Every year on International Women’s Day (IWD), people from across the world come together celebrate the successes and achievements of women past and present. IWD is an opportunity to learn about the important contributions women have made in society and the momentous changes they have helped to bring about. Yet no less significant are the women who continue to work quietly and inconspicuously behind the scenes, often without widespread recognition of what they do.

Alice Hindson is one such example. Born in Andover in 1896, Alice would go on to play an key role in the story of a small 9th-century fragment of manuscript in the Cathedral’s collections, known generally as the Brockenhurst Cassiodorus (MS 25; f.2 shown above).

Alice first moved to Brockenhurst with her family as a young girl, following the death of her father. In 1920, she left Hampshire to attend the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. It was in London a year later that she joined the Society of Scribes and Illuminators, of which she would go on to serve as Secretary. In 1931, she returned to Brockenhurst and established the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.

Alice’s connection to the Brockenhurst Cassiodorus arose some time later, when in 1961, she was tasked by St. Nicholas’ Church, Brockenhurst, to investigate the origin of a manuscript bifolium, uncovered in the vellum binding of a parish register from 1593.

Bifolia (meaning a piece of paper or parchment folded in half to create four pages) were sometimes recycled from one manuscript to reinforce the strength of the binding in another. In this instance, the text contained in the manuscript fragment had been identified in 1926 as a section of a text by Cassiodorus, the Historia Ecclesiastica Tripartita. Yet it was not until several decades later that Alice, working in partnership with the Village Archivist, H.M. Jenkins, began her careful and thorough research on the bifolium.

Though her notes on the Brockenhurst Cassiodorus were collected with a view to their eventual publication, Alice’s work was never published. Thankfully, a copy of her findings, hand-written in a bound volume dated 1979, is held in the Cathedral’s collection alongside the Cassiodorus fragment itself, which was presented to the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral by St. Nicholas’ Church in 1974. Her research, while never fully realised, is central to our ability to make sense of this small, but extraordinary scrap of manuscript, which might otherwise have been so easily lost to us today.