Hold Fast, Sit Sure: City and the Saddlers

One of City’s longest-standing partnerships has been with The Worshipful Company of Saddlers. The livery company has been providing financial support to City from its inception as the Northampton Institute in the 1890s. As the below letter from 1891 shows, they were particularly quick off the mark – the first cheque arrived before the clerk had a bank account in which to deposit it!

A letter from John J Lambert, clerk of the Governing Body of the Northampton Institute, to Charles Dorman, Chair of the Governing Body. Source: Letter book from the archives. The letter reads: "Northampton Institute, 13th February, Re: Henry Kitchin's Charity. Dear Sir, I have received this moring from the Clerk to the Saddlers Company, Trustees of Henry Kitchin's Charity a cheque for £111-5-6 said to be payment of the amount due to the Governing Body from 9th May to 31st Dec. 1891 under the City Polytechnic Scheme and the Scheme for Kitchin's Charity. By this last named Scheme the Governing Body are entitled to 78/101 parts of the residue of the income of the Charity. The amount £111-5-6 will require verifying before a formal receipt is given. The important point is that for the present there is no Banking Account. I am, Sir, Yours faithfully, John J. Lambert"
A letter from John J Lambert, clerk of the Governing Body of the Northampton Institute, to Charles Dorman, Chair of the Governing Body. Source: Letter book from the archives. The letter reads: “Northampton Institute, 13th February, Re: Henry Kitchin’s Charity. Dear Sir, I have received this moring from the Clerk to the Saddlers Company, Trustees of Henry Kitchin’s Charity a cheque for £111-5-6 said to be payment of the amount due to the Governing Body from 9th May to 31st Dec. 1891 under the City Polytechnic Scheme and the Scheme for Kitchin’s Charity. By this last named Scheme the Governing Body are entitled to 78/101 parts of the residue of the income of the Charity. The amount £111-5-6 will require verifying before a formal receipt is given. The important point is that for the present there is no Banking Account. I am, Sir, Yours faithfully, John J. Lambert”

The source of these funds is the charity of Robert Kitchin, a warden of the Company in the 16th century. Upon his death in 1594, Kitchin left a perpetual income from property to be administered by the Company, stating that “every Sunday in the year, before noon, forever,” twelve poor parishioners of St Ethelbridge should be given twelve pence each, and that fifteen shillings and fourpence should be given “every year, yearly, forever” to fund ongoing maintenance of the parish church, St Ethelburga-the-Virgin within Bishopsgate. Though a modest building, the church has a storied history, and some of the 15th-century fabric remains to this day.

The church of St Ethelburga-the-Virgin within Bishopsgate. Source: Oxyman, reused under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license; available at https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/571163
The church of St Ethelburga-the-Virgin within Bishopsgate. Source: Oxyman, reused under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license

Dwindling residential numbers in the three-acre parish meant that, by the 19th century, fulfilling Kitchin’s original directions was no longer tenable. In 1891, the Charity Commission agreed that 78/101sts of the proceeds of the fund should be given to the Northampton Institute, which had a mission to improve the lives of “young men and women belonging to the poorer classes.” The remaining 23/101sts were to be paid to St Ethelburga’s. A modified version of this scheme persists to this day.

In return for their support, and as a mark of the close ties between the two organisations, the Saddlers were granted a seat on the Governing Body of the Institute. The first person appointed to this seat was Lt. Gen. John Wimburn Laurie, Master of the Company. Laurie’s 30-year military career saw him serve in conflicts from the Crimean War (1853-56) to the Serbo-Bulgarian War (1885). After his time in service, he was returned as a conservative MP for the Welsh seat of Pembroke and Haverfordwest in the 1895 and 1900 general elections, and appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath, making him a prominent figure in Victorian society.

Lt Gen John Wimburn Laurie (seated) with his three sons. Source: Wikimedia (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GeneralLaurieandhisThreeSons1901.jpg); public domain
Lt Gen John Wimburn Laurie (seated) with his three sons. Source: Wikimedia; public domain

Since these early days, the Company has continued to make contributions to City via Kitchin’s charity. One of the most prominent was the Saddlers’ Sports Centre, for which the Saddlers gifted £150,000 in 1971 (equivalent to over £2,000,000 today). The state-of-the-art Centre had a flexible layout, with a 900m² main hall that facilitated sports from badminton to archery. The Centre also featured a sauna and outdoor climbing wall, and was the first in Britain to use Uni-Turf flooring, which supported the use of needle-spike shoes for athletics events.

