Category Archives: Uncategorized

What the John Johnson Collection tells us about gender in early modern Britain

Written by Kasturi Pindar, Bodleian Libraries intern, Summer 2023

The John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, held at the Bodleian Libraries Special Collections, contains a multitude of images of early modern people who transgressed gender norms. Amongst these images, no two are the same. One image depicts two figures standing in a laundry room. It is captioned ‘Abigail Mary Allen, Pretended Wife of James Allen’ and ‘James Allen, The Female Husband’. Others depict people who, assigned female at birth, donned men’s clothing in order to serve in the military, particularly at sea. One such image is of ‘Mary Anne Talbot, otherwise John Taylor, Foot Boy, Drummer, Sailor, etc. etc. etc.’ Another, shows ‘Miss Theodora de Verdion. The walking Bookseller, and Teacher of Languages, dressed as a Man.’ We also come across Anne Jane Thornton, who donned a cabin boy’s dress in order to sail to New York in pursuit of a romantic interest, continuing life at sea as a man for around two years, though her story is contested. Some of the individuals found in the collection are well researched by historians of gender such as Jen Manion, who has written about ‘female husbands’ and sailors who ‘transed’ gender in order to take part in life at sea. About others, less is known. Nonetheless, these images offer a way in to examine the lives of such figures, the myriad gender expressions of people living at the time, and how gender was perceived in 18th and 19th century Britain.

Abigail Mary Allen, pretended wife of James Allen (1829), Oxford, Bodleian Library, John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, Humans 4 (19)

We can start to understand how gender was perceived in the past when we look at the images in the context of the collection and how it is categorised. In the catalogue of the John Johnson Collection, these images can be found under the headings Entertainment>Humans>4. The categories Humans 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 contain hundreds of images of people that would today be considered to have a disability, whether physical, mental or developmental, a disfigurement, an unusual cognitive ability, or who were transgender. Each person within these headings seems to have been considered a ‘curiosity’ and their images were generally published for the amusement of the general public. Taking a closer look at the images themselves, we can see in the print below the image that the heading ‘Humans’ was once called ‘Human Freaks’. This is the language that was used as the collection was first assembled by John de Monins Johnson and reflects the language of Victorian ‘freak shows’. Since arriving at the Bodleian in 1968, these headings have been reviewed and amended to remove harmful language (see A Note on Language at the end of this blog post). Nonetheless, examining the original language used helps us to understand the context of the images, which were perhaps seen as a printed exhibition for the public to browse, ogle, and laugh at. In fact, many of these images were collected from Kirby’s Wonderful Museum, a nineteenth-century publication which claimed to display ‘remarkable characters, including all of the curiosities of nature and art … drawn from every authentic source.’ Its intention as a source of entertainment through the exoticisation of anything and everything, including human bodies, is described in no uncertain terms. Categorising people as ‘curiosities’ may not have seemed out of place at the time, and it tells us how strange the notion of experimenting with gender expression was to these peoples’ cisgender contemporaries.

In some cases, the fetishization of transgender bodies goes hand-in-hand with the way that they were treated in their lifetimes. For one such person, Mademoiselle de Beaumont, also known as the Chevalier(e) d’Éon, this was certainly the case. D’ Éon was a French diplomat, spy and soldier born in 1728 and assigned male at birth. She lived for many years as a man, before beginning to live as a woman in 1777, eventually moving to England and being legally recognised as a woman. A clipping found next to her portraits in the John Johnson Collection demonstrates a fascination with her ‘questionable gender’. Though the clipping reads as an obituary marking D’Éon’s recent death, most of the text discusses the question of her gender, ending with the conclusion that, following an examination by a physician after her death, her body was that of a ‘perfect male!’ (emphasis in original). Other clippings from the collection also show a similar obsession with her gender that is reflected in how she is portrayed in Kirby’s Wonderful Museum.

La Chevaliere D’Eon (1791), Oxford, Bodleian Library, John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, Humans 4 (22b)

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The life and poetry of Ivor C. Treby

Written by Kasturi Pindar, Bodleian Libraries intern, Summer 2023

Ivor C. Treby (1933-2012) was a biochemistry teacher by profession, though outside of his professional life, he considered himself a gay literary activist, as well as being an avid traveller and a collector of sand. He is perhaps best known for his research and work on Michael Field, the pseudonym of the Victorian lesbian poets, Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper. As a gay literary activist, he wrote his own poetry, which was published in magazines and journals internationally, and in collections released under his own imprint, De Blackland Press. He was also a member of the Gay Authors Workshop from its early years. By the time of his death, he had published five books on Michael Field and over 400 of his own poems. The motifs, imagery and sentiments found in his poems often reflects the various aspects of his life. Though his poetry is less well-remembered, his talent as a poet is clear when exploring his archive. Therefore, this post will highlight some of his poetry through the lens of his life experiences.

Born in Devonport, Plymouth, the son of a shipwright, Treby grew up by the coast. He lived here until he eventually moved to study, attending Exeter College, University of Oxford, where he studied biochemistry. The sea and the shore are themes that run throughout his poetry, testifying to the influence of life by the sea on his formative years. Many of his poems link the sea to his coming-of-age, or to romantic and sexual encounters that impacted his life. Others, such as ‘Respite’, simply express a feeling of calm and restful detachment that he felt when near the sea. His poem, ‘Sea Light’, describes the sea as part of his heritage, as the son of a shipwright, but importantly too as a young, gay man. He references areas of Plymouth that he frequented as a teenager, during his coming-of-age. The first and fourth verses are reproduced below.

‘Sea Light’

The sea was part of my heritage
I know all the old nautical traditions
Have heard of the phantom toffee-gobbler
Could give lessons on how to blow the man down
In a variety of interesting positions

Whenever I see a sailor now, I am back on Citadel Hill
Of an autumn twilight. Across the Hoe’s windy arena
The matelots come. My lads do you still
Walk the Barbican, and wait in Devonport Park
Still relish the hand of a youth on your trouser-leg’s dark concertina?

