Early records of Oxford University Archives


The Lower Archive Room of the University Archives occupies the penultimate storey of the Tower of the Five Orders in the Old Schools Quadrangle. It was allocated for the use of the Keeper of the Archives in 1634. Wooden presses, still in use today, were constructed to hold the records of the University. The location of these and the number of shelves within them account for the reference codes (or shelfmarks) of the documents stored in the room, such as SEP/1/1 (i.e. South East Press, shelf 1, item 1). Documents with the prefixes EW, NW and SW were formerly stored in the window spaces of the room.

Finding aids

The Lower Archive Room contains the earlier records of the University (those dated up to c.1850), except for records of the Chancellor's Court and some financial and estate records. There are two finding aids to the contents of the room:

  • An index to the contents compiled in the 1970s/80s: this enables access by subject but gives no contextual information.
  • A shelflist of the contents compiled in the 1930s by Strickland Gibson, Keeper of the Archives: this lists the documents press by press and shelf by shelf but provides no subject access to the material or overview of contents.

Both the shelflist and the index have been updated with later additions to the Lower Archive Room presses. Readers are advised to consult both sources when searching for records in the Lower Archive Room.
The shelflist and the index are in the process of being substantially revised. They are currently the only available finding aids to the contents of the Lower Archive Room.

Lower Archive Room Index

The index to the contents of the Lower Archive Room was compiled on handwritten slips in the 1970s and early 1980s and was intended to be a guide to subjects to which the material in the Lower Archive Room relates. It was subsequently converted to a word-processed format and substantially corrected and edited in 2002. The index should ideally be consulted in conjunction with the Lower Archive Room shelflist which can provide some context.

The index is arranged in two parts:

  1. A list of all the index headings (PDF, 27KB)
  2. The full text of the index (PDF, 1.18 MB)

The index is arranged according to the index headings. Under each heading is the following information divided into three columns:

  • Date: date of the document or documents (year only). Where the document is not dated ('nd'), the following convention has been used to indicate the range in which the date may fall, eg 'nd (1548x1582)' denotes a date somewhere between 1548 and 1582.
  • Reference: OUA reference code for the document(s).
  • Description: brief description of the document(s) which may include specific dates, references to published sources of information or editions of the documents.

Abbreviated forms of publications used in the index:

  • Bibliography: Cordeaux and Merry, Bibliography of Printed Works relating to the University of Oxford (1968)
  • Enactments: LL Shadwell, Enactments in Parliament (1912)
  • Mediaeval Archives: HE Salter, Mediaeval Archives of the University of Oxford (Oxford Historical Society, 2 vols, 1920-1)
  • Records: WH Turner, Selections from the records of the City of Oxford with extracts from other documents illustrating the municipal history: 1509–1583 (1880)
  • Statuta Antiqua: Strickland Gibson, Statuta Antiqua Universitatis Oxoniensis (1931)
  • Survey: HE Salter, Survey of Oxford (Oxford Historical Society, 2 vols, 1960 and 1969)

For more information about consulting documents from the Archives, please see our information about using the Archives. If you wish to make an enquiry to the Archives about the Index, or any documents listed in it, please contact us.

Lower Archive Room shelflist

In the 1930s a handwritten catalogue (or, more accurately, shelflist) was compiled of the contents of the Lower Archives Room by Strickland Gibson, then Keeper of the Archives. The shelflist does not provide subject access to the material described. It simply lists all the documents press by press and shelf by shelf.

The shelflist is in the process of being comprehensively revised and the catalogues for some presses have already been completed. Those available here as PDF documents are:

The shelflists for the remainder of the presses have not yet been revised and remain, with minor alterations, as compiled by Strickland Gibson. Shelflists currently available as PDF documents are highlighted below. Please contact us for further information regarding those shelflists not yet available online.

The shelflist should ideally be consulted in conjunction with the index to the records of the Lower Archive Room which is arranged by subject.