The editor of Quest, City’s magazine, wrote that “in no way more appropriately could [the Company] have helped future generations of students.” This prediction has so far been borne out; the Centre is still in use as the Saddlers Sports Hall.

A view of the main hall in the new Saddlers' Sports Centre, 1976. Source: Quest no. 31 (1976)
A view of the main hall in the new Saddlers’ Sports Centre, 1976. Source: Quest no. 31 (1976)

The Saddlers have also made generous contributions to the Student Union, granting £4,300 towards the redevelopment of the union bar (equivalent to roughly £25,000 today). In honour of this, the Union named the bar after the Company. The Saddlers’ Bar was opened in 1978, with the first pint being pulled by Alan Loader Maffey, 2nd Baron Rugby, who was Master of the Saddlers Company at the time.

Alan Loader Maffey, 2nd Baron Rugby, Master of the Saddlers Company, pulling the first pint in the new Saddlers' Bar, 1978. The pump handles feature horse's heads, in honour of the Saddlers. Source: City News (30 Oct 1978)
Alan Loader Maffey, 2nd Baron Rugby, Master of the Saddlers Company, pulling the first pint in the new Saddlers’ Bar, 1978. The pump handles feature horse’s heads, in honour of the Saddlers. Source: City News (30 Oct 1978)

With the previous Union bar at City being a place “where drinking was more a form of endurance than a pleasurable experience,” the opening of the Saddlers’ Bar was welcomed by many students at City. The Saddlers’ was the ‘prestige bar’ at City (there was also a ‘functions bar,’ also opened in 1978, complete with “full disco facilities”).

An artist's impression of the proposed Saddlers' Bar from 1978. Source: City News (12 Jun 1978)
An artist’s impression of the proposed Saddlers’ Bar from 1978. Source: City News (12 Jun 1978)

The Saddlers’ was styled after a traditional Victorian pub, with buttoned-tufted leather booths, dark wooden furniture, and “real glasses” instead of plastic ones. Despite several renamings and relocations over the years, the bar has been in continuous operation ever since, and is currently known as City Bar.

A group of five students enjoy the new Saddlers' Bar in 1978. Source: City News (30 Oct 1978)
A group of five students enjoy the new Saddlers’ Bar in 1978. Source: City News (30 Oct 1978)

More recent contributions have included funding for the first computer link between the main university computer facilities and City’s two halls of residence, which was completed in 1987, and funding for an alumni database in 1991.

City is hugely grateful for our close relationship with our friends at the Worshipful Company of Saddlers over the last 130 years. Long may it continue.

The Story of City exhibition – ending soon

Thank you for helping us celebrate 125 years of City. As our anniversary year draws to a close we would like to remind you that Part 2 of the exhibition The Story of City: life, learning and legacy will run until the end of December, so please visit while you can. The exhibition is open to all and is located at the foot of the Great Staircase in the Pavilion, University Building.

The second part of the exhibition explores everyday life during the early years of the Institute. Find out more about the academic and social activities of the Institute. Learn about the origins of Student Union Mascot, King Carrot and travel back to the 1896 opening to the general public of Clerkenwell who enjoyed access to the swimming baths and entertainments in the Great Hall.

On display are items from the City Archive including student exercise books and early prospectus.  You can also see a reproduction of the time capsule which was buried under the Foundation Stone of the College Building in 1894. Visit the online exhibition where you can find out more and examine in detail digital replicas of a selection of documents, such as this 1923 laboratory workbook of Telegraphy student Philip de la Haye le Marquand.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the exhibition, please share your feedback or your memories of City in the comments below.

From the Archives: City and Space

by Stephen Penton and Conor Jackson

City Archive holds a number of pieces of material relating to space and space travel. This all relates to today’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics. One of the earliest departments when the Northampton Institute was founded in 1897 was Mechanical Engineering, and soon after in 1909 City was one of the first universities to introduce Aeronautical Engineering courses.

