From the archives – Sir Norman Chester

Sir Daniel Norman Chester (1907–1986)

Chester photograph in Library corridor

Photograph of Sir Norman Chester in Nuffield College Library

As Warden of Nuffield College from 1954 to 1978, Norman Chester would possibly count one of his greatest achievements as being the reconciliation of Lord Nuffield to the College he had founded.  Lord Nuffield had become disillusioned with the direction the College was taking and had fallen out with one of its leading figures, G.D.H. Cole.  Nevertheless, Chester worked hard to establish a friendly and open relationship with him which resulted in an extremely productive association, during which Chester crucially shaped the early development of this new college for the social sciences; from the finances and furnishing to the recruitment of fellows and students.  The testament to his efforts came on Lord Nuffield’s death in 1963 when he made the college his residuary legatee.


However, there are many more achievements to note as Chester’s career flourished, following double strands of academic pursuits and public service.  This is something the papers in the archive collection reflect and of which Lord Nuffield no doubt approved, given his great belief in the importance of academics mixing with the outside world!  The main collection is contained in 325 boxes and its arrangement gives a valuable and revealing insight into the life and career of an outstanding man:

A. Biographical section: containing his diaries from 1924-1986, correspondence, lecture notes and his thesis from his time at the University of Manchester, material from the War Cabinet Economics Section, to which he was recruited on the outbreak of the war, and documents and correspondence regarding the Beveridge Report and Voluntary Social Services Enquiry.

B. General correspondence section: covering the years 1935-1986 and matters such as academic and general advice given, publishers, invitations to speak and universities he was involved in from Birmingham to Swansea, London School of Economics to Glasgow.

C. Oxford University section: spanning from 1949-1986 and including correspondence and documentation on examining, references, PPE, the Joint University Council for Social Studies and Public Administration and Social Studies Board. There are also small sections on Oxford University Clubs, 1947-1971, the Heyworth, Robbins and Franks Commissions, 1957-1966 and P.D. Leake Fellowship and Gladstone Professorship, 1955-1974.

Photograph of the Duke of Edinburgh with Lord Nuffield and Norman Chester at the ceremony for the presentation of the Royal Charter - from Nuffield College Papers, A3/4/9

Photograph of the Duke of Edinburgh with Lord Nuffield and Norman Chester at the ceremony for the presentation of the Royal Charter – from Nuffield College Papers, A3/4/9

D. Nuffield College section: a wealth of information from 1946-1985, a very formative time in the College’s development: from his initial involvement, speeches in College and election as Warden, to matters concerning the Fellows and Students and his overseas visits.

E. Academic bodies section: Chester was involved in many academic bodies and this section reflects this, with documentation relating to Royal Institute of Public Administration, 1932-1985, Nuffield Foundation, 1949-1967, Political Studies Association, 1949-1979, International Political Science Association, 1950-1983, Public Records Office Publications Committee, 1961-1979, Comparative Politics Group, 1967-1970, Study of Parliament Group, 1964-1986 and European Consortium for Political Research, 1969-1981.

F. Other bodies section: illustrating that double strand of Chester’s career, this section is more concerned with public bodies such as the Local Government Examinations Board and Institute of Hospital Administrators, 1942-1953, Civil Service recruitment and training, 1943-1980, local government, 1944-1977, building industry, 1946-1960, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1950-1959, Monopolies Commission: transport and newspapers, 1959-1969 and Petroleum Press Bureau Foundation, 1969-1978, among others.

G. Publications section: while containing copies of his many lectures, speeches, articles and words of advice, this section also has material about his books: ‘The nationalised industries: an analysis of the statutory provisions’ (2nd ed.) (1951), ‘Central and local government’ (1951), ‘Lessons of the British war economy’ (1951), ‘Questions in Parliament’ (1962), ‘The nationalisation of British industry, 1945-51’ (1975), ‘The English administrative system, 1780-1870’ (1981), ‘Economics, politics and social studies in Oxford, 1900-45’ (1986). There is also a wealth of material for a history of Nuffield College which was sadly never published.

H. Additional material: this last section is a miscellaneous collection of other documents, such as certificates and photographs, but also of various recordings of Chester over the years. These include speeches by H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh and DNC on the occasion of the granting of a Charter to Nuffield College, 1958, a conversation between DNC and Austen Harrison recorded at Nuffield College, 1970 and a conversation between Sir Alec Cairncross and DNC [probably Autumn 1985]. There are also a couple of films which Chester was involved with: ‘Wheels of fortune’, a B.B.C. film about Lord Nuffield and ‘The Gov’nor: the story of William Morris, his motors and his millions’, by Rene Cutforth.


In addition to all of this he was a keen sportsman, with an abiding love of football. Harold Wilson persuaded him to chair a government committee of inquiry (1966–8) on association football and he was a key figure in football for the rest of his life. He served as chairman of the Football Grounds Improvement Trust and as deputy chairman of the Football Trust. Sorted out from the main archive collection for Chester, there were also 20 cartons of material which came from his interest in and service to football.  These were sent to the Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research at the University of Leicester in 1987.

As well as papers relating to the two official bodies he served on, there were papers from the official inquiries into the status and administration of the game, resulting in the two Chester Reports and from the Royal Commission on Gambling; reports and related papers of a large number of independent inquiries into aspects of the sport; material concerned with academic research into crowd behaviour at football matches and related soccer problems and miscellaneous personal material of Sir Norman Chester (match mementos, etc.); his collection of books on football and a large amount of handbooks, pamphlets, programmes, magazines and other football ephemera.


About Nuffield College Library

We are a social sciences library serving Nuffield College and the University of Oxford
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s