By Amara Thornton (Research Officer, Ure Museum)

Grace Ernestine Holding was born in London in around 1878.  She obtained a B. A. degree from the University of Wales, attending University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire at Cardiff where she was a student of Ronald Burrows, Professor of Classics.  She later recalled his teaching as inspirational, stating for George Glasgow’s biography of Burrows that “More than one Cardiff student, who began his college life uncertain what his special subject should be, made his decision for Classics before the end of his intermediate year.”

Holding taught at the County School for Girls in Pontypool before moving back to London to become Classics Mistress at the North London Collegiate School for Girls in early 1905.  Within a year of her arrival she obtained her M. A. from the University of Wales.  This degree was awarded for a thesis entitled “The Structure and Scenic Effects of the Greek Theatre”.  Two years later, she was on a sabbatical from the North London Collegiate School, taking a working-holiday in Greece. She had been asked to undertake drawings and photography for excavations at Rhitsona, directed by her old University lecturer Ronald Burrows, working with a young Classics Lecturer at the University of Wales, Percy Ure. Her work appeared in subsequent publications on the excavation.

Detail of Grace Holding’s signature, from an undated letter to Ronald Burrows (Ure Museum archives, Drawer C)

She returned to the School in early 1909, bringing with her a photograph of Athens which was displayed in the new Classics room at the School. She took an active role in the School’s Classical Society, delivering lectures in the 1910s and 1920s on topics such as the “Greek Vases”, “The Oracle at Delphi” (featuring slides of her own photographs of the site), “Athens” (including anecdotes from her experiences in the city) and “Pompeii”. While at NLCS, she was a member of both the Classical Association and the Hellenic Society. She retired from the School in 1935 and died in London in 1943.

The Ure Museum archive holds letters from Grace Holding during her work on the Rhitsona excavations.

Further Reading/References

Burrows, RM & Ure, PN 1907/8. Excavations at Rhitsona in Boeotia. Annual of the British School at Athens 14 (226-318).

Gill, D. 2002. “The Passion of Hazard”: Women at the British School at Athens before the First World War. Annual of the British School at Athens 97: 491-510.

Glasgow, G. 1924. Ronald Burrows: a memoir. London: Nisbet & Company.

North London Collegiate School Magazine, February 1905; February 1909, March 1916, March 1917, March 1922, July 1923, November 1935.