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Conservative Party Archive: Conservative Training Colleges: Bonar Law Memorial College, Ashridge


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  1. The Bonar Law Memorial Trust correspondence and papers concerning the passage of the Ashridge [Bonar Law Memorial] Trust Bill through Parliament
  2. Governing Body minutes, correspondence and papers
  3. Steering Committee agenda, minutes and papers
  4. Education Committee bound minutes, and agenda, minutes and papers
  5. Educational Council agenda, minutes and papers
  6. Finance Committee minutes and accounts
  7. Estate and House Committee correspondence
  8. Material relating to Ashridge House of Citizenship
  9. Material relating to Ashridge Scholarship Trust
  10. College prospectuses and advertising
  11. [N.B. At the time of deposit, some material was retained by Ashridge College and is not currently held by the Conservative Party Archives, (but may be deposited at a future date). This material includes: 2 registers of staff (1928-1943 and 1943-1954); 2 minute book volumes and 4 boxes (14 folders) of agenda, minutes and papers [formerly refs. 301 to 301/13] of the Estate and House Committee; 4 boxes (10 folders) of material relating to the acquisition and use of Ashridge House and Grounds, including subsequent additions and sales.]


  • Creation: 1928-1959


5 Linear metres (32 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

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

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

CTC/A/1/1; CTC/A/2/1/1-CTC/A/2/1/4; CTC/A/2/2/1; CTC/A/2/3/1-CTC/A/2/3/3; CTC/A/3/1; CTC/A/4/1/1-CTC/A/4/1/2; CTC/A/4/2/1-CTC/A/4/2/3; CTC/A/5/1; CTC/A/6/1/1-CTC/A/6/1/6; CTC/A/6/2/1-CTC/A/6/2/8; CTC/A/7/1; CTC/A/8/1

Collection ID (for staff)



Minutes, papers and correspondence of the Bonar Law Memorial College (1928-1959), a Conservative training college, based at Ashridge House, near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.

Biographical / Historical

The Trust Deed establishing the Bonar Law Memorial College at Ashridge House, near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire in 1929 provided for the House and grounds to be preserved as a national memorial to the former Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law, and for the House to be used as an educational institution.

Urban Hanlon Broughton, Conservative MP, provided the sums necessary for JCC Davidson, Chairman of the Conservative Party, to buy Ashridge House for the purpose of converting the building into 'a College or Institution for the study of political and social science and political history with special reference to the development of the British Constitution and the growth and expansion of the British Empire and other subjects and as a Memorial to the Right Honourable Bonar Law, PC, MP., sometime Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.' Broughton, who was in line to be elevated to the peerage, died on 30/01/1929 before the trust was formalised, but his eldest son Urban Huttleston Rogers Broughton became the first Baron Fairhaven and was appointed under the Trust as one of the four 'Founder Governors'. Completion of the purchase of Ashridge House for this purpose from Thomas Place was made on 28/08/1928 for £26,000.

Although closely associated with the Conservative Party, and Party representatives held positions on its governing body [The Trust Deed provided for both the Party Leader and Party Chairman for the time being to be ex officio Governors plus two additional Governors to be nominated annually by the Executive Committee of the National Union of Conservative & Unionist Associations], the college was not intended to be a 'Party' college and held a wider educational brief. However, it was not until 1947 that the Governing Body stipulated that all Party bias should cease, in an attempt to broaden the potential funding base of the college and save it from closure. At a meeting of the newly-reconstituted Education Committee on 7th March, 1950 it was put in the following terms: 'The Trust was founded in memory of a great Statesman who was a Conservative. It is however as a Statesman and not as a party politician that he is to be honoured. Thus while the Trust as an educational body must stand for those principles of historic tradition which are amongst the tenets of the Conservative Party of which Bonar Law was a leader, the teaching of the College must be strictly without Party or other bias. Lecturers must be chosen purely for their ability and knowledge, irrespective of their political affiliations, except that Communists shall be excluded.'

Following foundation of the College, the Education Committee quickly established links with Conservative Central Office and the newly-created Conservative Research Department, with a regular liaison and interchange of information. The Publicity Department at Conservative Central Office promoted courses at the College, and the Principal Agent also appointed local Education Officers and committees, while enrolments for courses were initially handled by Central Office until the College took over this function at the beginning of 1930. On 4th November, 1946, at the behest of Arthur Bryant, the need for 'a wider educational policy at Ashridge, free from all Party teaching, so as to meet the great and unexpected expansion of the work of popular adult education which had taken place during the War in His Majesty's Forces' was accepted, despite some reservation from Party representatives present - Lord Woolton, the Party Chairman, RA Butler and Sir David Maxwell Fyfe - as well as the then Party Leader Winston Churchill [not present, but en ex officio member of the Governing Body]. At the same meeting, General Sir Bernard Paget was appointed as the new Principal, who 'made it perfectly clear that he would only accept the appointment provided it was clearly understood that Ashridge would be administered as a non-Party College.' Lord Baldwin stepped down as Chairman of the Governing Body at this time.

The College officially opened on 1st July, 1929 and instructions were given by the Conservative Party Chairman to recruit lecturers and students on 4th July. The first fortnightly course began on 3rd August. Certain members of the College's Governing Body met informally on 25th October, 1929, in order to appoint members of an Education Committee, lay the foundations of an educational policy and appoint a Principal. The Governing Body first met officially on 29th November, 1929, attended by Stanley Baldwin MP (Chairman), Viscount Astor, Viscountess Bridgeman, Neville Chamberlain MP, JCC Davidson MP [then Conservative Party Chairman], Lord Fairhaven, and Lady Greenwood, with Lt-Col L. Storr attending as Acting Secretary. Lord Hailsham, Mr JW Beaumont Pease and Col. John Buchan were also governors but were absent from this first meeting. At this meeting the appointment of Major-General Sir Reginald Hoskins as Principal was ratified [Hoskins resigned on 18th January 1938, Mr Eric J Patterson being appointed in his place], as were the appointments of Buchan as Chairman of the Education Committee, Beaumont Pease as Chairman of the Finance Committee, and Lord Fairhaven as Chairman of the Estate & Garden, Interior Decoration & Structual Maintenance Committee.

