Part of this exhibition was originally a Document of the Week in Michaelmas Term 2005. It features two letters from Dr Ernest Walker to Cedric Glover, written from Oxford in August 1916 and demonstrating something of the strange contrasts of Oxford life during wartime.
August 11, 1916
My Dear Cedric,
Very glad indeed to have news of you: I was wondering whereabouts you were. Where is Ronald? [?Knox] Greetings to him, and also best remembrances to your father and mother, please!
Balliol is a queer place nowadays: I don’t suppose we shall have 20 people up next term. We went on with the regular concerts (fortnightly) up till the end of the summer term 1915, doing our Strauss and Reger and Kreisler and our songs in German as usual up to the end: but we then suspended operations, inevitably. For the last year we have been having “by and fors” (in the wide sense of the word, including any military birds of passage that could do things – some of them quite good), with the same quality of music as usual, but no printed programmes [p.2] of any kind and no audience except masculines. We got a quite fair lot of people always: though I don’t mean to say that some of them mayn’t have found it slightly strong meat when an old Magdalen man, quartered in Oxford, gave them a dozen or so of the biggest Hugo Wolf songs on end, or when I played Reger after the news of his death reached here. I daresay we may be able to go on with something of the same kind next term – there has been a steady flow of officer-cadets into Oxford, hundreds of them. But I really haven’t a notion about the future, in any way at all. The OUMC and the OUMO have formally [p.3] amalgamated (with the Holywell Room): I expect the MO would certainly have been bankrupt in isolation, and the MC would have been in a queer way: as it is, the joint society is financially very shaky indeed for the time being, but I dare say we shall keep it going more or less. The Ladies Society goes ahead as usual, except there they refuse to engage Herschel or the Aranyis or apparently anyone whose great-great-great-grandparents were Germans. Miss Marga Deneke is on the concert committee, and has had a good many of her plans squashed in absurd fashion. It’s a queer world, and during the last two years, some individuals in it have [p.4] turned out even queerer than one could have expected.
You seem to have been managing to get a lot of music added to your collection, anyhow. Don’t know of any translations of Pohl or Thayer, myself. Can’t stand the Debussy ‘cello sonata, except for very little bits of it: the man seems to have written himself out. Grovlez sent me his last piano things, and I was very much disappointed with them – just the ordinary fashionable Parisianism, I thought: nor do I care for his violin sonata, which I ran through with Miss Gates (I think) not long ago. Don’t know the last Scriabin, nor the Tcherepnine quartet: but I came across some very fine songs of T. lately. Well, I suppose some day or other we may get music normally again!
I heard from Oboussier the other day: he asked after all his friends and I gave him what news I could.
I should be delighted to hear from you again! All best from
Yours [ver]y sincerely,
[top of p.1] (In Merionethshire for the moment, but back in Oxford next week.)
[Editor’s note: Thanks to Kamile Vaupsaite for deciphering the names of Thayer and Grovlez!]
22 August 1916
28, St Margaret’s Road, Oxford
My Dear Cedric,
Many thanks for your note; I am quite reassured. The matter had various ramifications into which I needn’t go: as you no doubt understand that in this very queer world it is important that the whole of the Ladies’ Club’s various oddities should be kept altogether dark, for the sake of the Arányis (who don’t know anything of them), and Miss Deneke and everybody else!
I quite forgot, by-the-bye, when sending on the message to his friends from Oboussier, the Swiss fiddler who was at Worcester for the year before the war, that a relative veteran of 1913 like you might never have met him! I lose count of dates so easily as a permanent limpet here.
I must look up Mr. Jarnach. When this whole bad dream is over and we have more music together, I must show you some things of a wild young Anglo-French creature, a Home Student at Cherwell Edge, who is working with me. She is liable to come the most ultra-modernist croppers any minute, and I doubt if her songs can be sung in tune: but she produced a few weeks ago a [B flat?] Prelude that seems to be really beautiful in its way, and quite unlike anything I know.
I am at present engaged in some music for a children’s play by Mrs. Balfour (Harold Joachim’s sister). It is all about vegetables, and one has to represent musically the essential characteristics of carrots and cabbages and so on: I am rather pleased with a very first-impressionistic but quite unmistakable Cauliflower that I have just evolved: it starts – [MS music]
All very best wishes, and looking forward to any amount more of music together!
Yours very sincerely,
Ernest Walker (1870-1949) , musicologist, composer, organist and Hon Fellow of Balliol
The Balliol Music Society’s 1745th Sunday Concert on Oct 16 2005 (Sunday 2nd week) was the annual Ernest Walker Concert, commemorating Dr Walker’s contribution to College life, and in particular College music, during his long career at Balliol 1887-1925.