One of the Heads of Departments of the Aeronautics Department was Grigori Tokaty. Professor Tokaty had a highly successful career as an aeronautical engineer in the USSR, becoming chief rocket scientist in 1947.1 However, shortly afterwards he defected to the UK and has been described as ‘…one of the most prominent Cold War defectors’ (Dylan, 2018).2 He was a Professor at City between 1967 and 1975, and invited a number of eminent people involved in space to City during this time.

A photo of Professor Grigori Tokaty.
Professor Grigori Tokaty

Professor Tokaty invited the astronauts David Scott, Alfred Worden and James Irwin to visit City in November 1971, shortly after they had visited the Moon on the Apollo 15 mission. A short amateur film was made of the occasion, including footage of their arrival, and of a ceremony in the Great Hall. City still has this film in the Archive.

The mission was launched from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, using a spacecraft called Endeavour. It took nearly 100 hours to reach the moon. Once there, Scott and Irwin descended to the moon’s surface in a smaller vehicle called Falcon, and then used a Lunar Roving Vehicle to travel on the Moon (altogether it covered 17 miles). There was a greater emphasis on science than in earlier Apollo missions, particularly geology, with samples from the Moon’s surface taken and transported back to Earth. 18.5 hours were spent outside the spacecraft in all on the mission – this was a record at the time for one mission.3

In the ceremony at City the astronauts presented the University with a photograph of the Lunar Roving Vehicle, and a piece of the heat shield from the Endeavour spacecraft, both of which are still at City.

The signed photo of the Apollo 15 landing module and rover presented by the Apollo 15 astronauts. The inscription reads: "To Peter Studd, Lord Mayor and Chancellor of the City University from the Apollo 15 crew in appreciation of our visit - November 9, 1971" and the caption reads: "Astronaut Irwin with rover at Apollo 15 landing site."
The signed photo of the Apollo 15 landing module and rover presented by the Apollo 15 astronauts.

In the Autumn of 1974 – 31st October to be exact – Professor Tokaty invited science writer and novelist Arthur C. Clarke to deliver a lecture titled “The Promise of Space”. The lecture was captured using cassette tape and forms part of the modest audio-visual collection in the Archive.

The use of cassette tapes were fine for 1974, though they present an issue in 2019: this type of media is liable to degrade over time through over-playing, poor maintenance and poor playback equipment. To mitigate against any unknown deterioration and potential loss, it became apparent that the Clarke lecture would need to be digitised. The digitisation process was reasonably simple:

  • Download recording software.
  • Connect a tape player to a PC sound card or microphone
  • Insert a tape and record.

The device used to carry out the recording was a boombox-style CD and tape player from the early 2000s. I had misgivings about the basic set-up, but the quality of the recording was satisfactory for our purpose and the only drawbacks were some warm and fuzzy noises and a reduced volume at certain points in the recording. This certainly gave the recording an authentic feel, though a more refined sound was achieved using tools from the recording software.

Clarke may be best known for his fiction, but he was also something of a futurist, so we were hopeful that the lecture would contain correct predictions about technology to come. This proved to be the case as he made prescient remarks about email, digital newspapers and the internet. We transcribed a section of the tape where he discusses this in more detail:

We’re going to see things coming in like the global satellite post office. Instead of having the physical delivery of mail, which is getting more and more difficult and slower and slower, we will just get at least our commercial mail through electronic links in a few microseconds or a few milliseconds instead of a few weeks it sometimes takes now. The global electronic newspaper – the time’s going to come when you will just dial some coding in your home and you will see the front page of any newspaper in the world, if you can still use the word newspaper in that context and get through satellite links not only the current news media, but every newspaper that has ever been, every book that has ever been right back to the invention of the printing press, in fact all of the knowledge of mankind could be available to you in your home through such a device when you dial the correct thirty digit number. There’s a little problem in information retrieval here but we’re going to solve that, we have to.

A poster for Arthur C Clarke's lecture at City in 1974. The text reads: "Dept. of Aeronautics. The City University, London, EC1. A Special Lecture: "The Promise of Space" by Arthur C. Clarke, science writer & novelist ("Interplanetary Flight," "THe Exploration of Space," "The Promise of Space," "Glidepath," "2001 - A Space Odyssey," etc., etc.). Thurs. 31st Oct. 1974, 2oc to 3oc in Room U.214. All Welcome!"
A poster for Arthur C Clarke’s lecture at City in 1974.

