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Conservative Party Archive: Conservative Central Office - General Director's Office


  • How to

Despite the central position of the General Director in the party organisation between 1931 and 1966 few papers have been kept. The factors determining what has survived have been quite arbitrary, and the collection listed here represents only a small and miscellaneous fraction of the original. In the case of the papers of the 1963 Selwyn Lloyd Enquiry into Party Organisation (CCO 120/4/1-25), moreover, the General Director's Office appears merely to have been used as a depository for papers produced by others.

The collection nevertheless contains much of interest, from files on individual by-elections, to correspondence on broadcasting and politics. The working papers of the Selwyn Lloyd enquiry and the committee set up to investigate the People's League for the Defence of Freedom, and the Middle Class Alliance, equally provide valuable supplementary information to the final reports.


  • Creation: 1951-1963


126 shelfmarks

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, Conservative Party Archive [followed by shelfmark, e.g. CCO 120/1/1].

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Full range of shelfmarks:

CCO 120/1-4

Collection ID (for staff)



Papers of the General Director's Office, 1951-1963, including files relating to broadcasting, by-elections, the Selwyn Lloyd Enquiry into Party Organisation, and the committee set up to investigate The People's League for the Defence of Freedom, and the Middle Class Alliance.

Biographical / Historical

The post of General Director at Conservative Central Office was created in February 1931 and arose from that of the Principal Agent, a position that dated back to 1885. The General Director was the full-time professional head of Central Office, answerable directly to the Party Chairman. Traditionally raised from the ranks of the agents, he had overall responsibility for the smooth running of the central party machine, although with an emphasis more on organisation and administration than on the publicity side. There were three occupants before the post was abolished by Edward Heath in June 1966: Sir Robert Topping (February 1931-September 1945, and Principal Agent since February 1928), Sir Stephen Piersenne (October 1945-August 1957) and Sir William Urton (August 1957-June 1966). Thereafter the various departmental directors answered directly to the Party Chairman and Vice Chairmen, a policy which was interrupted briefly in 1974 when Heath appointed Michael Wolff as Director General. Wolff, a former assistant to Heath, was removed by Margaret Thatcher when she assumed the leadership in 1975, and the post was again abolished.

Custodial History

The archive of the Conservative Party was established as a source for academic study at the Bodleian Library in 1978 by an agreement made between the University of Oxford and the Conservative Party, and brought together surviving historic papers of the Party previously held in various locations including Newcastle University Library and the former Conservative Central Office in Smith Square, London. Since 1996, ownership of the archive has been vested in the Conservative Party Archive Trust. The archive includes records from all three areas of Party organisation: parliamentary, voluntary and professional.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Conservative Party

Conservative Party Archive: General Director's Office
Finding aid prepared by Emily Tarrant
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom