The Chaproniere Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This photographic archive of English parish churches is organised on the basis of geology, rather than the customary county boundaries. Dr Chaproniere argued that geology was both a direct influence on the building of churches (in terms of the availability and quality of building materials) and an indirect influence (in terms of the selection of settlement sites, based on fertility of the land, availability of drinking water and communications with neighbouring settlements). The photographs are mainly black and white, and range from general views of churches in the landscape, to interiors and exteriors, details of roofs, fonts, stained glass etc. They cover both medieval and post-medieval works and show the enormous range of objects and styles found in English parish churches. Dr Chaproniere used Pevsner's 'The Buildings of England' as her basis for selecting churches to be photographed and she marked her copies to show the photographs she had taken. The collection comprises photographic prints, mounted in books by geological region; unmounted photographic prints boxed by geological region; duplicate prints, considered by Dr Chaproniere to be substandard and not suitable for publication, but potentially useful for study; negatives; a complete set of annotated 'The Buildings of England' by Pevsner, in which all objects photographed are noted; field notebooks, in which photographs are entered, according to the year and order in which they were taken; Dr Chaproniere's library of books on landscape history, medieval and post-medieval English architecture; maps.

Administrative / Biographical History

Donna M. Chaproniere was born in 1929. She began to assemble a collection of photographs of English parish churches as a teenager in the late 1940s. In 1962, she went to live in the USA, where she worked in various universities and published papers in the fields of cancer research, cellular physiology and medical virology from about 1953-1986. She married an American, (subsequently publishing some work under the name of Chaproniere-Rickenberg) and had a son and daughter. During her time in America, she visited family in England approximately every 2 years, and took more photographs on these occasions, continuing to add to the collection. She returned to live in England (at Walsham-Le-Willows, Suffolk) in 1985 and the majority of the photographs in the collection were taken after that date. Dr Chaproniere continued to take photographs into her 75th year, but commented that she would not do so 'very much longer, because of the driving it entails'.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to bona fide researchers. The Special Collections is open Monday-Friday 9 am-5 pm. Access by appointment only. Contact to make an appointment.

Acquisition Information

Bequeathed to the University of Leicester Library by Donna Chaproniere in June 2005. The collection was transported to the Library in 2008.

Other Finding Aids

Printed listings of the photographs, grouped by geological region, are available from the University of Leicester Library website at

Archivist's Note

Description prepared by Margaret Maclean on 20 July 2011.

Conditions Governing Use

Much of the material in the archive may remain in copyright. Photocopies of material can be supplied for private research purposes only. However, it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study. A copy of such written approval from the copyright holder must be received by the Librarian before reproductions can be made. It is also the researcher's responsibility to obtain the relevant copyright holder's permission to publish or cite papers from the archive. A copy of such written approval from the copyright holder must be received by the Librarian prior to publication. The Library will not be responsible for any failure on the part of authors and publishers to seek such permission to publish. Readers are required to sign a form accepting these conditions.

Custodial History

Before its arrival at the University of Leicester, the collection was stored at Donna Chaproniere's house in Walsham-Le-Willows, with the exception of the negatives, which were stored by Primrose Wayman in Trumpington. Before 1962, Dr Chaproniere used a Kodak folding Brownie camera. From 1962 until 1977, she used a Rollie 1 1/4 inches twin-lens reflex camera. From 1977 onwards, she used a Mamiya C220 twin-lens reflex camera.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

Some of the photographs were used to publish 'English Parish Churches', volume 1: East Anglia South / Phillip Lindley, Alex Moseley & Donna Chaproniere, published on CD-ROM by Brepols, 2001, ISBN 2-503-51047-7, a copy of which is available in the Special Collections of the University Library (shelf mark SCS 05698).

Location of Originals

Dr Chaproniere also donated some photographs to the History of Art Department of the University of Leicester in 1993.

Personal Names