Ernest Howard Shepard: His Personal Archive – A talk given to visitors from the Guildford Institute

The Archives & Special Collections recently hosted a visit from the Guildford Institute having been asked to give a talk about E. H. Shepard and his personal archive.img_0594

The E. H. Shepard Archive, one of the University’s perhaps lesser-known treasures, comprises of the personal papers of Ernest Howard Shepard, one of the greatest black and white book illustrators of the 20th century. Donated to the University by Shepard himself in 1974, the collection is broad and rich in its content, and includes a vast array of material including personal and business correspondence, sketchbooks, manuscripts, ephemera, diaries, photographs and drawings, all of which are catalogued and available for researchers and visitors to look at and enjoy.

Seventeen people attended and were treated to an illustrated talk followed by the chance to see some of the highlights of the collection. These included:

  • Some examples of letters written by Shepard to his wife Florence during WW1, one of which showed his excitement upon hearing he was to receive the Military Cross.
  • His Royal Artillery forage cap from WW1
  • Shepard’s appointment diary from 1918 showing Ernest Hemingway’s name and address, the two having met during the war.
  • A map of Guildford and the local area drawn by Shepard to aid his Home Guard duties during WW2.
  • Original drawings from books both authored and illustrated by Shepard, including Betsy and Joe, Ben and Brock and his two memoirs Drawn from memory and Drawn from life.
  • Sketches and drawings from throughout his lifetime, from childhood to later years.
  • And of course, some of his original drawings of Winnie-the-Pooh.

img_0573-002It is always a pleasure to share our collections with people outside of the University, through both personal outreach and social media outlets, and we look forward to hosting more visits like this over the coming months.

Are you a member of a local group who would like to come and hear about our Shepard Archive? Or indeed any of our collections? Get in contact with us at – we would love to hear from you!

International Women’s Day: The Inspirational Beatrice Shilling

Whilst researching material for International Women’s Day I was delighted to discover that the University presented the pioneering engineer Beatrice Shilling with an Honorary Doctorate in December 1969.


In her article ‘Embarking on an Engineering Career in the Twenties’ in the 1969 summer issue of the ‘The Women Engineer’ she details the difficulties of entering the engineering profession. As there were no grants or scholarships available for engineering courses for women Beatrice approached the London and National Society for Women’s Service for assistance. Following an interview and supplying recommendations she was granted an interest free loan which enabled her to study engineering at the Victoria University of Manchester and in 1929 she registered as a first year student. After graduating with honours she undertook an MSc degree, researching internal combustion engines.

Her interest in engines also influenced her personal life where she modified and raced motorcycles, receiving a Brooklands Gold Star in the 1930s for lapping the track at over 100mph.

By the time of the start of the Second World War she had already been working at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) for three and a half years and at this point she was put in charge of research and development of carburettors. It was in this role that she made her most well known contribution to the war effort. During the Battle of Britain a serious issue had been discovered with the Rolls Royce Merlin engines in RAF fighter planes causing them to lose power whilst performing certain manoeuvres. Beatrice devised a solution in the form of a small disc with a hole in the middle that could be fitted to the carburettor. The ‘RAE restrictor’, as it was officially called limited the flow of fuel during these manoeuvres and prevented the loss of engine power during combat.


Beatrice notes in the article that at the end of the war the majority of posts in the Scientific Civil Service were only open to single women. Beatrice had married in 1938 and had been retained on a temporary basis. Married women in the service were frowned upon until 1948 when this bar was removed. In light of this I find it particularly interesting that Miss Shilling requested that the degree was conferred in her maiden name.

At her retirement in 1969 she held the post of Head of Engineering Research Division at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough.

[Refs. PH/AE/007/004A/01 and UBL/P/P7/288/23, ©The University of Surrey]

A New Addition to the Archives & Special Collections

Our new Archives & Special Collections Assistant, Joanne Ratcliffe, joined the Team in January this year. Here she tells us how she has been getting on…

As I am now approaching the end of my second month in my new job as Archives & Special Collections Assistant I thought this would be a good time to reflect on my first weeks in the role.


It has certainly been a busy few weeks since starting work with the Archives & Special Collections Team with not only lots to learn about the diverse material we hold and how to care for it but also getting to grips with things such as the multi-format AV equipment and book scanner.

One thing you can’t help to notice about the team is their enthusiasm for the collections and for their dedication to making our collections accessible to researchers. Working in the research room I have already met and helped researchers from near and far, with the furthest travelling from Brazil to view material in our dance collection. It is always fascinating to hear about the research our visitors are working on and how our collections are helping them.

Now I have begun to become more familiar with the collections I have started to work on a number of different projects that so far include:

  • A review of our pest management policy to ensure that we doing all we can to protect our collections from creepy crawlies who might want to eat their way through our collections.
  • Conditioning checking of the Thomas Farrer Collection, a Victorian gentleman’s library that has returned to us after being on long term loan.
  • Researching the collections for a forthcoming Archive display.

In the next few weeks I will also be starting to add images to Instagram of some of the items I have discovered so far. So follow us @uniofsurreyarchives and let us know if you like them too!


