– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, Oxford. Opinions expressed are strictly the author's own!

Author Archive

monthly report August 2015

A few numbers about what was happening at St Cross during August:

  • Number of enquiries (email etc): 67, and see below
  • Number of researchers in person: 12
  • Number of person-days in the reading room: 16
  • Collections consulted: medieval mss (7), Jowett papers, college records, papers of Baruch S Blumberg, Clough-Nightingale papers
  • No of non-research visitors: ca 40  (Meritas group, individual visitors)
  • blog posts: 6
  • interesting events: OUIP intern Matthew completed 6 week research project (see blog posts); Balliol intern Robin (all month) and OUIP intern Sophie (3 weeks) working on research projects; participants in the Oxford Patristics Conference consulting medieval mss; display on Broad St site for Nevil Shute Society conference; Meritas summer school group visit with Balliol tutor Scot Peterson on the theme of ‘Magna Carta – building a society’

I am sometimes asked what kinds of enquiries I receive. Here’s a summary of August’s enquiries, which was fairly typical except a smaller number than usual of all kinds of enquiries both internal and external, as so many people are on holiday in August – in no particular order:

  • family history/biographical information re former members of Balliol of all periods
  • requests for info about Balliol paintings/works of art
  • authors & curators requesting images of items in the collections for publication/exhibition
  • academics requesting images of medieval manuscripts
  • invitation to speak & discussion of talk
  • researchers needing information about content and formats of collections prior to research in person
  • planning displays to support external conference held at Balliol and a Balliol tutor’s seminar at St Cross
  • archival sources for history of C19-20 Balliol-India connections, especially the history of the Indian Civil Service
  • requests for assistance in how to locate other archives and sources for information on Balliol-related and non-Balliol-related subjects
  • requests for information on various aspects of the college’s and individual members’ involvement in WW1

and professional issues from other archivists, internal administrative correspondence, records management requests from offices within college. Requests for appointments to conduct research in person are not counted unless they entail further correspondence, providing catalogues and other information etc in advance – which most do.

I am also asked who the enquirers are. In principle, this doesn’t matter – anybody can enquire about and consult Balliol’s collections. Most are either university academics – from all over the world, at all levels from undergraduate to Professor Emeritus, in all sorts of fields – or private individuals, mostly conducting family history research for their personal interest. Many are authors and curators. Some are Old Members of Balliol – and others may be who don’t mention the fact (we like to know!). Many others don’t provide any information about their own background or particular reason for asking, and they don’t need to. Occasionally one doesn’t even provide a name! (They get a response too, of course, addressed to ‘Dear Enquirer.’) The vast majority of enquiries are sent via email now, and wherever possible responses are also electronic. I receive perhaps half a dozen letters a year, and if an email address is provided I will respond that way. Most telephone requests have to be answered in writing, as responses based on archival material and research usually require half a dozen sources to be checked.


Students and Soldiers

Guest post 3/3 by our August OUIP intern, Sophie Lealan (Oriel College):

Students and Soldiers

Francis Fortescue Urquhart’s portraits of the various people housed by Balliol College during World War One record fragments of lives that sometimes went on to meet great success, but often were cut tragically short.

Oxford, Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart Album 7.1F

Oxford, Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart Album 7.1F

Whilst, as an amateur photographer, Urquhart’s photographs sometimes lack in technical skill, they make up for this with the informal insights they offer into the lives of students. His portraits often show an intimate view of these young men, quietly studying or posing for his camera. One photograph depicts student Geoffrey Madan looking out of a window while sitting in Urquhart’s room. [FFU07-1-F] The sheets of paper beside him, perhaps an essay, suggest that this picture might have been taken during a tutorial with Urquhart. Other photographs in the album show students sitting in this same window seat or on Urquhart’s sofa with a book on their lap.

