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

Posts tagged “FAQ

Open Days this weekend!


Balliol College’s Historic Collections Centre at St Cross Church, Holywell

will be open to the public as part of Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust Ride & Stride

Saturday 13 September 2014 12-4 pm



Oxford Open Doors (Oxford Preservation Trust in partnership with the University of Oxford)

Saturday & Sunday 13-14 September, 12-4pm both days

There will be an exhibition in the church about the Balliol Boys’ Club and the First World War – more information on p.31

These events are of course FREE!

Ride & Stride participants, please note that the church will not be open during the whole official event time of 10am – 6pm – please come and visit us between 12-4pm.

Directions: http://archives.balliol.ox.ac.uk/Services/visit.asp#f

FAQ: Balliol Boys’ Club

Q: I am looking for information about a former member of the Balliol Boys’ Club. What was the Balliol Boys’ Club and what information do you have about the members?

A: A club for the boys of the St Ebbe’s area of South Oxford was started with Balliol support in 1907 and consolidated in 1921 as a memorial to one of the founding student members, Keith Rae (TEK Rae, Balliol, 1907).   It flourished until the late 1960s, when it was swallowed by City developments.  The 1921 endowment survives as the Keith Rae Trust which supports Youth Clubs and similar organisations.

The place to start for any researcher is the published history of the Boys’ Club: A Short History of the Balliol Boys’ Club, 1907-1950, by Cyril Bailey, and a later update A History of the Balliol Boys’ Club 1907-1971 with John Roughley and other adding to Bailey’s work. Copies of both editions are often available through second-hand dealers on the internet – try searching with Bookfinder.

Balliol Boys’ Club Papers in the College Archives:
1. Minutes & Membership

  • A. Minute books, Balliol Boys’ Club Committee
    • 1906-1908
    • 1919-1923
    • 1924-1927
    • 1946-1950
    • 1957-1970
  • B. Register of members 1940-1946, with addresses, employers etc.
  • C. Address book, members and friends, n.d. (ca 1930)

2. Log books, recording daily attendances and activities.

  • 1907-1908
  • 1908-1909
  • 1909-1910
  • 1911-1912
  • 1912-1913
  • 1913-1914
  • 1914-1915
  • 1915-1916
  • 1916-1917
  • 1917-1919
  • 1919-1921
  • 1921-1922
  • 1922-1923
  • 1924-1926
  • 1926-1927
  • 1928-1930
  • 1931

3. Club History

  • A. Papers concerning the foundation and early days of the Club, 1906-1910.
  • B. Papers concerning a scheme to finance the emigration of Club members to Australia, including details of
    Herbert Poole and Frank Slatter, who sailed together 29 Jan. 1921.
  • C. Papers concerning the building and opening of Keith Rae House, including plans and correspondence with
    Edward Rae, 1921 [see also MBP 359].
  • D. Papers concerning an extension to Keith Rae House, 1933.
  • E. Newspaper cuttings, various dates.
  • F. Photographs, various dates.
  • G. Typescript, ‘A short history of Balliol Boys’ Club 1907-1950’, by Cyril Bailey (printed at Oxford 1950).
  • H. The Master’s file concerning the Club and Keith Rae Trust, 1950-1960.

4. Printed material

  • (a) Annual Reports
    • i. 1907-1908 to 1909-1910.
    • ii. 1919 and 1929-1930 to 1937-1938 lacking 1931-1932 to 1933-1934.
    • iii. 1966. Not found July 2003.
  • (b) Magazines
    • ‘The Balliol Club Magazine’,1913, 1914, 1915,
    • ‘The Club at War’, being the War Edition of ‘The Balliol Club Magazine’, issues 1-11 [complete], 1916-1919 [Cordeaux & Merry, University vol., 6774].
    • ‘The Balliol Club Magazine’, 1920, 1921, 1924, 1927, 1928, 1931 (“Volume 1”), 1932 (“No 2”), 1933 (“No 3″), 1935 (“No 5”), 1937 (no number) and 1938 (no number).
  • (c) Souvenir: ‘The Opening of Keith Rae House, Oxford. Saturday November 19th, 1921’.
  • (d) C. Bailey, ‘A Short History of the Balliol Boys’ Club, 1907-1950’, printed in Oxford 1950. There are also duplicates (in some cases several copies) of some of (b)-(d) above; see also MBP 32(2), MISC 43, MISC 79.6.

5. Accounts and financial papers including vouchers and paid cheques for some periods, 1907-1969.

6. Miscellaneous: including award certificates of various kinds (amateur dramatics; athletics); boxing programmes and related material; scraps; relics (trophies etc.).

7. Miscellaneous acquisitions 1986-1993: numerous photographs, cuttings and memorabilia.

8. Papers and correspondence concerning the closure of the Club 1971-3.

9. Arthur Greenwood’s Club Cricket Cap, Club badges and medals. Presented by Aubrey Greenwood, 1993.

10. Club badges presented by A.E. Marchetti and G. Wakeman, 1987; different from each other and the badge in 9. above.

11. The Club’s paid cheques 1932-1933.

12. The cap badge and medals of T.H.K. Rae, killed at Hooge 1915. Presented by Colin Rae 1993.

13. The printing block for the illustration of the new Club House which appears opposite p.24 in Bailey op cit (see 4(d) above).

