– 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 “Q&A

Q&A: war memorials at St Cross Church

There are four WW1 memorials in St Cross Church, Holywell – two also record information about the fallen in WW2.

St Cross parish War Memorial

WWI fallen: AS Adams, FF Hunt, EV Giles, CB Wren, TW Haydon, EH Freeman, HE Miller

St Peter’s-in-the-East parish War Memorial.

This was in the parish church of St Peter’s–in-the-East, which is now the Library of St Edmund Hall. It was brought to St Cross and placed on the north tower pier facing the St Cross War Memorial when St Peter’s was closed as a parish church. It is now permanently fixed in the south aisle next to the St Catherine’s Society memorial.

WWI fallen: R Andrews, J Balaam, C Butler, GRW Dickinson, H Griffith, RB Macan, E Rix, A Roe, AF Salmon, THS Townsend, MB Wilks, J Williams

WWII fallen: HC Nicholl-Smith


St Catherine’s Society War Memorial

For information about the Society, see the History of St Catherine’s College.

WWI fallen: RA Abrams,T Baker, EK Bonsey , EW Brooks, AC Burrows, T Cann, BM Carpenter, HF Clarke, HTS Cole, HC Crichton, F Dann, R Dell, WR Dibb, GRW Dickinson, HJ Dunn, Rev.VS Dunstan, KM Dyott, H Garth, Rev HJB Green, NGB King, C Lakin, C Lewis, DG Lloyd-Williams , DJ Macdonald, Rev GH Merrikin, WC Milne, JA Moore , JHC Morris, AC Neale, PLS Phipps, HT Pitcairn, GH Pollard, CB Shrewsbury, S Spencer, TG Thomas, TJB Trowman, CS Unwin, OT Walton, THH Ward, FL Warland, FWWhitlock, EE Wicks, SA Wilkes, HMWillimas, TPC Wilson THH Wood, AJ Wooldridge

WWII fallen: HF Banister, WAO Chandler, S Coshall, CGP Cuthbert, KG Hope, EWG Hudgel, PO Johnson, EA Legrand, EW McKeeman, AS Mitchell, GS Morris, HC Pugh , LF Sheppard, RWO Spender, JR Stephen, MD Thomas, BG Tillyard, CW Turner, ACA White, WD Paul.

Transcriptions and other information are repeated here, along with lists of the other known burials in the church. For more information about the war memorials and other commemorative inscriptions in St Cross Church, see JH Jones’ history of the building and parish. All surviving parish records, including burial records, are at the Oxfordshire History Centre. Balliol does not keep copies in the church.

Also at St Cross church is the WW1 memorial of the Balliol Boys’ Club; more information here, and all names listed here.

spam spam spam not lovely spam

Q: I’ve emailed you at least once in the past month and haven’t had a reply.

A: (searches every email sent or received ever) This is the first time I’ve heard from you. Could you forward me a copy of your previous message?

Q: Here it is:

From: enquirer@email.com
Sent: date
To: archivist [at] balliol.ox.ac.uk
Subject: Hello



A: (twigs, checks junk mail) Aha, it disappeared into the spam box because of the vague subject  line – lots of spam and e-swindles are titled ‘Hello my friend’ etc. Enquiries titled e.g. ‘I need your help’, ‘Looking for a relative’ or ‘Urgent response required’, though reasonable in e.g. a family history research query, will have the same problem. Subject lines left blank? Bin. Exclamation marks? Bin. All caps in the subject line? Bin. Using red/green/purple text? Bin. Sending to lots of different email addresses at once? Bin.

It’s increasingly important these days to make your archives enquiry email look genuinely addressed to a particular person about something particular. Institutional addresses are bombarded daily with zillions of spam messages, not to mention things with malware and viruses attached. Firewalls and spam-detection levels are raised accordingly, usually by the institution’s IT department rather than individual users who do not normally have that kind of control, so it’s easier for messages to be automatically junked without the intended recipient ever seeing them. Due to the increasing volume, hardly anybody ever checks their spam boxes for possible genuine messages.

Best to use something short, clear and specific, e.g. ‘[College name] archives enquiry’ or similar. Using the name of the person you’re writing to in the salutation will also help lower the spam score.

If you are repeating a previous email enquiry that may have gone astray, include a copy of the first attempt, with headers (From, To, Date, Subject), in your next one. Email delivery and search functions aren’t perfect and do break down, and it may help, if not to find your first email, at least to let the archivist know when it was sent and what the original query was about.

Q&A: the Register

When using the Balliol College Register images online, I am confused by sets of usually 3 initials in parentheses, following the Balliol years in the education section of many entries. What do they mean?

Initials in parentheses are those of that student’s Balliol tutor(s). You can find a list of tutors’ initials just before the Index, and then use the Index to find that tutor’s own entry.

College Register 2nd edition 1833-1933

College Register 3rd edition 1900-1950

a query

How can I access a copy of George F. Kennan’s Reith Lecture of 1957? Many thanks.

