Papers of Joyce Grenfell and Virginia Graham

Scope and Content

This collection comprises correspondence, principally between Joyce Grenfell and Virginia Graham (1929-1979), but it also includes letters from Joyce Grenfell to her mother (1932-1943), letters from Joyce and Reggie Grenfell to Sir Rupert and Lady Hart-Davis (1966-1993), correspondence between Joyce Grenfell and Katharine Moore (1957-1979); diaries of Joyce Grenfell (1972-1975); a series of photograph albums kept by Virginia Graham (1927-1988); some Christian Science publications with occasional inscriptions by Joyce Grenfell (1936-1959); and a pre-recorded audio tape.

Administrative / Biographical History

Joyce Grenfell. Joyce Irene Grenfell (nee Phipps) was born in London on 10 February 1910, the elder child and only daughter of Paul Phipps, an architect and a fellow of RIBA, and his wife Nora Langhorne, from Virginia, USA, who was the sister of Nancy (later Viscountess) Astor, the first woman to sit in the House of Commons. She was educated at Francis Holland School, London, (1917-1924) and the Christian Science School, Clear View in South Norwood (1924-1927) before attending a 'finishing school' in Paris in 1927 followed by classes at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Joyce Phipps married Reginald Pascoe Grenfell, a chartered accountant, in 1929. They had no children. He died in 1993. After a meeting with J. L. Garvin, editor of the Observer, Joyce Grenfell became the radio critic for that paper, writing a weekly column from 1936 to 1939. She made her stage debut in Herbert Farjeon's The Little Revue in 1939 delivering a comic monologue based on a talk she had heard at a Women's Institute meeting called 'Useful and Acceptable Gifts'. She had an instantaneous success and appeared in two further Farjeon reviews, Diversion (1940 and 1941), and Light and Shade (1942). In 1942 she undertook a UK tour for the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) before embarking on ENSA tours to India and the Middle East in 1944 and 1945. She appeared in further reviews until the early 1950s, and a variety of films over the years including The Happiest Days of Your Life (1949), Genevieve (1953), The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964), and the St.Trinian's series (1954-1960). In 1954 she began appearing in a series of one-woman shows, the first being Joyce Grenfell Requests the Pleasure, with which she later toured the world. Joyce Grenfell retired from the stage in 1973, but she continued to appear on television in the musical quiz programme, Face the Music, from 1971 until 1975. Joyce Grenfell was committed to projects unconnected with show business. In 1957 she became president of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists; from 1960 to 1962 she served on the committee concerned with the 'future of the broadcasting services of the UK', chaired by Sir W. H. Pilkington; in 1968 she became the first Honorary Fellow appointed by Lucy Cavendish Collegiate Society; in 1972 she was appointed a member of the council of the Winston Churchill Memorial Fellowship Trust, the grants from which enable students to go overseas to study their special subjects. A lifelong Christian Scientist, she was deeply interested in metaphysics. During her partial retirement from public life she wrote her autobiography in two volumes, Joyce Grenfell Requests the Pleasure (1976), and In Pleasant Places (1979). She died in London on 30 November 1979. Joyce Grenfell first met Virginia Graham in the summer of 1917 when they were seven and six respectively. They were inseparable friends until Joyce's death. Virginia Graham. Virginia Graham was born in London on 1 November 1910, the daughter of Captain Jocelyn Henry Clive Graham, a playwright and lyricist, and Dorothy Villiers. She was educated at Notting Hill High School and in 1927 attended a finishing school in Paris with Joyce Grenfell. In 1939 Virginia Graham married Tony Thesiger, a tea plantation manager and later Director of Wallace Brothers, a merchant trading company owned by his mother's family. They had no children. He died in 1969. Virginia joined the Women's Voluntary Service in 1940, leaving in 1946 to resume a journalistic career, which had begun with contributions to Punch. She was a film critic for the Spectator from 1946 until 1956. In 1948 she became a drama critic for the Sunday Chronicle, and a film and book critic for the Evening Standard in 1952, and finally a columnist for Homes & Garden from 1953 until 1982. Virginia Graham also wrote poetry, many of which were first published in Punch, and an anthology, Consider the Years 1938-1946, was published in 1946. Other publications include The Story of the WVS (1960), A Book on Casino Gambling (1978), and A selection of metaphysical poets (1996), and several novels translated from the French. Virginia Graham died in 1993. Katharine Moore. Una Katharine Moore (née Yeo) was born on 25 April 1898. The family home was in Reigate, Surrey, from where her father commuted to London to his work in insurance. She was educated at Wycombe Abbey School and went on to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (1918-1921), where she read English. For a short interlude after leaving Oxford, she worked in the Lady Margaret Hall settlement in Lambeth. In 1922 she married Dr. Harold Moore, a widower with three young girls, and 20 years her senior. In 1925 Katharine gave birth to twins, Jane and Christopher. Harold Moore later became the first president of the Institution of Metallurgists. He died in 1972. In 1943 Katharine Moore took up a part-time post as an English teacher at Walthamstow Hall School for Girls in Sevenoaks, Kent, and later became full-time. Katharine Moore's publishing career began in 1936 with the publication of Moog, a children's book she wrote for her twins and which is illustrated by Jane Moore. This was followed by a series of educational books for children. Her first published adult work was an anthology, The Spirit of Tolerance (1964). The titles and subjects of her non-fiction books reflect her preoccupation with women's need for independence and her religious development - Cordial Relations:The Maiden Aunt in Fact and Fiction (1966); Victorian Wives (1974); and She for God: Aspects of Women and Christianity (1978). She published her first novel, Summer at the Haven (1983), at the age of 85 and received the Authors' Club Silver Quill Award for the most promising first novel of 1984. This was followed by two further novels, The Lotus House (1984) and Moving House (1986). She also published two memoirs ' Queen Victoria is Very Ill (1988), and A family life 1939-1945: a journal (1989), a collection of short stories, Six Gentle Giants (1990), and a fictional biography, Particular Glory: Some Chronicles of the Perronet Family in Eighteenth-Century Shoreham. In 1957 Katharine Moore began a 22-year pen friendship with Joyce Grenfell which ended only with Joyce's death in 1979. They agreed never to meet in order to express themselves with greater freedom in their writing. Katharine Moore died on 18 November 2001.