More than 40 years have passed since City welcomed Arthur C. Clarke and the astronauts of the Apollo 15 mission and much has changed about space and space travel in the intervening years. It is impossible to know what connection City may have with space in the future, but with the advent of space tourism it may be alumni who come back to visit us.



1. White, S (1971) ‘Tokaty, space pioneer.’ New scientist and science journal, 8th July 1971.

2. Dylan, A. (2018) ‘SIS, Grigori Tokaev, and the London Controlling Section: New Perspectives on a Cold War Defector and Cold War Deception.’ War in History, 26(4) pp. 517-538.

3. ‘Apollo 15’ (2019) Wikipedia. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_15 (Accessed 16th October 2019)

From the Archives: City and the local community

Since its inception City has been committed to improving the lives of students, businesses and the local community. When the Northampton Institute was founded in 1894 it was done so with the intention of providing education in technological and trade subjects for the local community in the Clerkenwell district and the aim of promoting the “industrial skill, general knowledge, health and well-being of young men and women belonging to the poorer classes”.

The first courses taught at the Institute covered a wide range of vocational subjects, including trades that are still associated with the local Clerkenwell area, such as horology and goldsmithing. Courses were also offered to women, including ‘Domestic Economy’ and ‘Women’s Trades’ which enabled women to learn skilled jobs such as tailor cutting and millinery.

The Institute was keen to ensure that opportunities were available to everyone and for roughly the first 50 years, courses were primarily taught to evening students, with only around 5-10% of students attending courses during the day. Fees were to be ‘what may be reasonably expected to be paid by persons belonging to the poorer classes between the ages of 16 and 25, but admission thereto shall not be limited to persons between those ages” demonstrating the commitment the Institute had to widening educational opportunities as much as it could.

In the early days of the Institute, it was important, as it is now, to encourage the development of the whole person. This holistic approach meant that all members were to have access to recreational opportunities as well as educational ones. This ethos was influenced by the ‘People’s Palace’ in Mile End, which sought to ‘raise the moral tone and life style of poor workers of East London’. This motivation is explored in the City125 Exhibition.

Entertainments and recreations were provided by the Institute for students and members of the local community, who could join the Institute for a fee. Some activities, such as concerts, were open to the wider public.

The swimming baths are also worth a mention here. Described in a 1913 pamphlet as being ‘large and commodious’, it was the first swimming pool in Islington when it opened in. In 1908, it was used as a training pool for the London Olympics. The Great Hall was the venue for Boxing in the same games.


City may now be an institution with a global outlook, but it has never forgotten its original ethos to expand and widen educational opportunities for Londoners.  The Department of Music continues to offer concerts, and the University still offers public lectures. In addition to this, members of City can still get involved in volunteering opportunities in the local community.

In July the second part of the exhibition ‘The Story of City: life, learning and legacy’ will be unveiled to the public. The exhibition focuses on student life at City and the role the Institute played in community life.

The exhibition is located at the foot of the Grand Staircase, on the ground floor of the Pavilion, University Building. Step-free access is available from the main entrance, on Northampton Square. Admission is free and you can visit whenever the University reception is open.

You can also view photographs and information from the exhibition on the City125 microsite. If you have any questions about the exhibition, you can contact the CityLibrary Archives team.


Life in the Archives and Special Collections

One of the great things about working with archive materials is never knowing what treasures you might discover in the depths of a storage box untouched by human hand since the dawn of time (well, a few years maybe).

Today’s exciting (and timely) find is this photograph which shows Sir David Attenborough receiving an Award of Doctor of Science honoris causa at a degree ceremony in May 1972.

Landscape image of a man in full academic dress stooping in front of a table (back to camera at an angle), shaking hands with another man in academic dress who is standing facing him: two other men in academic dress are sat at the table to the man standing's left. A man is stood further away in the background to the left (also in cap and gown) watching, and there are smartly dressed people sat in rows behind.
Sir David Attenborough receives his award, May 1972.