Thank you for your enquiry re Reith lectures of GF Kennan (George Eastman Professor at Balliol College 1957/8). If you Google ‘kennan reith lectures’ you will see that the BBC has made audio and full transcripts available online.

reading closely

tcd1An interesting enquiry from last year, demonstrating that the internet is a brilliant research tool, but that like any source it needs careful interpretation, and that not all immediately available information is correct or complete.

The enquirer requests information on William Hussey 1867-1939, son of Thomas Hussey of Kensington, stating that the images sent with the enquiry, of a Ladies’ Challenge Cup medal,  clearly show that WH rowed for Balliol when they won that particular race in 1891.

The enquirer has probably searched for something like ‘ladies challenge cup 1891’ and found the Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladies’_Challenge_Plate for the Henley Regatta’s Ladies’ Challenge Plate race, won by a Balliol crew in 1891, and concluded that Hussey must have been part of this crew.

In fact the medal shows nothing of the kind, and a closer look reveals quite a different story.

First I checked whether William Hussey had indeed been a member of Balliol – the college registers are not 100% infallible, but they are pretty good. No result, so back to the medal for other clues. A little more scratching around online revealed several things that didn’t add up to support the Henley & Balliol assumption:

  • Date: Henley is always held over the first weekend in July, but 1 July 1891 was a Wednesday. (thanks Time and Date!)tcd2
  • Race name: the Ladies’ Challenge Plate race at Henley has never been known as the Ladies’ Challenge Cup – it is the only Henley trophy that isn’t the Something Cup.
  • Winner name: the LCP is an Eights race, not an individual one, so even if each member of the winning Eight had a commemorative medal, it would not be inscribed ‘won by [any single name]’. Cf. Henley commemorative medals at http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/18783/lot/59/, a particularly nice find after searching for images of the LCP medals for visual comparison.
  • Double-checking with another source – even supposing everything else was somehow wrong, we have a photograph of the Balliol Eight that did win the LCP in 1891; the rowers were: Rofe, Rawstone, Darbishire, Mountmorres, Fielding, T Rogers, Farmer, F Rogers, cox Craig-Sellar. Not surprisingly, no Hussey.

So if it was not at all connected with the Henley Royal Regatta or Balliol’s win there in 1891, what is this medal? Balliol-based evidence stops here, but ‘we have no further information about this’ seemed a bit abrupt when most of what I had already found out was from non-Balliol sources anyway. Besides, by this time I wanted an answer to the puzzle, if I could find one!

Look at it again – the intertwined letters on the medal look like T C D, in a distinctively Irish style, and Trinity College Dublin’s Regatta does include a Ladies’ Challenge Cup race. But to check up further, one might try looking at the club’s own site: http://www.tcdlife.ie/clubs/boat/archive.php. The answer is probably in Raymond Blake’s book, In Black and White: A History of Rowing at Trinity
College Dublin
. My research ends here; I can’t spend any more time on this enquiry, and the answer won’t add to knowledge of the Balliol archives.

And there are still questions: why should the medal read TCD when TCD’s boat club has been known as the Dublin University Boat Club since 1847? Is the DUBC (TCD) Ladies’ Challenge Cup race rowed by singles or eights? Is there any evidence at all that this is a rowing medal?

It’s rare that answers to archival enquiries are either complete or absolute – often, the best we can hope for is to add another interesting piece to the puzzle, or point in another direction.

Q&A: digitisation

Q: Responding to a good query from @ojleaf for the #AskACurator conversation on Twitter: If you are digitising precious documents, does it frustrate you if people still want to handle the original?

A: No.

See previous post about the constant balance between preservation and access.

First, for ‘precious’ read ‘OLD.’  It’s hard to remember that a medieval manuscript in good condition, with its illustrations still bright and its parchment still smooth, is at least FIVE HUNDRED years old and may be much older. Parchment is very tough stuff, and ancient books can be enormous and very heavy. It is hard to remember that such physically formidable objects really are fragile. That doesn’t necessarily mean that pages will tear easily, or even that the books will break into bits if you drop them. They are physically vulnerable, especially the ink/paint and bindings, but less obviously, they are also chemically vulnerable – to our warm breath, to the oils on our hands, to the light we read by.

‘Because I want to feel closer to the past’ is a completely understandable reason for someone to request direct access to, say, a medieval manuscript book, but not a valid one on its own. I sympathise (all very well for me, I have direct contact with these things every day – at least in theory) but in principle, what seems more important to me (and there is always a balance to be struck between the two) is access to information rather than access to objects. HOWEVER!  if a researcher is able to demonstrate that he or she needs information from the original document that is not obtainable from a facsimile, then of course I’ll produce the original. This happens quite often. Using facsimiles, especially good quality digital images, is a great way for most researchers to get most of the information they need without having to expose the original to the wear ( = damage) of repeated handling and changes in light, temperature and humidity.