From the Trust's inception, Lord Davidson was required to raise additional funds to bridge the gap between the income from Trust funds and fees from enrolments on the one hand and expenditure on the other. Before the War this was sufficient to keep the college going, although by 1937 Sir Maxwell Hicks, the trust's accountant, was reporting to the Finance Committee that an average annual deficit of £4,000 meant that the College could only continue for a projected 12-13 years. After the War, it was found that income from trust endowments had greatly reduced while the costs involved in running the college had trebled. By 1949 this situation had become critical. Staff were put on provisional notice while the options were considered, including outright closure of the college, transferring responsibility for the upkeep of the House and grounds to the National Trust, increasing the number of lets for conferences, renting part of the House to the Conservative Party, seeking further donations from banks and industry with possible representation on the Educational Council and/or the Governing Body, and altering the terms of trust deed.

At the meeting of the Governing Body of 15th July, 1949 it was unanimously agreed that Dorothy Neville-Rolfe be invited to join the Ashridge staff and relocate her House of Citizenship from London to Ashridge, with between 40-50 boarding girls between the ages of 18 and 24, in order to solve the dire financial problems.

Despite the additional revenue brought by the House of Citizenship, the College continued to operate on a deficit. The Finance & General Purposes Committee recommended to the Governing Body at its meeting on 9th February 1951 that it should seek to vary the terms of the Trust in order to become a charity and enable it to accept covenanted subscriptions, and that the political appointments under the Trust Deed resulted in an unjustified belief that Ashridge was a Conservative Party College, which prejudiced enrolments from students with trade union backgrounds and potential funding. At the meeting of the Governing Body of 14th March, 1953, Lord Davidson reported that a Private Bill would be ready to be presented to Parliament by October 1953 which would change the terms of the Trust. Henceforth the college would be known as 'Ashridge: the Bonar Law Memorial College'; its President or Patron would be HRH the Duke of Edinburgh; it would have a Council consisting of 30 members, including nominees from Oxford, Cambridge, London and provincial universities, the Federation of British Industries, the Trades Union Congress, the Armed Forces, overseas representatives and sponsor companies; it would run by a Board of Management consisting of ten members; with an Advisory Panel of friends of the College willing to give advice on courses for industry. A Steering Committee of the Governing Body should be set up to act as a Drafting Committee for purposes of preparing the Bill and seeing it through Parliament. This Bill, the Ashridge (Bonar Law Memorial) Trust Act, received the Royal Assent on 4th July, 1954

The minutes of the Governing Body of 5th May 1953 also refer to discussions with the National Trust over the transfer to that body of the House and 60 acres of garden and arboretum. Following the transformation of the Trust into an educational charity, it was reported at the Governors' meeting of 15th December 1954 that an application had been made to the Historic Buildings Council for England for a grant towards the restoration of the Mansion, and it was also agreed that the Governors should apply for a Government grant from the Ministry of Education in the same way as universities had with regard to the Workers' Educational Association.

Financial problems still dogged Ashridge College and at the Governors' meeting on 5th July 1956 it was agreed that the Trust could no longer function. However, at a further meeting on 10th July 1956 intended to finalise the decision to close the College, it was reported that Sir Hugh Beaver had agreed to fund the deficit of the College until the end of 1957, so that in the meantime discussions could take place to put Ashridge onto a stable, permanent basis. At the same meeting, it was agreed that the Ashridge House of Citizenship should vacate its premises and avail itself of an opportunity to acquire alternative premises, which would allow for the planned expansion of the college. Sir Hugh addressed the Governors on 17th September 1957 on his proposal to convert Ashridge into a management training college for Industry, funded by industrialists, with representatives of industry, education, the universities and the Civil Service on the Governing Body. His view was that, 'The democratic world in which we lived depended upon the recognition by industry of its responsibilities to the State and the country in which it operated. This had nothing to do with party politics, but it was obvious that in an industrial country such as this the role of management was bound to be enormously influential. Those who were going to be good managers had got to learn to be good citizens. Therefore the teaching of management was not purely a narrow technical subject; it was training the people who would be the most influential citizens of the future.' Following further negotiations between the Governing Body and Sir Hugh, a resolution was passed on 17th July 1958 acknowledging that in addition to the subjects to be taught at Ashridge as specified in the Ashridge (Bonar Law Memorial) Trust Act 1954 - namely economics, political and social science, political history with special reference to the development of the British constitution and the growth and expansion of the Commonwealth and Empire - the curriculum would now include, and be primarily devoted to, the art of management in industry.

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

Deposited by Ashridge Business School in 13 Jan 2011. The records came direct from Ashridge College, where they had been held since the College ceased being a Conservative Party training college in 1954.

Related Materials

For the papers of other Conservative Training Colleges, see:

  1. CPA CTC/S: Swinton College

For publications, see catalogue: PUB/I: Published and Printed Material: Conservative Training Colleges.

Conservative Training Colleges: Bonar Law Memorial College, Ashridge
Sarah Thiel. Original finding aid prepared by Jeremy McIlawaine in 2014.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom