Roy Waters Theatre Collection

Scope and Content

The Roy Waters Theatre Collection is a privately created collection of theatrical material amassed as a result of forty years of collecting by Roy Waters. The collection primarily comprises of theatrical ephemera, though it also includes the personal papers of Roy Waters, documenting both his career as teacher and later as a school inspector, and his collecting habits and cultural interests.

The nature of the material is diverse, with the printed ephemera including a sizeable collection of programmes from the 19th to the 21st century, collectable items such as cigarette cards, press cuttings collected for their relevance to named individuals and events and photographs reflecting a range of formats including postcards, cartes de visite and cabinet photographs. Toy theatre and juvenile drama are well represented with loose character and scene sheets, tinsel prints and twentieth century stage and script packs forming part of the collection. In addition, the prints series, although primarily consisting of portrait and scene prints of theatrical individuals, also includes a range of topographic and general entertainment prints. Artefacts and commemorative ornaments comprise a series, as do sound recordings relating to the specialisms of the collection in particular productions and well known individuals.

The theatrical ephemera, although initially collected with a broad interest in the theatre in mind, does reflect the specific areas of interest which developed as the collection grew; discreet collections of material relate to specific individuals or events, for instance Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde.

The collection also contains hundreds of individual autograph letters dating from the 18th to the 20th century representing the variety of professions involved in the performing arts, including letters from George Arliss, Sir James Barrie, Phineas Taylor Barnum, Charles Dickens and a sick note for J.S.Grimaldi [Joseph Samuel Grimaldi]. In addition, there are a small number of original art works relating to the theatre.

Administrative / Biographical History

Roy William Waters (1928-2010), M.A. Cambridge, spent the majority of professional life in education, working as an English teacher and then a school inspector. He began his career at Wandsworth School, south-west London (1954-63), before working as deputy head of Spencer Park School (1963-66). His final teaching post was as head of William Penn School in Dulwich (1966-68); feeling he lacked the necessary skills to excel as a head teacher Waters moved on to work for the Inner London Education Authority schools inspectorate, a post that he held for twenty years until his retirement in 1988.

During his career Roy Waters also undertook the arrangement of school plays and personally took on a number of performance and broadcast responsibilities, from planning a Son et Lumiere production at Spencer Park School to broadcasting both "Did You Write Poetry at School" in 1963 and a series of 60 broadcasts in Schools series "Over to You" for less able Secondary school pupils on the British Broadcasting Corporation's Home Service (Schools) from 1963 to 1966.

These achievements reflect the pastimes which occupied his personal life; Roy had an avid interest in theatre and the performing arts. He spent the last 40 years of his life building an extensive and diverse collection of ephemera, artefacts and printed books relating to his theatrical interests. The emphasis was initially on theatrical ephemera concerned with actors; however, it was when Roy developed an interest in material relating to Oscar Wilde that the scope of the collection expanded to include dramatists. The collection was acquired on various rationales from the narrow and specific, e.g. London theatre programmes, to the general, with material of various kinds linked by their relationship to a particular event or individual, either directly or by association.

The collection was acquired from the variety of avenues available to the private collector of theatrical material, namely ephemera fairs such as those hosted by the National Theatre, print and rare book sellers, auctions and websites such as EBay and AbeBooks.

Access Information

All records are open subject to the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. All records containing personal information about individuals are subject to the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998.

The archives service is open Wednesday to Friday with seasonal closures. Visits to view records are by prior appointment only. More information can be found on our website:

Acquisition Information

The collection was received by Royal Holloway University in 2010 from the estate of Roy Waters.

Other Finding Aids

A full catalogue for the collection is available though our website:

Conditions Governing Use

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the College Archivist.


None expected.

Related Material

Roy Water's collection of books on theatre history also came with the collection and is catalogued on the College's main library catalogue: