Christmas in the Archives

It’s three days before Christmas, and the university is fairly quiet at the moment; so, I felt the most practical use of time would be to peek around the archives for some holiday related documents…

When I searched the term ‘Christmas’ in the archive catalogue, 133 unique files popped up: from Christmas cards, to school pageants, and holiday programmes, the festive season has always played a fairly big role in education and schools.  Here is one such example…

Arthur Sporne Archive Collection: Christmas Letters

Some of the most compelling aspects of our collection are those documents which reveal student voice.  The Arthur Sporne archive collection includes essays and letters written by pupils to their teacher, Sporne.  ‘Story of My Life’ essays written by 14 year olds in July 1914 give insight into the lives and hobbies of children on the brink of the First World War; whereas similar essays from pupils in 1952 illustrate childhoods defined by the Second World War.

Today I wanted to share a letter from 1917.  Sporne had recently taken up a teaching position at Fulham Reformatory School, and pupils wrote letters to him, discussing the end of the school term, the Christmas holidays, and plans for the following term.


End of term letter written by Albert Day to Arthur Sporne (December 18, 1917). Document Reference: IOE Archives, SP/4

Common themes include thanks for Sporne’s genuine interest in the student’s academics, his love of sports, and nearly half of the letters mention the probable absence of Christmas pudding given the food shortages of the First World War.  In addition to Albert’s letter, another pupil echoed similar sentiments, ‘we wont be able to make a very big christmas pudding this year because currants and raisins are so dear…’

If you’d like more Christmas in the archives, head to our catalogue.  And in the meantime, we hope you all enjoy the holiday season!

The IOE closes Tuesday, December 23rd at 4.30pm, and reopens Monday, January 5th, 2015. The Archive Reading Room reopens Monday, January 12th (after a week of stock-taking).


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