Greenham Common Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The 'archive' consisted of periodicals: Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp News' (1 issue, 1983); pamphlets (1982-1983), ephemera including leaflets and circulars (1982-1983); Press cuttings (1982-1983), badges.

Administrative / Biographical History

See the corporate history for Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp; 1979-2000

Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp (1982-2000) was formed in response to NATO's decision in 1979 to base ground cruise missiles at Greenham Common. RAF Greenham Common had first became home to the US Army Air Force in Nov 1943, when the 354th Fighter Group moved in as part of the Allies efforts to meet the Nazi Government's aerial operations. Greenham Common, near Newbury in Berkshire, became a bomber operational training unit. Following the invasion of France, the Americans transferred their resources to France and Greenham Common reverted to RAF control until it was closed in 1946. However, as the Cold War began, it was reopened in 1951 as a US Strategic Air Command, coming into American Air Force operational control in Jun 1953. It was closed once more in 1961 only to be reopened in 1964, when it also became a NATO standby base. NATO's decision in 1979 to base ground cruise missiles at Greenham Common was a response to the proliferation of nuclear forces, which occurred throughout that decade. It was in the wake of this announcement that the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp opened at this site. In Sep 1981 a Welsh group of 36 individuals opposed to nuclear power, called Women for Life on Earth, walked 120 miles from their headquarters to raise awareness of this issue and to protest against NATO's decision to site cruise missiles at Greenham Common. On reaching their destination they chained themselves to the perimeter fence and subsequently established a 'peace camp' there which was to remain for another two decades. The 'camp' itself consisted of nine smaller camps: the first was Yellow Gate, established the month after Women for Peace on Earth reached the airbase; others established in 1983 were Green Gate, the nearest to the silos, and the only entirely exclusive women-only camp at all times, the others accepting male visitors during the day; Turquoise Gate; Blue Gate with its new age focus; Pedestrian Gate; Indigo Gate; Violet Gate identified as being religiously focussed; Red Gate known as the artists gate; and Orange Gate. A central core of women lived either full-time or for stretches of time at any one of the gate camps with others staying for various lengths of time. From the beginning, links were formed with local feminist and anti-nuclear groups across the country while early support was received from the Women's Peace Alliance in order to facilitate these links and give publicity through its newsletter. In Mar 1982 the first blockade of the base occurred, staged by 250 women and during which 34 arrests were made. In May the first attempt to evict the peace camp was made as bailiffs and police attempted to clear the women and their possessions from the site. However, the camp was simply re-located to a nearby site. That same year, in Feb 1982 the camp went onto a women only footing and in Dec 1982, in response to chain letter sent out by organisers 30,000 women assembled to surround the site and 'embrace the base'. In Jan 1983 Newbury District Council revoked the common land bylaws for Greenham Common, becoming the private landlord for the site and instituting Court proceedings to reclaim eviction costs, actions that were ruled as illegal by the House of Lords in 1990. In Apr 1991, CND supporters staged action which involved 70,000 people forming a 14-mile human chain linking Burghfield, Aldermaston and Greenham. However, the first transfer of cruise missiles to the airbase occurred in Nov 1983. Another major event occurred in Dec 1983 when 50,000 women encircled the base, holding up mirrors and taking down sections of the fence, resulting in hundreds of arrests. In 1987, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty was signed by the USA and the Soviet Union, and two years later in Aug 1989 the first step in the removal of cruise missiles from the Greenham Common airbase occurred, a process that was completed in Mar 1991. The American Air Force handed control of the base to the Royal Air Force in Sep 1992, who handed the base over to the Defence Land Agent three weeks later. On 1 Jan 2000 the last of the Greenham Common Women protestors left the camp. A memorial garden was erected after this - the only individual name included in the memorial was that of Helen Wynn Thomas who had died in an accident at Greenham on 5 Aug 1989.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit. The Collection is available through collections in the main body of the Library rather than the archives

Acquisition Information

Deposited by Jayue Nelson Jul 1983

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Custodial History

During a telephone conversation with Jayne Nelson (donor of 7JAN) in Nov 1998, she mentioned that she had given two boxes of her own material relating to Greenham Common as an archive to the Library in Jul 1983, and that she had wanted her archive to be kept together. There are no archive accession records for this collection from that time. The collection was not treated holistically as an archive in 1983, but was separated out into the various Library categories of periodical, pamphlet, ephemera and press cuttings, and indexed or collated under the heading 'Greenham Common' in each category. There are significant clusters of Greenham Common material dated 1982-1983 in each of these categories. The matter was complicated by the fact that the Library concurrently received Greenham Common material from other sources, some, but not all as a result of Jayne Nelson's encouragement. Because of this, it is now impossible physically to reconstitute the Greenham Common archive of Jul 1983 - the exact provenance of Jayne Nelson's collection no longer exists - but an attempt has been made here to reconstitute the collection intellectually.

Related Material

The Women's Library also holds 5GCW the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp (Yellow Gate) archive, 7JAN Papers of Jayne and Juliet Nelson: Greenham Common Papers, 7JTR Papers of Jill Truman, 7PBB Papers of Pam Baum Barker and 7RTH Rebecca Thackray & Catherine Thackray Letters.

The Womens Library Museum Collection contains a number of objects, such as postcards and posters, related to Greenham. This includes a number of items created by the Women for Life on Earth, Greenham Common group. The Women's Library Printed Collections holds a number of publications about Greenham including contemporary Greenham Common newletters (see also women's liberation periodicals from the period for references to Greenham).

See 5GCW for a fuller listing of material related to Greenham Common.