Happy Birthday Rudolf Laban

Rudolf Laban was born on this day (15th December) 137 years ago, 1879, in Bratislava. Archives & Special Collections hold the personal archive of this man who holds so much significance to the study of movement internationally. He was a visual artist, dancer, choreographer, movement analysis, educator and theoretician. The collection holds a wealth of material generated by Laban through his prolific and wide-ranging work, much of it between 1938 when he came to England until 1958 when he died but there are many items from his earlier life too. This includes manuscripts, published books, correspondence, many hundreds of drawings, printed ephemera, silent film footage and photographs.

The archive contains items linked to his birthdays such as cards sent to him, copies of his thank you letters and photograph such as the one here. This was taken on his 76th birthday in 1955 at the Art of Movement Studio in Addlestone, Surrey and was part of a tree planting ceremony.


1955. Photographer unknown. Ref No. L/F/3/70. Rudolf Laban Archive, University of Surrey.











Picturing the past, looking to the future – 50 years of the University in Guildford

In 2016 the University Archives and Special Collections were generously awarded funding from the Alumni Department at the University of Surrey for the project ‘Picturing the past, looking to the future – 50 years of the University in Guildford’. The focus of the project is to catalogue and make available the extensive photograph collection of the University of Surrey.

us_ph_1_2_515The photographs provide a snapshot of the University’s history during the last 50 years. The collection begins with photographs taken during the construction of Stag Hill Campus in the 1960s, through to the present day and capture student social and sporting events, teaching and academic activities, annual events such as graduations and public lectures, as well as Royal visits.

Photographs depict the many changes to the University of Surrey campus, such as the opening of the Duke of Kent Building, extensions to the University Library, the construction of the Nodus building which houses the Space Structures Research Centre and turf cutting ceremonies prior to the construction of new student accommodation at Hazel Farm.

The photographs also capture all aspects of student life, such as a photograph of the University of Surrey us_ph_2_4_23Football Team, taken during their victorious match against Loughborough University, a photograph taken during a performance of the Mikado by the University Drama Society, graduations ceremonies at Guildford Cathedral, and social events held in the Students’ Union.

They also depict a number of celebrations such as visits by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Kent, the unveiling off the Surrey Scholar sculpture in Guildford during the celebrations to mark the 35th anniversary of the University, and the official opening of the George Edwards Building, in memory of the celebrated aircraft designer and Pro-Chancellor of the University.

Furthermore, they capture the rich and varied academic history of the university, including photographs ofus_ph_2_6_485 students conducting experiments in laboratories and students in the Catering and Hospitality department preparing meals, along with photographs of notable academics of the University such as Sir Martin Sweeting, founder Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, and Dame Daphne Jackson, the first female physics professor in the United Kingdom, and Lewis Elton, physicist and researcher into education, specialising in higher education.

In order to make the photographs accessible to researchers, archive staff with the help of our dedicated volunteers, have been sorting, repackaging and cataloguing the photograph collection. A range of photographs are also being selected for digitisation and will be made available on the University of Surrey social media channels over the coming months.

In the meantime, check out our new display in the Research Room featuring just some of these historical photographs and/or follow @uniofsurreyarchives on Instagram to view digitised images from the photograph collection and get an insight into the history of the University where ‘wonderful things happen’.

[All photographs © The University of Surrey Archives]

Happy 137th Birthday Mr Shepard!

98 years ago today – 10th December 1918 – on his birthday and whilst stationed in Italy at the end of WWI, we know that E. H. Shepard spent time with American writer Ernest Hemingway. Shepard’s letters and manuscripts reveal that he met a young Hemingway, aged only 19, in Italy in 1918. Initially he met him in Milan in the Red Cross hospital; historical accounts confirm that Hemingway had been badly injured on 8th July – although Shepard says to his wife “he was wounded in 32 places in the June show here” – and spent 6 months in hospital. In his wartime recollections (Ref No: EHS/H/24/9), Shepard recounts how Hemingway had lifted up his pyjama leg to show his injuries. But more than that, how Hemingway had complained the nurses had taken away his drink but that he had still managed to dodge the matron and revealed a stash of bottles under his bed.

Later that year, in his letters to Florence on 9th and 10th December 1918, he talks of meeting Hemingway again saying the young American “blew along yesterday to see us”.  Hemingway wasn’t actually supposed to be out of hospital in Milan “as his leg is groggy” but was visiting pals. Shepard found him a bed for the night and then the next day, Shepard’s birthday, he drove him to the local station at Padova (Padua) to return to Milan – he says in a letter to his wife Florence, “He’s and awfully good sort, his name is Hemingway.”

(Ref No: EHS/C/9/39/5. © The Shepard Trust)

(Ref No: EHS/C/9/39/5. © The Shepard Trust)

We know that Shepard had also taken Hemingway’s address in America as it is in his diary for 1918. Confusingly, Shepard’s letters refer to the period 8-10th December 1918 as seeing Hemingway again but the address is written under Wednesday 4th December.


(Ref No: EHS/D/11. © The Shepard Trust)

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