Eventually a researcher may well have to come and check the original manuscript in person, but advance preparation and familiarity with the contents, layout and visual characteristics of the manuscripts – and potential problems – will make the time spent with the originals that much more productive. Thanks to digital images, that time may be reduced from days or weeks to a matter of hours. In practical terms, having access to decent digital images, preferably in advance of a visit to see the original (but better afterwards than never) will usually mean:

  • ability to
    • view images at much-magnified resolution, i.e. larger than the original
    • manipulate images to improve colour, contrast etc – so many manuscripts are written in brown on brown
    • view pages in any order, any number of times
    • reconstitute original order in cases of misbinding
    • juxtapose images of pages which are not physically facing each other
    • view more than one opening at a time
    • use images in illustrations for discussion, publications presentation, teaching etc
    • sit in comfort at home, at own computer, in own chair, with own mug
  • reduction of
    • number of research trips
    • travel time
    • travel and accommodation costs
    • time spent in archives, where (with the best will in the world) light may be low, temperatures unpleasant, access awkward, chairs uncomfortable, and pens, water, cough sweets and tea not allowed!

We hope that’s an improvement for everyone. And we do have exhibitions of all sorts of items from the special collections – even if visitors are not able to leaf through a 400-year-old Aldine imprint, they can get pretty close to a good number of Exciting Old Things and hopefully find some interesting information about them in the captions or catalogue. Maybe some will be inspired to start their own research projects…

Q&A: digitisation

I was recently asked: ‘I noticed that quite a bit of material from your archives has been digitized, and that you have put it to fine use by widening access to the collection on the website and through online exhibitions.  I wondered how you are going about digitizing the items – are you working in-house, or are you using an external organization to do it, or a mixture of both? Please could you tell me how this is being financed, and if you are aiming to digitize the whole archive or just a part?’ This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked about my digitization programme at Balliol, and it prompted a bit of an essay on how I do things now and how that has changed since I began in October 2010. So here’s is an update to what I was thinking then.

web1Who does the work?

I do the digitising myself – I have an excellent A3 scanner and a serviceable but outdated camera which I’m about to replace. I allocate a few hours a week to scanning & photography so that it progresses regularly, if not quickly, but I am posting about 2000 images a month these days.

The occasional exception is when someone wants to photograph an entire manuscript or series for their own research; in such cases I ask for copies of the images and permission to publish them online and make them freely available to other researchers, with credit to the photographer of course. So far the few people I’ve asked have been very happy to do this, since they have had free access and permission to photograph. (Sometimes their images are not as good as mine, so then I don’t bother!)

There are also numerous documents in the collections that are just too big for me to photograph – eventually, if and when they are asked for, we will have to think about having someone in to photograph them systematically. So far the multiple photos of each that I or the researcher have been able to do has sufficed.

For now at least, I have decided against a systematic digitisation of our microfilms of the medieval manuscripts. This would involve a lot of time and effort to fund and arrange, the images would all be black and white, and of variable quality, and there are knotty questions of copyright as well. Some of the MSS were only partly microfilmed, and none has more than a single full-page perpendicular view for each page – no closeups or angles to get closer to initials, erasures, annotations, marginalia or tight gutters, so there would still be considerable photography to do anyway. Also, see below.

Why don’t you apply for a grant and have a professional photographer do more than you can do yourself?

So far, I’m able to fulfil reprographics orders in a pretty timely manner and to a standard that satisfies enquirers. Aside from cost and time management for individual orders, because I can respond individually and fit them in around my other tasks, the great advantage of doing the digitisation myself is that I am getting to know the collections extremely well. If we had an outside photographer do it, all that direct encounter with each page would go to someone with no real interest in the collections, what a waste. This way,  I’m checking in a lot of detail for physical condition, learning to recognise individuals’ handwriting, discovering/replacing missing or misplaced items, prioritising items that need conservation or repackaging, noticing particularly visually attractive bits for later use in exhibitions and so on, and not least ensuring that items are properly numbered – which many are not!

What is the cost?

???????????????????Because I work reprographics orders into my regular work schedule, there is no extra cost, except the £50 or so fee every 2 years for our unlimited Flickr account.

Do you charge for access?

I always mention that donations are welcome, but in general I do not charge for reprographics. Most of the requests are from within academia, and I think HE institutions have a responsibility to be helpful and cooperative with each other and with the public, particularly when it comes to access to unique items. On the one hand, I know that special collections are extremely expensive to maintain, and often have to sing for their supper, but on the other I know how frustrating it is to be denied the chance to take one’s own photographs and then to be charged the earth for a few images. Institutions like ours, whose own members may need such cooperation from other collections and their curators, should probably err on the side of the angels er scholars! Most of the other requests for images are for private individuals’ family history research purposes, and since many of those enquirers would otherwise have no contact with Balliol or Oxford, I think it’s good for the relationship between college, university and the wider public to be helpful in this way. Family history is usually very meaningful to researchers, and they remember and appreciate prompt and helpful assistance.

Balliol College reserves the right to charge for permission to publish its images, but may waive this for academic publications.

Are you planning to digitise all the collections or just parts? What are your priorities and how do you determine the order of things to be done next?

Most of the series I’ve put online don’t start with no.1. All the reprographics I do now are in response to specific requests from enquirers, and I don’t seriously intend, or at least expect, to digitize All The Things. Although 40,000 images sounds like a lot, and there’s loads to browse online, I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface; most collections aren’t even represented online – yet… This way, everything I post online I know is of immediate interest to at least one real person – if we did everything starting from A.1, probably most of it would sit there untouched. For the efficiency of my work and for preservation of the originals, digital photography is marvellous, enabling me to make every photo count more than once rather than having to photocopy things repeatedly over the years.