14. An address by Edward Rae, Balliol Boys’ Club Anniversary Service 19 Nov. 1922.

These records are open to researchers and can be consulted in the usual way, in the college archives at St Cross Cross, Holywell, by prior appointment with the archivist.

The Balliol Boys’ Club magazines for 1913 and 1921 have been digitised and are available to view online here.

Aside from mentions in minutes, accounts of Club Camps etc, Balliol does not have in its records systematic membership lists or other personal information about the involvement of individual Balliol students or local Oxford boys in the Club.

The Balliol Boys’ Club war memorial now hangs in the college archives at St Cross Church, Holywell. All names on the memorial are listed online here.

Further reading:

Information re JA Cowles, a former member of the Balliol Boys’ Club, at the Canadian Letters and Images Project.


Under this stone lies Gabriel John
In the year of our Lord one thousand and one
Cover his head with turf or stone
‘Tis all one, ’tis all one, with turf or stone
’tis all one.

Q: The grave marker of [past member of Balliol] in [X cemetery] in [Y city/county/country] is in a shocking state of disrepair. Why on earth doesn’t Balliol College look after it properly??

A: Because Balliol College is not responsible for the maintenance of gravestones of its deceased members or employees, eminent or obscure. The college has been known to contribute to appeals for the restoration of individual gravestones or other memorials, but is not responsible for organising, funding or maintaining such upkeep. The college does, however, welcome information on the burial places of its past members and will add it to that member’s individual dossier in the College Archives, though some sort of corroborating evidence is required, e.g. images of the memorial and its surroundings. Memorials within the college precinct – which of course the college is responsible for and does look after – are listed online here. A few known burial places of e.g. former Masters of Balliol are listed here. 

This query comes up regularly, and is in the same category as the Blue Plaque Question. Some of the response to that question applies here as well.


Q: I visited the college recently and saw through the gate of the private garden what seemed to be a large tomb. Can you please inform me as to what it is and who may be buried there?

A: The feature you ask about stands in the Fellows’ Garden and is known as ‘Dervorguilla’s tomb’, but is not a tomb at all. It does not contain any burials, and never has. It is made up of architectural fragments from a former chapel and front gatehouse of the college.

Balliol photos on flickr 


Q: King John Balliol is my 20th Great – Grandfather and I am having a difficult time finding any books on or about him. Do you have any suggestions?
A: John de Balliol, King of Scots, also known as Toom Tabard, was the son of John de Balliol and his wife Dervorguilla of Galloway, who founded Balliol College, Oxford. Balliol College holds no original documentation or information about John de Balliol King of Scots. Please see our Founders page for a summary and a list of several sources; his ODNB entry by GP Stell provides further bibliography.


Q: I understand that a ring that once belonged to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and was the symbol of the great epic ‘The Ring and the Book’ by Robert Browning was given to your Library by Fannie Barrett Browning, and that you own it. May I see the ring, or an image of it?

A: The ring in Balliol’s Browning collection, though it did indeed belong to Robert Browning, is not the ring which is referred to as ‘the ring’ in ‘The Ring and the Book’.

Description of the ring from ‘The Ring and the Book’:

Do you see this Ring?
‘Tis Rome-work, made to match
(By Castellani’s imitative craft)
Etrurian circlets found, some happy morn,
After a dropping April; found alive
Spark-like ‘mid unearthed slope-side figtree- roots
That roof old tombs at Chiusi: soft, you see,
Yet crisp as jewel-cutting. There’s one trick,
(Craftsmen instruct me) one approved device
And but one, fits such slivers of pure gold
As this was, such mere oozings from the mine,
Virgin as oval tawny pendent tear
At beehive-edge when ripened combs o’erflow,
To bear the file’s tooth and the hammer’s tap:
Since hammer needs must widen out the round,
And file emboss it fine with lily-flowers,
Ere the stuff grow a ring-thing right to wear.
That trick is, the artificer melts up wax
With honey, so to speak; he mingles gold
With gold’s alloy, and, duly tempering both,
Effects a manageable mass, then works.
But his work ended, once the thing a ring,
Oh, there’s repristination! Just a spirt
O’ the proper fiery acid o’er its face,
And forth the alloy unfastened flies in fume;
While, self- sufficient now, the shape remains,
The rondure brave, the lilied loveliness
Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore:
Prime nature with an added artistry
No carat lost, and you have gained a ring.
What of it? ‘Tis a figure, a symbol, say;
A thing’s sign: now for the thing signified.

The ring described is a Castellani ring, elaborately decorated with lily flowers. The ring at Balliol is very plain, with the word ‘VIS MEA’ on it, but no Etruscan Castellani work and no lilies. Fannie Barrett Browning mistakenly thought that it was ‘the ring’, but Browning’s own description shows that the ring in the poem is completely different. Scholars have unfortunately followed Fannie’s mistaken identification.

Balliol’s ring:

It is not clear whether ‘the ring’ in the poem actually existed, or was just in Browning’s imagination. There is a full account of this in ‘The Poetical Works of Robert Browning, Volume Seven, The Ring and the Book’ ed. Stefan Hawlin and Tim Burnett, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998 p.8 and Appendix D, pp 326-36. They conclude that the VIS MEA ring given to Robert Browning by Isa Blagden is not the ring in the poem. They think that a ring which resembles the ring in the poem is to be found in the British Museum, Finger Ring 356.