MS. Treby 16 © Darren Perry

***
After graduating from Oxford, Treby moved to London to teach biochemistry, working at Concord College in Tunbridge Wells, then Chiswick Polytechnic, before moving to Paddington College (now City of Westminster College). In 1978, he was charged and convicted of gross indecency under Section 13 of the Sexual Offenses Act 1956. By this time, he was out to his family and his colleagues. Nonetheless, he was subjected to disciplinary proceedings by Paddington College, as well as intervention by the Department of Education and Science who considered determining him to be a person ‘unsuitable for employment as a teacher’ as a result of his conviction. Historically, his case is important as it shows the limitations of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which is commonly thought to have legalised homosexuality in the United Kingdom. Though the 1967 act legalised homosexuality under certain circumstances, research has shown that following the passing of the act, policing of homosexual activity increased, and convictions of homosexual men for ‘gross indecency’ went up by more than 300%. Men continued to be arrested for actions as small as winking and smiling at other men in the street, or public displays of affection such as kissing and cuddling.

As his career was jeopardised by the Department of Education and Science, Treby defended himself vocally. In a written response to the Department of Education and Science, he wrote:

I feel myself under no obligation to give a ‘full explanation’ of a matter which,
(a) is totally irrelevant to my abilities as a teacher
(b) could only have arisen in a society with a grotesque attitude toward a minority of its people who obtain sexual fulfilment and love with adult members of their own gender. Kindly note the word love.

His conviction, and his vocal defence of himself, testify to how difficult it was to be openly gay, even 10 years after homosexuality had been supposedly legalised in the UK. His poem, ‘We Who Burn’ was written the year after the Sexual Offences Act 1967 and was one of his earliest open avowals of his sexuality. It was first published in The Gay Journal in the year of his conviction. The poem explores what it meant to Treby to be gay in the mid-twentieth century. Themes of silence, death and darkness are interspersed with the loss of youth and a reference to ‘cottages’. Writing about the poem later in life, Treby suggested that it may ‘have a permanent place in the history of gay poetry.’

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The persistence of tradition: the curious case of Henry Symeonis

Christmas is a time for tradition, and the University of Oxford is well known for diligently preserving its traditions for centuries. Many of these have long outlived the people who established them, and some are so old and mired in obscurity that even the University itself has no idea what they are or how they came to be. One such example of this is the strange case of Henry Symeonis.

In 1827 the University undertook a major review of its statutes. The statutes were, and still are, the written set of rules and regulations which governed everything that went on in the University. A product of many centuries, some of these were over already 500 years old by 1827. In going through the statutes as part of this review, the University found something rather odd in the section relating to Bachelors of Arts and the oaths they had to swear in order to become a Master of Arts.

As well as being required to swear that they would observe the University’s statutes, privileges, liberties and customs, as you might expect; and not to lecture elsewhere, or resume their bachelor studies after getting their MA, the Bachelors of Arts also had to swear that they would never agree to the reconciliation of Henry Symeonis (‘quod numquam consenties in reconciliationem Henrici Simeonis’).

Statutes VII section 1.5

The oaths required of those proceeding to MAs, from Corpus Statutorum (Statute Tit VII section 1. 5)

Nowhere in the statutes did it explain who this Henry Symeonis (or Simeonis) was, what he was supposed to have done or why those getting their MAs should never agree to be reconciled with him. Who was Henry Symeonis and why was he specifically named like this in the University’s governing regulations? What had he done to offend the University so much?

For much of the operational lifetime of the oath, no-one appears to have known. Brian Twyne, first Keeper of the Archives and renowned antiquary of the 17th century, claimed in his Antiquitatis Academiae Oxon Apologia of 1608 that Symeonis was a Regent in Arts at Oxford who fraudulently claimed he had a BA in order to obtain admission to a foreign monastery. Twyne gave no evidence or source for this so we don’t know where that might have come from.

Anthony Wood, in his published Life and Times writes about the University’s earlier review of its statutes in January 1651/2 when it was first proposed to abolish the statute concerning Henry Symeonis. He notes that the proposal to remove the oath was refused but gives no reason why. Even by that time, one suspects that the oath was of such antiquity that no-one knew anything about it and it was thought best to leave it be.

The identity of Henry Symeonis was only (re-)discovered in 1912 by the then Keeper of the University Archives, Reginald Lane Poole. In an article for the English Historical Review, he looked at the curious statute and tried to get to the bottom of the Henry Symeonis mystery.

Poole identified the man in question as Henry, son of Henry Symeonis. Henry Symeonis the elder was the son of a man named Simeon, hence the patronymic surname of Simeonis (or Symeonis) being passed down to his son and grandson. Henry Simeon, our Henry’s father, was a very wealthy townsman of Oxford; in the early 1200s, there were few richer. Our Henry was also wealthy, owning several properties in Oxford and both their names are found in many property deeds of the period.

For example, Henry is listed as a witness to a grant of c1243 of a boundary wall in Cat Street from William Burgess to Nicholas de Kingham. He is named as ‘Henry son of Henry son of Simeon’.

Grant of a boundary wall including Henry Symeonis as a witness, nd (c1243) (OUA/WPbeta/F/43)

But what was the reason for Henry’s condemnation by the University to five and a half centuries of infamy? It was a murder. In 1242 he and a number of other men of the town of Oxford were found guilty of murdering a student of the University. Henry and his accomplices were fined £80 by King Henry III in May 1242 and were made to leave Oxford as a result, forced to stay away (and allowed no closer than Northampton) at least until the King returned from abroad. The King returned in the autumn and by the spring of the following year, we know (from records of his property dealings) that our Henry, son of Henry Symeonis, was already back in Oxford.

What happened next is not easy to work out. There are few University records from that time and we have to rely on others’ accounts of what was happening to decipher the facts of the case. The chroniclers of those times notoriously disagree with each other, and the picture is muddy, to say the least. We know that over 20 years after the murder, on 12 March 1264, Henry III suspended the University and sent it away from Oxford, saying that he could not protect its masters and scholars in the city and that they would be safer elsewhere. The King was making Oxford the centre of his military operations and was unable to guarantee the safety of the students and masters. Many left, a large number moving to Northampton in spring that year where a thriving university was growing.

