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Archive of William Sterndale Bennett acquired from the Odling family


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The archive of the composer William Sterndale Bennett comprises music manuscripts, letters, and related material. It also includes papers belonging to other family members, notably his grandson T.C. Sterndale Bennett (1882-1944).

Music in this archive follows the order and contains references to William Sterndale Bennett: a descriptive thematic catalogue by Rosemary Williamson. Additional items that cannot be found there are given Williamson references noted as N/A.


  • Creation: 1785-1994, n.d.


3.0 Linear metres (90 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Odling Sterndale Bennett 1.]

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Odling Sterndale Bennett 1-90

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 18743


Archive of the composer William Sterndale Bennett previously with the Odling family, 1785-1994, n.d.

Biographical / Historical

William Sterndale Bennett (1816–1875) was a composer, pianist, conductor and music educator. Please see the Grove Music Online for further details.

Biographical details of Thomas Case Sterndale-Bennett as provided by William Sterndale Bennett's great-great-grandson Barry:

Thomas Case Sterndale-Bennett (1882-1944), also known as Tom or T.C., was the son of James Robert Sterndale Bennett and Mabel Agnes Gaskell. He was educated at Derby School between 1891 and 1899, where his father was Headmaster. He then entered the Royal College of Music to study piano (under Franklin Taylor) and singing, gaining his ARCM in 1904. He then joined the Westminster Abbey Glee Singers as a bass, which led to extensive engagements not only in the UK but also in South Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Burma, Malay Straits, China, Philippines, Fiji, Australasia, Honolulu and the United States.

During the First World War he was a member of the Lena Ashwell Concert Party, entertaining the troops in France. In 1916 he enlisted in the Artists Rifles as a machine gunner and a year later was commissioned into the Royal Flying Corps. After the war he established himself as a regular entertainer based in the West End of London. He also became a Freemason associated with a Lodge named after WSB. As a solo singer accompanying himself at the piano, he became very popular as an artist specialising in his own original songs, sketches, burlesque and stories, which attracted much critical acclaim. This included work for the BBC. He composed over three hundred published songs, the most well-known being 'The Carol Singers' and 'Leanin'. Several of his songs have been recorded.

He married Annie Christine Bywater, a professional oratorio singer, who died of cancer in 1931. Their daughter Joan (1914-1996) became well known on the West End stage and was a longstanding member of the Players Theatre. He later married Mary Maskelyne from the famous family of illusionists. She died in 2000. Tom died of cancer in May 1944 at the age of 62.


Music in this archive is arranged in an order similar to that in Rosemary Williamson's William Sterndale Bennett: a descriptive thematic catalogue. Individual musical items are given corresponding Williamson references where applicable. Additional items not listed there have, for clarity, 'N/A' (not applicable) as a Williamson reference.

Textual material is presented in chronological order within categories. It is not listed in the thematic catalogue so no Williamson reference are provided.

Custodial History

The following custodial history was provided by Barry Sterndale-Bennett:

In the 19th century it was not uncommon for the effects of deceased persons to be placed in auction and bought back by the family as a means of determining probate values. William Sterndale Bennett (referred hereafter as Bennett or WSB) was a prolific collector of music albeit his library largely derived from gifts. Following his death in 1875 two important auctions took place in London, which attracted much attention. Approximately a quarter was sold to third parties. The remainder was inherited in roughly equal amounts by Bennett's children. Charles (1845-1923) the eldest son was not musically inclined and little is known of him. He emigrated to Holland where he died with no issue. However on Christmas Eve 1878 he sold his portion to his younger brother James Robert (1847-1928), who played a crucial role in the development and upkeep of the library.

On the death of James Robert the material passed to his son Robert (1880-1963), who was for many years Director of Music at Uppingham School. His son Robin (1914-2006), a Naval Officer, did not want to assume the responsibility so it came to his son, Barry, in 1974 as next in line of the succeeding generation. Following the death of his wife at the end of 2005, he moved from Longparish and at that point decided to deposit the library in the Bodleian. This portion of the collection is catalogued separately.

The remaining third passed to the composer's daughter, Elizabeth Donn Bennett (1848-1927) who married Thomas Case (1844-1925) in 1870. Case later became the Waynflete Professor of Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy at Oxford and, from 1904, President of Corpus Christi College. Their daughter married into the Odling family and this part of the Bennett archive was, until recently, in the possession of the late Tom and Hilary Odling of Chipping Campden. The collection was accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government from the estate of Hilary Katharine Odling in 2020 and allocated to the Bodleian. It is this collection which is described here, catalogued separately from the part of the collection which descended through the Sterndale-Bennett side of the family.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accepted by HM Government in Lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Bodleian Library, 10 Jul 2020.

Related Materials

The portion of William Sterndale Bennett's archive acquired from the Sterndale Bennett family is catalogued separately, MSS. Sterndale Bennett 1-74.

A volume of letters to William Sterndale Bennett comprising 33 letters from Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, 1836-1847, and one from Cècile Mendelssohn Bartholdy, 1851, is at Dep. c. 797. One letter from Robert Schumann to William Sterndale Bennett, 1851, is at Dep. c. 798. An inscribed copy of Schumann's XII études symphoniques, op. 13, dedicated to Sterndale Bennett, is at Dep. c. 799.

Separated Materials

Printed music and books from this archive will be catalogued separately and available to order via SOLO. Concert programmes will be listed in the Concert Programmes database.


  • Barry Sterndale-Bennett, ‘The bicentenary of William Sterndale Bennett’, Brio, vol. 53 no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2016), pp. 3-18.
  • James Robert Sterndale Bennett, The life of William Sterndale Bennett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1907).
  • Rosemary Williamson, William Sterndale Bennett: a descriptive thematic catalogue (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).
Archive of William Sterndale Bennett acquired from the Odling family, 1785-1994, n.d.
Finding aid prepared by Margaret Czepiel
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom