East London College, English Chair Application

Scope and Content

Ts. application of Benjamin Ifor Evans (1899-1982) for the University Chair of English tenable at East London College, 1933. Includes ms. letter from Raymond Wilson Chambers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Evans, (Benjamin) Ifor, Baron Evans of Hungershall (1899-1982), literary scholar and college administrator, was born in Soho, London, on 19 August 1899, the younger son of Benjamin Evans, journeyman carpenter, and his wife, Ann Powell, both of whom came from Wales. He was educated at the Stationers' Company School and at University College, London, obtaining a first-class honours degree in English (1920), a teaching diploma with honours (1921), and an MA with distinction (1922). He won several college prizes and medals and the Early English Text Society's prize (1920), and became president of the union. His first post was as lecturer in English at Manchester University (1921-4). In 1923 he married Marjorie Ruth, daughter of John Measures, of Ifield, Sussex. She was a fellow student at University College. They had one daughter, Mary (or Hilary) Ann (b. 1931).

Evans was professor of English at University College, Southampton (1925-6), Sheffield University (1926-33), and Queen Mary College, London (1933-44); he also worked for the Ministry of Information (1939-41), and spent the years 1940-44 as educational director of the British Council. He was principal of Queen Mary College from 1944 to 1951 and provost of University College, London, from 1951 to 1966. Part-time commitments included service as vice-chair of the Arts Council (1946-51); chair of Thames TV's educational advisory council, of the Linguaphone Institute, of the Observer Trust (1957-66), and of the Royal Society of Literature (1975-7) (and its vice-president in 1974); he was an executive member of the British Council (1950-54), governor of the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells theatres; and trustee of the British Museum.

In 1945 he restored the fortunes of Queen Mary College, when it returned after evacuation to a set of bomb-scarred buildings in a devastated area: seeing the area's potential, he set about acquiring land which doubled the college's site and made possible the expansion necessary for its survival. He was subsequently appointed provost of University College. Evans raised about £200,000 each year he was provost from sources such as Marks and Spencer, Lord Mark's Charitable Trust, the Wolfson Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the Max Rayne Foundation.

Evans was knighted in 1955 and in 1967 became a life peer. He received honorary degrees from Paris and Manchester, and became an officer of the Lgion d'honneur and commander of the orders of Orange Nassau and Dannebrog. Evans died at his home, Hungershall Lodge, Tunbridge Wells, on 28 August 1982.

Access Information


Closed pending cataloguing.

Acquisition Information

Transferred from College Collection, DE 92 28 April 1989.