A fortnight after this, on 25 March 1264, the King issued letters patent saying that he’d pardoned Henry Symeonis for the murder which had taken place 22 years earlier. He ordered the University to allow Henry to return to Oxford to live there in peace provided he was ‘of good behaviour’ and demanded that the University didn’t leave Oxford in protest. The letters patent stated:

that the chancellor and university would be content that Henry son of Henry Simeonis, who withdrew for the death of a man, would return to Oxford and stay there, so that the university should not retire from the said town on account of his staying there; then they should permit him to return without impediment and have the king’s peace; the king, at the instance of Nicholas de Yatingden, of his further grace, has pardoned the said Henry the said death, on condition that he stand his trial if any will proceed against him, and has granted that he may return and dwell there so long as he be of good behaviour and that the university do not withdraw from the said town on account of his return and the death of the said Henry

The interpretation of this series of events is difficult. Poole, in his 1912 article, linked the University’s departure from Oxford in 1264 to its unhappiness at having Henry Symeonis pardoned and thrust back upon them from exile. He suggested that a serious eruption of town-gown violence broke out as a result of the pardon. This cannot be the case, however, as the King didn’t pardon Henry Symeonis until after the University had been told to leave Oxford. Besides, Henry had already been back in Oxford for many years and it would have been a bit late to act on that.

Town-gown relations were, at this time, pretty volatile, the problem being that Oxford wasn’t big enough for two bodies fighting for supremacy in a relatively small space. This had often led to violence, and apparently did again in February 1264 when the longstanding bad feeling between the two flared up. But it seems that this was not, despite some chroniclers attributing it to that, the cause of the University leaving Oxford. Henry Symeonis’s pardon by the King would, however, have only added fuel to the town’s fire that the University was always unjustly favoured by the monarch at the town’s expense.

We know that the Government was aware of the volatile relationship between town and gown and was concerned, in 1264, at the prospect of the University leaving Oxford in protest if Henry was allowed to return. This is presumably why it was made a condition of Henry’s return that the University had to promise not to leave.

We also know that both the town and University of Oxford were unhappy about the growth of a rival university in Northampton. Henry III had allowed a university to be established there in 1261 (on the request of the burgesses of the town), the third in England, behind Oxford and Cambridge. At the time, it was believed that it wouldn’t damage its older rivals but such a large number of masters and students from Oxford migrated there that Northampton was soon felt to be a threat to the two more ancient universities. The city of Oxford pressed the King to terminate this threat and on 1 February 1265 he formally closed down the university at Northampton and forbade the establishment of any future university there. All this was playing out against a backdrop of civil war and political unease, with Henry III engaged in a war with his brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort, and both Oxford and Northampton being heavily involved in the conflict.

Further research is needed to discover the exact details of what happened here but it seems that Henry Symeonis had bought the King’s pardon and his permission to return to Oxford. The King was willing to allow his return if the University agreed to it. But the University refused and chose to ignore the King’s order of 25 March 1264, resuming its hostility to Henry Symeonis. In fact, it felt so strongly about it, that it gave Henry Symeonis the unique honour of being named in its own statutes, making the University’s dislike of him official and perpetual.

The oath against Henry Symeonis continued in the University’s statutes for centuries after the events of 1264. Having survived earlier reviews of the University’s statutes, it was finally abolished five and a half centuries later. The records of the decision taken in 1827 are frustratingly brief and unenlightening. Convocation (the body of MAs of the University and its chief decision-maker at the time) took the decision to abolish the oath in February that year, but no background information nor reason for the decision is recorded. It is possible that’s because nobody knew exactly what they were abolishing.

The case of Henry Symeonis is a very strange example of the longevity of some University customs, long after they’ve lost relevance or meaning. The persistence of tradition in the University is famous, but this appears to have been an extreme example of using tradition to hold a very, very long grudge. By naming Henry Symeonis in its statutes as a figure of institutional hatred for centuries, it actually resulted in prolonging his celebrity, immortalising a man whom it had considered a villain.

For RL Poole’s 1912 article in the English Historical Review (vol 27, no 107, July 1912 pp515-517) see https://www.jstor.org/stable/550611#metadata_info_tab_contents

A pleasing coda to the story is that Henry III’s ban on a university at Northampton was finally ended in 2005 when a new university was established there, a mere 740 years after the suppression of its predecessor. See Drew Gray’s article on the ‘Ancient University of Northampton’ on the University of Northampton’s website at Microsoft Word – Ancient_University_of_Northampton[2].docx

The migration of Oxford students to Northampton is discussed in ‘The Alleged Migration of the University of Oxford to Northampton in 1264’ by FM Powicke in Oxoniensia (vol 8/9, 1943-4) at powicke.pdf (oxoniensia.org)

And for more information on Oxford and the Second Barons’ War see The University of Oxford and the Chronicle of the Barons’ Wars on JSTOR  in the English Historical Review (Jan 1980, vol 95, no 374, pp99-113).

 

 

The man with many faces

Is there anyone who doesn’t like to doodle? This is clearly not a modern trait. As ‘Doodle Day’ 2023 approaches in September, it seemed timely that we should come across some rather charming drawings by one of the examiners signing his name in two ‘Registers of Examinations’ held by the University Archives.

Frederick York Powell (1850-1904) was a law lecturer and examiner (he later became the Regius Professor of Modern History, 1894-1904) whose duties included lecturing and examining on political economy for the Pass School. The Pass School was introduced in the second half of the nineteenth century for those students who did not seek honours and offered the opportunity to study a different combination of subjects (see this previous blog for more details on the The Pass School)

Powell was an examiner for Pass School Group B (which included political economy) from 1877 until at least 1888, but he did not examine every term or every year. It is through his records of examinations that we meet his doodles.

Whenever Powell was the one to write the list of names of successful candidates, he bracketed together the names of the three (or sometimes four) examiners, who signed their names underneath, and drew a face as part of that bracket. Powell had extremely neat and legible handwriting, which was not always the case of examiners at this time.

Signatures of examiners for Pass School Group B, 1883 (from OUA/UR/3/1/27/1)

One of the fascinating things about Powell’s doodles is that whilst he consistently draws faces, they are all different. It’s tempting to wonder whether these drawings were actually caricatures of his fellow examiners or other academics in Oxford. The pictures are not always kind, sometimes showing exaggerated features:

Signatures of examiners for Pass School Group B, 1883 (from OUA/UR/3/1/27/1)

Signatures of examiners for Pass School Group B, 1883 (from OUA/UR/3/1/27/1)

It is important to remember that these registers were administrative records and were the official record kept by the University. As such, it’s all the more striking that Powell doodled so frequently – it wasn’t a momentary slip in an instance of absent-mindedness, but something he did consistently across several years. It is tempting to speculate as to whether his fellow examiners approved of such decorations or rather disapproved of his flamboyant style.

