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Oakham School Archives

Explore the history of the school through the documents and objects that have been left behind...


Welcome to the Oakham School Archive’s website.

Our Archives are bursting with so many interesting stories about the history and development of Oakham School and its pupils. They transport us to the past where we meet war veterans, sports idols, acclaimed actors/actresses, and musicians to name but a few. Indeed, this is not to forget the staff members who are fondly remembered by their ex-pupils and colleagues.

The Oakham School Community extends across the world and we want to ensure that every Old Oakhamian and current pupil (and their families) can explore and enjoy the history of the School.

Thus we have set up this site to be a place of research, exploration, education and remembrance.

External Sites

Do you want to know more about what Oakham School Archives has in their collection? You can search our extensive and ever growing catalogue here:

If you need any help using the catalogue or finding what you want, please do get in touch with the team.

User's Guide

What is an archive?

An archive is a collection of historical documents (usually paper, books and photographic material) that help to tell the history of a person, institution, place etc. An archive collects, preserves, stores, exhibits and makes these documents accessible for members of the public. 

Archives can be made up of letters, photographs, sounds and film recordings, digital files, maps, books, registers, and minutes and reports.They can cover any and every topic that you can think of from football to women's rights, musical scores to committee meeting minutes.

Most of the sources within an archive will be primary sources but there may be some secondary printed material as well. They are not available for a loan like a library and must be requested and consulted within an archive reading room. 

Where can archives be found?

Archives can be found in many different places. For instance:

Usually archives are stored within special stores which can be environmentally controlled. These are sometimes off site. Occasionally, archives will hold an open store day for you to visit behind the scenes. 

Who can use archives?

Anyone can use archives! They are collected to help people in what ever they are researching or are interested in. 

Where can I find Oakham School Archives?

We are located in College House, Chapel Close. We are currently on the first floor and have no accessible lift so please do let us know if this will be problematic for your visit.

When can I visit or contact the archives?

We are open:

Monday               9am - 4.30pm

Tuesday              9am - 5.30pm

Wednesday         9am - 5.30pm

Thursday             9am - 4pm

Friday                  9am - 4pm

How can I find or view archive material?

You can email the Archives at or telephone 01572 758608. The Archives team will be happy to search through our catalogue and inform you of any material of interest.

If you would like to view any material, you will need to book an appointment with the Archives so that we can prepare your material before you arrive.

Not all archival material may be available for viewing. This could be for several reasons including GDPR, copyright and preservation/conservation. But the Archives will inform you if any material has such restrictions. 

I cannot travel to the Archives but would like to see some material. What can I do?

If you are unable to travel to the Archives, we can provide digital copies of items and send them over to you. This is subject to legal restrictions as well as our IT facilities. For more information, you can view our access policy under Archive Policies.

What collections do Oakham School Archives hold?

The School Archives collects material on all aspects of school life. Some of our key collections include:

  • The Oakhamian Magazines and Red Books
  • The Peter Witchell Collection
  • Pupils and their Works
  • Clothing
  • Sports and House Photographs
  • O.T.C and C.C.F 
  • Headmasters
  • Music and Drama photographs and programmes
  • The Foundation and Old Oakhamian Club
  • The First World War
  • Book and Special Collections
  • Sporting Ephemera

An image from a CCF photo album.

We are very keen to expand not only the collections above, but also on the themes of academic work and teaching at the school. 

You can view our collecting policy under Archive Policies.

Reading Room Rules

When you come to any archive to view material, rules will be in place to help preserve the documents. The rules for Oakham School Archives are as follows:

When visiting the Archives

  • Laptops and cameras are allowed provided that they are on silent with any flash capabilities turned off.
  • Permission must be sought before taking any photographs of material.
  • Bags and coats are to be kept away from working areas.
  • Food and drink is strictly prohibited when viewing the documents.
  • Only pencils (preferably 2b) can be used to make manuscript notes. No pens, tippex, erasers, gel pens or coloured pencils will be permitted owing to the risks posed to the documents.


When handling documents

  • Readers must have clean and dry hands before handling any item.
  • If gloves are provided by the archivist, readers must wear them for the collections or items highlighted. This is particularly important for photographic and metallic material.
  • No items should be leaned upon, creased in order to mark the page, nor should a reader lick their fingers to turn any page. Archival weights will be provided for readers’ when viewing material.
  • No item should be removed from any protective packaging unless done so by the archivist or assistant archivist.
  • No tracing of the documents is allowed.
  • All items should be treated with respect and so handled a little as possible and with great care.
  • If readers notice any defects or issues with the material, they are expected to alert a member of the archive staff immediately.

