Chavasse Family

Chavasse Family Papers

The Chavasse family are closely linked to St Peter's College. Bishop Francis James Chavasse was the guiding spirit behind the foundation of St Peter's Hall in 1929, and his son Christopher was our first Master.

The college Chapel is filled with memorials to members of the Chavasse family, including Noel Chavasse's grave cross, the family's military and civilian decorations, the Chavasse memorial window, and a large bas-relief of Francis James Chavasse at prayer, to name but a few. 

St Peter's also owns a large collection of papers left behind by the Chavasse family. These papers, of which the vast majority are held on deposit within the Special Collections of the Bodleian Library, contain everything from scrapbooks and diaries, to newspaper cuttings and correspondence. In particular, the collection contains a large number of letters relating to the family's service during World War I.

The papers of Noel Chavasse are conserved at the Imperial War Museum in London

Below you will find a small selection of letters that illustrate the richness and diversity of this collection.

Questions, corrections and enquiries should be directed to archives@spc.ox.ac.uk

This undated photograph shows Francis James Chavasse and his wife, Edith, along with their seven children. It was most likely taken in the garden of the Bishop's Palace in Liverpool in the summer of 1904, shortly before Noel (back row, far right) and Christopher (back row, second from left) came up to Oxford to study at Trinity College.

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This cutting from the Oxford student magazine, The Isis, profiles the athletic and sporting exploits of Noel and Christopher, who had been nominated as 'Isis Idols'. It forms part of a memorial scrapbook compiled in memory of Noel Chavasse.

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Christopher Chavasse writes to his father about his exams. which thinks were harder than normal this year. Noel was not pleased with his exams, though remains cheerful. He doesn’t believe that his father doesn’t mind what class he gets. He thinks he will be hard done by if he doesn’t get a second, but has not worked hard enough for a first. He thinks that his sporting record and Presidency of the Church Society mean that his Oxford achievements are respectable. He fears, however, that he will never be anything more than respectable. He asks his father to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Uncle Tom is against the Licencing Bill and Christopher wants to discuss the subject with his father. Sent from Trinity College Oxford.

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Edward George Villiers Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby, confidentially informs Francis James Chavasse that his son, Noel, will be awarded the Victoria Cross. He also asks for a suitable candidate to replace Canon Penrhyn. Sent from Derby House, Stratford Place, W.

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Captain Draper, Company Commander of Aidan Chavasse, provides information about Aidan, whom he believes has been captured by the Germans. Draper had selected Aidan to join a party going out to no-mans-land at night. It was light enough for the party to be seen, and the Germans were able to outflank them. Aidan was shot in the leg and was unable to return with the rest of the party. Draper sent men to carry Aidan back, but an Officer named Peters was killed in the process and it was deemed too dangerous to try again. Francis Bernard Chavasse went out to find his brother over the next two nights, but was unable to find him.

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May sends her condolences to Christopher. She tried to discover where Noel was but was unable to find out before he died. She is glad that he probably didn’t suffer much. She suggests that they both use their leave to go home on 20 Aug. Sent from Liverpool Hospital, France.

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The letter reproduces a report by Lance Corporal W. Dixon giving an account of the wounding and disappearance of Aidan Chavasse. It is Lance Corporal Dixon’s opinion that Aidan Chavasse was taken prisoner. Sent from The British Red Cross and Order of St. John, Enquiry Department for Wounded and Missing, Hotel Christol, Boulogne-sur-Mer.

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