The second register featuring Powell’s doodles is the Register of Examinations for Modern History, 1872-1913, where he was an examiner from 1886 onwards. The examples in this volume are typical Powell style but the faces are different. The one below looks rather like Voldemort in Harry Potter!

Signatures of examiners for Modern History, 1887 (from OUA/UR/3/24/1)

Of all the faces drawn by Powell, of which these are only a selection, my favourite is shown below. The face looks rather elegant and distinguished with quite a head of hair:

Signatures of examiners for Modern History, 1888 (from OUA/UR/3/1/24/1)

Details of face drawn by Powell as examiner for Modern History, 1888 (from OUA/UR/3/1/24/1)

There are no other examples of examiners doodling or drawing like Powell in these two registers. If Powell was hoping to inject a little light heartedness or fun into a serious administrative record and perhaps encourage others to do the same, it does not look like this happened. It would be interesting to discover whether Powell continued to doodle once he was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History in 1894. I could find no further examples of doodles by Powell from this date onwards within any records held by the University Archives.

According to his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (subscription required), Powell seems to have been a rather original yet disorganised character, not necessarily renowned for his scholarship but for his generosity of his time and sense of fun. I rather suspect that Powell may have continued to doodle no matter what position he held.

For other examples of drawings and doodles on records in the University Archives see Notes in the margin | Archives and Manuscripts at the Bodleian Library (ox.ac.uk)
For further information on Frederick York Powell, see his Wikipedia entry.

Uncovering Histories of Humanitarianism: the Aborigines’ Protection Society 1837-1866

By Zoë Laidlaw, University of Melbourne.

This is the fifth in a series of posts by researchers drawing on the archive of the Anti-Slavery Society, part of the Bodleian’s We Are Our History project.

The Aborigines’ Protection Society (APS) and the Anti-Slavery Society merged in 1909, formalising a history of engagement and occasional rivalry stretching back to the 1830s. The APS had long argued that concern for the welfare of Indigenous peoples in Britain’s empire was a logical extension of anti-slavery activism. But, while key personnel moved between the two societies, public support for the APS remained much more muted. Not least, this was because the APS struggled to explain its remit. In 1847, a decade after starting work, the APS acknowledged that many still asked ‘Who are the Aborigines, and who is their Friend?’ but struggled to address these basic questions:

“Government documents and other publications have given a currency and acceptation to the word Aborigines, which, however, is not so general as to render explanation unnecessary … When the overflowing or restless population of a civilized country quit their homes, and seek a country where a wider space is open before them, they often find the land imperfectly occupied by a race of men greatly differing from themselves. These are the so-called Aborigines of the country; and the interests of both races are involved in the character of the intercourse which ensues between them.”

As this comparative and pejorative definition of ‘Aborigines’ suggests, the APS was both Eurocentric and paternalistic. Its leaders recognised that British colonialism led to Indigenous peoples’ dispossession and exploitation, but they argued for the radical reform of colonialism rather than its eradication. In the utopian future they envisaged, colonisers and colonised alike would be more civilised, Indigenous rights recognised and protected and Britain’s empire more economically productive.

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Oxford University and Photography

In honour of World Photography Day, on 19 August, the University Archives blog looks at some of the photographs that we hold here and how the University used photography to record its people and its activities, and to present itself to the outside world.

Photographs are so commonplace today that it’s easy to forget that for many decades the taking of photographs was a much less frequent event. It often surprises users of the University Archives how few photographs we hold. But for many years, the University did not have its own photographic studio or photographers and so any photographs that were taken were done by outside firms at considerable expense. Photography was, as a result, used sparingly by the University, reserved for special occasions only, and did not form part of its day to day activities until the late 20th century.

The University took very few photographs of its students, for example. Where these were taken and where they have survived, they tend to be found in college archives rather than in the central University’s records. Colleges had a different, much closer, relationship with their students than the University, and their photographs span both formal teaching and informal social activities.

But despite the paucity of photographic material in the Archives, it is possible to identify trends and themes in the University’s relationship with photography. The examples below highlight just a few of these.

Photographs as gifts

Something of which we have a few examples of here is the commemorative album of photographs. From the late 1800s to the mid 20th century, there appears to have been a custom of presenting a very senior or long-standing member of staff on their retirement with an album of portrait photographs of their colleagues. It shows the precious and special nature of photographs in more distant decades.

One such case from a relatively early date is the gift given to Henry Stephens, University Marshal and Bellman, who retired in 1913, having been in post since 1888. In 1914, his colleagues (former and past) put together a beautifully-inscribed album comprising portrait photographs of every single one of the many University Proctors with whom he had worked over that period.

Title page from Henry Stephens' photo album

Title page of the commemorative album of photographs presented to Henry Stephens, Marshal and Bellman in 1914 (OUA/PR/1/25/1)

Stephens worked with fifty Proctors during his 25-year career. Each academic year saw the admission of two new Proctors (Senior and Junior) and each page of the album contains, in a variety of styles, their photographic portraits.

Page showing proctors for 1888-9

Photographs of the Proctors of 1888-89 from the album presented to Henry Stephens in 1914 (OUA/PR/1/25/1)

It must have been an expensive and time-consuming gift to create. At what point it was returned to the University by Henry Stephens or his family, we don’t know, but it made its way back to the Proctors’ Office and was transferred to the Archives along with their records over 50 years later.

Departmental posterity

Another developing use of photography, from the late nineteenth century onwards, was the custom adopted by certain University departments of taking photographs of their students: each year’s intake for example, or those attending summer schools or conferences.

One department which was very careful to record its activities in this way was the Department of Continuing Education, the adult education arm of the University. Its predecessor, the Delegacy for the Extension of Teaching beyond the limits of the University (or Extension Delegacy for short), was a pioneer in the field of adult education from its origins in 1878 and it appears there was already an awareness, in its early days, of how ground-breaking its work was. It wasn’t long before it was photographing its activities for posterity, one very early example of which was the biennial Summer Meeting.

The Summer Meeting first took place at Balliol College, Oxford, in August 1888. It was a summer school open to all extension students of Oxford, Cambridge and London Universities. Students stayed in lodgings in Oxford and attended a full programme of lectures and classes. A significant development in the availability of university-level education to adults, the Summer Meetings attracted students from all around the UK.

An album of photographs of the early Summer Meetings survives in the University Archives, including its earliest photograph which is identified as the very first Summer Meeting of 1888.

