The Sherriff Archive and Library Collections
Sherriff’s correspondence and papers were bequeathed to the Governors of Kingston Grammar School and are now in the care of Surrey History Centre (SHC refs. 2332 and 3813). A third collection (SHC ref. 9314) consists of material deposited by various private individuals and organizations. They shed light not only on the writing and impact of Journey’s End, but also Sherriff’s early life as a schoolboy and insurance clerk, and his later successful literary career as a playwright, novelist and screenplay writer for the American and British film industries.
The collections consist of nearly 150 boxes of material dating from the 19th century to 2015, and include:
Letters from the trenches (SHC refs. 2332/1/1/2 and 2332/1/1/3)
Covering his training as a cadet with the Artists Rifles from January to August 1916, and his later active service in France as a second lieutenant with the 9th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment from late September 1916 to August 1917. They reveal the conditions he encountered, his responses to the stresses he endured and show how his experiences provided him with the inspiration to write Journey’s End.
Roland Wales, author of the RC Sherriff biography From Journey’s End to the Dam Busters: The Life of R.C. Sherriff, Playwright of the Trenches (2016, Pen & Sword) has set up a blog featuring Sherriff’s letters home from the trenches on the date they were written, one hundred years ago. The blog posts feature extracts and images from the letters and a table of misdated letters, and are a very useful research tool, see www.rolandwales.com.
Letters relating to his literary career (SHC refs. 2332/1/2 to 2332/1/5, and 3813/1)
Spanning from the time of his pre-Journey’s End amateur plays in the 1920s until his children’s novel The Siege of Swayne Castle (1973), his last published work. They cover all three strands of his creative output as a playwright, screenplay writer and novelist, and shed light on his working methods, his attitude to his work, and his relationships with publishers, film people and agents.
Film scripts (SHC ref. 2332/3/6)
Including scripts for the films The Invisible Man (1933), One More River (1934), The Road Back (1937), The Four Feathers (1939), Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939), That Hamilton Woman (1941), Mrs Miniver (1942), This Above All (1942), Odd Man Out (1948) and The Dam Busters (1955).
Unpublished scripts (SHC refs. 2332/3/7 and 2332/3/8)
Among these scripts are ones set in the First World War which prove that Journey’s End was not Sherriff’s only work be to moulded by his wartime memories, such as the short story A Ghost on Vimy Ridge?
Newscuttings (SHC ref. 2332/5)
Over 10,000 cuttings from British and international papers, covering Sherriff’s entire career from the 1920s onwards. The cuttings were sorted extensively by a team of volunteers prior to cataloguing, who then created a series of spreadsheets which record performances of Journey’s End based on related cuttings (click on the links below to see and download pdf ( document) copies of the spreadsheets):
Please note that these spreadsheets are based on surviving cuttings, and are not exhaustive lists.
Photographs and artwork (SHC ref. 2332/6 and 3813/14)
The photographs include private snap shots of Sherriff and his family, as well as ones relating to his active service in France. There are also production stills of various stage productions of Journey’s End in Britain, Germany, North America and beyond, reflecting the global impact of the play.
This section also contains James Whale’s set designs for Journey’s End and Badger’s Green, plus a colour cartoon by sports artist H F Crowther of the cast of the Savoy Theatre production of Journey’s End.
Family background and early life prior to the First World War (SHC refs. 2332/8/1/1, 2332/9 to 2332/10, and 3813/15 to 3813/16)
School certificates, publications and a school report relating to Sherriff’s time as a student at Kingston Grammar School. Also the personal papers of Sherriff’s father Herbert and mother Constance.
Personal interests (SHC refs. 2332/8/4 to 2332/8/9, 3813/12)
Correspondence, notes and other material reflecting Sherriff’s interests in archaeology, history, gardening, cricket and rowing, as well as his penchant for buying a succession of Rolls Royces with the proceeds of his writing career.
His papers also compliment the records of the 9th Battalion in the East Surrey Regiment (SHC ref. ESR/19) and the private papers of Lieutenant Colonel Charles “Nobby” Alfred Clark (SHC ref. ESR/25/CLARK).
