Conservative Party Archive: Conservative Central Office - Constituency Correspondence
These files contain correspondence and memoranda with and about individual constituencies. Perhaps the files of greatest interest are those on by-elections. Other items of note are Area agents’ reports on constituency organisation and papers for the selection of parliamentary candidates. Many files contain personal information and Area agents' private assessments of constituency candidates and officers. Access to such files may therefore be restricted. The earliest date from 1936, but most are from the post-war period.
- Creation: 1936-1988
Language of Materials
Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, Conservative Party Archive [followed by shelfmark, e.g. CCO 1/1/269].
Full range of shelfmarks:
Collection ID (for staff)
CPA CCO 1
Correspondence and memoranda, 1936-1988, with and about individual constituencies.
Biographical / Historical
The Conservative Central Office constitutes the main professional element of the Party. Its creation in 1870 marked the emergence of the modern Conservative Party, with a small core staff of professional, full-time employees, initially under the overall control of the Chief Whip but from 1911 a new Chairman of Party Organisation and Party Treasurer. The permanent head of Central Office for most of its existence was the Principal Agent, known from 1931 as the General Director. In 1966 the office of General Director was abolished, and the various departmental directors again became personally answerable to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman.
It is the function of Conservative Central Office 'to guide, inspire and co-ordinate the work of the party throughout the country, to advise and assist Constituency Associations and Area Councils and to provide such services as can best be organised centrally' (Maxwell Fyfe Report on Party Organisation, 1948). To that end it contains a large number of departments and sub-departments, each responsible for one or more aspects of party organisation. In 2004, Conservative Central Office was re-named Conservative Campaign Headquarters. No records of Conservative Central Office survive prior to 1911, and very little prior to the 1930s.
The organisation within Central Office has seen many alterations over the years, and departments and sections have appeared and disappeared in response to changing organisational emphases. Similarly the administrative system of records keeping has undergone a gradual change, as the central filing registry of the inter- and post-war years gave way to a departmentally orientated method of keeping files. This is the first of five series of registry files generated by Central Office which are held in the CPA and contains correspondence with and about individual constituency assocations.
Central Office filed its papers on individual constituencies in a number of chronological date series, varying between one and six years in length. Within each series constiuencies were listed according to the regional Area in which they were situated. The Areas were given code letters and each consituency was allocated a reference number. This system has been retained in the archive. Because of occasional boundary changes, however, a constituency's number does tend to change from one date series to another. In about 1961 the Party's Area organisation was also altered, so that many constituencies changed Area and several of the Areas changed their code letter. To trace the files on a particular constituency it is necessary to consult the list of files for the appropriate Area in each date series.
Many of the date series are incomplete. Indeed CCO 1/1,1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, 1/13 and 1/15 each contain only a very few surviving files. Few files exist for Northern Ireland constituencies.
Where a town or City contains a number of constituencies it is common for there to be a general file for the town as a whole, in addition to one for each constituency. Such general files are designated by a number made up from the catalogue numbers of its first and last component constituencies. Thus the general file for Nottingham in the date series CCO 1/7 (November 1948-March 1950) is indicated by the number 246/249. When requesting it the full number, CCO 1/7/246/249, should be given. To order the Constituency files within such a town it is necessary to specify them individually. Thus CCO 1/7/246 indicates the Nottingham Central constituency file for the same date series.
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: Constituency Correspondence
- Finding aid prepared by Emily Tarrant
- Language of description
- Script of description