Photo of First Summer Meeting

The first Summer Meeting at Oxford, 1888 (from OUA/CE/5/1)

As the photograph shows, the majority of the students were women. The Extension Delegacy was one of the first University departments to offer a university-level education to women, long before they were allowed to matriculate as full students. The Summer Meeting was only one of a number of pioneering activities which the Delegacy undertook and it led to the formation of other important adult education movements such as the Workers Educational Association (WEA), launched at the Summer Meeting of 1903.

Letting the outside in

A key way in which the University began to use photography in the twentieth century was to present itself to the world outside Oxford. Most of the photographic prints which we have in the University Archives here were not taken by the University itself, but by the press. It appears that from the early 1950s onwards the University began to be asked more and more by the national and local press for its permission to photograph its activities and events.

Generally-speaking at this time, the University was reluctant to let the press in and many of the requests it received from photographers were refused. Although aware that the outside world was interested in what went on at Oxford, the University resisted the intrusion; self-promotion, in particular, was seen as anathema to many within it. On the rare occasions when it did agree to filming or photography by outside agencies, the University demanded a high level of editorial control over the images produced.

One significant example of this was a visit in the early 1950s from the Central Office of Information (COI). The COI was, from 1946 to 2011, the UK government’s marketing and communications agency. It produced public information materials (such as leaflets, posters and short films) on a range of public issues such as life in Britain, health and education, often for the promotion of Britain overseas. In April 1952, the COI’s Photographs Division wrote to the University asking to create a ‘picture set’ illustrating life at Oxford University intended for overseas distribution. The University agreed and the COI’s photographers visited in May that year.

The Archives contains a set of about 25 photographs taken by the COI with the working title ‘The University of Oxford – Life in Britain’s Oldest Seat of Learning’. They show a carefully-curated view of student life in Oxford including shots of the city, undergraduates in colleges, libraries and tutorials; a degree ceremony; the Proctors; punting and other sports; and a debate in the Union. These were sent to the University for its approval and each bears a descriptive text on the back written by the COI. Some of these have been heavily annotated and corrected by an unnamed University official.

Photo of the High Street by Central Office of Information

View of ‘The High’, taken by the Central Office of Information. Undated (1952) (from OUA/VC/3/5)

It appears that the project then led to an even more ‘intrusive’ request from the COI just four years later. The COI wrote again to the University in 1956 asking, this time, to create a short film about it. The Foreign Office and Commonwealth Relations Office had asked the COI to produce a film for the Overseas Information Services about life in a British university and Oxford was chosen. The University agreed to co-operate officially, despite opposition from some senior. The COI’s appointed production company, Greenpark Productions, visited in 1957 to take more photographs and to film.

From the surviving correspondence about this, it appears that the COI’s request was the only one of several received at the time with which the University was prepared to co-operate. And it continued to demand a high level of control over the finished product. The COI was obliged to send the University a copy of the proposed voiceover script for the film which it edited enormously. The finished film, entitled ‘Oxford’, which ran for 15 minutes, was released in 1958 and shown in a special screening in the city at the Ritz Cinema.

More requests to photograph and film at Oxford followed and the University appears to have been rather less dismissive of these in the years after the COI film. As photographs began to give way to the filming of University events, the University started taking over from ad hoc visits from the outside press, recording its own events and managing its public face itself. The University not only became more aware of the financial advantages of doing this, it was also part of a realisation in the late 1960s that it needed to exercise more control over its brand and manage its relations with the outside world on its own terms, rather than through the lens of the external press.

Photography and filming of University activities and events is now run by the University’s Educational Media team (formerly the Media Production Unit). Not only do they produce content but they also provide advice and expertise to others creating their own University-related content.

The print archive of the Central Office of Information is held by the British Library at Central Office of Information Archive – The British Library (bl.uk)

Its business records are held by the UK National Archives and the films they produced are preserved and made available by the British Film Institute at BFI National Archive | BFI

Further information about the history of the Department for Continuing Education and its predecessors, including the Summer Meetings, can be found at The history of continuing education at Oxford | Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

 

‘Probable Prospects’: Richard Hill and Black Activism in The Archive of the Anti-Slavery Society

By Olivia Carpenter, Department of English and Related Literature, University of York.

This is the fourth in a series of posts by researchers drawing on the archive of the Anti-Slavery Society, part of the Bodleian’s We Are Our History project.

Afro-British writer, politician, and activist Richard Hill was born in 1796. Hill was born in Jamaica but spent much of his youth in England, where some of his earliest efforts on behalf of Abolitionism and the rights of free Black people in the British Empire took place when he agreed to act as an agent of the London Anti-Slavery Society in 1830. A series of several letters exchanged between Hill and the Society’s President and Secretary are among the Bodleian’s collection of the Society’s papers. These letters, exchanged over a period of just over two years, allow us to trace Hill’s experience of traveling to Haiti on behalf of the Society. The Society sent Hill to ascertain the condition of this first and only new Republic created by formerly enslaved people who had fought and won a war to become a free, independent nation. Reading Hill’s correspondence with Thomas Pringle can help us gain a greater understanding of Black British anti-slavery activism in the early nineteenth century and what Haiti’s unique sociopolitical history meant for Black organizers like Hill, who hoped to establish Black freedom in the British Empire. The letters also give us unique insight into the day-to-day successes and struggles of a nineteenth-century Afro-British activist as Hill worked to earn a living in precarious circumstances while remaining committed to developing his career.

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Oxford and Japan – 150th anniversary of the admission of the first Japanese student at Oxford

2023 is a significant year for anniversaries in the University’s progress towards the diversification of its student body. The year 1873, 150 years ago, saw not only the admission of the University’s first known black student, Christian Cole of Sierra Leone, it is also believed to be  when the first Japanese student attended Oxford: Tats (aka Tomotsune) Iwakura.

Iwakura was admitted to the University (‘matriculated’) on 29 May 1873. The information he gave the University on his matriculation form, written in his own hand, stated that he was born in Miako, Japan. Aged 19, he was the third son of the Prime Minister of Japan, Tomomi Iwakura.

Tats Iwakura matriculation form

Matriculation form of Tats Iwakura, 1873 (from OUA/UR 1/1/5)

Iwakura came to Oxford during a time of great change at the University, and his arrival reflects a number of movements by the University in later nineteenth century towards opening itself up to a greater range of students.