Ernest Walker came up to Balliol in 1887 to study Litterae Humaniores (Classics) under WR Hardie and RL Nettleship. He received his BA in 1891, became assistant organist to John Farmer at Balliol and earned a BMus (1893) and DMus (1898). He became organist and director of music at Balliol upon Farmer’s retirement in 1901; although he gave up the post of organist in 1913 on religious grounds, he retained the directorship until his retirement in 1925. Under his direction, the Sunday Concerts developed to a very high standard.
In addition to his involvement in College music, he was instrumental in the University’s musical life as a busy teacher and examiner; he held the posts of Choragus of the University 1918-1922 and Lecturer for the University Professor of Music from 1899.
Dr Walker was well-known in the musical world beyond Oxford as a prolific and insightful critic, reviewer and musicologist. His voluminous correspondence portrays a thoughtful and self-effacing character possessed of a whimsical sense of humour and a great deal of affection and regard for his many friends and colleagues – not to mention decided musical opinions!
Ladies’ Club: the Oxford Ladies’ Musical Society, founded in 1898 because the university musical society did not admit women, and still in existence – though now co-ed – as the Oxford Chamber Music Society. Papers of the OLMS are in the Bodleian.
- Balliol College, MSS Ernest Walker and accrual Accn 05/139, letters to Cedric Glover
- Bodleian Library, music MSS
- Bailey, C. ‘ Walker, Ernest (1870-1949)’, rev. Jeremy Dibble, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/36688, accessed 26 Sept 2005]
- Balliol College Register (1933, 1950)
- Deneke, M. Ernest Walker (1951)
- Hull , R. ‘Ernest Walker’, Music Review, 10 (1949), 205–6
Welcome to our second guest poster, Mary Addison!
This post was originally published by Mary Addison on 16 November 2013 at http://www.addisonembroideryatthevicarage.co.uk/2013/11/16/farewell-to-the-library-chairs/, and is reposted here with the author’s kind permission.
Balliol library Chair 1950?-2013.
An Oxford college library is a wonderful place to work in but has lots of potential for distracting staff away from library housekeeping. Not only are the books an ever present source of temptation but the buildings and fittings themselves constantly vie to catch your attention – from the acanthus leaves carved into the top of oak bookcases (James Wyatt 1791-4), the ceiling bosses (also late C18th and including simple circlets of leaves, a green man and an ourobouros – the coiled self-devouring serpent ) to the bits of medieval stained glass which, in Balliol Library, include the earliest representation of the coat of arms now universally recognised as that of the university itself.
Balliol College Library: Photograph of 1962 of the New Library (now known as the Reading Room)
The Arts and Crafts style oak chairs, a variant on the Windsor chair, were also a striking presence. Over the years broken spindles and legs have been repaired by the college workshop and until recently there always seemed to be enough spare parts. Over the last year, however, it had become increasingly apparent that new chairs were needed … and imminently.
Balliol College Library: old library chair with cushions
A supplier and style of chairs were chosen – an arcane process done behind closed doors and probably involving smoke, mirrors, hot towels, and baton changes as the Librarian, rather like Dr Who, went through several manifestations (Librarian/Acting Librarian/Librarian/Acting Librarian covering for the Librarian on maternity leave – all within 6 months). Surprisingly quickly a prototype appeared and took its place in the library accompanied by a box for comments.
Balliol College Library: The Old Library with the new chair (2013)
At first, armed with my dislike of the idea of change, I thought there was too much of the G-Plan domestic dining room chair of the 60s about them but closer inspection revealed they were sturdy with well-made joints, very generously sized, had comfortable seats and back rests in well padded leather. They were quite – but not too – heavy, so no rocking back on the 2 back legs with these chairs.
Balliol College Library: the Reading Room with the old chairs
Balliol College Library: the Reading Room with the new chairs
I dreaded the changeover. I had loved the old style chairs which brought with them a whiff of the country house style of the early 1930s. On the day of the swop over, those of us not involved in the logistics of chair moving kept to our lower library lair and out of the way as an enfilade of the old chairs were marched through the middle of our office on their way to temporary storage in the annexe.
Balliol College Library: the Old Library with the old chair
Balliol College Library: the Old Library with the new chair
The new chairs came in 3 lots and after the first batch were in place in the Old Library (1791 but in part going back to early C15) I emerged with some trepidation and a slightly heavy heart to survey the new character of the library. But the funny thing was, although my critical faculties were poised for attack and my aesthetic sensibilities were ready to take a bruising, the library looked little different from before. Excellent.
