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.

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.



From the Archive: fond memories of graduation

This week the latest round of City, University of London Graduation Ceremonies has been taking place at the Barbican Centre with students from all five schools marking the successful completion of their courses.  These ceremonies are steeped in tradition and date back a long way, as this programme from 1899 shows.

 Programme, Northampton Institute Presentation of Certificates and Prizes from Friday 8th December 1899

Red and Yellow PhD graduation robes front

All staff (your lecturers attending to award your certificate as well as others who will lead the procession into the hall) and students will all be wearing academic dress.  For students this will show the level they have attained (see this guide on the City website) and are in the University’s colours of red and gold, which were approved in 1966 after the institution received its Royal Charter and became a University– the robes pictured above are for those who have been awarded a PhD, of which there will be many including Ludi Price, who wrote about fan communities, and will received her degree this afternoon (Well done, Ludi!).  While the photo below is the one undergraduates will be wearing (there will be many more of these!).
City Bachelor graduation robes black robe with red and yellow hood, back view.
The ceremonies will take place at the Barbican Centre but have not always done.  They may well have started life in the Great Hall here in the College Building but, by 1966, as this picture shows, they were held at the Guildhall in the City of London. 
Programme The City University Graduation Day Service in the Guild Church of St. Lawrence Jewry Next Guildhall at 11.15 a.m 5th December, 1966
We hope everyone graduating enjoys their big moment walking across the stage – this is what it has all been for!  I know I enjoyed my own moment in July 2016 when my Dissertation Supervisor and course leader called out my name and I set forth into the future.  This was me outside the Barbican before the ceremony:
James Atkinson graduating at the Barbican
Congratulations everyone!
James Atkinson, CityLibrary

Christmas from the Archive

Whether through tradition, faith or common experience, Christmas is a time when family, friends and strangers come together to celebrate, remember, and look forwards with optimism to the new year approaching.

Never more is this optimism tested than when suffering hardships such as poverty, illness, or experiencing and surviving conflict: and sadly the latter has proved particularly challenging throughout history, throughout the world.

Photo of children at a Christmas party during an air raid
Christmas party sheltering from an air raid in World War II

The photo included, from our Archive, shows children having a Christmas party- but look closely at some of their faces and you begin to sense it’s no ordinary scene. The photo was taken during World War II and the young people featured are sheltering from the horrors of an air raid in the basement of what we assume is College Building (the annotations on the reverse of the photo are limited).

Many higher education colleges and universities closed during the war, but the Institute carried on, determined that normal life should continue as much as possible for everyone involved: one example of this spirit of determination being that the timetable was altered to allow students to get home safely before nightfall heralded the inevitable menace of bombings and gunfire.

The Northampton Institute (City’s previous name) played a vital role supporting both the war effort and the local community. Various armed forces were stationed here, including the RAF- and there are entries in the Alumni magazine of the time, the N’ION, detailing the Morse Code classes that students were invited to attend.

Among the other entries in the N’ION include stories from those escaping the terrors of internment camps, lists of alumni who gave their lives in defence of the freedoms many of us now take for granted, and a passionate editorial outlining the importance of the National Union of Students coming together to fight for a hopeful future based on respect, equality and above all peace: a sentiment still utterly relevant today.

Merry Christmas and a happy, peaceful to new year to all.

(If you know anything more about the photo, or persons featured, we’d love to hear from you)




Radiographers: the professionals behind the medical images and the treatment

World Radiography Day is celebrated on the 8th November which marks the discovery of x-rays on 8th November 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen (Society and College of Radiographers, 2017) who later won the very first Nobel prize in 1901 (Novelprize.org, 2014).

Have you met a radiographer?

Most of us probably would have, whether it is to do with ourselves or members of our families and friends, who, because of injuries or diseases or conditions need diagnosis or treatment in a hospital.

There are two types of radiographers: diagnostic radiographers and therapeutic radiographers.