Use the following links to browse the Sherriff archive collections catalogues, the keyword search boxes below to search each collection individually or search all the collections by using the keyword box at the top of the page:
SHC ref: 2332 – R C Sherriff (1896-1975), Dramatist and Novelist: Correspondence and Papers, 1862-1975
SHC ref: 3813 – Robert Cedric Sherriff (1896-1975), Dramatist and Novelist: Additional Papers, 1871-1958
SHC ref: 9314 – R C Sherriff [1896-1975), Dramatist and Novelist: Additional Papers, 1925-2015
Sherriff’s library collection of books formed part of his personal library and have also been transferred to Surrey History Centre from Kingston Gramamr School Library for safe keeping and to facilitate access for researchers.
All the books cited here are available for public reference in the searchroom at Surrey History Centre. Further details of these and other titles can be found on the Surrey Libraries Catalogue at www.surreylibraries.org.
Amongst the highlights of this collection are first editions of R C Sherriff’s novels and plays.
The international appeal of Sherriff’s writing is demonstrated by the many foreign language translations of his works. We have over a dozen foreign language translations of Journey’s End into languages as diverse as Polish, Siamese, German, Croatian and Japanese.
The Hopkins Manuscript published in 1939 saw Sherriff tackle the Science Fiction genre. It was later re-published by Pan as The Cataclysm in 1958. The Hopkins Manuscript was translated into Finnish, German and French.
R C Sherriff wrote children’s fiction as well as his novels and plays and these are also to be found within this collection: King John’s Treasure: an Adventure Story (Heinemann, 1954) and The Seige of Swayne Castle (Gollancz, 1973). A Spanish translation of King John’s Treasure was published in 1956 as El Tesoro de Juan Sin Tierra, translated by Juan de Vallduara, and forms part of this collection.
The collection also reflects Sherriff’s working life, his interests and hobbies including rowing, history, archaeology, gardening, natural history and the paranormal. Many of the books are annotated by Sherriff including a working copy of an English language translation of The Road Back by Eric Maria Remarque which was used by Sherriff when preparing the script for the 1937 film.
The collection includes many gifts of books which contain dedications to Sherriff by authors, critics and family members including his mother and brother Cecil (known as Bundy). Notable amongst these are a number of books given to Sherriff by the writer Geoffrey Dearmer and a small bound extract Henley 1838 from the Blackwoods Magazine signed by H F Crossthwaite. There are also a number of signed copies of work by contemporary writers such as D L Murray, J C Masterman and Harvey Haislip.
There is a rare annotated copy of The Book of Silchester, Volumes 1 & 2 (1924) by James Thomson, number 50 of 350 copies published, that contains annotations and cross referenced marginalia by Thomson (J T), dated 1931.
A set of all six volumes of William Granger’s The New, Original and Complete Wonderful Museum and Magazine Extraordinary: being a Complete Repository of all the Wonders, Curiosities and Rarities of Nature and Art from the Beginning of the World to the Present Year (1803-1808) is a miscellaneous collection of news, facts and anecdotes with much of local interest.
Reflecting his interest in the paranormal are two fascinating volumes both published by W T Stead, Real Ghost Stories: a Record of Authentic Apparitions: being the Christmas Number of the Review of Reviews, 1891, and, More Ghost Stories: a Sequel to Real Ghost Stories; being the New Year’s Extra Number of the Review of Reviews, 1892.
Additionally, there are a few book which belonged to Sherriff’s relations. These include a copy of Seven Men by Max Beerbohm (Heinemann, 1919), that was given to his mother Constance by the writer G B Stern, a friend of Sherriff’s; and a copy of The Works of William Shakespeare, edited by Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke (1869), which his father Herbert received as a prize from Aylesbury Grammar School.
Click here to learn more about Sherriff’s published books.
Access to the Sherriff collections
The Sherriff collections at Surrey History Centre can be freely studied in our public searchroom. Photocopies and photographs of items in 2332 and 3813 are allowed for private research purposes only (including educational studies). Sheriff died in 1975 and copyright in his papers and published works will not expire until 31 Dec 2045, hence commercial copying or publication requests require the permission of the depositor (and possibly Curtis Brown, Sherriff’s literary agents) and should be referred to Surrey History Centre in writing in the first instance.
Sherriff material held elsewhere
Additional archive material relating to Sherriff is held at various other organisations in the UK and abroad. Click on the links below to see and download pdf ( document) copies of guides which give details of these repositories and their relevant holdings. They are arranged alphabetically by name of repository.