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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0505 BC
Held at: Royal Holloway, University of London
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Date(s): 1849-1992
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
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Extent: Approximately 2073 boxes, and 284 volumes
Name of creator(s): Bedford College
Bedford College for Women
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Bedford College for Women was founded in 1849 by Mrs Elizabeth Jesser Reid, a widow who had been left a private income by her late husband, which she used to undertake philanthropic works. Mrs Reid and her circle of well-educated friends had long espoused the need for better education for women, and in 1849, she went ahead with her plans, leasing a house at 47 Bedford Square, London, placing 1,500 with three male trustees, and persuading a number of her friends to serve on the management committees and act as teaching professors. The intention was to provide a liberal and non-sectarian education for women.

In the first few years, the 'Ladies College in Bedford Square' struggled both financially and academically. The latter problem was countered in 1853 by the opening of a school on the premises to provide a better standard of entry to the classes in the College. Some of the students became resident, staying first in 'The Residence' in Grenville St, and later in 48 Bedford Square.

Upon the death of Mrs Reid in 1866, the three Reid Trustees, who controlled a large legacy of her money, insisted upon a new constitution (as the College in fact had no legal charter), which was framed by a Committee of Management and came into effect in 1868. The College was incorporated as an Association under the Board of Trade, with Articles of Association setting out a new management structure.

The College officially became 'Bedford College', though its premises moved to 8 and 9 York Place in 1874. The two houses acted as one, with the College using the downstairs rooms and the Residence the upstairs. As numbers began to rise, the College expanded, with the addition of extensions housing science laboratories. Degree examinations of the University of London were opened to women in 1878, and Bedford students had been gaining BA, BSc and Masters degrees from the early 1880s. Another innovation was the appointment in 1893 of a Lady Principal, Miss Emily Penrose, who became responsible for both the teaching and residential aspects of Bedford College.

The student numbers were still cause for concern, for despite scholarships paid for by benefactors, the College still had no permanent endowment, and financial pressures were putting off prospective students. This changed in 1894-1895 when the London County Council made a grant of 500 to the College. Numbers began to climb, with the beginning of a thriving social and academic life for the female scholars. Bedford College was a success, with a reputation for high academic standards - it boasted the largest number of female students who had graduated with London degrees. The College became one of the constituent Colleges of the newly formed teaching University of London in 1900.

Following extensive discussions, especially relating to the inadequate representation of teachers in the management structure of the College, it was decided to apply to the Privy Council for a Royal Charter to take the place of the Deed of Incorporation. Royal Assent for this new chartered body was received in Jan 1909, and the College became officially recognised as the 'Bedford College for Women'.

The continued growth of the College led to a search for new premises which culminated in the purchase of the lease of the Regent's Park site in 1908. A huge fundraising effort was undertaken to provide the new site with all modern amenities, and the official opening took place in 1913. The College buildings continued to be extended and rebuilt throughout the 70 years the College spent at Regent's Park, especially following extensive damage following wartime bombing, and numbers of students continued to rise.

The decision to admit male undergraduates was made in 1965, following the Robbins Report of 1963, which also recommended an increase in student numbers, no small task for an already overcrowded College. Male residences were created at Tennyson Hall in Dorset Square, and Hanover Lodge in Regent's Park. Other halls became mixed sex. The name of the College was changed back to 'Bedford College'.

Despite a Development Appeal, launched in 1978, financial and accommodation pressures provoked the decision, made in 1982, to merge with Royal Holloway College at Egham, and the Bedford College Charter was revoked on 1 Aug 1985. The resulting establishment was known as the Royal Holloway and Bedford New College.


