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An early Christmas present for the Archives

This week the Archives staff were delighted to receive a donation of a 19th century commonplace book. 

A commonplace book resembles a scrapbook or journal, filled with memorabilia from the student’s time at college and beyond - a personal way to remember the social side of college life.

The BFSS Archives, which are held by Brunel University London Archives, contains eleven commonplace books which belonged to male students at Borough Road College (a predecessor college of Brunel).  But until this week we had never seen any examples of commonplace books which had belonged to female students.

 Cover of Sarah Barber's common place book, black with gold embossing

After carefully examining the book, and research in the archives, we discovered that the volume had belonged to Sarah Barber, student (trainee teacher) at Stockwell College 1877 - 1878, originally from Withington, Lancashire.  Stockwell College was over 200 miles away from her home town. 

Her father was John Barber - he wrote her a message at the front of the volume. The final message is from a Dorothy Bond at the back, written in 1910. We know from the student records in the Stockwell College Archives (part of the BFSS Archives) that Sarah's married name was Bond. The donor said her family connection was with Dorothy Bond, so perhaps Dorothy was Sarah's daughter. The book seems to have been handed down through the female line for over 100 years.

 CPB Sarah Barber D Bond end cropped

“Write your name by kindness, love and mercy on the hearts of the people you come into contact with year by year and you will never be forgotten”.  Final entry in the volume, contributed by Dorothy Bond

Sarah’s book contains mainly written entries.  The contributions differ slightly from those in the men’s commonplace books, with a slightly more “sedate” feel to them, and some quite touching entries about friendship. It has fewer drawings than the men’s volumes.

Several copied poems or extracts are about women, such as an extract entitled "Woman's kingdom" by Rushkin, and "A Perfect Woman" by Wordsworth, as well as this quotation from Matthew Henry (1662-1714), which was contributed by Sarah’s friend Margaret.

 CPB Sarah Barber Woman equal cropped

“Woman was not made out of man’s head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him…”

Sarah‘s friends and fellow Stockwell College students who wrote in the book include:  Katherine Phillips; Jennie Parker; Alice Lansdale; Kate Blabey; Alice Campbell; Annie Johnson; Jessie Lindsay; Eva Venn; Frances Ada Mold; Ellen Porter; Dorcas Quirk; Kate (Kitty) Holmes; Annie Bird;  Elizabeth Baker; Annie Steele; Clara A Bell; Eliza (Lily) Rose; Connie Taylor; Elizabeth Wood; Euphemia Smith; Laura Fry; Jennie Barker; Elizabeth Dearsley; Kate Ainsworth; Emily Clayden; Eliza Tyer; Alice Hague; Clara Hodges. 

CPB Sarah Barber musical notes cropped

Advice for men and women, in musical format. Advice to Ladies – be natural. Advice to Gentlemen – be sharp. Contributed by Kate Blaby

And finally, words of advice that everyone can follow, in this advent period and beyond:

 CPB Sarah Barber be kind cropped

"When you find yourself overpowered as it were by melancholy, the best way is to get out and do something kind to somebody or other". John Keble (1792 – 1866).  Contributed by Lydia in 1905. 

To see the catalogue entry for Sarah’s book, please see  and search for “Sarah Barber”

 With grateful thanks to the donor of this volume. 

We'd love to hear from anyone who has items relevant to the history of Brunel University London, its predecessor colleges or the BFSS, and would like to donate them to us. 

Our webpages, full of information about Brunel University London’s Archives, including how to contact us or visit, are here.

Merry Christmas!