Urquhart was also able to capture the interactions and relationships between students. For example, one photograph shows Arthur Wiggin and future Prime Minister Harold Macmillan posing arm in arm in their new officer uniforms. The sense of playfulness is continued in Urquhart’s use of the camera, overlaying two portraits on top of each other as a double exposure. [FFU07-20-D-E-F]

Macmillan, of course, became a prominent politician, but many other subjects of Urquhart’s photographs did not fare so well. Ronald Glover, for example, was killed at Ypres in 1917. He first appears in Urquhart’s album posing in the snow-covered college grounds, and then sitting cheerfully on the wall of the Fellows’ Garden in his officer’s uniform. Glover is one of the many students Urquhart documented before they left to fight and never returned. [FFU07-36-B] [FFU07-44-B]

Oxford, Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart Album 7.63G

Oxford, Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart Album 7.63G

In some cases Urquhart had a direct influence on students’ military careers. Hardit Singh Malik was one such student. Initially rejected by the British air force because of his Indian origins, it was due to Urquhart’s intervention that he was allowed to fly during the war. Indeed, Malik can be seen proudly wearing his R.A.F. uniform in several of Urquhart’s photographs. [FFU07-63-G]

Students were not the only people Urquhart photographed. He took numerous images of the soldiers, mostly officer cadets, for whom Balliol was briefly a home during their officer training, and, as with his photographs of students, he appears to have been interested in capturing these subjects informally. A series of images (titled ‘A gentle warrior’) shows his small son clambering over the legs of Harold Brewer Hartley, in civilian life a Tutor in Physical Chemistry at Balliol, while his daughter grins at them from behind a tree. One image provides an unusually casual portrait of a group of officers, all sitting cross-legged on the grass and smiling – the group is from D Company, 7th Ox & Bucks LI, and includes several Balliol men whom Urquhart would have known and taught before the war. This photograph indicates the kind of picture that Urquhart thought was worth keeping, although like several others in the album it was taken by someone else (Urquhart has written ‘Pemberton fecit’ in the corner). [FFU07-30-D] [FFU07-24-E]

Urquhart’s album tells us much about the man who took and collected these photographs. Whilst his images undoubtedly act as documents of the changing times he lived through, they are also records of who Urquhart spent his time with, how he spent this time, and which fragments of these events and people he wanted to keep in his album. My research has only been able to scratch the surface of what Urquhart’s photographs can tell us about him, and about this period in Oxford’s history, and I hope that future scholars will be able to pick up some of the threads I have introduced here.

 

I am very grateful for the invaluable advice and assistance I have received from archivist Anna Sander, and librarians Fiona Godber and Rachel McDonald during my time at Balliol, and for the funding provided by Oxford University Careers Service.

– Sophie Lealan, August 2015

 

Selected Bibliography

Bailey, Cyril, Francis Fortescue Urquhart: A Memoir (London: 1936).

Elliott, Sir Ivo (ed.), The Balliol College Register, 1833-1933 (Oxford: 1934)

Graham, Malcolm, Oxford in the Great War (Barnsley, South Yorkshire: 2014).

Jones, John, Balliol College: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Malik, Hardit Singh, A Little Work, A Little Play: The Autobiography of H. S. Malik (New Delhi: 2010).

 

Sophie’s posts about FF Urquhart’s WW1-era photo album:

Post 1

Post 2

Post 3


Life in Balliol during World War One

Guest post 2/3 by Sophie Lealan, one of our OUIP interns:

Oxford, Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart Album 7.11F

Oxford, Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart Album 7.11F

Urquhart’s photograph album of 1914-1918 narrates, in hundreds of small, sepia images, the transformation of Balliol College from a site of parties and fancy dress to one of officer training and uniforms. However, amidst these dramatic developments many of the traditions and rituals of college life proved resilient.

Oxford, Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart Album 7.12A

Oxford, Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart Album 7.12A

The summer of 1914 has often been described as a ‘Golden Summer’, and Urquhart’s photographs appear to testify to this. Students are shown punting and picnicking around Oxford, dressed in black tie for ‘Eric Lubbock’s “Twentyfirster”’, or having tea in the college gardens while dressed in kimonos. Of course, these were only the occasions to which Urquhart was invited, or of which he had a photograph, but they illustrate the light-hearted atmosphere of the summer. [FFU07-11-F] [FFU07-12-A]

