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About our collections

Both Royal Holloway and Bedford Colleges were established as pioneering women’s colleges in the 19th century. The College Archives therefore contain some of the earliest records relating to the history of higher education for women. They chronicle the foundation and development of the colleges, including their incorporation into the University of London, the effects of war and the admission of male undergraduate students in the 1960s. They give insight into the lives of staff and students before, during and after their time at college.

Women's education is the cornerstone of the collections, but researchers use the material to analyse many aspects of women’s lives, including friendship, marriage, career opportunities, leisure pursuits, and political awareness and activity. The collections are a rich source for the history of higher education in general and can also be used to study topics including the history of art, architecture, drama and Victorian philanthropy. We welcome enquiries from family historians.

In addition to our institutional records, we hold over 50 collections of personal papers, which are widely consulted for evidence of the pioneering work that many early students and staff, among them academics, writers, diarists and philanthropists, were involved in, and the connections which they had in many important spheres of nineteenth and twentieth century life. We also hold a number of special collections, including records of a number of theatre companies. A full list can be found here.

All the collections need special storage conditions and cataloguing and are overseen by trained staff. They cannot be borrowed and require supervision while they are being consulted, in the reading room in Founder’s South Tower. You may find it useful to search the online catalogue before visiting, so you can narrow down the records that you would like to look at. Descriptions of the College’s rare books appear on the main library catalogue.


Contact us 

Archivist: Annabel Valentine 

College Archives and Special Collections
Founder's Library
Royal Holloway, University of London
Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX


Tel: +44 (0)1784 443814 (internal x3814)
Email: archives@royalholloway.ac.uk


Opening hours:


9.30-1 and 2-4.30

Visits to see original documents are by prior appointment only.


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