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Archive of John Hungerford Pollen and the Pollen Family


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The archive comprises: A. Correspondence and papers relating to John Henry Newman; B. Correspondence and related papers; C. Personal, biographical and genealogical papers; D. Sketchbooks; and E. Photographs and artwork.


  • Creation: 1828-2017


6.0 Linear metres (44 boxes; 2 digital shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • Danish

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 17906/1 or MS. 17901 Digital 1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 17906/1-37; MSS. 17906 Photogr. 1-7; MSS. 17906 Digital 1-2

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 17906


The archive of John Hungerford Pollen (1820-1902), decorative artist and Roman Catholic convert, and the Pollen family, 1828-2017.

Biographical / Historical

John Hungerford Pollen was born on 19 November 1820, the second son of Richard Pollen (1786–1838) and his wife Anne Cockerell (1784–1865). Pollen was educated at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford. He became a fellow of Merton College after taking his BA in 1842 and was (at various points) dean, bursar, and garden master. Pollen became a Senior Proctor of the University of Oxford in 1851.

In 1846, Pollen was ordained as a priest by the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Samuel Wilberforce. The following year, he became pro-vicar at St Saviour Church in Leeds during an interregnum. During his time there, the use of auricular confession sparked a controversy which ended up with Pollen and his colleagues being banned from holding the Christmas Eve service in 1850. Whilst his colleagues converted to Catholicism, Pollen argued his case with the Bishop and was reinstated. In 1851, he published Narrative of Five Years at St. Saviour’s, Leeds, defending Tractarianism and the use of Catholic practices within the Church of England. This was a prelude to Pollen’s own conversion and he was received into the Roman Catholic Church in Rouen on 20 October 1852. By converting to Catholicism, Pollen forfeited his fellowship at Merton and his other university offices.

Pollen’s elder brother, (Richard) Hungerford Pollen (1815-1881), became a Catholic the following year. Both brothers were consequently disinherited by their uncle Sir John Walter Pollen, 2nd Baronet of Redenham (1784-1863). Whilst Hungerford still inherited the baronetcy, Sir John’s will made membership of the Church of England a condition for the inheritance of his estate: after the death of Sir John’s widow in 1877, Redenham was inherited by Hungerford’s son, Richard Hungerford Pollen (1846-1918).

Pollen, now without career or inheritance prospects, travelled to Rome where he met the writer William Makepeace Thackeray. He also became acquainted with the Reverend Charles John La Primaudaye (1805-1858) and his wife Anne Francesca Hubbard (1811-1854), who were also recent converts to the Catholic Church. In 1854, Pollen became engaged to Charles's daughter, Maria Margaret La Primaudaye (1838-1919). They were married on 18 September 1855 in the church of Woodchester monastery, near Stroud, Gloucestershire. In November 1854, through his connection with the La Primaudayes, Pollen received an offer from John Henry Newman (1801-1890) to become professor of fine arts at Newman’s new university in Dublin and design the university church.

In 1857, Pollen moved to London, where he became acquainted with members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, and John Ruskin. Through Ruskin, Pollen was commissioned in 1858 to design the carvings for the façade of the new University Museum of Natural History in Oxford. Ruskin also commissioned Pollen to work alongside Rossetti, Burne-Jones, and William Morris on the mural decoration of the Oxford Union library depicting scenes from Arthurian myth. Among many other commissions in the 1860s and 1870s, Pollen also designed interiors at Blickling Hall, Aylsham for William Kerr, eighth Marquess of Lothian, and designed the fresco decoration at Alton Towers for the Earl of Shrewsbury. He worked with the architect Benjamin Woodward in Ireland, designing rooms for James Anthony Lawson’s new house, Clontra, near Dublin and a picture gallery for the Marchioness of Ormonde at Kilkenny Castle.

Pollen was appointed one of the jurors for the International Exhibition held in London in 1862. The following year, at the suggestion of William Makepeace Thackeray, he was appointed by Sir Henry Cole as Assistant Keeper of the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum), which had opened in 1857. As Assistant Keeper, Pollen produced catalogues of furniture, sculpture, and metalwork. He also taught in the Government School of Design and submitted entries to the Encyclopædia Britannica. Pollen was a juror for the International Exhibition in Dublin (1865) and also for the Exposition Universelle in Paris (1867), where he was awarded a gold medal for the first part of his ‘Universal catalogue of books on art’.

The Pollens found that a good Catholic primary education could be obtained more cheaply abroad and so, in 1871, Maria Pollen took their ten children to live in Münster, Westfalia (due to work demands, Pollen could only spend holidays there with them). The family moved permanently back to England in 1875 and the boys went on to study at Newman’s new Oratory School in Edgbaston, Birmingham. The Pollens divided their time between London and Newbuildings, the house in Sussex rented from the poet and writer Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840–1922) and his wife, Anne Isabella Noel Blunt [née King], suo jure Baroness Wentworth (1837–1917). Blunt was a longstanding friend of the La Primaudaye family, having first made their acquaintance as a child in Italy in 1852. The Pollens rented Newbuildings until 1889, when relations between the two families irretrievably broke down (after Blunt’s daughter Judith Anne Dorothea (1873–1957) accused Pollen’s sixth son, Arthur Joseph Hungerford Pollen (1866-1937) of over-familiarity).