Oxford, Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart Album 7.21F

Oxford, Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart Album 7.21F

As the album progresses to Michaelmas 1914 students still smile and appear relaxed for Urquhart’s camera, only now they are dressed in army uniforms. Meyrick Carré is just one of the dozens of Balliol students Urquhart photographed in their new military outfits. In his portrait we can see a pile of dirty dishes on the ground, just within the entrance to staircase eighteen. [FFU07-21-F]

Like its students, the college took on new roles during the war. Balliol became a base for officer training programmes, and many of the resident cadets were captured by Urquhart’s camera. In one image we see a queue of men in uniform, each holding a mug as they line up the stairs for hall. Another photograph shows a distant view of a soldier standing beside a blackboard, addressing a group of soldiers who are gathered around him in a semi-circle on the college grounds. Balliol was not the only college to become a form of army barracks and several others became hospitals for wounded soldiers. Indeed, the war affected the whole of Oxford, as Urquhart documented in a view of soldiers standing in formation across Christ Church Meadow. [FFU07-20-C] [FFU07-55-C] [FFU07-21-H]

Of course, the buildings of Balliol College stayed the same, and much of its architecture remained a constant feature of Urquhart’s photographs. Subjects frequently sit on the walls of the Fellows’ Gardens, first as students and then as soldiers. Such images indicate a sense of continuity; whatever events might be happening in the world, the ritual of Urquhart taking one’s photograph in this spot was constant. Signs of college life continuing amidst the upheavals of war are also evident in details such as the rowing crest chalked on the wall behind two students (Eric Lubbock and Ernest Besly) in uniform. [FFU07-52-F] [FFU07-43-D]

The ways in which students spent their free time was also affected by the war. With fewer students, sports continued at a greatly reduced level. Images of young men playing tennis and cricket or rowing in Torpids open the album but, after war breaks out, such images almost disappear. However, the cadets at Balliol also became involved in sports, as can be seen in several of Urquhart’s photographs. One image shows Officer Cadet Battalions playing a game of rugby, whilst another image appears to show a tug of war between trainee officers. [FFU07-1-H] [FFU07-65-A]

Although visits to Urquhart’s chalet in the French Alps were suspended, other aspects of college life continued in various forms. Punting reappears frequently throughout the album, but one can imagine that such activities took on quite different meanings for students returning from the trenches. Tea in the college gardens is also a common subject throughout the war years, including one image in which a uniformed student appears with his arm in a sling. Urquhart also photographed several students wearing graduation robes and hoods over their army uniform, one of the aspects of Oxford life that was modified but not ended by the war. [FFU07-27-G] [FFU07-26-F] [FFU07-63-C]

Sophie’s posts about FF Urquhart’s WW1-era photo album:

Post 1

Post 2

Post 3


Francis Fortescue Urquhart: Oxford Tutor and Amateur Photographer

A guest post by Sophie Lealan (Oriel College), our second OUIP (Oxford University Internship Programme) intern  of summer 2015.

Francis Fortescue Urquhart: Oxford Tutor and Amateur Photographer

Life in Oxford during the First World War is presented to us vividly in Francis Fortescue Urquhart’s eleven photograph albums, currently held in the Balliol College Archives. Covering the tumultuous period of 1914 to 1918, the seventh of these volumes begins with partying students and ends with uniformed soldiers. As part of the Oxford University Internship Programme I have been researching what this album can tell us about Balliol College and its students during wartime, and these will be the subjects of upcoming posts. Firstly, I looked at how Urquhart used his photographs to record and even constitute his role as an Oxford tutor.

Oxford, Balliol College Archives. FF Urquhart Album 7.71A

Oxford, Balliol College Archives. FF Urquhart Album 7.71A

As was expected of a tutor during this period, Urquhart (nicknamed ‘Sligger’) lived in college as a bachelor from his appointment in 1896 until his death in 1934, and dedicated his time to educating rather than researching. Indeed, he is often described as academically unremarkable but well-liked by his students, many of whom would gather in his rooms to talk late into the night. Although some, including Evelyn Waugh, criticised Urquhart for only associating with a particular type (namely good-looking old Etonians), he became a friend to many students [FFU07-71-A]. Evidence of such close relationships can be seen in his numerous photographs of picnics, walks and days out on the river with the young men of the college. Photographs also show Urquhart’s visits to students’ homes and former schools during the vacations, and even travelling as far as Italy with them.