Under ‘college’, Iwakura has written ‘Unattached’. This refers to the Delegacy for Unattached Students (later known as Non-Collegiate Students). This was a University body set up in 1868 in order to allow students from a wider social range to attend the University by reducing the cost of their time here. Membership of a college or hall was expensive and it was this which put an Oxford education out of the financial reach of many. Membership of the Delegacy for Unattached Students, this new alternative means of being a student, was cheaper, and therefore became a possibility for people who had been hitherto excluded.

At about the same time, another major change took place at the University. Until 1854, every person matriculating at the University had to declare their agreement (by subscribing) to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. This effectively barred from the University all those of any other faith, or none. The Oxford University Act of 1854 had abolished subscription at matriculation and at graduation as BA, but it wasn’t until 1871 that the Universities Tests Act abolished subscription for all degrees and for all offices (except, somewhat understandably, degrees and professorships in theology). Catholics, Jews, Muslims and members of other faiths, or none, were now able to become senior members of the University.

A result of both the Unattached Students scheme and the 1871 Universities Test Act was that the student body at Oxford slowly began to become more diverse. And it’s into this new climate at the University that Iwakura arrived.

Tomotsune, or Tats, Iwakura (Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Iwakura_Tomotsune.jpg)

It’s clear, however, that a student from Iwakura’s background did not need the financial assistance which came from being an Unattached Student. So why did he come to Oxford in this way, and not as a member of a regular college? A clue may be the fact that once he was here, the archives are silent on what Iwakura did, apart from recording his migration (ie transfer between colleges) to Balliol College in January 1874. It was not uncommon for Unattached Students to transfer to a regular college after they had arrived at the University. In these records, Iwakura is now known as Tomotsne, no longer Tats.

There is also no record in the Archives here of Iwakura passing any examinations or of receiving a degree. This suggests that he was not here to study as a traditional undergraduate, working his way to a BA. In fact it appears that, despite the aim of the Unattached Students scheme being to attract students from poorer social backgrounds, it actually also enabled wealthy mature students to come to study in a private capacity. Unattached Students were often, like Iwakura, older than regular undergraduates, from overseas, and already graduates of other universities. What isn’t recorded on Iwakura’s form is that he had already spent time studying at Rutgers College in the United States alongside his brother Asahi in 1870.

Generally speaking, it is very difficult for the University Archives to identify the first person from a particular country to matriculate. The reason that we are able to do this, albeit tentatively, in the case of Iwakura, is that he and number of students from other parts of Asia and the Middle East are listed separately in Joseph Foster’s Alumni Oxonienses, a published register of all those admitted to the University between 1715 and 1886.

The Alumni Oxonienses (and, to some extent, the University itself at that time) had difficulty dealing with personal names that were not of Western European origin. As a result, in the back of the Alumni are separately listed all those students whose names fell into that category, under the heading “Indians, etc”. Although it is a highly disrespectful categorisation, it does enable us to more easily identify those students coming from countries such as Japan, India and Thailand. Many, it’s interesting to note, are the sons of high-status individuals such as princes and government officials.

There is no record here of how Iwakura found being a Japanese student in 1870s Oxford. He appears not to have suffered the cruelty of racist caricaturisation in the popular press that Christian Cole had to endure, but as his student experience is unrecorded in the University Archives, we don’t know what life would have been like for him here.

Iwakura’s matriculation marked the beginning of a long association of the University with Japan. It has an international office in Tokyo and over 1500 alumni currently in Japan. More about the University’s links with Japan can be found on its website at https://www.ox.ac.uk/about/international-oxford/asia-east/japan

For more on Iwakura’s time at Rutgers, see the interesting article on the College’s ‘Rutgers Meets Japan: early encounters’ website at https://sites.rutgers.edu/rutgers-meets-japan/iwakura-brothers/

Further information about Christian Cole, the first known black student at Oxford, can be found at https://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/archivesandmanuscripts/2021/10/18/the-first-black-student-at-oxford-university/

 

The Gall of It!

For a long time I’ve been curious about iron gall ink. It’s a term that gets used a lot by archivists, which is unsurprising when it’s the name for the favoured ink used in Europe from the middle ages into the twentieth century, with its use spreading around the globe. It’s the ink used on the oldest document in the University Archives that mentions the University as a corporate entity (dated 1214) and it’s likely to be the same type of ink used in some of the records of the University in the 1800s.

A document, written in Latin, in black ink, on parchment

OUA/WPBeta/P/12/1 – The 1214 Award of the Papal Legate

As well as its rich colour and permanent quality (it is remarkably resistant to water), the ink is also known for a less positive aspect – over time it may “eat” through the paper. I vividly recall seeing a photograph of piece of sheet music which had been written using iron gall ink. After 200 years, the corrosion of ink had left the sheet looking like a pianola roll.

Two pages of a paper booklet, written on with black ink. In places, the ink has burned through the paper, leaving blank spaces.

MS. Rawl. D. 869 – volume one of the papers of Philip Henry Zollmann, showing the damage caused by iron gall ink

I decided, in order to appreciate the ink a little better, the best thing to do was to make some, using an original recipe, and reading secondary sources to understand the process.  The recipe I settled on (as guided by this video) was that of Ugo da Carpi, Thesauro de Scrittori (Rome, 1535), reproduced in Renaissance Secrets: Recipes and Formulas (Wheeler, V&A Publishing, 2009). The recipe reads

“Take an ounce of gallnuts crushed into little pieces. Then put into a linen cloth. Tie it up, but not too tightly. Leave to soak for at least six days in 12 ounces of rainwater. Next boil until it reduces down to 8 ounces. Strain and add a quarter ounce of German vitriol, ground to a fine powder and half an ounce of gum arabic, steeped in vinegar[…] And you will make a wondrously good ink”

Gallnuts can be found on a variety of vegetation, but are perhaps best known on oak trees, where they are often called oak galls or oak apples. They are formed after certain types of insect (often a gall wasp) lay their eggs on a tree. When the eggs hatch as larvae, the larvae secrete chemicals which irritate the tree, causing it to produce gall tissue. The gall tissue acts as both a food source for the larvae, and a protective structure in which the larvae can pupate into a wasp. Last year, I asked my family and friends to gather any galls they might see and I noticed they brought back two types – one smooth and round, and the other rather wrinkly.

On a white background are two natural spheres. They are both brown in colour. One is smooth and mottled, the other is wrinkled and darker.