On the other hand, if someone asks for images of one text occupying only part of a medieval book, I will normally photograph the whole thing; or if the request is for a few letters from a file, I will scan the whole file. It’s more efficient in the long run, as a whole is more likely to be relevant to other future searchers than a small part.

What about copyright?

web2I probably should mark my own photos of the gardens, but I don’t think anybody will be nicking them for a book and making millions with it. As for the images of archives and manuscripts, of course I am careful to avoid publishing anything whose copyright I know to be owned by another individual or institution, but for older material that belongs to Balliol, I’m with the British Library on this one. I think as much as possible should be as available online as possible, for reasons of both access and preservation.

We do have some collections whose copyright is held by an external person or body, and in some of those cases I am permitted to provide a few images (not whole works) for researchers’ private use, but cannot put images online or permit researchers to take their own photos.

How do you make images available?

Now that other online media are available, I am reducing image use on the archives website,  to use it as a base for highly structured, mostly text-based pages such as collection catalogues, how-tos, research guides etc, as this information needs to be well organised and logically navigable. These days I am using this blog for mini-exhibitions discussing single themes and one image, or a few at a time.

Flickr is a good image repository for reference, not so much for exhibitions – I’ve written about that at https://balliolarchivist.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/thing-17/

I expect I will have rethought the digitisation process again in a couple of years’ time!

Masters of Balliol

It seems unbelievable, but Balliol does not have a complete list of Masters; indeed, we cannot be sure who the inaugural head of house was, or whether he was known as the Master – the title wasn’t used consistently for centuries after the college was founded. Here is what we do know:

in 1283 Robert de Alburwyke. Fellow of Merton 1284, 1286; dead by 1306.

in 1284, 1292 Walter de Fodringeye. Fellow in 1273. Executor of Devorguilla’s will. Canon of Lincoln 1298. His own will was proved 1315.

in 1295 Hugh de Warkenby. Fellow or Master of University Coll. in 1307. Canon of Chichester 1313, Treasurer 1320, 1330.

in 1307 Stephen of Cornwall.

in 1321 Thomas de Waldeby. Living 1359.

in 1324 Henry de Seton. Fellow in 1321. Vicar of Lund, Yorks 1327.

in 1328 Nicholas de Luceby. Fellow in 1321.

in 1329 Richard de Chikwelle.

in 1332, 1337 John de Poklyngton. Fellow of University Coll. in 1340.

in 1340, 1345 Hugh de Corbrigge.

in 1349 William de Kyrneshale. Fellow in 1337.

in 1356 Robert de Derby. Fellow of Oriel in 1360. Junior Proctor 1360. Died 1361.

in 1360, 1361 John Wyclif. Translator of the Bible into English. Died 1384. ODNB.

in 1366 John Hugate. Fellow in 1361.

in 1370, 1395 Thomas Tyrwhit. Died 1395-1399.

in 1397 Hamond Askham. Fellow in 1370.

in 1407 William Lambert. Dead by 1414.

in 1411, 1416 Thomas Chace. Chancellor of the University 1426. Chaplain to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, 1434. The first part of the College Library was built at his expense, 1431. Died 1449. Master Thomas Chace and the Fellows at prayer are depicted in a window now in the Chapel

in 1420, 1422 Richard Rotherham. Chancellor of Hereford 1422. External Rector of Balliol 1433. Died 1455.

in 1423, 1427 Robert Burley. Rector of St. Nicholas, Abingdon 1430. Vicar of Cumnor 1440. Died 1452-1458.

in 1428 Richard Stapilton. Fellow in 1411. Apparently resigned 1429, but mentioned as Master 1433.

in 1440, 1441 William Brandon. Fellow in 1431. Junior Proctor 1431, Senior Proctor 1432.

in 1450, 1456 Robert Thwaytes. Chancellor of the University 1446. Died 1458.

in 1458, 1465 William Lambton. Fellow in 1446. Junior Proctor 1446.

in 1469, 1475 John Segden. Fellow in 1438. Senior Proctor 1440. Died 1476-1482.

in 1481, 1483 Robert Abdy. Fellow in 1450. Junior Proctor 1456. The second part of the College Library was built by him. Died 1483: buried in St. Mary Magdalen (memorial brass, now lost). Will dated 7 April 1483, proved at Oxford 12 July 1483.

in 1484, 1495 William Bell. Fellow in 1467. Will dated 4 May 1495: requested burial in St. Mary Magdalen.

in 1496, 1511 Richard Barnyngham. Fellow in 1486. Died by 1515.

1512-1518 Thomas Cisson. Fellow in 1495. Died 1526-1543.

1518-1525 Richard Stubbes. Fellow in 1510. Died 1525-1529.

1525-1539 William Whyte. Resigned, probably under duress. Will proved 1547.

