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Council of Bedford College

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0505 BC GB110-120
Held at: Royal Holloway, University of London
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Full title: Council of Bedford College
Date(s): 1849-1985
Level of description: Subfonds of Bedford College
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Extent: 56 volumes and 74 boxes
Name of creator(s): Bedford College | Council
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Following deliberations in 1849 by various provisional committees, the management structure of Bedford College was arranged into a Board, a Council, a Ladies Committee and a Professors Committee, coming into effect as a corporate body in Sep 1849.

The Council was the most important of these bodies, being the holder of the executive functions and responsible for the general and educational management of Bedford College. It comprised nine members: one Trustee, two representatives of the Board, three Lady Visitors, and three Professors, the women on the Council being the final authority for 'all matters in which female propriety and comfort is concerned'. The Ladies Committee and the Professors Committee were intended to report to the Council, which would mediate between and unite the opinions of the two advisory bodies. Other powers included appointment and remuneration of staff and overseeing of College finances. Various decisions made by the Council included new plans for the conduct of finances, 1850, including a rigorous procedure for the drawing of cheques and the appointment of an auditor to oversee the accounts; the drawing up in 1856 of a systematic four year course of study for pupils, including a terminal examination; and the creation of a Committee of Education to assess and advise students.

The draft constitution of Bedford College, however, had never been formally adopted by the Board, and lacked any legal power. Despite numerous attempts, no formal charter could be agreed upon by all sections of the management structure, and the College was also suffering under financial pressures and suspicions of inadequate teaching methods. Following the death of Mrs Reid, her Trustees instigated the replacement of the College government by a Committee of Management chaired by Mark Pattison and containing several members of the old Council. After a period of autocratic rule, the Committee of Management framed a Constitution that was accepted by the Board and came into force in 1869. The College was incorporated as an Association under the Board of Trade, and the Articles of Association placed the government of Bedford College in the hands of a body of Members named 'The College', who took the place of the previous Board. The Council remained the main executive body, though it was no longer made up of representatives from different sections of the College, but was consist of ten Members, nine elected by 'The College' in General Meeting (with one third being women) and the Honorary Secretary. This Council had full executive powers and was also empowered to create Committees: a Committee of Education was instituted immediately.

The membership of the Council was changed from ten to twenty in 1892 to allow for the presence of representatives of the Residence, and a need for closer communication between Staff and the College government led to Staff representatives being awarded the position of assessors on the Council in 1902.

Following the grant of a Royal Charter in 1909, the Council was restructured to include representatives of the University of London, the London County Council, the teaching Staff, and the Governors, with the Principal becoming an ex officio member. One-third of the Councillors were still to be women. Meetings were held at least once a term, with the annual election of a Chairman, Vice Chairman and Honorary Treasurer at the first Council meeting after the Annual General Meeting. One-fifth of the elected Councillors (those chosen from among the Governors) was to resign at every AGM.

The Council conducted the general business of College, with powers to appoint and dismiss the Principal, Secretary, teaching staff and other employees, to appoint Standing or Special Committees (the Chairman of Council being an ex officio member of all committees), and supervise the overall revenue and expenditure of the College. They also maintained the Common Seal of the College, the affixing of which had to be attested by two Councillors and the Secretary of Council.

The size and makeup of the Bedford College Council has varied over the years, the final total being fixed at 32 by the Governors in 1982. Student Councillors were admitted to the Council in 1973 - elected by whole student body in secret ballot - and had to include the President and former President of Bedford College Union Society.


Scope and content/abstract:

Bound and unbound Minutes of Bedford College Council, 1849-1984; Agenda Book for the Council and its Committees, 1896-1954; bound list of papers presented to Council, 1971-1985; Attendance Register for the Council and its Committees, 1908-1939; Committee Signature Books, 1929-1933 and 1973-1985, including the Academic Board; alphabetical list of the Members of the College and the Council, 1872-1904; Register of the Members of the College, 1869-1888, including name, occupation and date of entry; List of members of temporary Committees, 1928-1934; Bound volumes and pamphlets containing the Annual Reports of the Council, 1888-1983; outward Letter Books of the Council, 1881-1895, with indexes; Notebook of Lucy Russell, Honorary Secretary of the Council, 1888-1902, including names and addresses of Professors and teachers, Members of the College, Associates, students previous to 1871, auditors, Visitors and tradesmen, as well as lists of the membership of the Council and Committees; material relating to the use of the College Seal, notably Seal Books of the Council, 1909-1948, the College Seal, 1965, and correspondence relating the need for a new Seal following changes of name, 1956, 1965 and 1984; legal documents, 1865-1983, relating to premises used by Bedford College, including deeds of property for the Shaen Wing, 1896-1899, 35-37 Dorset Square, 10 Dorset Square, 299a Edgware Road, 43 New Cavendish Street, 51 Harley Street, The Holme, Hanover Lodge, Headstone Lane Sports Centre, Sussex Lodge, York Place, East Street and Broadhurst Gardens. Legal documents relating to benefactors of the College, notably Deeds of Gift under the Pious Benefactors, 1926, and by the Marquess of Crewe, 1930. Correspondence and papers relating to the financing, construction and upkeep of the Busk Memorial Gates, 1931-1936. Minutes of the Committee of Management, 1868.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Mainly bound volumes: other papers are arranged in files according to subject.

Conditions governing access:

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:

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

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

The Royal Holloway, University of London Archives contain papers of the various Committees formed by the Council (BC GB500-800); Secretary's correspondence with the Council, 1903-1949, 1952 and 1974-1976 (BC AR385/1-7), correspondence relating to Staff Councillors, 1977-1980 (BC AR385/7/1-2), Student Councillors, 1968-1985 (BC AR385/7/3 & 7), Council Committees (BC AR385/4) and working papers relating to Committee Structure, 1970-1971 (BC AR385/7/8), and correspondence with the Council relating to the admission of men to Bedford College, 1956-1962 (BC AR385/9/4); Registrar's papers relating to the Council, 1955-1984 (BC AR271/1/1-6); Principal's files including Council and Committee papers, 1981-1985 (BC AR106/1-8); papers relating to the Halls of Residence (BC AR800-900); and photographs of Chairmen and Members of Council and Honorary Treasurers (BC PH1).

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.

Description Notes

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

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:
Mar 2000

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