Poster with images of radiographers in action

Diagnostic radiographers take images of the inside of our body using the right imaging equipment to help in identifying what may go wrong inside our body.  For example, they can detect whether there is a problem caused by foreign objects in our system, something wrong with our digestive system, maybe a problem with our blood vessels etc. Ultrasound, X-rays, Computed Tomography or Magnetic Resonance Imaging are their methods in finding out whereabouts or what is going on inside our body.

Therapeutic radiographers or radiotherapy radiographers on the other hand, are more about delivering treatment using radiation.

Both of them must have knowledge on human anatomy, physiology, pathology, physics, high-technology equipment and more (National Awareness days, 2009-2017). As they also take care of patients, in addition, they need to know about the skills and the familiarities of patient care.

When something is not right inside our body, when the pain is unbearable, when the anxiety grows stronger (not knowing for certain what is going to happen) and when family and friends start feeling distressed, what we want is to get help and feel a lot better. While attempts are made in helping us recover from all of these, Radiographers play an important role in a large medical team.

So, let’s recognise their involvement and celebrate the World Radiography Day by acknowledging their great work to our colleagues, friends, parents and anyone who is associated with radiography.

Thank you Radiographers and everyone who educates anyone else to become a Radiographer.

Happy Radiography Day!

Written by Endang Scanlon, Subject Librarian for Health Sciences and Radiography. Check out Endang’s Library Guide for Radiography.



Society and College of Radiographers (2017). World Radiography Day. Available at  https://www.sor.org/about-radiography/world-radiography-day  (Accessed: 3 November 2017).

Nobelprize.org (2014). The Very First Nobel Prizes. Available at http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/themes/other/first-prizes/index.html (Accessed: 3 November 2017).

National Awareness Days (2009-2017). World Radiography Day. Available at http://www.national-awareness-days.com/world-radiography-day/ (Accessed: 3 November 2017).

Black History Month

This month we have been celebrating Black History Month and all the powerful and truthful books written by, and about, people of colour.

bell hooks

London has a rich, deep and proud black history which likely dates back to the Roman period, if not before. London’s diverse community is a source of strength and inspiration throughout its history. For example:

  • Olaudah Equiano, was an eighteenth century bestselling author who helped lead the campaign to make slavery illegal.
  • The composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor wrote some enduring music of great beauty, but died tragically young.
  • Humanitarian, Businesswoman and healthcare provider, Mary Seacole was hailed as mother of British Soldiers for her work during the Crimean War to care for wounded and convalescent soldiers.

You can find out more about this history with CityLibrary Search




Calling all freshers

Have you collected your official tie? Fancy being a cox? Ready to share with the world your moderate singing voice usually confined to the shower?

Well you’re in luck because Welcome Week can meet all your needs. At least it did fifty years ago.

The images featured here are taken from September and October 1967 editions of Beacon, the Student Union Magazine, copies of which are kept in the City Archive.

Beacon, the SU Magazine

In those days Beacon was almost Berliner sized and monochrome, but over the years it was printed in various shapes and colours and regularly featured an array of announcements, reports and displays of wit, although some of the editorial choices and humour were very much of its time: I doubt today’s Union would feature a ‘Miss Fresher’ winner on the front page, for example.

Picture 1: last minute supplement

In picture 1, the inserted supplement shows just how hot off the press the publication was, one highlight being the section where interested choristers are assured that “a high standard of voice is not necessarily expected”, no doubt giving hope to many.

Picture 2: vacant editorial posts

Picture 2, from the September issue, identifies many of the magazine’s vacant posts, reflecting the fact that at the start of each new academic year departing graduates create opportunities for new students to get involved- and this hasn’t changed, anyone attending Freshers Fair this year should keep an eye out for any clubs or societies which spark their imagination.