1539-1545 George Cotes. Fellow in 1522. Fellow of Magdalen Coll. 1527. Junior Proctor 1531. Bishop of Chester 1554. Died 1555.

1545-1547, 1555-1559 William Wright. Fellow in 1527. Resigned, probably under duress. 1559.

1547-1555 James Brookes. Fellow C.C.C. 1532. Bishop of Gloucester 1554. Judge at the trials of Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer. Zealous Romanist. Died in prison 1560. Buried in Gloucester Cathedral (no monument). ODNB.

1559-1560 Francis Babington. Fellow of St. John’s Coll. Cambridge 1551. Fellow of All Souls in 1557. Proctor 1557. Rector of Lincoln 1560-1563. Died abroad, about 1569. ODNB.

1560-1563 Anthony Garnet. Fellow in 1551. Resigned 1563. Living 1597, then a prisoner in Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison.

1563-1570 Robert Hooper. Died 1570-1571.

1570-1571 John Pierse. Fellow of Magdalen 1545. Bishop of Rochester 1576, Salisbury 1577. Archbishop of York 1589. Died 1594. Memorial in York Minster. ODNB.

1571-1580 Adam Squier. Fellow 1560. Proctor 1567. Resigned 1580. Dead by 1588.

1580-1610 Edmund Lilly. Fellow of Magdalen 1563. Proctor 1573. Vice-Chancellor 1585, 1595. Buried in St. Mary’s, Oxford, 1610.

1610-1616 Robert Abbott. Born Guildford. Fellow in 1581. Bishop of Salisbury 1615. Died 1617. ODNB.

1617-1637 John Parkhurst. Born Guildford. DNB says his election was part of a campaign to secure the Tisdale benefaction (his wife was a Tisdale). Fellow of Magdalen 1581. Proctor 1597. Died 1639. ODNB. Will: Berks. Died and buried at Shillingford, Berks. where he was Rector.

1637-1648 Thomas Laurence. Born in Dorset. Fellow of All Souls in 1618. Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity 1638-1648. Expelled 1648. Died at Colne, Somersham, Hunts, 1657. ODNB.

1648-1651 George Bradshaw. Fellow in 1633. Nominated Master by the Parliamentary Visitors, 1648. Resigned, 1651.

1651-1672 Henry Savage. Fellow. Nominated Master by the Parliamentary Visitors 1651. Author of the first College History 1668: Balliofergus. Portrait in Hall. Died 1672. ODNB. Will: OU Chancellor’s Court. Buried in Chapel.

1672-1678 Thomas Goode. Fellow in 1629. Canon of Hereford 1660. Buried in Hereford Cathedral 1678 (no memorial). ODNB.

1678-1687 John Venn. Son of Simon Venn of Lydeard St Lawrence. Vice Chancellor 1686. Died 1687. Buried at Lydeard St Lawrence 12 Oct 1687: table top tomb in churchyard south of the tower. Not to be confused with the homonymous regicide.

1687-1704 Roger Mander. Vice-Chancellor 1700. Died 1704. PCC will. Buried in Chapel, where there was a stone.

1705-1722 John Baron. Vice-Chancellor 1715. Died in College 1722. Buried in Chapel, where there was a stone.

1722-1726 Joseph Hunt. Buried at King’s Sutton, Northants 1726; his father’s burial place Burghclere, Hants is mentioned in his PCC will. Hunt was born and baptised there.

1726-1785 Theophilus Leigh. His election was controversial. Vice-Chancellor 1738. Died 1785. Buried at Adlestrop.

1785-1798 John Davey. Blundell Fellow 1752. Died 1798. Vicar of Bledlow, Bucks; buried there.

1798-1819 John Parsons. Fellow 1785. Gave the lead in establishing University Honours Degree examinations, and in the opening of Fellowship examinations. Vice-Chancellor 1807. Bishop of Peterborough 1813. Buried in Chapel 1819 (memorial survives, now in the Antechapel). Portrait in Hall. ODNB.

1819-1854 Richard Jenkyns. Fellow 1803. Vice Chancellor 1824. Largely responsible for the opening of Scholarship examinations, 1827. Dean of Wells 1845. Died in the Master’s Lodgings 1854. Buried in Wells Cathedral. (His original monument has been replaced by a floor slab). Portrait in Hall ODNB.

1854-1870 Robert Scott. Fellow 1835. Dean of Rochester 1870. Died 1887. Portrait in Hall. ODNB.

1870-1893 Benjamin Jowett. Fellow 1838. Regius Professor of Greek 1855. Vice Chancellor 1882. Died 1893. Buried in St. Sepulchre’s Cemetery, Oxford. Bust in the College Office, portraits in Hall, Library etc. ODNB.

1893-1907 Edward Caird. Snell Exhibitioner 1860. Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Glasgow 1866. Died 1907. Buried in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery, Oxford. Portrait in Hall. First lay Master. ODNB.

1907-1916 James Leigh Strachan Davidson. Fellow 1866. Died 1916. Buried in Holywell Cemetery, Oxford. Portrait in Hall. ODNB.

1916-1924 Arthur Lionel Smith. Fellow 1882. Died 1924. Buried in Holywell Cemetery, Oxford. Portrait in Hall. ODNB.

