From student to cover star: the story of Sheila Harris

Illustrated Magazine

We’re always very pleased when alumni share memories of their time at King’s. We were delighted when Gillian Burrows (French, 1950) sent in a copy of June 1948’s Illustrated magazine, with a fellow King’s alumna on the front cover! Here’s what the magazine revealed…

In June 1948, King’s undergraduate Sheila Harris was preparing for finals week. Three years of hard work studying English, History and French were coming to an end. But exams weren’t the only thing Sheila spent time on that month.

Sheila’s life at King’s was profiled across three pages in Illustrated. She was one of just 350 female students at King’s at that time. She came to King’s straight from school, and initially travelled from Cambridge each day until she found ‘digs’ in London. In her second and third years, Sheila lived at Canterbury Hall, the university’s new women’s hall of residence which opened in Bloomsbury in 1946, where Gillian also lived.

A Great Week for Sheila

Cycling for cashflow

Then, as now, life as a student had its financial challenges. Wartime rationing was still in place – clothes rationing did not end until the following spring, 1946 - and students had to budget carefully. King’s long tradition of supporting students benefited Sheila. She received a King’s Scholarship to cover course fees and some of her halls fees – on the understanding that she would progress to teaching. Each week she allowed herself between £1 and 30 shillings, £1.50 in decimal currency, for miscellaneous expenses. Extra economies such as cycling to save travel costs, and having a ‘value’ lunch at a café which cost her ‘one-and-six’ (7.5 pence in today’s currency), were still regular features in her day-to-day university life.

On the horizon

What else was going on in 1948? The NHS was founded, London hosted the Olympic Games and the Co-op opened Britain’s first self-service supermarket – still going strong in Albert Road, Southsea. Further afield, India and Israel both became independent and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea – North Korea - was established September 1948.

Share your recollections

Were you at King’s at that time? Do you have a story or adventure you’d like to share with us? Email alumoff@kcl.ac.uk with your stories.