History of Oxford University Archives

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 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. Built between 1613 and 1620, the Tower may have been 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.

Keepers of the Archives

Years as Keeper Keeper
1634–44 Brian Twyne
1644–58 Gerard Langbaine
1658–1703 John Wallis
1703–26 Bernard Gardiner
1726–67 Francis Wise
1767–77 John Swinton
1777–81 Benjamin Buckler
1781–96 Thomas Francis Wenman
1796–1815 Whittington Langdon
1815–18 James Ingram
1818–26 George Leigh Cooke
1826–57 Philip Bliss
1857–85 John Griffiths
1885–1909 Thomas Vere Bayne
1909–27 Reginald Lane Poole
1927–45 Strickland Gibson
1946–69 William Abel Pantin
1969–85 Trevor Aston
1987–95 Jeffrey Hackney
1995–2000 David Vaisey
2000–20 Simon Bailey
 2020–  Faye McLeod