1924-1949 Alexander Dunlop Lindsay. Fellow 1906. Vice-Chancellor 1935. Founder, University of Keele. Died 1952. Portrait in Hall. Bust in Library. Lord Lindsay of Birker,1945. ODNB.

1949-1965 Sir David Lindsay Keir. Fellow of University Coll. 1921. Vice-Chancellor, Queens University, Belfast 1939. Portrait in Hall. Died 1973. ODNB.

1965-1978 John Edward Christopher Hill. Fellow 1938. Portrait in Hall. ODNB

1978-1989 Anthony John Patrick Kenny. Fellow 1964. Portrait in Hall. Knighted 1992.

1989-1994 Baruch Samuel Blumberg. George Eastman Visiting Professor 1983. Portrait in Hall. Nobel Laureate.

1994-2001 Colin Renshaw Lucas. Fellow 1973. Vice-Chancellor 1997-2004. Knighted 2002. Portrait in Hall.

2001-2011 Andrew Winston Mawdsley Graham. Fellow 1969. Acting Master 1997-2001.

2011-      James Drummond Bone. Snell Exhibitioner 1968. Professor, Dean and Vice-Principal, Glasgow. Principal, Royal Holloway. Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of London. Vice Chancellor, University of Liverpool.

Q&A access to college collections and using archives for historical research

Q: I need to use primary sources for my essay/dissertation. Are there interesting sources in College archives? Where do I start?

A: The Lonsdale Curator is always glad to hear from students and tutors and to discuss potential sources in the College archives and elsewhere. At the moment I have students working on club and society records, the Swinburne Papers, the Jowett Papers and the Urquhart Papers. While college libraries are normally open only to members of that college, college archives and manuscript collections are open to anyone with a bona fide research question that requires access to the original source material. Primary sources are very exciting, but they are not always the most efficient way to get distilled information – after all, the reason or method in which the information was originally gathered and recorded, whether 25 years or a century or more ago, may well have had nothing to do with the kinds of information you want to get out of that record, or the way we think about it now. So make sure you exhaust secondary sources first – someone may have done a lot of the legwork for you!

Here’s something I prepared earlier about using archives for historical research:

These readings are recommended for anyone planning any type of research project that will require consultation of archival or manuscript material.

  • from the Institute for Historical Research – article
  • from the University of London Research Library Services – article
  • Archival Research Techniques and Skills – student portal
  • University of Nottingham: Document Skills – Introduction

A few notes:

  1. Plan ahead.
    • Many archives are not open full time and have very limited space for researchers; it may take some time for the archivist to answer your enquiry, or to get a seat, so plan your visit in advance.
    • Make sure you need to see the original material (see below), and if you do, that you are as prepared as possible.
  2. Do your secondary reading first, and find out which of your primary sources have been published, edited, calendared or indexed.
    • You will need that information in order to engage fully with the primary sources and make the most of your valuable research time.
    • Secondary sources often cite relevant primary sources and their locations.
    • Published sources may be available to you more easily and with less travel than original ones.
    • You will be better equipped to make enquiries of and ask for assistance from archivists and manuscript librarians.
    • The professionals you deal with will be able to tell whether or not you are well prepared, and you are likely to get more detailed responses if your enquiries are well informed. If it’s clear you haven’t read basic printed sources, they are quite likely to send you away to do that first. If you ask for primary sources which have been published, you will be given the published version.
  3. Use the online archive networks.
    • There is an ever-increasing amount of information online about archives, from general national databases to subject-specific portals. A few of the networks are listed here.
  4. Ask for help.
    • You are not expected to know everything about where to find primary sources. It’s more complicated and less systematic than identifying published sources, and archivists and curators are specialists in this kind of lateral thinking. (But do your homework first!)

Q&A student numbers

Q: How many Fellows does Balliol have? how many students?

A: Balliol has more than 350 undergraduate students and an almost equal number of postgraduates. Information about current Fellows, including Visiting Fellows, Career Development Fellows and Junior Research Fellows, is available on the college’s main site.

More about Oxford student numbers is available from University here.

Q&A pronunciation

Q: How do you pronounce Dervorguilla?

A: There are several spellings of this unusual Celtic name; the one above is used by the College and pronounced Der-vor-gilla – hard g as in the gills of a fish – with a slight emphasis on the ‘gil’. Here is Henry Savage on the matter – he was Master 165-72, and wrote the first known history of any college, the oddly titled Balliofergus, published in 1668:


– from Balliofergus, p.4.

He continues for another page and a half on principles of historic pronunciation in general…

The whole of Savage’s college history is online at http://www.flickr.com/photos/balliolarchivist/sets/72157625334030481/

Q&A pronunciation

Q: How do you pronounce Balliol?

A: Bailey’ll, emphasis on the first syllable. Not Bally-all, Ball-oil or Bailey, a la Sir Humphrey of Yes, Minister.

Q&A – tracing living Old Members & their families

Q: Can you put me in touch with an Old Member of Balliol or descendants of a past member?

