About the Archives

The purpose of Oriel College Archives is to collect and maintain the documentary heritage of Oriel College, its constituent parts and its members. This archival heritage includes records of St Mary Hall, the Senior Common Room and the clubs and societies of the Junior Common Room. Its holdings range from 1150 to almost the present day.

However, the illuminated medieval manuscripts belonging to the College are no longer kept within the precincts of the College. These valuable items are deposited with the Bodleian Library.

Although there are various finding aids for the records held in Oriel College Archives, these do not conform to modern notions for cataloguing and describing archives. There is an on-going project to catalogue the College Archives following recognized standards. Where catalogues have been completed for some sections, these will be linked to the web-site so that searchers can see for themselves what is here. However, the College Archivist is always more than happy to answer any questions so please feel free to contact him.

Archives of Oriel College

Administrative Records

The early constitutional and administrative records of the College are detailed in Oriel College Records by C.L.Shadwell and H.E.Salter (OUP and Oxford Historical Society 1926), which also gives a great deal of information about Oriel's properties in Oxford. The minutes of the Governing Body 1446-1661 have also been published as The Dean's Register of Oriel by G.C.Richards and H.E.Salter (OUP 1926).

Items of particular interest include a fine run of College accounts (1409-1525 and 1583 onwards), a detailed account book of the S.C.R. (1744-1900) and the mediaeval records of St. Bartholomew's Hospital in Oxford, originally for lepers.

Records relating to the governing of the College - GOV
Records of benefactions and trusts – BT

Estate Records

From its earliest days the College held estates and livings all over the country, but principally in Berkshire and Oxfordshire. The Rectories of Aberford, Yorkshire and Coleby in Lincolnshire, as well as that of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, were all acquired in the 1320s.

The College estates included the manors of Wadley, Berkshire (from 1440) and Dene and Chalford, Oxfordshire (from 1476). There were also substantial estates at Littleworth, Berkshire (from 1459), Shenington, Oxfordshire (from 1504) and Swainswick, near Bath (from 1525), as well as considerable property in Oxford itself.

Unfortunately nearly all the detailed records, like correspondence and information about repairs, do not survive. There are records of the leasing of the estates, so it is usually possible to find some details about the tenants of substantial houses. Cottages and other smaller properties are much more difficult to trace.

In addition to the written estate records, the College Archives contain a range of maps and plans of College estates from the 17th to 20th centuries.

Records of estates - EST

Students' Records

The first place to look for information on students of Oriel is in the following publication:
Registrum Orielense, by C.L. Shadwell (volume I, 1500-1700 (London 1893); volume II, 1701 -1900 (London 1902)

There is surprisingly little biographical information about the students among the archives. The tutorial registers give information about examinations taken 1834-C.1956 and about College courses taken 1834-1943. Home addresses at admission are recorded for many admissions between 1768 and 1865, and there are some information forms filled in by old members themselves in 1952. Please remember that records of more recent students are covered by the Data Protection Act.

We do not have the following:

  • Dates of birth before the twentieth century, with very occasional exceptions
  • Names of mothers
  • Detailed examination results
  • Copies of theses and dissertations

Members' Papers

The College Archives has two important collections of letters:

PHELPS PAPERS
Lancelot Ridley Phelps (1853-1936), Provost of Oriel 1914-1930, had an extensive correspondence, and kept virtually all of his letters. Although much of the collection was destroyed in about 1940, a substantial quantity remains and there are comprehensive personal name indexes. College and University matters predominate, including letters from undergraduates (some in the overseas civil services), but personal and family matters are also represented. Of particular interest are letters relating to his involvement in Poor Law administration, both locally and nationally.

FELLOWES PAPERS
Rev. E.H. Fellowes (1870-1951), an undergraduate at Oriel 1889-1892, became well known for his work in promoting the revival of sixteenth and seventeenth century English music. This small collection includes his eye witness account of Queen Victoria's funeral, and letters from Adrian Boult, Edward Elgar, Gustav Holst, Herbert Howells, Hubert Parry, John Stainer, Charles Villiers Stanford, Leopold Stokowski, Ralph Vaughan Williams, H. Walford Davies and Henry Wood.

Archives of St Mary Hall

Collections

A larger proportion of the records of St. Mary Hall has survived than is usual for Oxford academic halls, probably because Oriel had always owned the buildings, and most of the Principals of the Hall were also Fellows of the College.

The records include Principal's log books 1764-1899, buttery books 1715-1874, battels accounts 1773-1898, and papers relating to the Dyke Trust for scholarships 1730-1891.

Records of St Mary Hall - SMH

Sources for Family History

Two Journals with outline records of the term by term life of the Hall 1833-1899 generally record the arrival and departure of students. Philip Bliss [Principal 1848-1857] made brief biographical notes about members of the Hall from the sixteenth century onwards and these occasionally have some useful information. However, it should be stressed that the material available is scanty at best; only occasionally is there anything beyond the details held in the University Archives and outlined in the following publications, all by Joseph Foster:

Alumni Oxonienses: the members of the University of Oxford, 1500-1714 (London, 1891) 
Alumni Oxonienses: the members of the University of Oxford, 1715-1886 (London, 1888) 
Oxford men and their colleges, 1880-1892 (Oxford, 1893)

Contact the Archives

For any questions, please feel free to contact Rob Petre, the College Archivist:

Email: archives@oriel.ox.ac.uk 

Telephone: + 44 (0)1865 286545

Mail:
Oriel College Archives
Oriel College
Oxford
OX1 4EW

Please note that the College Archivist works part-time, and so you may find that a response to your query takes longer than expected.