Explore the College Archives!

30 August 2023

Last week on OW social media, we ventured into the College’s archives to explore some fascinating pieces from our collection, chosen by our College Archivist, Caroline. From our first College photo album to Queen Victoria’s signature, we wanted to give an insight to College life in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Student Diaries

The first items we explored were student diaries, which illustrate how previous students lived their day-to-day life at College. They give a personal touch to key moments in our history, and bring it to life through their words and anecdotes. John H H Bill’s (M 1895) ‘Scribbling Diary’, mentioned in the 2021-22 Yearbook, explores life as a Wellington student in 1892 when the whole school had to relocate to the Imperial Hotel in Malvern while the College was fumigated due to a series of illnesses & deaths. Students also documented their lives in the wars, with Anthony S Jervis (M 1928) writing of College life in the post-war period (his diary includes photos of the College Corps parading through Crowthorne and his pets at home), and Michael L Myers’ (S 1939) letters to his brother and father give an insight to the thoughts and fears of young men prior to WWII.

Music from Mars

Written for the College by Academy Award winners OW James Bernard (Hg 43) and his partner Paul Dehn, the opera was performed at the College’s Centenary in 1959. During the war, Bernard worked with the codebreaking team on the German Enigma machine, and later became a notable film composer.
The opera tells the story of a group of students and staff from ‘any boys’ school in England but Wellington’ who are accidentally transported to Mars, and must enlist the help of a young Martian boy to dream them safely home again. Light-hearted and entertaining, the piece is still funny today. The vinyl’s cover was designed by Patrick Mileham (A 63, OW author & historian) during his first year at College.

Visitor’s Book

Started in 1864, the College’s original Visitor’s Book contains signatures from Queen Victoria and other members of the Royal Family, Charles Kingsley (of The Kingsleys), and notable Speech Day attendees. Following the bombing of the College in 1940, King George VI came to Wellington for a “morale-boosting visit”, with Princess Elizabeth, then 14, and Princess Margaret, 10, in attendance. Their signatures can be seen in the book, and it is a favourite in our collection!

Picton Dormitory Book

Kept by boys in living in the dormitory, the book served as a record of all the things that happened in the house. The boys took turns writing entries, and while it included lots of practical information like room assignments and discipline records, the boys also had a tradition of making witty comments about the food. It also documents the choosing of the house colours in October 1883; the students couldn’t agree so they referred to ‘Miss Penny’, the HM’s daughter, who chose brown and cerise, known affectionately as ‘mud and blood’.

College Maps

The archives also contain a number of College maps, which illustrate the changes & developments to Welly and the surrounding areas.
We hope you enjoyed learning more about the College’s archive! If you have anything you think the College may like for the archives, new or old, please email us details on community@wellingtoncollege.org.uk