Library & Archives
Radley College was founded in 1847 by William Sewell (1804-79) and Robert Corbet Singleton (1810-81), who had also cooperated on the foundation of St Columba's College, Rathfarnham, in 1843. Singleton served as warden at Rathfarnham 1843-47 and Radley 1847-51 while Sewell also served subsequently as warden of Radley. The years before 1870 were at times difficult and punctuated by crisis, including the resignations of Singleton in 1851, Sewell in 1862 and Warden Wood in 1870. Thereafter matters appear to have improved and the College was incorporated by charter in 1897.
The Archives contain the foundation documents, the diaries, statutes, inventories and letters of the 1840s and 1850s, which were the day-to-day working matter of the school. They were assembled by A.K.Boyd during the 1930s and 1940s for his history of Radley for its first 100 years: Radley College, 1847-1947. Blackwell, 1947, and the subsequent 150th anniversary history by Christopher Hibbert. Boyd's successor as Archivist, Tony Money, built on those foundations and created an unparalleled collection of material relating to the extra-curricular life of the school in the 20th century relating to drama, music, the societies and the Socials and in particular to sport, which resulted in his own books Manly and muscular diversions: public schools and the nineteenth century sporting revival. Duckworth, 1997, and Football at Radley, The College, 2002. The Archive Centre was named in his honour in 2007.
The archive as presently constituted contains very little core administrative material of the college, such as register books, accounts, council records and warden's official correspondence and papers. AK Boyd noted this gap in 1948 when he remarked on 'the strange disappearance of the main part of the College archive in the Second Great War (presumably in support of the national salvage campaign)', with the exception of some 'very reticent' minute books for the years after 1870. A few additional early records, such as the two register books now in the archives, seem to have been found since Boyd wrote this, but his observation remains very largely correct. The post-war administrative records, however, remain with the Bursary and the other originating offices.
Despite this tragic loss of unique historical records, the period 1847-70 is well documented as a result of the presence at Radley of papers of Sewell (used by Lionel James for his biographical study of William Sewell, A forgotten genius, Sewell. St Columba's and Radley, 1945), of Wood (derived from the Wood family) and of James Baker, an early member of the teaching staff (presented by Baker's son in 1946). Through the efforts of AK Boyd and AE Money much ancillary material has been located and preserved for the years after 1870, including records of the Boat Club, societies, sports teams and socials (boarding houses), and this very rich accumulation provides some compensation for the loss of most of the core official records of the period between 1847 and 1945. Indeed the material now in the archive is itself a very significant historical collection, worthy of the utmost care and preservation. It is enhanced by the presence of working papers of both Mr Boyd and Mr Money, and includes a rich photographic record.
A full survey of the Archives, resulting in the attached handlist, was conducted by Anthony Smith and Michelle Kingston of the National Archives in 2006. Recent discussions with the National Archives have highlighted how rich a collection Radley owns which has a much wider remit than just the school: for example, the log-books of the Natural History Society have both national and local significance being an exact and unbroken record since 1884; whilst Tony Money's latest research into the influence of the 'Radley idea' upon the other public schools of the mid-nineteenth century demonstrates the wealth of material in the unpublished diaries of the earliest Wardens.
In the 21st century, both the Library and Archives actively collect material to enhance the collections and to fill in gaps. Over the last few years the Library has acquired the only known copy of The Radley psalter, 1847. whilst the Archives has received three major sets of papers: the letters, notes and photographs of C.P.T.Wrinch, deposited by his daughter Charlotte Roueche; from Jim Hare, formerly Head of Drama, the albums containing all his production notes, photographs and programmes; and papers and publications of Jonathan Griffin, deposited by his literary executor, Anthony Rudolf of the Menard Press.
A living archive is vital to an historic school. It reinforces the history of that school through all its generations and places the school itself in the history of the nation. They are a testament to the school's stability and to its continuity. At Radley, photographs of sports teams seated before the Mansion show youthful faces from the 1850s to the 2000s: the Mansion barely changes, nor do the faces, only the style of dress tells you the decade. In the 1900s boys wrote their prize-winning Greek and Latin translations and compositions in the Gold Book. One hundred years later in 2007, boys of the Classics Society started to transcribe them as part of a project looking at the role of Classics in education. Names of boys and their families occur through three, five even six generations of records and photographs. There are several projects in hand or planned to bring the wealth of the collection to current Radleians and beyond.