Sir David is one of a number of notable individuals who have been awarded honorary degrees by City, University of London, including the Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman (who was also recognised at the same ceremony as Sir David), former Speaker of the House of Commons Baroness (Betty) Boothroyd and the journalist Sophie Raworth.

The photo was uncovered as part of our project to digitise the (approx.) 6,000 images in our collection for preservation purposes. This work is being carried out by staff from across Library Services – plus we’ve had some terrific help from the Department of Library and Information Science‘s CityLIS students too.

As today is Sir David’s 93rd birthday, we’d like to offer our congratulations and best wishes to him, and share this marvellous image with you.

For more information on our Archives, Special Collections, and how to access materials, please visit our Archives and Special Collections Guide.

Behind the scenes of The Story of City: The Financial Ledger

One of the more challenging objects in City’s 125th anniversary exhibition was a mysterious ledger found in the archives. The leather-bound book, simply labelled ‘Private’, was fastened with a brass lock, for which the key has long been lost.

Keen to discover the ledger’s secrets, we contacted several locksmiths and book conservators. They identified a number of issues with opening the lock – given the tiny size of the key, reproducing it would be very fine and detailed work. The brass construction of the lock also posed problems for conventional lock-picking, as there was a risk of damaging the fairly soft metal.

Ultimately, our conservator recommended a locksmith who specialises in historical locks. The book was taken off-site, and a new key was produced. Unfortunately, due to the age of the item, the reproduction key became jammed in the lock. The ledger was ultimately opened, although with some damage to the locking mechanism; this is sometimes an unavoidable consequence of working with fragile and complex archival objects.

What we found inside the ledger justified the unfortunate damage to the object. Dating back to 1891, the financial records cover almost every aspect of the first years of City, from its conception, to its building, and through to the early activities of the first Principal, Dr Robert Mullineux Walmsley. Our conservator felt the pages were in such good condition, it was likely that the ledger had not been opened for at least a hundred years.

Financial records like this often contain information that is otherwise lost to history. For example, while we knew that the Great Hall was used for public ‘entertainments’, we had very few records of what these involved. From the pages below, we can see that the Hall was used for boxing and gymnastics competitions, band performances, and public lectures. Of course, sometimes these records prompt more questions than they answer – what were the ‘police entertainments’ mentioned in 1903? Who were Miss White and Miss James?

Despite these mysteries, these records form an invaluable link to City’s past. They provide avenues for further investigation in other archives around London, as well as adding colour and richness to City’s story. Bringing these records together in our exhibition illustrates our history as a place of learning, a social enterprise, and a proud contributor to our vibrant Islington community. You can browse selected pages from the ledger below – what will you discover?

  • Financial ledger cover brown tooled suede with brass clasp.
    Financial ledger cover


You can see this ledger, along with many other treasures from City’s archive, in our exhibition The Story of City: life, learning and legacy. The first part is in the Pavilion until the end of June 2019; a second part of the exhibition will follow in July, and run until the end of the year.

Celebrating 125 years of City

This year, as City celebrates its 125th anniversary, we reflect on the impact that this institution and its people have had on our local community and the world at large. As part of this celebration, the Archives Group presents its first exhibition: The story of City: life, learning and legacy.

The first part of the exhibition runs from January until July, and explores the very earliest days of City, then known as the Northampton Institute. We focus on the foundation of the Institute, early building works and the opening festivities. Another exhibition, coming later this year, will focus on student life at City and the role the Institute played in community life. Many of the archive artifacts in the exhibition are on public display for the very first time.

E W Mountford - The Northampton Institute

One of the most prominent examples of City’s heritage is its original home, the 1894 building designed by Edward William Mountford, now known as College Building. Although several areas of the original nineteenth-century design have been modified over the years, much of the original fabric remains. This includes the prominent clock tower, whose bell still chimes hourly. In the exhibition, you’ll see the architect’s impression of the building as it originally looked, described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as “an exceedingly successful example of the neo-French sixteenth-century style [with] fresh and playful enrichments.” Plans and documents relating to the construction of the building are also included.