Balliol College Library: 1928 design
The practical advantages also became apparent very quickly. While the old chairs were mainly loved for their looks, the increased comfort of the new chairs wheedled its way into the students’ hearts. Indeed, suddenly people remembered how the the spindles on the back of the old chairs were a torment and how the oak seat, though hollowed out in an attempt at bottom friendliness, needed more than one of the custom-made cushions which albeit in plentiful supply had got thinner and thinner with age. Now, girls (usually) could be seen working with their legs tucked up into the chair and one or two people even fell asleep with head lolling on the back rest (as opposed to slumped on the table in front). (Were they too comfortable?) Bags could be hooked more easily over the back of the chair which should help keep the floor free of at least some personal belongings. From our point of view each chair occupied a smaller floor area and the arms slipped under more of the desks and tables; even shelving books was easier. People liked them. What a relief.
Balliol College Library: Library chair 1950?-2013
The old library chairs had been part of the library for about 80 years, which sounds pretty amazing for a set of chairs. All of the ones we replaced must have been more than 50 years old as they appear in a photograph of 1962 when the mezzanine was put in to make the Reading Room (see above) as we know it today. (It was originally the dining hall until a new one was built by Waterhouse in the C19th). The College Archivist did some rootling around in her archives and came up with an original order and drawings for a similar chair dating from 1928. Hand annotation on these papers indicate certain modifications were to be carried out and that further amendments could also be made. In fact there were considerable changes. The carved Catherine Wheel (St.Catherine is the college’s patron saint) disappeared as did the little table top going across the arms at the front. Our chair has slightly more elegant legs and the design origins in the Windsor chair are also more apparent. Indeed, virtually the only design element linking our chairs with the 1928 drawing is the very unusual curve of the arm when viewed from the side, but this feature is so distinctive as to make me feel certain that chair and drawing have a familial relationship. The Archivist suggests that there may be further drawings and letters in amongst college documents which might resolve these issues and give us a firmer date for the chairs’ first appearance. Such research is tempting but at the moment it is not a high priority project.
Balliol College Library 1959 (Before major internal reorganisation) with old library chair
We were all fascinated that the firm supplying the 1928 chairs and the joinery was based in St Aldates. If there was a workshop, the company must have occupied quite a big footprint and as yet we haven’t worked out quite where. Much land there belongs to Christ Church and buildings may have been converted for different use, knocked down or may even still be there but behind buildings fronting on to the road. This is also another area for further research. If anyone knows anything about it, we would love to hear from you.
A letter of tender (26/10/1928) for Balliol Library chairs from Thomas S Bott, shop-fitter, display case maker, proprietor of machine joinery works under his name at 35 St Aldates, Oxford.
Balliol College Library: a corner of the Reading Room with old library chairs
Balliol College Library: corner of the Reading Room with new library chairs
I receive regular enquiries about individuals who attended short leave courses at Balliol during WW2; unfortunately the reply is a fairly simple and standard one, and I hope this post will help to explain the lack of records at the college.
Balliol’s Broad Street site was occupied by Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs) from the autumn of 1939 until August 1943. Other wartime organisations housed at Balliol included the Joint Recruiting Board and the Institute of Statistics, which remained until 1946. The Short Leave course programme began on 9 August 1943 and ended in October 1945. The few students in residence were housed next door in Trinity College.
The idea for the Courses came from AD Lindsay (Master of Balliol 1924-1949) but their administration was through a University committee and the War Office and we have no formal records about them. The courses were based in college premises, which at that time housed other categories of war work as well, but they were not part of the University of Oxford curriculum and course participants were not members of ‘their’ colleges (though many had fond memories of their time here and some continued the connection later in life) or of the University. Balliol holds very little information about the courses themselves and less about individual participants. Below is an extract from John Jones’ Balliol College: a History regarding the WW2 Short Leave Courses, pp280-1.:
‘The Courses each ran for about a week, comprising lectures on aspects of English life and culture, discussions and social events. Some seventy or eighty servicemen [and -women], mostly American and Canadian but with a sprinkling of British and other nationalities, attended each Course. There were only short breaks between Courses, and several thousand people had passed through the College in this way when the programme ended in October 1945. The drive and finance came from the Westminster Fund, a private trust for the promotion of Anglo-American understanding, of which Lindsay was a trustee; local administration was in ths hands of a Committee chaired by him, wth Giles Alington of University College as coordinator. Two Balliol dons were regularly involved as lecturer: MR Ridley and JN Bryson. Every effort was made to make those attending feel that they were welcome, and inthat they had joined the College in a small way, as indeed the certificates they were given on departure implied.
‘As the bureaucratic aspects of the Courses had nothing to do with Balliol itself, there are no systematic records in the Archives. In particular, very few names of the participants are known to the College.’
From a brochure advertising ‘The Flying Deck University’ (coordinating all kinds of education for American forces personnel in Britain), ‘Short Courses at British Universities: Officers and enlisted men are eligible to attend a week’s course in a variety of subjects at England’s outstanding universities. The courses, taken while the soldier is on leave or furlough, normally begin on a Monday afternoon and extend through the following Saturday. Personnel live on the college campus and take part in college activities consistent with the course. The fee for each course is £3 12s. 0d. for officers and £1 12s. 0d. for enlisted personnel. This includes the cost of billet and food. Currently, courses are available at the following institutions: Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham U., Leeds U., Edinburgh U. and St Andrews University, Scotland and Stratford-on-Avon.’
Course certificates: certificates of participation in Short Leave Courses were not issued by Balliol College, and the college cannot issue replacements.
There are several small deposits of relevant material about the Short Leave Courses in the archives:
- MISC 46. Material, including many photographs, re Short Leave Courses, 1945.
- MISC 74. A photograph showing Mrs Evelyn Beale (Hospitality Hostess) with a “Short Leave Course” group on the hall steps in 1945, and associated correspondence.
- MISC 98.10 Correspondence with a participant in a Short Leave Course in 1944; including a list of names of those attending the Course beginning on 31 July 1944, and also a copy of a letter from Giles Alington, Course Secretary, giving details of the domestic and other arrangements. Also similar material re the Course beginning 26 Feb. 1945 deposited in 1992, with correspondence etc. Ditto Course 24 July1944 deposited in 1996.
Images are now online HERE of:
a sample certificate of participation in a Short Leave Course
all lists held at Balliol of participants in short leave courses: 24 July 1944, 31 July 1944, 26 Feb 1945
all programmes held at Balliol of short leave courses
The archivist would be glad to hear from anyone with further information about, programmes from or lists of participants in short leave courses at Balliol College via email: archivist[at]balliol.ox.ac.uk.
College rowing is a minefield – or treasure trove – of arcane jargon. Here’s an explanation of one term: scratch boats (can be eights, fours or pairs):
A scratch eight was a boat made up of some college rowers and some non-rowers for a college regatta – that is, a single-college regatta, boats all made up only of Balliol men racing against each other. Judging from 19th and early 20th century Boat Club training records, scratch boats had a couple of training outings before the regatta, if that. There are no longer single-college regattas, but the name survives in the Christ Church Regatta, which is held in December for novice boats from all colleges, and the scratch boat tradition survives in what are now called beer boats, rugger boats or gentlemen’s boats at Summer Eights – that is, groups who get together with little or no training, to compete in the lower divisions of the intercollege competition, for fun.
Occasionally I am asked about pewter commemorative tankards, inscribed with the title of an event – ‘ Balliol College Scratch Fours 1902,’ for instance. These are indeed commemorative tankards and not trophies, not an award but a souvenir of the event, and probably each of the members of the boat had an identical one.
One illustrative example from the records: from the 1889 journal I gather that the Balliol College Regatta was quite large, and happened in early June, a few weeks after Summer Eights. It involved only Balliol men; the event in 1889 started with four heats of three coxed fours, followed by five scratch eights in two heats and 10 pairs in 3 heats.
composition of one of the 5 Eights:
Bow J.A. JOHNSTON (Balliol 1885, College 2nd Torpid)
2 D.J (not I). YOUNG (Balliol 1885, no College rowing)
3 H.J. O’BEIRNE (Balliol 1884, coxed College 2nd Torpid)
4 W.B. BROWN (Balliol 1883, no College rowing)
5 H.L. HERVEY (Balliol 1884, no College rowing)
6 D.W. MONTGOMERY (Balliol 1885, College 2nd Torpid)
7 F.W. GALPIN (Balliol 1884, College Torpid, Eight and OU Trials)
Stroke F.J. WYLIE (Balliol 1884, College Torpid & Eight)
Cox L. HARRIS (not Balliol)
Stroke pair were experienced rowers (they set the pace and rhythm for the whole boat, so must be the strongest and most skilled); Bow, 3 and 6 had done a little rowing but were only in their first year (Torpids boats trained very little before the March races in those days, and O’Beirne didn’t row but coxed) and 2, 4 and 5 had done no other rowing. Cox was borrowed from another college – with inexperienced rowers in the boats and several boats on the river, it was probably wise to have experienced coxes in all the boats! Scratch boats for 1889 are similarly balanced. Unfortunately, we have no photographs of the college regatta for any year.