Royal Agricultural University archive

Scope and Content

The Archive includes account books, minutes, financial and legal documents, correspondence, foundation documents, project proposals, student lists, student reports, admission forms, exam papers, conference proceedings, research articles, images, press cuttings, student prospectuses and college journals

Administrative / Biographical History

The Royal Agricultural College (now the Royal Agricultural University), the first such institution in the English speaking world, was founded in 1845 with the aim of introducing science into agriculture and educating the country's future farmers. Funds were raised by public subscription and the 4th Earl of Bathurst, the college's first president, leased a farm of 400 acres from his estate at Cirencester on which to build it. The college buildings were designed in Victorian Gothic style and the ancient farmhouse and 16th Century Tithe Barn were retained. Queen Victoria granted the College the Royal Charter and sovereigns have been Patrons ever since.

The early years were beset by financial difficulties, the first Principal was dismissed for incompetence and a number of Professors left due to the harsh regime imposed. On the outbreak of war, many staff and students enlisted and in 1915 the College closed for eight years. In 1923 it was officially re-opened by King George V and Queen Mary and among those who helped at the time was perhaps the greatest old student of all time, Viscount Bledisloe, who later became Governor-General of New Zealand.

In 1932 Robert Boutflour, C.B.E., became Principal and was responsible for expanding the College from 50 to 800 students. He raised substantial funds for new buildings and initiated the vital Diploma Course in Rural Estate Management. In 1939 the College was requisitioned by the Office of Works for the whole of the Second World War and used to accommodate the Royal Air Force. It was re-opened on its Centenary in 1945 with 80 new students, but this rose rapidly to 452 by the time Boutflour left in 1958.

The 1960s and 70s saw a further expansion of the College and subsequent rise in educational standards and in 1985 the first of many degree courses was started: a BSc (Hons) degree in Rural Land Management run in co-operation with Reading University. As well as agriculture, the College now runs courses in rural skills, business management, equine management, land management and tourism and students can study both for undergraduate degrees and post-graduate qualifications. Up until 2001 it was completely independent of government funding and raised money through tuition fees and by running conferences, functions and its farms, which now cover about 3200 acres.

Access Information

Access to the Archive is by appointment only

Acquisition Information

The Archive has all been acquired from within the University


Description compiled by Lorna Parker, archivist of the Royal Agricultural University

Other Finding Aids

A collection-level list of the Royal Agricultural University archive is available for consultation at the Royal Agricultural University Library.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies, photographic and digital copies of archival material can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents. Prior written permission must be obtained from the Archive for publication of reproduction of any material within the Archive. Please contact the Royal Agricultural University Library, Cirencester, Glos, GL7 6JS, Tel: 01285 652531 ext 2276

Appraisal Information

The archives of the Royal Agricultural University were appraised by Richard Bowden in January 2002 as 'a unique resource of very considerable interest'. The part-time archivist is currently cataloguing and supervising conservation work on the collection.

Custodial History

The archive has accumulated over the 160 years of the institution's existence although an official archivist has only been employed part-time since October 2002


The History of the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester, by Roger Sayce (Alan Sutton, 1992)