How do I reference archival material?

Many people will use archives as part of a larger research project. As such they need to reference their work. Here are some key tips for referencing items from the archives:

  1. Keep a note of the reference number for the item, even down to the item number or page. When citing archives in an essay or project, it is usually the case that you would write the archive visited followed by the reference number. For example: Oakham School Archives, HOU.17.1.1 
  2. Make a note of any dates, names and titles which could be useful as context. 
  3. If you have any questions, ask the Archivist!

There are many different ways of referencing within essays and project work. If in doubt of how to cite archival material, you can always see if there are any guides which give handy example such as this Harvard guide produced by the University of Sheffield.

You may hear all sorts of jargon or specialist terminology on your visit to the archives. So here is a handy dictionary of key archiving terms!

Access: The opportunity for viewing archival material. This could be through visiting the archives and looking at material, or viewing it through exhibitions and online. 

Accession: When an item or collection first comes into the collection, it undergoes accessioning and becomes a new accession. All of the legal ownership is transferred over to the archive and the document is added to the archive's catalogue. 

Archival Description: The description for an archive, no matter what level, should contain the reference code, location, creator, description (sometimes called scope and content), access restrictions, language and extent (how many items). 

C. or Circa: Means about. Often used when there is uncertainty about a date or fact. 

Catalogue: The main finding aid of an archive. A catalogue will have all of the information about the items. Some catalogues are published online, some are for staff only, and some are physical and can be found within the reading room of an archive. 

Collection: Documents or items collected over time relating to a company, person, institution etc. This could also be known as the fonds. A collection may be one item, but it could be thousands. The extent of a collection means how many items make up the collection as a whole. 

Conservation: The physical treatment of archival items which may be damaged in some way. Some conservation work, like storing and basic cleans is known as preventative conservation and can be done by trained archives staff. More drastic or technical work such as rebinding of books, mending tears etc. will be given to a professional conservator. 


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Copyright: Copyright gives the creator of a piece of work control over the use of their work. It applies to original creative works like music, film and literary works. Copyright lasts for a certain amount of time depending upon the type of material - most have a period of 70 years - and prevents people from copying, printing, performing, filming or photographing their work without permission. For most private research uses, copyright does not apply. However web or physical publication, or using a piece of work in any public setting (especially if commercial), would normally need the express permission of the creator. It is up to the researcher to obtain this permission, not the archives. 

Finding Aid: Something that helps users find items within the collection such as a catalogue (physical or digital).

File: A level of archival description which refers to a group of individual items with a common theme. These could be a group of photographs from an event or correspondence relating to a particular event in a business' operation. Files can be made up of anything from one to hundred of items.

Fonds: This is used to describe a whole collection of a person, organisation, business etc. All of the items will have one provenance. 

GDPR: The General Data Protection Regulation. This law was introduced in 2018 and ensures the protection of personal data for living persons. This law updated the Data Protection Act 1998. 

Hierarchy: Archival material is arranged in a hierarchy. All material in an archive is cataloged and preserved in its original order (where possible). It will be arranged into different levels, each of these levels having a clear theme. This helps researchers identify where an item fits within a larger collection and helps them to discover more items of use. 

Archive Hierarchy

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Item Level: The lowest level in the archival hierarchy, these will usually be single items. 

Level: A point within the archival hierarchy for example fonds, series, file and item. 

Preservation: This is the task of trying to ensure the survival of the documents within a collection. Archives preserve items through monitoring their environment (light, temperature, and relative humidity), ensuring that they are stored safely in archival grade materials, ensuring proper handling of the collections, restricting access to the most fragile of documents, and checking for pests which might destroy or eat items. 

Archives store

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Provenance: This is where and from whom the source has come from and who has looked after it before the archives. This is important in order to evaluate the reliability of a source's information. 

Reference Number: All items have a reference number which is used to identify each individual item in a collection. Every one is unique. 

Series: This may be a a group of items who have a similar theme/ type or are arranged together. Often this could be a group, activity or year.

Sub-fonds/ series/files: Thi is a subsection of a larger theme. They will usually be directly under a fonds, series or file. For example you may have a fonds called Peter Witchell archive. But there could be a sub-fonds relating to his musical scores.