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Archive of the Bickersteth family


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The Bickersteths are a family noted for the last six generations for their tradition of service to the Church of England. This collection of papers contains mainly family correspondence and papers from five of these generations, beginning with the papers of Edward Bickersteth, rector of Watton (1786-1850), followed by those of his son Edward Henry Bickersteth (1825-1906) Bishop of Exeter, poet and hymnographer, who married Rosa, daughter of Sir Samuel Bignold, MP for Norwich.

The third series, papers of their second son Samuel Bickersteth (1857-1937), forms a large part of the collection. He was ordained priest in 1882, having married in 1881 Ella, daughter of Sir Monier Monier-Williams founder of the Indian Institute in Oxford. They had six sons, one of whom was killed in the First World War. This section includes weekly letters from three of the boys to their parents throughout their school and university days. The letters continue through the First World War forming an eleven volume record known as the Bickersteth Diary, 1914-18, which was kept by their mother, and in 1995 was edited and published (London, 1995) by her grandson John Bickersteth, sometime Bishop of Bath and Wells. This section also includes scrapbooks containing newscuttings, and printed ephemera concerning family, parish and national events, family photograph albums and correspondence of the Monier-Williams family.

The following series contain the correspondence and papers of the six Bickersteth sons, arranged chronologically by date of birth. Monier Bickersteth (1882-1976) ordained priest in 1908, married Inez Katharine (Kitty) Jelf in 1911 and had two daughters and two sons. Geoffrey Bickersteth (1884-1974) became Professor of English Literature at Aberdeen University. He married Jean Sorley and had three sons and two daughters. Julian Bickersteth (1885-1962) was also a priest. He went out to Australia in 1912 to become chaplain at Melbourne Grammar School, returning to fight in the First World War. He later became headmaster of Felsted School. Burgon (1888-1979), the fourth brother, went to Canada and became Warden of Hart House, University of Toronto. During the First World War he served in The Royal Dragoons, writing The History of the 6th Cavalry Brigade. During the Second World War he was seconded to the War Office as Director of Army Education. There are a few papers (section H) of Morris (1891-1916) killed on the Somme in 1916, and Ralph (1894-1989), the youngest son, who married Alison Grafton.

The penultimate series contains diaries, correspondence and papers of A.C. (Tony) Bickersteth (1920-48), the eldest son of Geoffrey and Jean Bickersteth. He served with the Gurkha Rifles in India and Burma during the Second World War, but in 1948, while on a walking holiday in the Savoy Alps, he was struck by lightning and killed.

The archive included some printed items which are catalogued on SOLO. From the papers of Edward Bickersteth, rector of Watton - Jubilee sermon preached before the Church Missionary Society (London, 1848) annotated by his grandson Samuel Bickersteth, Vet. A6 d. 790, and the executors' copy of Hodgson's auction catalogue annotated with prices, A Catalogue of the Entire and Valuable Library of the Rev. Edward Bickersteth, 1851, Vet. A7 e.151. From the papers of Edward Henry Bickersteth - Yesterday, To-day, and Forever (New York, 1880), Vet. K7 c.3, and an annotated copy of his farewell sermon preached at Christ Church, Hampstead, The Christian's Walk (Hampstead, 1885), Vet. A7 d.97. From the papers of Sir Monier Monier-Williams three addresses - To which book shall we go? (London, 1893), Vet. A7 d.66.


  • Creation: 1815-1976


43.89 Linear metres (399 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Written permission is required to consult MSS. Eng. e. 3244-3250, d. 3169-3185 - apply to staff.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. Eng. c. 1266, fols. 1-2.]

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. b. 2082-2093, c. 6397-6452, d. 3007-3188, e. 3127-3252; Photogr. a. 9-10, b. 16-23, c. 80-4, d. 16-23

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 13972


Papers of the Bickersteth family, 1815-1976, including papers of Edward Bickersteth (1786-1850), rector of Watton, Hertfordshire, and his son Edward Henry Bickersteth (1825-1906), Bishop of Exeter, poet and hymnographer, and grandson, Samuel Bickersteth (1857-1937), priest.

Biographical / Historical

The Bickersteths are a family noted for the last six generations for their tradition of service to the Church of England.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were given to the Bodleian Library from 1976-1998.

Catalogue of the archive of the Bickersteth family, 1815-1976
Elizabeth Turner
Language of description
Script of description
Conversion to EAD supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom