Childhood, youth, and education
Sayers, an only child, was born on 13 June 1893 to Helen Mary (née Leigh) at the Headmaster's House, Christ Church Cathedral School, Oxford. Her mother was born at "The Chestnuts", Millbrook, Hampshire, to Frederick Leigh, a solicitor whose family roots were in the Isle of Wight. Her father, the Rev. Henry Sayers, M.A., from Littlehampton, West Sussex, was a chaplain of Christ Church and headmaster of the Choir School.
When Sayers was six, her father started teaching her Latin. She grew up in the tiny village of Bluntisham-cum-Earith in Huntingdonshire after her father was given the living (benefice) there as rector. The church graveyard next to the elegant Regency-style rectory features the surnames of several characters from her mystery The Nine Tailors; the nearby River Great Ouse and the Fens invite comparison with the book's vivid description of a massive flood around the village.
From 1909, she was educated at the Godolphin School, a boarding school in Salisbury. Her father later moved to the simpler living of Christchurch, in Cambridgeshire.
In 1912, Sayers won a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford where she studied modern languages and medieval literature and was taught by Mildred Pope. She finished with first-class honours in 1915. Women were not awarded degrees at that time, but Sayers was among the first to receive a degree when the position changed a few years later; in 1920 she graduated as an MA. Her experience of Oxford academic life eventually inspired her penultimate Peter Wimsey novel, Gaudy Night.