The first Governing Body of the Northampton Institute was made up of members from the London County Council, the School Board for London, the Skinners’ and Saddlers’ Companies and members of the Governing Bodies of the Birkbeck Institute and The City of London College. The aims of the Governing Body were to provide technical evening classes to local workers who were employed in workshops and other places of trade during the day. Engagement with the wider community was a strong motivating factor as well, which aimed to promote “the industrial skill, general knowledge, health and wellbeing of young men and women belonging to the poorer classes.”

Dr Robert Mullineux Walmsley

The first person charged with delivering this aim was the Institute’s first Principal, Dr Robert Mullineux Walmsley. Walmsley acted as president of the Institute for almost thirty years, from 1895 until his death in 1924. The exhibition includes several hand-written letters of commendation from his colleagues, that were submitted at the time of his application for the position.

Opening Ceremony Lady's Ticket

One of Walmsley’s first acts as director was to oversee the official opening, on 18th March 1898. This was a grand affair, attended by the Lord Mayor of London and the Lady Mayoress, as well as the Sheriffs of the City of London. Original tickets from the event can be seen at the current exhibition, together with an original programme of music. The exhibition also contains a poster advertising the public opening of the Institute to Clerkenwell residents, and images of some of the spaces that were open to local people.

Poster advertising the opening of the Northampton Institute

The exhibition is located at the foot of the Grand Staircase, on the ground floor of the Pavilion, University Building. Step-free access is available from the main entrance, on Northampton Square. Admission is free and you can visit whenever the University reception is open.

You can also view photographs and information from the exhibition on the City125 microsite. If you have any questions about the exhibition, you can contact the CityLibrary Archives team.

City Archives and Special Collections visits University of London History Day

Banner saying 'Welcome to History Day', with sponsors, web address (historycollections.blogs.sas.ac.uk) and twitter handles (@ihr_history and @SenateHouseLib)On 27 November, members of the Library Services’ Archives and Special Collections group attended the University of London History Day 2018 at Senate House. This annual one-day event provides an opportunity for information professionals from libraries, archives and research organisations from around the country to meet, discuss their work, and promote their collections to researchers. The day includes a Fair, and a programme of talks from leading industry professionals.

More than 60 institutions attended this year’s fair, from a wide range of disciplines. The overall theme this year was Women in History, and City’s stall included reproductions of relevant items from our institutional archive. We had a section on notable women in STEM who have studied at City, including Marjorie Bell, who was the first female student on the Northampton Institute’s Electronic Engineering course, and Shirley Wallis, the first woman to earn a Diploma in Technology. We also featured several articles from the Athenaeum, including a piece by Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (a leading suffragist), and a contemporary review of some of the Brontës’ work.

Material from our Special Collections included a 1943 book of anatomical transparencies from the Walter Fincham optics collection, and a reproduction of a 15th century manuscript written by Johannes de Sacrobosco. We also had postcards available to help promote our collections, including illustrations from a 17th century text on the microscope, and a 19th century illustration of College Building by the architect, William Mountford.

City, University of London History Day 2018 stall

The event was well attended by both information professionals and researchers; we met several staff and students from City there too. Researchers enquired about a wide range of topics, including several questions about the Athenaeum, some about the history of City, and even one about the 19th century fur trade. We also had opportunities to meet colleagues from around the UK, and share ideas for future events.


We attended several of the talks that ran throughout the day. ‘Archiving Institutions’ included an interesting discussion on the various aspects and uses of business and other institutional archives in historical research, delivered by two corporate archivists and a researcher using institutional records for her PhD on the role of the University of London in supporting overseas universities in the mid 20th century. ‘Digital Tools and Methods’ introduced two fascinating online projects: Layers of London is an interactive map that lets users explore the intersection of historical maps of London dating back to 1520; and Transkribus, an open-source machine learning program designed to solve the challenge of automatic handwriting recognition. A researcher also presented his work on forensic research using web archives.

Another presentation was about an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership between the British Library and Queen Mary University of London, which gave an insight into the practicalities of PhD students and libraries working together. A student spoke about her own research exploring Russian women’s journalism during the 1917 revolutions and civil war and  discussed how the collaboration also gave her the opportunity to assist on the curation of the exhibition Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths, which opened in April 2017 and in cataloguing the library’s H. W. Williams Papers, a large collection of letters and documents relating to the Russian Civil Wars. It was particularly inspiring to hear how libraries such as the British Library are proactively using their collections to stimulate and engage with researchers – something which could be replicated (albeit on a somewhat smaller scale) with our own Archives and Special Collections.

