SKEEL, Professor Caroline (1872-1951)

Scope and Content

The collection contains the papers of Caroline Skeel, 1850-1964, comprising of papers relating to her time at Westfield College; including working papers 1850-c.1926; photographs 1905-mid 20th Century; letters 1908-1950; donations 1930-1943; presentations from the College 1925-1929; and papers relating to her Professorship 1925.

Also comprises of personal papers; including papers relating to her school 1880-1925; Girton College 1890-1927; London School of Economics 1904-1914; Certificates and Testimonies c.1913; the time that she lived in Hendon c.1935; her family 1925-1943; her legacy 1933-1954; biographical papers 1949-1954; financial papers 1899-1916; involvement with societies 1928-1930; letters 1904-1949; and personal items and memorabilia 1878- c.1890.

The collection also contains family papers 1785-1928; including those of the Skeel family 1820-1923; Smith family 1809-1889; and James family 1794-1869; mainly comprising of educational papers, working papers, and legal documents such as wills, as well as papers relating to family properties 1785-1928; and some family photographs c.1876; and items of unknown context, 18th Century - late 19th Century.

Administrative / Biographical History

SKEEL , CAROLINE ANNE JAMES ( 1872 - 1951 ) was born on the 9 Feb. 1872 in Hampstead , where her family resided at 45 Downshire Hill. She was the sixth of the seven children; one son and six daughters (two died in infancy) of William James Skeel (1822 - 1899) and Anne James, his wife (1831 - 1895). Her father, the son of Henry Skeel (d. 1847 ), a farmer, was born at Castle Hill in the parish of Haycastle, Pembrokeshire, and became a successful London merchant with offices in Finsbury Chambers in the city and a director of the South Australian Land Mortgage and Agency Co. Ltd . Her mother was a first cousin of her husband; the daughter of Thomas and Martha James of Clarbeston, Pembrokeshire. Initially educated at home, from the age of eight Caroline attended a private school; the South Hampstead High School (c.1884-87). She then attended Notting Hill High School (1887-90). Following this she entered Girton College, Cambridge (1891-95). She was a St. Dunstan's Exhibitioner and took a double first in classics in 1894. She then took a first in the historical tripos, in 1895. She was awarded the Agnata Butler Prize in 1893 and 1894, and the Thérèsa Montefiore Memorial Prize in 1895.

Skeel joined Westfield in 1896 as a visiting lecturer in classics, but was soon also placed in charge of the history department and drew on both disciplines in her first original work, Travel in the First Century after Christ (Cambridge,1901), which won Girton's Gibson prize in 1898. But it was history that prevailed, as shown by her enrolment in 1901 as a postgraduate student at the London School of Economics to work on the dissertation, The Council in the Marches of Wales: a study in local government in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (London, 1904), which in 1904 earned her the Hutchinson medal and in 1903 the London D.Litt. At Westfield she combined a heavy teaching programme with responsibility from 1902 for the college library, attracting gifts in kind from learned societies and others which substantially improved its stock; in her role as a recognized teacher of London University, she served from 1902 to 1906 as secretary to the board of studies in history.

She wrote a number of articles and reviews in English Historical Review, Archaeologia Cambrensis, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society , Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, History , and Cambridge Historical Journal, most of which deal with the history of Wales and the Marches . She contributed a chapter on Wales under Henry VII to Tudor Studies, ed. R.W. Seton-Watson (1924), and to T. Auden, Memorials of Old Shropshire (1908). She gained the Gamble Prize in 1914 for an essay on the influence of the writings of Sir John Fortesque. She was also one of the editors of the S.P.C.K. texts for students and arranged the Selections from Giraldus Cambrensis and the Selections from Matthew Paris, Nos. 2-3 in that series (London 1918).

The onset in 1907 of severe and lasting depression removed Skeel, though only temporarily, from the academic scene, to which she eventually returned on her reappointment to Westfield in 1911.

Promoted in 1919 to a university readership, Skeel was able to contribute in various ways to the success of a new venture close to her heart, the Institute of Historical Research. She was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society 1914-28, serving on the Council and the Publications Committee 1921-27, and a member of the Cymmrodorion Society, the Classical Association and the Historical Association. In 1925, she was advanced to a professorship, the first to be held at Westfield.

But within a year symptoms of depression reappeared and in 1929 she took early retirement. She lived until her death at 24 Hayes Crescent, Golders Green, following a stroke on 25 February 1951. She had inherited the large fortunes left by her father and brother William Henry Skeel (d. 1925, leaving over £305,000), the total of which amounted at her death to some £270,000 (gross). She bequeathed large sums to Church charities but she bequeathed the bulk of it to Westfield, already the beneficiary of gifts made anonymously during her lifetime. After her death it was revealed that she had anonymously given away in her lifetime about £30,000 to poor families and charities.


This collection has been arranged by provenance and divided into two sub-fonds; Caroline Skeel, and Family Papers.

Access Information

The Archives are available for access in the Archives Reading Room located on the 2nd Floor of the Mile End Library. The Archives Reading Room is open Mondays to Fridays 9am-4pm by appointment only. Contact the Archives for more information: Archives, Main Library QMUL, 328 Mile End Rd, London E1 4NS, telephone: 020 7882 3873, email: . For more information about the Archives see the website:

Acquisition Information

Bequeathed to Westfield College.

Other Finding Aids

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopying at the discretion of the Archivist.