The University has had records ever since it acquired a corporate identity in the early 13th century. It seems that the University's archives were first kept in St Frideswide's Priory before being transferred to the Congregation House in St Mary's Church in the 14th century. There they were stored in chests along with the University's cash and other valuables. When the Congregation House was burgled in 1544 the archives were left scattered about and in utter confusion. Some were lost. They remained in a chaotic state until the early 17th century when the antiquary Brian Twyne put them in order. Twyne carried out most of the research in the Archives necessary for the compilation of the new University Statutes (the 'Laudian Code') which were approved in 1636; he also prepared the University's petition to Charles I for the 'Great Charter' of the same year. He was appointed to the newly created office of Keeper of the Archives in 1634.
Twyne and his successor in the office of Keeper, Gerard Langbaine, moved the archives from the Congregation House to the room in the penultimate storey of the Tower of the Five Orders in the Old Schools Quadrangle; wooden presses, three of which are still in use today, were constructed to house them. The Tower was built between 1613 and 1620 and it may be that it was intended from the beginning to store the archives, but there is no direct evidence for this. The accommodation was sufficient for the needs of the Archives until 1854 when the top floor of the Tower was also assigned to the Keeper. This room had been used for a variety of purposes including the storage of powder and shot during the Civil War and astronomical observations by the Savilian Professor of Astronomy; it is now the Archives office.
In the early 1970s further storage space was allocated to accommodate the huge amount of modern documentation being produced by the expanding University. In 2015 this additional storage space was vacated and the records moved to the recently-opened Weston Library and to the Bodleian Storage Facility in Swindon. The majority of the University archives are now stored in the Weston Library .
Image credit: Proctorial Cycle, 1628, Oxford University Archives Long Box 21/2
Keepers of the Archives
|Years as Keeper||Keeper|
|1781-96||Thomas Francis Wenman|
|1818-26||George Leigh Cooke|
|1885-1909||Thomas Vere Bayne|
|1909-27||Reginald Lane Poole|
|1946-69||William Abel Pantin|