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As well as cataloguing the photographs in the Attingham archive it has been my intention to research some of them, providing historical background and context and hopefully filling in some of the missing gaps in the history of Attingham and its inhabitants.

One photograph where I have had some success in these aims is included below. It shows Thomas Noel Hill, the 8th Lord Berwick, in a formal portrait with his fellow students and lecturers at Trinity College Oxford and was taken by the photography studio of Hills and Saunders in June 1897. Thomas Noel Hill, sitting 6th from the left in the front row was twenty years old when the photograph was taken and had yet to become the 8th Lord Berwick.

Student life in Oxford is perhaps the one area of Thomas’s life where I have some direct knowledge of what he might have experienced since 88 years later and at the same age, I too was a student in the city, although in my case it was at the slightly less salubrious surroundings of The Oxford Polytechnic, now Brookes University.

However, comparatively little was known about Thomas’s student career by staff at Attingham. We had no knowledge of what he had studied or what kind of degree he had left Oxford with, so I hoped that the photo might provide the opportunity to find some answers. I made contact with Clare Hopkins, archivist at Trinity College who suggested she may be able to help and so in mid January, accompanied by Sarah Kay (Curator) and Saraid Jones (Engagement and Conservation Officer), I travelled down to see her.

Trinity College was founded in 1555 and its archives contain student records going back hundreds of years. With the advent of photography in the mid 1800’s a group photograph is traditionally taken of each years student intake for inclusion in the college album. Below I have shown the 1897 photograph as it is contained in the Trinity College album, complete with a list of names of that years students.

Interestingly, we noticed that there were some subtle differences between the copy of the photo that we have at Attingham and the one in the archive at Trinity College, suggesting that at least two pictures were taken by the photographer on the day.

Also, we found that in the subsequent years of 1898, 1899 and 1900, although Thomas was included in the list of names that accompanied the photos of students for those years, he didn’t appear in any further photos. It is possible that he may have been spending less time in Oxford in those later years, by which time he had of course taken on the role and responsibilities of his title.

Thomas began his time at Trinity College in October 1896. On arrival, every student is required to complete an entry to the college register, providing brief details of their background and previous education. This is a tradition that continues for new students arriving at the college today. Thomas’s entry, dated October 16th 1896 is shown below.

The Trinity archive also contains records of the college rooms that were rented by students. The photograph below shows the register for the Michaelmass Term in 1896 when Thomas was renting room number 1 for the sum of four pounds.

There was no evidence in the archive that provided any insight into Thomas’s recreational activities while at Oxford. His name does not appear on any of the registers for various sports clubs including rugby and rowing and nor does he appear on lists for any of the various debating societies that exist at the University.

We did however find some details on his academic career. The college records show that Thomas Noel Hill graduated from Oxfordwith a BA degree on the 20th June 1901, with this degree being a ‘pass degree’ which was viewed as a perfectly acceptable standard of degree at that time. During his time at Oxford, the records show that Thomas passed exams in the following subjects:

  • Greek and Latin Literature
  • Holy Scripture
  • Legal Studies (including one or more branches of Indian Law)
  • English History and Literature
  • Modern European History
  • French Language and Composition

Thomas also had an MA conferred on him as Lord Berwick on the 14th May 1913.

Following our visit to the archive we were shown around the Trinity College grounds and amongst other things saw the inside of the beautiful college chapel, as shown in the photo below. This is a building that has remained virtually unchanged since the time when Lord Berwick was at Trinity and is somewhere he would probably instantly recognise were he to see it today.

Finally, we visited the college quad where the group photograph was taken in 1897. As you can see from the image below, this also remains pretty much unchanged and is again somewhere that Lord Berwick would probably recognise today.

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