Sir Isambard Owen Papers

Scope and Content

This collection consists of family and personal material including certificates, awards, correspondence, scrapbooks and photographs; material relating to Sir Isambard Owen's professional career at St George's Hospital including letters and papers he contributed to journals; material relating to the societies and organisations with which he was actively involved. Prominent among the latter is the Cymmrodorion Society and the collection includes various documents such as proposals, prospectuses, and plans relating to its reorganisation and activities such as the campaign for the promotion of the Welsh language in education and development of the educational system in Wales. There is also material relating to his activities in the preparation of a constitution for the University of Wales in 1891-1893 and relating to his involvement with the University in its early years, including correspondence, accounts of meetings and conferences etc. Also contains documents relating to his work with other universities including Durham and Bristol.

The collection contains the papers of Joseph Edwards, the Welsh sculptor for whom Sir Isambard Owen was executor. This material consists of correspondence, notes, material relating to his design of the Cymmrodorion Medal in 1878 and various papers including some regarding his friend and fellow sculptor Matthew Noble (1817-1876). Also contains papers relating to Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte including five bundles of letters between the Prince and Sir Isambard Owen, much of it relating to their shared interest in languages and dialect.

This collection also includes other miscellaneous items including a book of Gospel texts in Welsh, not dated, ca. late 18th - early 19th century (reference number: 25257), and an instruction book setting out a daily work routine for domestic servants, not dated, ca. late 19th - early 20th century (25721).

Administrative / Biographical History

Herbert Isambard Owen (1850-1927) was born at Chepstow in Monmouthshire, south Wales. He graduated from Cambridge University in 1872 and studied medicine at St. George's Hospital, London. He became consultant, lecturer and dean at St. George's and was vice president of the Medical Society of London.

He was involved in the restoration of the Cymmrodorion Society in 1873 and active in campaigns for the preservation and use of the Welsh language. He was prominent in a scheme for the union of the major Welsh higher education establishments and the formation of the University of Wales in 1891-1892 and was deputy chancellor from its foundation in 1894 till 1910. He was principal of Armstrong College, Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1904 and vice chancellor of Bristol University from 1909 to 1921. King Edward VII knighted him at his coronation in 1902.

Sir Isambard Owen was executor of the will of Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte (1813-1891) and may also have acted as a medical advisor to the Prince, whose father Prince Lucien Bonaparte was a brother of Emperor Napoleon I. Prince Louis Lucien lived in London and was a philologist with an interest in the Celtic languages including Welsh, which he was learning. Sir Isambard Owen also acted as executor of the will of Welsh sculptor Joseph Edwards (1814-1882) who designed the Cymmrodorion medal in 1878. The collection contains a substantial amount of material relating to both Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte and Joseph Edwards.

Sir Isambard Owen died in Paris in 1929 and was buried at Bangor, north Wales.


Material was received on separate occasions, arranged in chronological order and incorporated into the General Collection of Bangor Manuscripts .

Conditions Governing Access

Open to all users

Acquisition Information

The family of Sir Herbert Isambard Owen deposited most of the material. Some, (reference numbers: 31757-31764) was deposited by Dr. Gwilym A. Jones of Normal College, University of Wales, Bangor.


Description compiled by Anne Lenaghan, October 2001

Other Finding Aids

Item level word-processed list is available at the Archives Department of the University of Wales, Bangor. Reference numbers: General Collection of Bangor Manuscripts: 5949-6422, 10259-10267, 15690, 17976-18029, 25160-25263, 25611, 25721, 26557-26562, 31757-31764

Conditions Governing Use

Usual copyright conditions apply. Reprographics are made at the discretion of the Archivist.