aged 90”. Her effects came to £38,464 11s. 2s

Left: “KF”, Katharine Feilden’s monogram, over the gallery fireplace at High Wall

Two plaques have been erected in the Main Hall at High Wall, one from the Army Council and the other from the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem. They express with pride and gratitude the Nation’s thanks for the willing and inestimable service Miss Katharine Feilden had performed in caring for sick and wounded servicemen during two world wars.

See also

  • Miss Feilden, Major Cecil Henry Feilden; by courtesy of Oxfordshire Health Archives
  • Family Coat of Arms; by courtesy of Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage
  • The following photographs are all copyright Arpad Turmezei: Miss Feilden (teenager), Entrance to High Wall, The four Saints, Jean Cottage, The Library at High Wall c.1917, and Katharine’s monogram

© Stephanie Jenkins

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