 

Perhaps most indicative of the close, informal relationship between Urquhart and his students is the fact that he photographed them while participating in their social activities, not while merely observing them. Many images have been taken from within rowing boats and punts, including a series of three pictures which were clearly taken while Urquhart and two students passed the camera between them to take pictures of each other. [FFU07-56-D-E-F] He is frequently pictured sitting on the grass with students, and the low perspective in many of his own photographs indicates that Urquhart had placed his camera on the grass or on his lap while sitting down with those he was photographing. [FFU07-28-A]

This album also tells us about his more staged photographs. One image appears to show Urquhart in the act of taking a portrait. He is holding an object, possibly a box camera, in his hands and pointing it at a man in uniform, who poses next to a column that reappears in many of Urquhart’s portraits. [FFU07-29-B] This picture could indicate that Urquhart’s habit of photographing students had itself become a college institution worthy of being recorded. We can see another example of cameras being used in a photograph of two men in a punt, one of whom has a folding camera beside him. [FFU07-11-E]

Urquhart’s collection of photographs was notable within the college. The walls and mantelpiece of his rooms were filled with photographs of friends, and large albums sat on top of his bookcase. Having one’s picture taken by Urquhart and displayed in his rooms must have further strengthened the personal relationships between himself and his students. It is also likely that these photographs took on a particular significance during the war, as many of the young men pictured were enlisted. In an image of Maurice Jacks and his brothers, several of the portraits included in Urquhart’s 1914-1918 album can be seen sitting in frames on the mantelpiece, including an image of Neville Talbot and Stephen Hewett. The latter had died by the time this photograph of Jacks was taken, and so the framed portrait of him acted a memento of someone who was no longer present, as indeed the whole album does today. [FFU07-58-G] [FFU07-26-I]

Sophie’s posts about FF Urquhart’s WW1-era photo album:

Post 1

Post 2

Post 3


What Balliol people read between 1677 and 1712

A guest post by Matthew Main (New College, 2012), our first OUIP (Oxford University Internship Programme) intern  of summer 2015.

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In the archives of Balliol Library there are two Folio ledgers, with dimensions suited for the task of recording tall columns of accounts. Alongside Bursar’s accounts and a partial early Library catalogue, they contain fragments of a lending register from the main College Library, chronicling intermittent periods between roughly 1677 and 1712.  The register consists of a total of 565 entries, including some that are illegible or too vague to be identified. As part of my role as an intern at Balliol Library in the summer of 2015, I transcribed the lending register, before converting it into a searchable database for researchers interested in libraries and their usage in this period.

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Use of the register was haphazard. A considerable portion of the entries remain unidentified, for various reasons; some are scored out, presumably upon the book’s return to the Library, while others are no more than an abbreviated scribble or a faded pencil mark. There appears to have been no agreed conventions for entering a record; one or more of the date, book, author, shelf mark and even borrower name may be missing from any given record. This made compiling a useful set of data a challenging task, but not an insurmountable one; I identified most books through a process of elimination and by consulting old Library catalogues.

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It is difficult to say exactly how much the register can tell us about the historical intellectual community at Balliol. Officially, the Library was for Fellows of the College, although the register occasionally records instances where undergraduates and external visitors were apparently granted special dispensation to borrow from the collections. In Balliol College: A History, John Jones remarks that if one takes the register to be a picture of the College’s scholarship, ‘the impression is left  . . . of a dilettante approach, lacking in concentrated effort or application’, an impression borne out by the dearth of meaningful academic work produced by the contemporary set of Fellows. This should not, however, put us off investigating the way that Fellows interacted on the page, and the entries offer an insight into the type of texts most commonly read in the wider period, as well as the specific, changing Balliol environment. After the Civil War, Balliol had been placed under the administration of the Bishop of Lincoln in an attempt to remedy its ailing financial health. The Fellows and successive Masters were engaged in raising funds in order to pay down accumulating College debts, many originating from years of unpaid battels, and a charitable explanation for the lack of academic output in the period might be that attentions were primarily focused elsewhere.