In 1876, Pollen resigned his post at the South Kensington Museum when he was invited to become private secretary to Lord Ripon (George Frederick Samuel Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon, 1827-1909), a fellow Catholic convert. Ripon was made Viceroy of India in 1880. Though Pollen remained in London for most of this period, he visited India towards the end of the Viceroyalty in 1884. Whilst in India, Pollen commissioned exhibits for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886 and also advised the Maharaja of Kuch Behar [Cooch Behar] on the decoration of his palaces. Pollen's artistic commissions and exhibition work continued into the 1890s and he lived to see the laying of the foundation stone of the new Victoria and Albert Museum in 1899. John Hungerford Pollen died in 1902, shortly after his 82nd birthday. Maria Margaret Pollen, who was likewise interested in the decorative arts and had became an expert in the history of lace, published Seven Centuries of Lace in 1908.

The Pollens' children were:

  1. Anne Gertrude Mary Pollen (1856-1934)
  2. Lucy Mary Pollen (b. and d.1857)
  3. John Hungerford Pollen (1858-1925)
  4. Walter Michael Hungerford Pollen (1859-1889)
  5. Anthony Cecil Hungerford Pollen (1860-1940)
  6. Francis Gabriel Hungerford Pollen (1862-1944)
  7. George Charles Hungerford Pollen (1863-1930)
  8. Margaret (‘Daisy’) Winifred Pollen (1864-1937)
  9. Arthur Joseph Hungerford Pollen (1866-1937)
  10. Stephen Hungerford Pollen (1868-1935)
  11. Clement Hungerford Pollen (1869-1934)
  12. Benjamin Hungerford Pollen (b. and d.1876)

Pollen’s eldest son and namesake, John, became a Jesuit priest and historian. His brothers Anthony and George also entered the priesthood: Anthony became a noted composer and George became a Fellow of the Geological Society. The Pollens' eldest child, Anne, entered the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Roehampton, in 1881 and became a nun. She published a memoir of her father in 1912 and a biography of Mother Mabel Digby in 1914.

Pollen's second son, Walter, became a soldier and was aide-de-camp to Lord Ripon between 1883 and 1884. Walter was part of the Survey of India Department between 1884 and 1887, though he was invalided out due to fever. He returned to the east in 1888 and became Survey Officer to the Lushai Expedition in early 1889, but died of fever in Chittagong in March that year. Pollen's seventh son, Stephen, also became a soldier and served as aide-de-camp to two successive Viceroys in India (Lord Lansdowne and Lord Elgin) before serving in the South African campaign. Francis became a naval officer who fought in the Sudan between 1884 and 1885. He became part of the Naval Brigade in the Gordon Relief Expedition in Burma in 1886. Both Francis and Stephen retired in 1902, but returned to service during the First World War.

The Pollens' youngest surviving child, Clement, settled in British Columbia, Canada and was involved in the construction of the Kootenay Central Railroad. He was at some point secretary to Sir Ambrose Shea during his time as Governor of the Bahamas. During the First World War, Clement served in The Kootenay Regiment, Canadian Forces and became a Lieutenant-Colonel.

Arthur struck out a different career to his siblings, training as a barrister and becoming a businessman, inventor, and journalist. His son, Arthur Joseph Lawrence Pollen (1899–1968), a sculptor, married Daphne Baring (1904–1986), the daughter of Cecil Baring, third Baron Revelstoke. Daphne was also an artist: like Arthur, she had studied at the Slade School of Fine Art. Their daughter Lucy Margaret Pollen (1932-2014) married the architect and Liberal Party politician Philip Vincent Belloc Jebb (1927-1995), a grandson of Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), in 1955.

Note on spelling: the surname La Primaudaye has several variants in its formation including LaPrimaudaye, Laprimaudaye, la Primaudaye, and de la Primaudaye. For consistancy across the catalogue, La Primaudaye has been used as standard.


There is evidence in the collection that various members of the Pollen family and their descendants had at some point maintained and/or organised parts of the collection. The arrangement in its current form reflects as far as possible the physical and intellectual arrangement of the collection immediately prior to its arrival at the Bodleian Library.

Custodial History

Prior to the sale of the collection, the archive was owned and maintained by the Pollen family and their descendants.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased by the Bodleian Library, with the generous support of the Kenneth Rose Trust Fund and the Roy Davids Fund, from James Fergusson Books and Manuscripts, 2020.

Related Materials

Bodleian Libraries

  1. Dep. Lovelace Byron 192-196 - Correspondence of Ralph Gordon Noel King, 2nd Earl of Lovelace, with Maria Margaret Pollen and John Hungerford Pollen

Churchill Archives Centre, University of Cambridge

  1. GBR/0014/PLLN - The Papers of Arthur Hungerford Pollen, 1797-2013

Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge

  1. Papers of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

Birmingham Oratory archives

  1. Correspondence, literary manuscripts and papers of John Henry Newman


  • Anne Pollen, John Hungerford Pollen 1820-1902 (London: John Murray, 1912).
Catalogue of the Archive of John Hungerford Pollen and the Pollen Family
Finding aid prepared by Rachael Marsay
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of the Roy Davids bequest

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom