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Bill Cockren's diary and photographs of a visit to China

 Single Item
MS. 21067
Held in our offsite storage facility

  • Request
  1. Loose leaf manuscript diary in blue cover recording the visit of the British Communist Party delegation to China, from its departure from Northolt airport on 20 April 1951 until its return to Heathrow on 16 June 1951. There are detailed daily descriptions of travelling around China visiting factories, farms, mines and hospitals, attending a large May Day event and discussions, meetings and dinners with Chinese comrades. The end of the diary has notes on politics, engineering, living conditions, town planning and building and other 'points of interest'.
  2. Loose leaf diary mainly containing a typed summary of the manuscript diary, with manuscript notes on the revolutions of the Chinese people since the 1920s, the nationalisation of industries, the health system, trade and co-operatives, 1951.
  3. Two albums containing photographs of the trip (some captioned) including Summer Palace, Winter Palace and Forbidden City, Pekin, Hopei Province, Poating City, Shanghai, Hangchow Sanatoria, jute factory, Nankin, miners in Huainan, textile mill in Tientsin, and photographs of Moscow en route to and from China, 1951.


  • Creation: Apr-Jun 1951


1 box

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 21067].

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


MS. 21067

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 21067


Bill Cockren's diary and photographs of a visit to China.

Biographical / Historical

William Henry Cockren was born on 9 April 1915 in Bow, London, the son of a painter and decorator. His elder brother Len joined the International Brigade and went to fight in the Spanish Civil War. During World War II Bill Cockren served in the army as a dispatch rider and worked on vehicle maintenance.

Shortly before the war Bill met Norah Simpson (1895-1974), an Australian modernist painter who had studied in London. By 1921 Norah had stopped painting and gave her time to politics, working for the British Communist Party. After the war Bill and Norah moved to the edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall and married in 1950. Bill worked on a farm, joined the agricultural workers' union and when the British Communist Party was putting together a delegation to visit communist China in 1951 he was selected. He later worked in a wolfram mine.

In around 1955 Bill and Norah moved to Berrynarbor in north Devon and later to Instow where Bill died in 1970 and Norah in 1974.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to the Bodleian Library by Bill Cockren's granddaughter in 2021.

Catalogue of Bill Cockren's Diary and Photographs of a Visit to China in 1951
Finding aid prepared by Lucy McCann
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom