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Alfred Emden (1888–1979)


Alfred Brotherston Emden (1888–1979) was born in Ealing, the son of a judge. He can be found at the age of 12 in the 1901 census, boarding with his younger brother Cecil at the private school of Roger Burton at Hurstleigh in Bishops Down, Tunbridge Wells.

Emden obtained a Second Class in Modern History at Lincoln College, Oxford in 1911. At the time of the 1911 census he was home for the vacation with his widowed mother Elizabeth Cowley Emden at The Cresset, Avermore Road, Crowborough, and both he and Cecil are described as students. The family had two servants.

Emden qualified for the bar at the Inner Temple. He ran a hostel in London for disadvantaged boys from 1913 to 1915, and then served in the Royal Navy.

In 1919 Emden accepted a tutorship in Modern History at St Edmund Hall, and became Principal in 1929.

Dunstan Cottage

Dunstan Cottage (right) was built in 1935, and Alfred Emden’s mother moved into it immediately, presumably because she wished to live near her elder son.

In 1951 Emden’s health broke down and he resigned the principalship of St Edmund Hall at the age of 63 and came to live with his mother in this house in Headington. He was to remain here for 28 years.

Emden played a large part in community life in Headington. One of his first acts was to get Cemetery Road, where his mother now lived, renamed Dunstan Road.

When the row of cottages at 27–33 St Andrew’s Road were condemned in the late 1930s, he and three other local inhabitants put up the money to build the present row of houses.

In 1959, when the Friends of Old Headington came into being, Dr Emden agreed to be its first President. He organized the restoration of the ancient cross in St Andrew’s Churchyard.

Emden died at Dunstan Cottage on 8 January 1979. He was a bachelor, and left the bulk of his estate to St Edmund Hall.

Emden has been immortalized as a stone grotesque on the south-east corner of St Peter-in-the-East Church (now St Edmund Hall library).


Emden House sign

Emden House, comprising 26 sheltered flats in Barton Lane, (below) is named after Alfred Brotherston Emden. Designed by the Oxford Architects’ Partnership for the Secure Retirement Association Ltd, it was built in 1981

There is a much fuller entry on Alfred Emden in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The ODNB online is available free to many public library users, including those in Oxfordshire:
enter L followed immediately by your library ticket number in the “Library Card Login” box

© Stephanie Jenkins

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