Scope and content/abstract:

Collection of papers relating to Bedford College, University of London, 1849-1992, namely charters, deeds and statutes of Bedford College, 1849-1985, including foundation documents; records of the Council, 1849-1985, including minute books, register books, outwards letter books and correspondence, and legal documents mainly relating to property held by the College; papers of the Ladies Committee, 1849-1893, including minutes and documents relating to the Lady Visitors; papers of the Governors, 1849-1985, including minutes of the AGMs and Special General meetings, and of the Fellows sub-Committee; papers of the Reid Trustees, 1860-1992, mainly comprising legal, administrative and financial papers relating to the Trust, and including material relating to the Reid Scholarships, 1871-1992; papers of the Managers of the Residence, 1860-1928, including minutes, financial material, legal documents, correspondence, and building plans, notably material relating to the move of Bedford College to Baker Street and later Regent's Park; papers of the Committees of the Council, 1868-1985, mainly comprising minutes, correspondence and papers; papers of the Academic Board, 1909-1965, mainly comprising minutes, committee papers and standing orders; papers of the Academic Committees, 1928-1985; papers of the Faculties, 1907-1985, comprising minutes and committee papers; papers of the Academic Departments, 1849-1985, including departmental files, reports, registers, financial material, building plans and material relating to staff publications; papers relating to Bedford College Library, 1886-1974, including committee minutes, Library working files, correspondence, lists and registers, and building plans; papers of the Principal's Office, 1843-1985, including correspondence with academic departments, material concerning policy and merger issues; Bedford College personnel material, 1900-1985, including staff files, 1900-1985, papers relating to staff appointments and conditions, minutes and papers of the Department Staffing Committees; papers of the Registry, 1849-1985, mainly comprising student records such as register books, course lists, scholarship details, examination records, college publications including prospectus leaflets, timetables and College Calendars, and Registrar's papers relating to financial and academic management of the College; papers of the Secretary's Office, 1849-1985, including material concerning ceremonial occasions, public lectures, gifts and bequests to the College, memorial funds and trusts administered by the College, the administration and award of prizes and scholarships, correspondence with academic departments, London colleges and national bodies, papers relating to financial and funding bodies, and correspondence with academic and residence staff; financial documents of Bedford College, 1849-1983, including the main financial registers, 1849-1965, early accounts, 1856-1866, annual accounts, 1894-1977, material relating to students' accounts and scholarships, 1861-[1965], material relating to staff salaries and revisions, 1894-1976, household accounts, 1910-1969, and account books for special funds, 1894-1968; papers relating to the buildings and residences of Bedford College, 1873-1985, notably material relating to fundraising for building schemes, plans and correspondence concerning building and development at the Regent's Park site, 1910-1980, Bursar's papers, 1924-1985, relating to the maintenance of College buildings, correspondence and papers relating to the purchase, lease and maintenance of College Halls of Residence; papers relating to student associations, 1894-1984, including the Bedford College Union Society, the Bedford College Student's Association, the Bedford College Old Student's Association, and the Bedford College Association; Bedford College magazines, 1886-1985; papers of the clubs and societies of the College, 1894-1974, mainly comprising correspondence, accounts, minutes and printed material; records of the staff associations of Bedford College, 1917-[1989], such as minutes, accounts and reports of the Association of University Teachers (AUT), the Bedford College Assistant Staff Association, the Bedford College Staff Association, and the Staff Athletics Club; various unofficial records relating to the College, [1780]-1987, namely reminiscences, press cuttings, drawings and sketches; photographs, [1849-1985], of Bedford College, its staff and students.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged in sections as outlined in the Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

Open to all registered users of the College Archives. Administrative and Committee papers are closed for 30 years from the last date on file. Papers relating to individuals are usually closed for 100 years from the subject's birth. Users are advised to consult the College Archivist for specific details.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies of open material may be supplied, subject to the condition of the original. Requests to publish original material should be directed to the College Archivist.

Finding aids:

`A catalogue of the Archives of Bedford College (University of London), 1849-1985', by Claire Gobbi Daunton and Elizabeth Bennett, 1987.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were transferred from the Bedford College Archives when the College merged with Royal Holloway in 1985.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The Royal Holloway, University of London Archives also hold material relating to Royal Holloway College.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

A history of Bedford College for Women, 1849-1937 (Oxford University Press, London, 1939), by Dame Margaret Jansen Tuke; Educating women: a pictorial history of Bedford College, University of London, 1849-1985 (Alma Publishers, Surrey, 1991), by Dr Linna Bentley.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Sarah Aitchison as part of the AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with general International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Sep 2000

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