Robert Singleton was the first Warden of Radley and has a serious claim (which he himself held) to be considered the co-founder alongside William Sewell. He was one of four present at the inaugural meeting in Turl Street in Oxford on March 5th, 1847, at which the idea of founding a school which would espouse the Christian principles of the Oxford Movement was first mooted. He was appointed Warden in 1847, set up the school, established the first statutes, and donated a considerable part of his own money, but increasing difficulties over Sewell’s view of his own rights as Founder caused Singleton to resign in 1851. At this point the school was on the verge of financial ruin with its reputation seriously undermined by public arguments between Warden and Fellows.
Singleton’s diary appears to have been written as a conscious piece of work for posterity, beginning on the day of the first meeting in the Turl, and continuing until his resignation in October 1851. It was written in a fine copper-plate, characteristic of Singleton’s formal hand as represented in his manuscript of the College statutes, with no apparent hesitation or corrections.
Singleton took the diary away with him when he left Radley College. He kept no other journals after 1851 and appears to have revisited this one only once, in 1874, when he added a codicil condemning Sewell’s extravagant purchases of works of art: “…my studious suppression of every act and fact that I thought was plainly unfavourable to Mr Sewell. Thus I may appear to have sanctioned his purchase of a thousand articles such as pictures, carvings, old furniture, half worn-out carpets etc, vast quantities of which had to be stowed away under the roof of the house…”
He eventually settled at Minster Court, York. He died in 1881. The diary was probably sent to Radley at this time, but its existence went unrecorded until it was ‘accidentally discovered in an old cupboard in 1889.’ In October 1940 the diary was transcribed by A.K.Boyd, notes on it made by Vyvyan Hope, and four copies were typed to be distributed around the country for safety during the Second World War, whilst the originals were deposited in the vaults of the local bank. In 1946, one transcript was lent to St. Columba’s to make their own copy.
Excerpts from the diary were published in The Radleian Magazine in 1947, the centenary of the founding of the College. The first sections of the diary were transcribed into electronic form in 2008. The transcript was edited by Clare Sargent. The explanatory articles, etc, are unsigned, and are mostly written by Clare Sargent with the remainder by Andrew Gray. Contributions, corrections, or requests for expansion are welcome.
Please send enquiries or comments to Radley College Archives, or leave a comment on the relevant entries.