Sport has always featured strongly at City, dating right back to our founding as the Northampton Institute in the late 1800s. Over the years we’ve had football, rugby and cricket teams, people swimming in the Pool in College Building, whilst the old Saddlers’ Sports Hall even once hosted a European shooting championships; and societies too, be it drama, photography or Winnie-the-Pooh focused, have a long established history.

Picture 3: advert for the Fencing Club

Picture 3 is an advert for the Fencing Club who were, like all of the groups at the time, seeking new members. It describes Fencing as being the ‘politest’ of sports, though suggests that “gentlemanly would have been a better word but women also fence”: presumably a satirical observation, emphasised by the recent photo of fencers on City’s Sports Club website. In 1967 the club met on Wednesday afternoons, but a quick look online shows that the current Fencing Club will next get together on Saturday the 30th of September for both training and taster sessions.

It’ll be fascinating to look back in another 50 years to see what our current students got up to…

International Cat Day 2017

There’s only one thing librarians love more than books* and that’s cats. To celebrate International Cat Day 2017 we thought we’d share photos of our special little furry friends.

There’s been some new additions to our brood since last year and sadly we’ve had to say goodbye to some of our companions, but we’d like to say a big thank you to all our purrfect little critters for all the meowmories.

Cats of the library

*Well maybe special librarian tea (recipe: replace the milk with gin and the hot water with gin. Serve with or without teabag, we tend to leave it out).


Have you shared your cat photos yet. Use the hashtag #InternationalCatDay and let us know tweet@CityUniLibrary

Photo of Abu Simbel temple

One of the many unique pieces the City archive holds is a photographic print of the Abu Simbel temple in Egypt. Taken by A Barton Kent, it was donated to the Northampton Institute Camera club.

Abu Simbel Photo
A photo of Abu Simbel dated from c. 1920s

The photo shows an image of the Abu Simbel Great Temple. The Great Temple was dedicated in 1244 BCE by Ramesses II. The two statues here are both of Ramases II. They measure 67 feet.  It is a very grand temple in the Egyptian style, with four colossal statues of the pharaoh. The temple is dedicated to Ptah, Re-Horakthy and Amun. The temple may have been built to celebrate Ramesses II’s success in the battle of Kadesh against the Hittites. This battle was indecisive and both powers signed a peace treaty to conclude hostilities, a copy of which can be found on the walls of the UN Headquarters in New York. This temple is also very close to other temples including the Isis temple at Philae, which is notable for containing the very last hieroglyphics in use in Egypt (dated to 440s CE).

This image now preserves a lost world. The temple which survived from ancient times was moved in 1967 as part of the Aswan High Dam engineering project. The dam project was a major initiative for the government of General Nasser. The temple is in the south of Egypt, although the photo identifies the region as Nubia.  Nubia was the historic name for what was the region around the southern border of Egypt. In 1956 a large part of the region called Nubia formed the independent country of Sudan, following a referendum. In 2011 South Sudan became an independent country.

So much history reverberates in this object.

Photography became a very popular hobby in the first half of the twentieth century with the advent of the Kodak box camera. It was a very cheap camera and made photography more accessible. It is possible that several members of the photography club used these cameras and a darkroom on campus. The photographer of this print was likely a professional. He may have been invited to the Northampton Institute to talk on photography.

Travel to Egypt from Europe (and vice versa) was relatively common, but only for wealthy individuals. The interest in Egypt was likely piqued by the dramatic discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. The sensational news reports ignited a trend in Egyptian style objects, films and furnishings around the world. The first mummy film dates from this period.

If you are inspired to find out more about Egypt, you don’t have far to go. Islington has many notable Egyptian style buildings. The old Carlton Cinema on Essex Road and the old Carreras Cigarette Factory are both stunning examples of Egyptian-revival architecture on our doorstep. Richmond Avenue, once home to City alumnus Tony Blair, is notable for its Sphinxes and even the Mount Pleasant sorting office shows more than a passing resemblance to an Egyptian temple. You can also head to the British Museum and Petrie Museum for more information.