The papers are arranged into five series: correspondence; diaries; photograph albums; Christian Science; and recordings.

Access Information

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Lucy Cavendish College Archive. A prior appointment and proof of identity are required.

Acquisition Information

Dame Frances Campbell-Preston, sister-in-law of Joyce Grenfell, deposited these papers in the archives of the College in 1997. A subsequent addition was made to the archive in May 2002 with the correspondence between Joyce Grenfell and the writer and teacher, Katharine Moore (1898-2001). This was given to the College by the Katharine Moore Estate.

Other Finding Aids

Listed to file level, a paper copy is available in the Archive Reading Room.

A full catalogue description is available on JANUS

Archivist's Note

Collection description by Karen Davies, College Archivist. Amended by Genesis Project Manager. Collection Description transferred to the Archives Hub in 2008 as part of Genesis 2008 Project

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain permission from the copyright holder. Frances Campbell-Preston and Susan Hussey retain copyright in the letters of Joyce Grenfell. Frances Campbell-Preston retains copyright in the letters of Virginia Graham. The Katharine Moore Estate retains copyright in the letters of Katharine Moore.

Appraisal Information

The correspondence between Joyce Grenfell and Virginia Graham begins in 1929 and continues to 1979. Some of the pre-war and wartime letters have been lost, including all of Virginia's letters between 1929 and 1936. During the war, Virginia's home was bombed, and she moved home several times.

Custodial History

Sometime in the 1970s, Joyce Grenfell sorted both sets of correspondence between herself and Virginia Graham into bundles and placed them in boxes, which remained in her cellar until 1995, when they were used as research material for the publication Joyce & Ginnie: The Letters of Joyce Grenfell & Virginia Graham (1997), edited by Janie Hampton. Janie Hampton visited Katharine Moore in the course of research for her biography of Joyce Grenfell and was given both sets of letters by Katharine Moore. The majority of the correspondence had already been published in An Invisible Friendship: an exchange of letters 1957-1979 (1981), edited by Katharine Moore. In addition, Janie Hampton found individual letters in amongst other Grenfell papers, which she subsequently added to the series.

Related Material

The University of Bristol Theatre Collection holds further papers relating to Joyce Grenfell, including scripts, broadcasts, books, recordings and sketches.

Location of Originals

The letters of Joyce Grenfell to Virginia Graham and her mother are transcript copies only. The originals are believed to have been destroyed at an unknown date.


Grenfell, Joyce & Moore, Katharine, (1981) An Invisible Friendship: an exchange of letters 1957-1979; Roose-Evans, James (ed.), (1988) Darling Ma: Letters to her Mother, 1932-1944; Hampton, Janie (ed.), (1997) Joyce & Ginnie: The Letters of Joyce Grenfell & Virginia Graham; Hampton, Janie (2002) Joyce Grenfell

Geographical Names