Thought to be an oak apple gall (left) and an oak knopper gall (right)

A Google search reveals that the wrinkly type are caused by the oak knopper gall wasp, and I think the smoother kind are from the oak apple gall wasp (although they are rather small for this type). I wasn’t sure if I could use the wrinkly type in making ink. Most of the YouTube videos showing ink making seem to show the smoother kind, and so I discounted the wrinkled type. Initially, the galls gathered were rather green, and so I left them to ripen to the brown colour that seemed in popular use. By January, they were ready. Unfortunately, I did not have the ounce required by the recipe and so (keen to get going) I bought some galls online. This provided yet another kind of gall. Given their size and their spiky surface, I believe that these may be Aleppo galls. I also purchased Iron II Sulphate (the modern name for German vitriol, or Copperas) and some Gum Arabic.

A see-through plastic pouch containing a number of brown spheres

Bag of oak galls, purchased from an online retailer, thought to be Aleppo galls

With a sudden wealth of galls, I decided to make two batches of ink – one with primarily “home gathered” galls, and one solely made with the purchased galls.

The first stage of the recipe is to crush and steep the galls in rainwater. Typically, early January was one of the very few periods in the UK with absolutely no rain. Feeling frustrated that I had nearly all the of the ingredients I needed, I turned to Assistant Keeper Alice Millea, who had previously mentioned she had water butts in her garden. Alice kindly agreed to the (admittedly odd) request, and brought in a flask of rainwater.

I measured out two jars of 12 ounces of rain water. Next, I set to crush the two sets of galls, using a pestle and mortar, starting with the batch primarily gathered nearby. However, the pestle and mortar did not work well on this batch, as the galls were rather spongy and could best be torn apart by hand.

A pottery pestle and mortar containing brown, natural fragments

In contrast to this, the purchased galls were extremely hard and took quite some work with the pestle and mortar to reduce to a reasonable size. From da Carpi’s use of the word “crushed” in the recipe, I would presume he was most used to working with Aleppo galls, given their hardness.

Two images, side by side. The image on the left shows a cross section of a pale beige sphere. The image on the right shows a cross-section of the inside of an orange-brown sphere

The purchased galls (on the left) had to be crushed, whereas the local galls (right) were softer and could be ripped apart.

I placed the ripped and crushed galls on squares of muslin (usually used for my jam making!) and tied them into what I can best describe as giant tea-bags. I carefully lowered them into the jars of rainwater, and left them to steep for six days.

A decorated glass jam jar, nearly full of water. At the top of the water is a pouch of muslin, tied around natural contents.

The purpose of this process is to leech out gallotannic acid from the galls, which will react when further ingredients are added at a later stage of the recipe.

After six days the liquid had turned a strong tea-like colour, and there was a small amount of growth on top of the liquid.

A decorated glass jam jar, held up in front of a window. The liquid inside the jar is a pale brown-orange. There is a muslin pouch which contents at the top of the jar.

Thus, I strained the liquids again, after removing the galls, through another square of muslin, before boiling each of the liquids until they were reduced to 8 ounces in weight. Whilst the liquid was boiling, I prepared the other ingredients. I was especially struck by the beautiful pale green colour of the Iron II Sulphate.

A heart-shaped dish on top of digital scales. There is a small amount of pale green powder inside the dish.

I wasn’t sure what the recipe meant by “steeping” the Gum Arabic in vinegar, so I decided to make a reasonably thick paste. I used red wine vinegar, as I thought this might have been the most readily available vinegar accessible for most of the period in which the ink was in use.

Eventually the liquid was sufficiently reduced, and an even deeper brown colour. I decanted this into clean jars.

A dark brown liquid inside a decorated jam jar.

The first ingredient to add was the Iron II Sulphate. The reaction was immediate and impressive.

Orange-brown liquid in a jam jar turning black when a powder is added

The change from transparent brown to dusky black was striking. What’s happening is a chemical reaction. When the tannin (from the gallotannic acid) interacts with the iron sulphate, it forms a “ferrous tannate complex”, essentially a dusky-coloured pigment.

The addition of Gum Arabic serves a number of practical purposes. It acts as a suspension agent for the pigment particles present in the liquid, keeping them distributed throughout the ink. It controls the thickness and flow of the ink, ensuring it is the right consistency for writing. It also controls the absorption of the ink into the writing surface, keeping it “on the top” for a little longer, before allowing the ink to be absorbed into the paper or parchment, making for sharper, cleaner writing marks.

Vinegar isn’t present in all iron gall ink recipes, but it is credited with slowing down the settling of pigment particles to the bottom of the ink, and with inhibiting mould growth during storage.

I could hardly wait to try out the ink (having a new dip-pen ready and waiting) but I restrained myself and waited the suggested 24 hours. Both inks when opened smelled of vinegar, but not overwhelmingly so. It’s a very thin liquid, easy to overload the pen. One noticeable difference between the two inks is that the “home grown” gall ink was black the moment it hit the page, but this could have been partly due to an overabundance of ink on the pen.

"Hello World" written in black ink on a decorative cream card

In contrast to this, the bought gall ink was rather pale when first applied. However, this colour darkened within a few minutes to jet black. The reason for this change in colour is that the iron ions in the mixture oxidise with the air, producing (from the ferrous tannate complex) a ferric tannate pigment with a darker colour, and thus a darker ink.

Furthermore, whilst the ferrous tannate complex is water soluble, the ferric tannate pigment is not, making the ink water resistant.

One final piece of curiosity was, unfortunately, not to be satisfied. I have often wondered what made different varieties of the same ink act so differently. Why do some versions of the ink “eat through” parchments, whilst others affect no damage to the surface? An obvious component is the acidity of the ink, and given that the galls are a variable source of gallotannic acid, I wondered whether different batches of galls would produce different amounts of acid. The Bodleian Conservation department very kindly provided me with some pH testing strips. Unfortunately, the ink simply turned them black, preventing any readings from being taken!