A: We are not able to give contact details or any other personal information about any living Old Member of Balliol, or their families, to any third party, but our Alumni Officer will do her best, within reason, to pass on letters for those for whom we have current contact details.

Q&A – Jane Austen & Balliol

Q: What was Jane Austen’s connection with Balliol?

A: No personal connection; her great-uncle Theophilus Leigh (1693-1784) was Master of Balliol 1726-1784. Her father and her two eldest brothers were undergraduates at St John’s College, Oxford, and her maternal grandfather was a Fellow of All Souls.

AskArchivists Q&A

The College Archivist is always glad to hear from students interested in finding out about work experience, formal training or careers in archives, records management or conservation.

Read more at:

The Archives & Records Association, formerly The Society of Archivists (UK)

FARMER’s traineeship guidelines

JISC NRA-Archives email list

How to contact Oxford college archives

If you are doing family history research or for any other reason want to find biographical information about a former member of an Oxford college who has been deceased for more than a year or so, you should get in touch with the archivist.

College alumni or development offices deal with living alumni. College offices / senior tutors / registrars deal with current students. Contacting them about deceased members of college will result in an email round-robin and a delay in response.

If you are not sure which college your research subject belonged to, check these sources according to period:

If you do know, or once you find out, which college your research subject belonged to, contact that college’s archivist for further information. Contact details for all colleges that have an archivist are available at http://www.oxfordarchives.org.uk/college%20archives.htm

If you have a query that may apply to several or all colleges, you can save a lot of cutting and pasting of addresses by sending it to the college archivists’ mailing list at oac[at]chch.ox.ac.uk.

International Archives Day 2012!

I’ll be celebrating International Archives Day (9 June) by participating in #archday12 on Twitter, organised by @AskArchivists. The day itself is a Saturday, so like many archivists around the world I’ll be taking questions and posting content (links on twitter to content here on the blog) on Friday 8 and Monday 11 June.

It’s an opportunity to ask all kinds of questions about archives, archivists and research using all kinds of original source material, from medieval manuscripts to early modern maps to photographs and film. Come and join in!

If you are not on Twitter, you can also ask questions for this event via the Facebook page or by the usual email. To see questions answered during last year’s #AskArchivists event, click the tag.


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 & A : oldest established

Q: Is Balliol the oldest college in Oxford?

A: We think so, of course, but it depends on the criteria you use to define ‘oldest’. Merton, University (known as ‘Univ’) and Balliol Colleges are certainly the three oldest colleges in Oxford; each has a different claim to being ‘the oldest.’ Balliol’s is that the college was founded on the front part of its present Broad Street site ca 1263 as a house of scholars living on land owned by the founder, and has been on this site ever since without interruption, except for several general decampments in the 16th and 17th centuries to avoid outbreaks of plague in the city.

Merton has the oldest statutes (1274) constituting it as a college. Walter de Merton originally founded a house of priests and probably scholars as well at Malden in Surrey in 1264. The manors attached to this house also helped to support scholars in Oxford. Over the next 10 years, Walter de Merton systematically acquired properties which are still part of the college’s present site in Merton Street (then St John’s Street) in Oxford. In 1274 these became Merton College under the new statutes and the Malden community moved to Oxford.

In Univ’s case, the University of Oxford was left money in 1249 in the will of William of Durham to support postgraduate students in theology – this was, in effect, the earliest endowment for a ‘house of scholars.’ However, the University did not use the money to formally found the college William had intended until ca 1280.

So: Univ has the oldest endowment or intent of founding a college, Balliol has existed longest in Oxford as a named house of scholars on land given by the founder, and Merton has been formally a college the longest. Which is really the oldest? Take your pick!

St Edmund Hall deserves a special mention on this question of ‘the oldest’, as it has a good claim to be ‘the oldest [surviving] academical society for the education of undergraduates’. Read more about its history here: http://www.seh.ox.ac.uk/index.php?section=26

Q&A – university and colleges at Oxford

Q: I’m confused about the relationship between Oxford University and the colleges.
A: The relationship between the colleges and the University of Oxford is not obvious to anyone who has not experienced it. There is a very short summary on the Oxford website here.

Colleges are the basis of undergraduate life. Students live, eat and do their laundry in their colleges. Undergraduates use their college libraries, not the Bodleian (central University library). There are of course exceptions – department libraries, and the Radcliffe Camera of the Bodleian Library, which is the undergraduate reading room. They play sports for their college against other colleges, drink in the college bar and may worship (or attend concerts) in their college chapel. Their academic and personal tutors will be Fellows of their college, and much of their learning will take place within the college walls, though lectures and seminars may take place in university departments or lecture rooms in other colleges. Academic supervision is college-based and there are periodic college exams. Historically, the college has been a place for students to live and prepare for University examinations. The University is the degree-granting body (strictly speaking, nobody ‘graduates from’ a college) and sets the exams required to obtain a degree. It also has faculties and departments much as any other university does. Most non-academic staff in a college will be employed only by that college; academic staff may hold joint college-university posts, or be employed only by a college (lecturers) or by the University (many science research staff, Professors etc. ) Just to muddy the waters, Professors and some other university-employed academics are given membership of a college, or at least of its Senior Common Room (SCR) to provide them with a friendly social ‘home’ in Oxford. This does not make them full voting members of Governing Body… The college systems in Oxford and Cambridge are somewhat different, but they are much more similar to each other than they are to any other university.

