Papers of Phoebe Somers

Scope and Content

Sketchbooks and sketches of travels in and inhabitants of various, mainly African locations, 1953-1972.

Administrative / Biographical History

Phoebe Somers (d 1995) was raised in Hove and trained at Brighton College of Art. For 18 years she was in charge of the art department of Berkhamsted Girls' Grammar School before moving to East Africa, where she worked [c1952-1963?], first in Kenya High School, Nairobi, then in Government-run African secondary schools in Tanzania, inspecting a number of primary schools in both territories. During this and her subsequent period in Africa, she learnt fluent Swahili and travelled widely, initially through East Africa, then through East and Central Africa, including the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, during a four month tour in 1962, the Commonwealth countries of Southern Africa in 1965, and Kenya again in 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1976. A series of paintings recording her East African impressions was exhibited at the Commonwealth Institute, 1957.

She also spent a period in England, sitting for 7 years on the Cambridge O-level Art Marking Board and accepting a lectureship at the Commonwlth Institute. She was then appointed to start an art department at a teacher training college on Mount Kenya, and began her second residence in Africa. On her final return to England she gave talks on national and local radio and undertook a series of articles, with sketches, on inhabitants of her native Sussex.

Access Information

Bodleian reader's ticket required.


Collection level description created by Paul Davidson, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House.

Other Finding Aids

The library holds a card index of all manuscript collections in its reading room.MSS. Afr. s. 2162 and 2061 are listed as 831 and 937 in Manuscript Collections in Rhodes House Library Oxford, Accessions 1978-1994(Oxford; Bodleian Library; 1996).

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication of personal papers without permission. Contact the library in the first instance.


Letters home, articles, photographs and drawings relating to work in theEducation Service in Tanganyika and Kenya, 1953-1967 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 2061);eleven boxes and one envelope of colour transparencies taken during periodas an art teacher in East Africa (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 2236), bought from MissSomers in March 1995; typed extract from a letter and original letter, 1968,from Hugh Trappes-Lomax, St. Lawrence's Teacher Training College, Igoji, Kenyato Miss Somers concerning his marriage, with a photograph of the bride andgroom (ref. MSS. Afr. t. 58), donated by Miss Somers on 1st June 1990;carbon copies of typescripts of broadcasts by the donor on African educationalthemes, 1960s, with a photograph of the donor, 1952 (ref. MSS. Afr. t. 58),donated by Miss Somers in March 1991; paintings and drawings by Miss Somersfrom her period as an art teacher in East Africa (ref. MSS. Afr. t. 58),purchased from her in March 1995.

Related Material

Memorandum on service in Kenya and Tanganyika as an art teacher, 1952-1963(ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1755 (138)).