Close ins8QK4nF2pection of the register reveals plenty of instances where a community of readers appear to recommend certain works to one another, suggestive of interaction between scholars. The College subscribed to Philosophical Transactions and the rival journal Acta eruditorum, and Fellows perused both frequently. Plenty of books were seemingly passed around, some of them more obscure; five different people are recorded as having borrowed mostly forgotten French writer Louis Ellies du Pin’s 13-volume History of Ecclesiastical Writers (1692–1699). Mathematics and theology were generally the dominant subjects, and as Jones reminds us, these were the only fields in which anything of note was published out of Balliol between 1675 and 1725. The nature of progress in both fields is somewhat cumulative, and existing work is often superseded rather than lasting on in our cultural imagination, which means that many of the mathematicians and theologians studied at the time are not household names today. Thus the lending register allows us to recover the names of people who shaped the discourse of their respective subjects but might otherwise have been forgotten. It might be tempting for us to think of the 17th century as the era of Paradise Lost, but if Balliol possessed a copy of the poem – and catalogue records suggest that it did – then the lending register suggests that it did not appeal to any of the Fellows at the time. The register offers a rare insight into what was actually read in the College, not simply owned or bought, and might force us to modify our understanding of what readers considered to be important.

Matthew uses the portable book cradle borrowed from the Oxford Conservation Consortium to photograph early Library records at St Cross church.

Matthew uses the portable book cradle borrowed from the Oxford Conservation Consortium to photograph early College Library records at St Cross church.

During my time at Balliol I was privileged to borrow from the expertise of the archivist, Anna Sander, and the librarians, Naomi Tiley, Fiona Godber, and Rachel McDonald, all of whose guidance has been invaluable. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to gain research and professional experience and the funding that has made that possible. I hope my work can play some small part in opening up this manuscript for further study by experts in this field.

===

– Thanks to Matthew’s research project, new digital images of three important archival sources for the history of Balliol College Library are now online:

Oxford, Balliol College Archives, Library Records:


a new perspective

Copy of DSCN9482

Last week a good number of college archivists went to the new Weston Library (formerly the New Bod) in Broad Street, for a behind-the-scenes tour. I didn’t take photos inside, as there were, unsurprisingly, people everywhere, so these are all taken from the rather fabulous new roof terrace. Above, looking eastward down Holywell Street, with the King’s Arms in the foreground.

Copy of DSCN9483

Details on the former Indian Institute building (now houses the Oxford Martin School)

Copy of DSCN9484

The Clarendon Building directly across Broad Street, first home of Oxford University Press. Behind it, the twin spires of All Souls, the Old Bodleian’s Tower of the Five Orders, and the dome of the Radcliffe Camera.

Copy of DSCN9485

On the right, the Sheldonian Theatre

Copy of DSCN9486

The distinctive spire of Exeter College Chapel rises above its Broad Street neighbours

Copy of DSCN9487

Looking at hertford College in Catte Street, and one of the statues on top of the Clarendon Building

Copy of DSCN9488

a close-up of three fabulous features of the ‘dreaming spires’

Copy of DSCN9489

Aside from the rooftop views… we visited the great new conservation studio, the archives processing room, a number of open stacks and reading rooms, and several of the new spaces the Weston’s design has made available, such as a base for visiting scholars and a forthcoming digital archives centre.

Copy of DSCN9490

 

Many thanks to our tour guides, and their many colleagues in the different departments who took time out to tell us about their work!

 


monthly report July 2015

A few numbers about what was happening at St Cross during July:

  • Number of enquiries (email etc): 84
  • Number of researchers in person: 9
  • Number of person-days in the reading room: 19
  • Collections consulted: medieval mss (6), Jowett papers, C19 college records, early modern mss, AL Smith Papers, Greene-Reid papers
  • No of non-research visitors: ca 30  (filming 4, Friends of Reading Abbey 23, individual visitors)
  • blog posts: 4
  • interesting events: film crew visit re Indian history at Oxford, visit from the Friends of Reading Abbey, 3rd student intern begins work, Anna & Robin tour the new Weston Library with college archivists group
  • (Anna was away for 2 weeks)

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