Don’t be surprised (or discouraged) if you are still confused. There’s always wikipedia. For more information about University admissions and choosing a college, see the University’s Admissions pages, as well as the Admissions page on any college’s website.


Balliol has several painted representations of its founders, John de Balliol and Dervorguilla his wife; those pictures are shown above and in our online portraits catalogue. The images shown postdate the 13th century Balliols by at least 400 years and are not, strictly speaking, portraits at all. Probably the closest to a contemporary representation we have of Dervorguilla is the image on her seal, and that too is iconic rather than personal in the modern sense; the paintings clearly draw directly on the seal figure.

update/addition: enquiry

Q: In the Hall at Balliol is a painting of John de Balliol dressed in knight’s armour [see above]. Given no part of his face is visible, how do you know it is a painting of John de Balliol?

 A: The short answer is that it isn’t ‘a painting of John de Balliol’ at all. It was painted about 400 years after John de Balliol’s death – which occurred well before individual portraiture had become an artistic convention.

The undifferenced family crest on the shield (see http://archives.balliol.ox.ac.uk/History/collegearms.asp) clearly denotes a principal armigerous member of the Balliol family, and the date of death inscribed on the pillar at right of the painting clarifies which one is intended. The portraits of his wife Dervorguilla and translator of the Bible in to English and one-time Master of Balliol John Wyclif, also in Hall, are similarly ‘icons’ of their subjects rather than any attempt at likeness.

update May 2013: Now that the Public Catalogue Foundation’s Your Paintings project is available on the BBC website, it is possible to view an image of the Bodleian’s ‘portrait’ (17th century) of Dervorguilla as well. Unfortunately, they have managed to misspell ‘Dervoguilla’ in Balliol’s two listings, so they won’t appear in searches unless you similarly misspell, but you can see all three together here.

Q&A – complaints and returns department

Q: Your response to my enquiry is not what I hoped for. Please check the records again and give me a different answer.

A: Readers may be astonished to learn that I regularly receive this professional insult, generally in response to a negative result of a search for an individual possible member of Balliol. As all researchers know, to be certain of a negative result normally requires considerably more research than to confirm a positive, which may only need checking one source. In order to be sure that no record of an individual exists, one has to check several series of potentially relevant records.  I will then do my best to provide possible explanations for the lack of evidence, and to suggest further avenues of enquiry.

Enquirers are kindly requested not to ask me to research an enquiry again unless additional relevant substantive information is provided which was not included in the original question.

If I am not overly forthcoming in my explanations, it may be because I know that enquirers do not wish to hear, unless they are true researchers as well as family historians, that the information they have has probably been fabricated, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, in knowledge or in ignorance, by misleading, misinterpretation or misunderstanding. In the majority of cases it happens through garbling of family narrative down the generations rather than deliberate deceit, but the latter is not unknown either.

If I am asked to reply to the same enquiry again, I may do so, pulling the enquiry to bits and pointing out the full range of inconsistencies and impossibilities inherent in it.  I will also be frank about any evidence of deliberate fabrications; they do exist. This is constructive for the researcher, but not always pleasant.

I often feel that I am a professional exploder of family myths, but I take some little consolation in the knowledge that if my well informed, carefully researched and considered responses to enquiries are not quite the ones the enquirers expect, they will simply be dismissed, and the myths remain intact.

Q & A – Let us now praise famous men, or not

Q: There is no blue plaque or other commemoration for Adam Smith / Harold Macmillan / Nevil Shute / Lord Peter Wimsey / any other famous Old Member of Balliol on the front of the college or visible on the college buildings. Surely this lack deserves to be corrected?

A: Given the sheer number of Prime Ministers, Viceroys of India, heads of other states, Archbishops of Canterbury, Nobel Prize winners, heads of other colleges, poets, social reformers, lawmakers and people of national and international renown in every field who have been members of Balliol, if every Old Member who fulfilled the criteria were given a blue plaque on Broad Street, and if every other college followed suit, Oxford would be the Blue City of England. It would be positively embarrassing. No college does it; see Oxfordshire Blue Plaques  for a list of plaques in the city of Oxford.

Balliol is, of course, well aware of the accomplishments of its alumni, and this information is far from hidden from the rest of the world. To give one example, although the economist Adam Smith (d.1790), author of The Wealth of Nations, famously detested his time at Balliol, the International Adam Smith Society and the Adam Smith Review held a conference here in 2009. A necessarily selective list of famous Old Members is available here, and the College Register of all members from 1854 can be browsed in full here. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography  is another rich source; its predecessor, the Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Sir Leslie Stephen, is available in separate volumes here,  though unfortunately the entries do not specify which volume is which…

There is one notable and voluminous exception to this lack of commemoration: Balliol’s fallen in both World Wars – students, Fellows and staff – are commemorated on the War Memorials outside the chapel. Memorials throughout College are listed here.