Papers of the Bickersteth family, 1815-1976

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Eng. b. 2082-93, c. 6397-6452, d. 3007-3188, e. 3127-3252; Photogr. a. 9-10, b. 16-23, c. 80-4, d. 16-23
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      397 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

This collection of papers of the Bickersteth family contains mainly family correspondence and papers. The papers of Samuel Bickersteth form a large part of the collection. This section includes weekly letters from three of his six sons throughout their school and university days. The letters continue through the First World War forming an eleven volume record known as the Bickersteth Diary, 1914-18, which was kept by their mother. This section also includes scrapbooks containing newscuttings, and printed ephemera concerning family, parish and national events, family photograph albums and correspondence of the Monier-Williams family.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Bickersteths are a family noted for the last six generations for their tradition of service to the Church of England. This collection contains papers from five of these generations:  

  • Edward Bickersteth (1786-1850), rector of Watton
  • his son Edward Henry Bickersteth (1825-1906) Bishop of Exeter, poet and hymnographer, who married Rosa, daughter of Sir Samuel Bignold, MP for Norwich
  • Edward and Rosa's second son Samuel Bickersteth (1857-1937), who was ordained priest in 1882, having married in 1881 Ella, daughter of Sir Monier Monier-Williams founder of the Indian Institute in Oxford
  • Samuel and Ella's six sons, Monier (1882-1976) who was ordained priest in 1908; Geoffrey (1884-1974) who became Professor of English Literature at Aberdeen University; Julian (1885-1962) who was also a priest; Burgon (1888-1979), the fourth brother, went to Canada and became Warden of Hart House, University of Toronto; Morris (1891-1916) killed on the Somme in 1916; and Ralph (1894-1989), the youngest son, who married Alison Grafton
  • A.C. (Tony) Bickersteth (1920-48), the eldest son of Geoffrey Bickersteth, who served with the Gurkha Rifles in India and Burma during the Second World War

Further details can be found in the introduction to the online catalogue ( and in the Dictionary of National Biography.

Conditions Governing Access

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see

Acquisition Information

The papers were given to the Bodleian Library from 1976-1998.


Collection level description created by Emily Tarrant, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue of the collection is available online at


Ella Bickersteth's collection of letters from her sons was edited and published in 1995 as The Bickersteth diaries, 1914-1918 (London, 1995) by her grandson John Bickersteth, sometime Bishop of Bath and Wells.