A small warning to those who intend to experiment for themselves – do remember to tighten the lid before shaking the ink…

Sources, Further Reading and Watching

Wheeler, Jo, and Katy Temple. Renaissance Secrets: Recipes and Formulas. London: V&A, 2009.

https://irongallink.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_gall_ink

https://www.rhs.org.uk/biodiversity/oak-gall-wasps

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xo9rbRRCBv8

Horsing around – students and their horses

As the horseracing world gets ready for this year’s Grand National on 13-15 April, the University Archives’ blog this month looks at the relationship between horses and students at Oxford in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The life of an undergraduate student at late-eighteenth-century Oxford was not what we would call arduous. The University had become rather (in)famous by this date for its narrow and undemanding curriculum, and lax examination standards. Its academic reputation was poor, seen as a place where the sons of aristocracy could spend a few years in a kind of finishing school, enjoying themselves before going out into the adult world. Lectures were not compulsory and as there were no written exams, and only one final (oral) examination which no-one failed, there was little pressure on students to study hard. No wonder, then, that students had free time on their hands.

For some students, horses became a big part of this free time. Horses had a variety of uses: both as providing entertainment and sport, and as a means of transport and travel, enabling students to leave the confines of Oxford and get out into the countryside (and into the country pubs) around it.

Most students, if they needed a horse, simply hired one from one of the many stables in Oxford which had grown up to support this thriving market. Famous stable keepers of the the time included Charley Symonds in Holywell Street (whose stables, at one point, could accommodate 100 horses) and Samuel Quartermaine in St Aldates (who apparently owned a Grand National winner). The more well-off students kept their own horses in Oxford, however, and paid these stable keepers (at great expense) to look after their horses so they could use them whenever they wanted to.

In order to keep a horse at Oxford, students needed the permission of both the Vice-Chancellor and their college. Keeping a horse without permission was not permitted by the University authorities. This was to try to enable the University to control the keeping of horses by its students, and to limit the damage that the students could do with them.

The University Archives holds a small number of records concerning the keeping of horses and the means by which students secured permission to do so. A parent, usually the student’s father, wrote to the Vice-Chancellor personally to request that his son could keep a horse. The request also had to be approved by the student’s college. The records here include a number of these letters from parents and colleges. One student in 1788, Thomas Bartlam of Worcester College, almost literally had a note from his mum.

Letter giving permission for Thomas Bartlam, Worcester College, to keep a horse, 1788 (from OUA/MR/8/1/2)

As expected, these students were of the richer variety: those who could afford to pay someone else to keep their horse for the duration of the term. They were also rich enough to apply, in the same way, to keep their own servants at Oxford. Rather unfortunately, the keeping of both horses and personal servants was administered by the University in the same manner. The records in the Archives include a register, arranged by college, of the names of students who successfully applied for permission (‘veniam impetravit’) to keep either a horse or a servant. Next to the names of the students were two columns – one for horses (‘Eq’, short for ‘equus’ the Latin word for horse) and one for servants (‘Serv’) giving the numbers kept of each.

Names of students of Merton College given permission to keep horses and servants, 1786-1808 (from OUA/MR/8/1/2)

As time went on, the register also began to be used to record permission to keep vehicles (ie carriages to go with the horse). Horse-drawn vehicles caused the University authorities great consternation as they tried to stop students driving a range of carriages (gigs, tandems and ‘phaetons’) fast and furiously around the city.

When applying for permission to keep a horse, many students claimed that their doctor had recommended riding for their ‘health’. The city of Oxford was probably not the cleanest place in the late eighteenth century, and a ride out into the fresher air of the Oxfordshire countryside was no doubt of benefit, but there is reason to be cynical about the truth of all of these claims. The University’s statutes governing undergraduate behaviour (De Moribus Conformandis) made only one exception to the general rule of no horses, and that was for students in poor health. As a result, it appears to have become a bit of a loophole, exploited as a convenient way to guarantee that permission would be granted.

Apart from the freedom to travel, which a horse would give, the most likely (and coincidentally most illicit) reason why a student might want to keep on in Oxford was for sport. The undergraduate sporting scene at this time was very different from today. Organised sport did not exist – neither the University nor the college provided facilities for it – and sports clubs did not start to emerge until much later in the second half of the nineteenth century. Instead, student sport was very much based on individuals’ personal wealth and the conspicuous use of it.

Having managed to get their horse to Oxford, the students then used it to indulge in expensive luxury pursuits such as hunting and horse riding in the countryside nearby. Nearly all such pursuits were prohibited by the University, its statutes specifically forbidding students from pursuing most horse-related activities. As well as outlawing the driving of certain horse-drawn vehicles, the statute De Moribus Conformandis banned students from indulging in pastimes which involved money, or which could cause injury or a spectacle. The one sport which flouted nearly every one of these rules was horse racing.

Taking part in horse racing, or even just spectating, combined many of the worst excesses of student behaviour, the University thought, and it fought against it. Although the arrival of the railway in Oxford in the 1840s had made it easier for students to get to racecourses (despite the University trying to prevent them from getting there by banning the use of stations such as Ascot), students made their own entertainment closer to home, holding horse races in and around the city.

The University responded by putting up notices warning students not to take part. Posted on college walls and doors, these printed notices were the chief means of communication by the University to students at the time, usually reprimanding them for bad behaviour. Issued under the name of the Vice-Chancellor or Proctors, they described the offending behaviour before threatening punishment under the relevant part of the statutes. Punishments were usually in the form of fines, but could involve expulsion for serious or repeat offenders. Some notices even threatened the townspeople who aided and abetted the students.

Notice concerning horseracing, undated (c1848-52) (from OUA/WPγ/26/2)

A small number of these notices survive. One reports the practice of horse racing in Port Meadow and comes down hard on both those taking part as well as those simply watching. Another mentions an upcoming steeplechase which seems to have been widely publicised. Taking pre-emptive action, the University threatens those planning on participating with removal from the University (‘amotionis ab Academia’).

Notice concerning steeplechasing, undated (c1848-52) (from OUA/WPγ/26/2)

By the second half of the nineteenth century, things were changing. Steeplechasing became respectable in the 1860s when it gained ‘blue’ status (ie formal Oxford-Cambridge steeplechasing contests were established). Relations between students and the University authorities improved as sports clubs began to be established and organised team sports (such as cricket and rugby) replaced private activities. And the number of idle gentry amongst the student body decreased as the academic rigour of the University’s curriculum and examinations increased. The respite for the University authorities was brief, however. Within a few decades, the motor car had replaced the horse as the students’ vehicle of choice and the University had to deal with a brand new and much more dangerous problem.

Equestrianism continues to thrive at the University today, although it mostly focuses on showjumping and dressage, and not on steeplechasing across Port Meadow. Further information can be found on the University Sport equestrian website at https://www.sport.ox.ac.uk/equestrian