Andrew Medder, Alex Asman, Stephen Penton

Banner: 'University of London Leading Women 1868-2018' with silhouette of several women wearing mortarboards.

CityLibrary makes History

On Tuesday, November 27th, CityLibrary will take part in History Day for the first time.

History Day is an annual event at Senate House bringing together libraries, archives and associated organisations to create a programme of drop-in talks and a fair designed to inspire and support researchers.

Poster featuring a woman reading and writing, advertising History Day 2018
History Day 2018

CityLibrary staff will have a stall in the main History Fair displaying items from the City, University of London Archive and Special Collections. The theme of this year’s event is ‘Women in History’ and so our display will focus on the significant impact and achievement of women at City, as well as showcasing some other notable items from our collections.

Since our founding as the Northampton Institute in 1894, City has had a strong association with STEM subjects and our History Day stall will highlight the contributions of alumni such as Shirley Wallis (the first woman to be awarded a Diploma in Technology) and Marjorie Bell (the first female student on the Northampton Institute’s Electronic Engineering course). We’ll also emphasise the crucial role women workers played during World War I and their connection to the Institute. More information on some of City’s Extraordinary Women can be found on the City website.

Notable women feature prominently in The Athenaeum, the forerunner of The New Statesman and we are the proud custodians of a special ‘Editor’s copy’ which features crucial clues as to who wrote many of the anonymous articles published between 1828-1921. We’ve selected several contributions from the likes of Millicent Fawcett and Elizabeth Barrett Browning to feature, plus the early reviews of several novels by the Brontë sisters writing under their pseudonyms: these reviews were featured (uncredited) in a recent BBC documentary series on the family (which is available to watch via BoB).

Staff will also present a range of other fascinating items and ephemera from our Rare Books collections, plus we’ll have some exciting freebies to giveaway too.

Image of postcards and a bookmark including images from the Archive of the College Building and some taken from the Walter Fincham optics collection
Archive freebies featuring images from the Archive and the Walter Fincham optics collection.


History Day is free to attend although the organisers recommend registering in advance. We look forwards to seeing you there and participating in what should be an interesting and engaging event.


A witness in the archive: Paris, May 1968

From the archives: 1968 has become synonymous with radicalism. 


1968 around the world

Around the world, in 1968, people began protesting. Several countries in Eastern Europe experienced major unrest. In Czech, the Prague Spring was a hopeful period of liberalisation, artistic exploration and democratisation.

The Civil Rights and Anti-War movements in the US ramped up, following the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. West Germany experienced the 68er-Bewegung which saw protests against the Vietnam War, ex-Nazi officials still in positions of power and universities. London itself saw rioting in Grosvenor Square. The reporter calls it “a vicerage teaparty” in comparison to events in Paris.


1968 in Paris

Paris was the centre of this whirlpool of revolution and it began with the students. On 2nd May 1968 the authorities shut down the Paris Nanterre University. On 6th May a protest was called by the French NUS. Events developed from this and barricades were thrown up. Heavy handed responses from the authorities led to further action and mass sympathy.

Following more protests and more violent responses, a general strike was called on 13th May. After this day workers began strike action and by one point in May around two thirds of French workers were on strike. There were demands for a new government. On 29th May, President Charles De Gaulle had (briefly) fled from France.


City and 1968

Published in June 1968 in the Beacon, a eye witness account offers a clear sighted report on the events. It describes the violence of both sides, but also the solidarity and optimism of the students: “It seems that nothing less than social revolution will satisfy their desires”.

Paris in May, Beacon June 1968


The legacy of 1968

1968 is sometimes called a political failure for the protesters. Following events in May, France held a general election which De Gaulle’s party safely won. Czech was invaded by Russian Troops in August and American involvement in Indochina expanded under Nixon.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of 1968 was the social liberalisation which we are still enjoying today. Reading firsthand accounts like this however, remind us that we all have a duty to protect everyone’s rights and to support peaceful engagement that questions society.