Commonplace Books

Published: Monday 2 November 2015
Charles Ward, BRC student 1905-1906. These pages from his book show the “Broadway” dormitory boys together in the photo.

We recently decided to look back at student life at Borough Road College in the late 19th and early 20th century. We hold a series of ‘commonplace books’ from this college which were created by students as a way of remembering their time at the college.

These commonplace books resemble scrapbooks or journals, filled with memorabilia from the student’s time at the college, a personal way to remember the social side of university life. They can be thought of as the Pinterest or Tumblr of the day!

These fascinating and unique insights into student life contain a wide variety of material – photographs, poetry, sheet music, religious verses, pressed flowers, drawings and newspaper cuttings, as well as college memorabilia such as programmes and badges.


The above book belonging to A.W. Dagger, a BRC student between 1906-1908, features an illustration by fellow student, Howard Marlow of a card game at the college.



Charles W. Ward's commonplace book features the names and addresses, and in some cases, photos of the students from the Broadway dormitory.  He was a student at BRC between 1905-1906.



Poems from the commonplace book of an unknown student c.1870. The left hand page is a poem by George Herbert, written here by Joshua Boss and the right hand poem is by Coleridge, contributed by David Davis.



William Hunter's commonplace book feature photos of the BRC football and rugby teams (likely featuring William Hunter himself) and a caricature drawn by A.E. Matthews. The drawing could well be an 'in-joke' amongst the students of a teacher from the college - although lost on us almost 120 years later! William Hunter was a student at BRC between c.1897-1899.


Richmond Wheeler’s commonplace book

Richmond Wheeler was a student at Borough Road College during WW1. His commonplace book is crammed full of photographs, extracts, and drawings by fellow students, as well as lots of material he personally collected to remember his time at the college.

Wheeler’s experience at the college during WW1 would have been a very different experience to students who attended the college during peacetime. One of the extracts shows that he was actually living and attending classes at Richmond College – this was because the number of BRC students dwindled to such an extent (he would have been only one of 10 BRC students left on roll by 1918) that they were transferred to Richmond Theological College and the BRC site was taken over by the Army.

Some extracts from Richmond Wheeler’s commonplace book can be seen in the slideshow below.

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Page last updated: Monday 02 November 2015