fonds PEA - Alfred Peacock Archive

Identity area

Reference code



Alfred Peacock Archive


  • 1891-2003 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.4 cubic metres

20 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Alfred James Peacock was born in Cambridgeshire on 30 May 1929, the son of Abraham, or Alfred, Peacock and his wife Mary Minnie, both workers in a local jam factory. After leaving school he worked as an electrician, but was encouraged by his trade union to apply for a scholarship to Ruskin College, Oxford. He was successful and went on to take a first degree at Southampton and a Master's degree at the London School of Economics.

In 1960 he became a warden of the York Educational Settlement, an initiative introduced by Arnold Stephenson Rowntree in 1909 to provide adult education to York's working classes. Following the closure of the Settlement in 1987, he became secretary of the York Educational Trust. Peacock was also a magistrate and Chair of the licensing bench, introducing more rigorous oversight of York's public houses, including a watch for underage drinking.

A keen historian, Peacock completed a doctorate at the University of York in 1973 on the subject of 'York in the Age of Reform.' He went on to publish a number of works on the history of York and particularly of York in the First World War, including 'York, 1900-1914,' 'York in the Great War 1914-1918' and 'Essays in York History', as well as writing a biography of George Hudson, York's controversial 'Railway King'. He also led annual tours of the battlefields of the First World War, as well as editing a specialist journal on the subject, 'Gun Fire.' His other interests included Dixieland jazz music. He contributed a jazz column to his local newspaper and, since his death, the Alf Peacock Memorial Fund has been established in his honour, supporting jazz music events in York.

Alfred Peacock died on 24 January 2004. Following his death, reel to reel tapes were discovered containing 285 interviews with veterans of the First World War, conducted by Dr Peacock in the 1970s. The tapes were given to the York Oral History Society and formed the basis of the book ‘These Were Earth’s Best: Voices of the First World War’ by Van Wilson, published in 2014.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was bequeathed to the University of York Library in 2004 by Alfred Peacock. In 2010 it was transferred to the Borthwick Institute.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Research notes and papers of Dr Alfred Peacock, comprising 32 scrapbooks of research material and assorted material relating primarily to the First World War, but also including some Second World War items, 1891-2003. Includes press cuttings, letters, articles, book and diary extracts, books of postcards of Brussels, Paris, Ypres, Mons, Arras, Rhein, Peronne, Namur, Dublin, Oxford and Berwick upon Tweed, guides and street plans for towns and cities including Hamburg, Brussels and Leipzig, trench maps, research notes, medals and other memorabilia, and photographs.

The archive includes the papers of individual soldiers, including,

Papers of Clarence Long of the 16th Middlesex Regiment, comprising letters, postcards, diaries, poems, programmes for in-camp entertainments, photographs and other ephemera relating to his time as a Prisoner of War, 1916-1919; his family’s attempts to have him transferred from the camp, 1918-1919; and his friendship with fellow Prisoner of War Rupert H. Robeson and his daughter Lina Robeson Welden, 1916-1951.

Papers relating to Thomas John Morgan of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 1916-1921, including letters from Morgan to his family at Llanfairfechan; notification of his death in 1916; and letters to his mother Margaret Morgan in response to enquiries about his death and place of burial.

Papers relating to George Sunman of the Royal Garrison Artillery, including soldier’s small book, c.1915-1918; identification certificate, n.d; and demobilisation certificate and account, 1919.

Papers relating to Oliver Howard Sprenger of the Northumberland Fusiliers, including a photograph and genealogical notes, n.d.

Papers relating to Herbert Williams of the Royal Field Artillery, including diaries, 1916-1918, postcards to Eva Hill, c.1916-1918, and photographs, c.1914-c.1918.

Papers of Albert Wiles of the 10th Devonshire Regiment, including soldier’s pay book and certificate of wartime employment, c.1914-1918.

Papers of Harold Archer of the Royal Garrison Artillery, including letter and postcard, c.1917, 21st birthday cards, c.1918, and sugar card.

Papers of Thomas Wynn Oswald Cope of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, including letter of appointment to temporary Sub-lieutenant RNVR, 1916, certificates of service, 1916-1917, certificate of admission to freemasons, 1891, and movement order, 1919.

Papers of Oswald Hatfield of the 17th Northumberland Fusiliers, including soldier’s pay books, 1917-1919; pay statement, 1916-1919; identity certificate, 1919; voter registration card, n.d.; National Health Insurance leaflet; and demobilisation certificate, 1919.

Papers of William Thomas Benfield of the South Wales Borderers, including notebooks, 1916-1918; field message book, n.d.; manifold book, 1940; and letter declining story for serialization, 1932.

Copy of typescript biography of Flight Lieutenant Pruett Mullens Dennett (1899-1918) of the Royal Naval Air Service, compiled by his fiancé Erica Gertrude Goodman, 1988.

Typescript ’50 years later. A sentimental journey to the trenches of France and Flanders’ by Leonard H. Clarke of the 5th West Yorkshire Regiment, MBE, 1965.


Further accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

The archive has not yet been catalogued. A loose arrangement has been created for the scope and content above.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. 24 hours' notice is required to access photographic material.

Conditions governing reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers subject to the access restrictions outlined above. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute for Archives' terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Language of material

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

This archive has not yet been catalogued.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

The personal library of Alfred Peacock was also bequeathed to the University of York and is now part of the main library stock. The donated books can be found by going to the online library catalogue: Select 'Advanced Search' and then select 'Provenance' in the drop down menu and search for 'Peacock, A. J. (Alfred James)'.

The family and personal papers of Erica Gertrude Goodman, later Levett, 1892-1950s, are held by East Sussex Record Office.

Related descriptions

Publication note

The archive was used in the publication of 'Gun Fire', the periodical of the Northern branch of the Western Front Association, edited by A. J. Peacock.

Publication note

A. J. Peacock, 'Private Clarence Long' in Gun Fire, No. 38.

A. J. Peacock, 'Put brazier in airlock, W. T. Benfield, Gas Officer, South Wales Borderers' in Gun Fire, No. 53.

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier


Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Created by S. A. Shearn, 19.09.16.




Accession area