Tess Dillon, 36, (1896-1984), physicist and teacher, was one of the three high-achieving younger daughters of Theresa and Joseph Dillon. In 1934 she became the Head of the Physics Dept., King’s College of Household and Social Science, later the Queen Elizabeth College, Kensington. A great friend and support to Theodora Bosanquet. Attending the dinner with her mother.
On a table of four not very relevant: may have enjoyed a good conversation with the high-flying civil servant Myra Curtis, certainly would have enjoyed the company of Theodora Bosanquet, and had a good evening with her mother.
WHAT’S ON HER MIND?
Quite possibly just looking forward to meeting the impressive gathering as her career blossoms.
TESS’S STORY SO FAR
Tess was born on 30th July 1896 in Hendon, the third child of Theresa Joseph Dillon née McHale and Joseph Thomas Dillon. She was educated at Our Lady of Zion Convent, 36 Chepstow Villas, Kensington and obtained her B Sc. from the University of London in 1918. In 1920/21 she travelled to the US with her parents and in London became a physics teacher at King’s College of Household and Social Science in Kensington.
In 1979 Tess visited the school and “Miss Dillon’s Memoires” were recorded for the school magazine, which we abstract here:
“In January 1923 I was invited for a short interview at K.C.H.S.S. which I had watched being built but only knew as “that place where they do cooking”. I was taken up to a room for the Head of Department which I used for the next forty years. There was no furniture except an examination desk and chair, and also a cupboard in which I found a few attendance charts. The department took up the top floor of the North Block with one laboratory and half one, one spare room, one dark room, three sinks and one power plug. There was no lecture room but we used a large, inhuman, Biology Lecture Room on the floor below and, of course, there was no lift. ..… I was appointed for two days a week when I found that there were lectures and classes for four different courses Two-Year course, One-Year course specials, Sister Tutors and 1st Year B.Sc. ………..there were many problems of organisation…..Actually, life in those days was gracious; the students were delightful, each course wearing different coloured overalls and gaily crowding up to the lab, or clattering down the stairs to the lecture room or to the ground floor and across to the Dining Hall. There we had a High Table, and another not-so-high Table for the staff but we were rewarded with Lucullan meals served up to the staff, the fruits of the morning cookery classes. Then we had annual Garden Parties in the quadrangle with Military Bands on the Terrace outside the large Hall. It was very gay, with the men in official morning dress and the women in suitable garden-party clothes”.
WHAT TESS DID NEXT
In 1934 Tess became the Head of the Physics Dept., King’s College of Household and Social Science, later the Queen Elizabeth College, Kensington. A university lecturer, she visited Portugal in September 1933, September 1934, and September 1936, her address then 3 Oakwood Court, London W14 – perhaps a regular holiday trip?. In the 1939 census she is listed as a university lecturer, (and serving with the LCC Ambulance Service), single, living in family home in Kensington, sister Una a bookseller, BSc., (the founder of the bookshop) and sister Carmen, a film art director.
Tess reported however that “In 1939 came the orders from the office “Pack up all essential equipment at once and moving vans will call to transport all the packing cases to Cardiff University. Details will follow”.
In 1939 the school migrated to Cardiff, then after the “Phoney War” it was planned to return to London, but that was changed when an air-raid warning sounded during a College Council meeting in September 1940. The school moved to Leicester for the rest of the War, returning in October 1946 to London. The London building sustained major damage on 19th February 1944. In the 1950s the school was renamed Queen Elizabeth College, Kensington, and the college started offering the full B.Sc. course offered by the University of London. Tess remained at the College until retirement in 1963(?). The photograph is circa1964, so most probably in 1963 her retirement year.
Tess was a member of the University Women’s Club. Angela V. John, biographer of Lady Rhondda, notes that Tess helped Theodora Bosanquet a great deal after Lady Rhondda’s death and we may note that Theodora assigned her probate to her in 1961. Tess herself died on 17th May 1984, when living at the family home 16 Wynnstay Gardens, Kensington.
 Theresa Dillon, Hutchinson’s Woman’s Who’s Who 1934, Hutchinson & Co. London.
 With many thanks to the staff of Queen Elizabeth College for providing me with a copy of Miss Dillon’s Memoires, recalled in Queen Elizabeth College Association magazine Envoy, 2008, her reminiscences expressed in 1979. in http://www.qeca.org.uk/Envoy_2008_A5.pdf
 Angela V. John (2013), Turning the Tide, Cardigan, Parthian, p474 and pp531-2
 Miss Dillon’s Memoires, recalled in Queen Elizabeth College Association magazine Envoy, 2008, her reminiscences expressed in 1979. in http://www.qeca.org.uk/Envoy_2008_A5.pdf