Information for Researchers
The Christ Church Archive is the repository for the administrative records of the college and cathedral. The aim of the Archive is to maintain and consolidate those collections in order to reflect and illustrate the history of Christ Church and its members. It is also intended that those records, where possible, should be made available for research.
Christ Church was founded in 1546, in the last weeks of the reign of Henry VIII, as a unique establishment of college and cathedral. It is the third academic institution to stand on this site having been originally created by Thomas Wolsey as Cardinal College in 1525.
After the fall of Wolsey in 1530, Henry VIII stripped the college of its endowment and it became, in effect, a collegiate church known as King Henry VIII College. In 1542, Henry transferred the see of Oxford from the abbey of Oseney, on the western edge of Oxford, to the former priory church of St Frideswide and, in 1546, founded the college of Christ Church around the new cathedral.
The generous endowment of land, livings, and manors consisted largely of property acquired from dissolved religious houses, principally Oseney abbey itself, St Frideswide’s priory, and the abbey at Eynsham. The medieval records of these estates were transferred on long-term deposit to the Bodleian Library in 1927. These are listed in N. Denholm-Young, Cartulary of the medieval archives of Christ Church (1931).
Only the cartularies of the three main houses, Oseney, Eynsham, and St Frideswide’s are retained in the Archive. It is likely that the cartulary of St Frideswide’s has never left the premises making the volume the longest held manuscript in both Library and Archive.
Until the 1960s there was no single Archive repository at Christ Church. The records of the Dean and Chapter were kept in a small Muniment Room over the Chapter House; the deeds and other estate papers were maintained in the Treasury where they would have been in daily use; the Common Room held its own records, as did the other administrative departments. In 1772 part of the cathedral cloister was converted into a Muniment Room - the designs for its sash windows are in the Archive - but in 1871 the cloister was renovated and the archive ejected. In 1968, a new repository was created in the basement of the new Powell and Moya building in Blue Boar Quad. However the environmental conditions were poor and, by the early years of the 21st century, the archive was full. With the refurbishment of Blue Boar Quad in 2009, the archive was moved again, this time into the old sixteenth-century college brewhouse which has been adapted to keep the records in good condition for many years to come.
Contacting the Christ Church Archivist
Enquiries regarding the content of the Archive, and conditions of use, should be directed to:
Oxford OX1 1DP
Tel: 01865 276171
Access to the Archive
Most of the Archive’s holdings are available for consultation by researchers, free of charge. The Archive is open every weekday morning between 9 am and noon, and between 2 pm and 4 pm. Please note that access may be restricted during Trinity (Summer) term.
Researchers must make an appointment with the Archivist before visiting, and may be asked to provide a letter of introduction.
Visitors to the Archive should ask the Custodian on duty at Tom Gate (the main entrance to Christ Church) for directions to the Library. Unfortunately, Christ Church Library and Archive do not have access for wheelchairs.
The Archive will be closed during September 2013.
Summary of Holdings
The original foundation documents of all three academic establishments and of the see of Oxford are still at Christ Church.
The majority of the Archive consists of administrative papers including accounts, ledgers, cash books, battels records, estates correspondence, and deeds. In addition to the Treasury papers, there are manorial records consisting mainly of early modern court rolls and books; records of the Steward’s Office which handles the domestic economy of Christ Church; Dean and Chapter papers including Act Books, service sheets, and installation mandates for deans, canons, and bishops. There are also matriculation registers and academic records.
A large collection of photographs includes many images of the Christ Church buildings and a number of student club and society albums. There are over 2000 maps and plans in the Archive from the 17th to the 20th century relating mainly to the Christ Church estates.