Jeffery Ede

Keeper of Public Records


Jeffery Raymond Ede, archivist: born Plymouth, Devon 10 March 1918; Assistant Keeper, Public Record Office 1947-59, Principal Assistant Keeper 1959-66, Deputy Keeper 1966-69, Keeper of Public Records 1970-78; Lecturer in Archive Administration, School of Librarianship and Archives, University College London 1956-61; President, Society of Archivists 1974-77; CB 1978; married 1944 Mercy Sholl (died 2001; one son and one daughter deceased); died Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset 6 December 2006.

Jeffery Ede had a long career in archive administration. From 1970 to 1978 he was Keeper of Public Records, in charge of the Government's official archive containing documents from 900 years of history. His 30-year career at the Public Record Office (now the National Archives) coincided with a process of gradual liberalisation of access to government records.

He started his career as an Assistant Keeper in May 1947. At this time the office was still governed by the Public Records Acts of 1838, 1877 and 1898; questions of access to the records and of their preservation and transfer to the office were largely determined by the creating government departments.

The Public Records Act 1958 provided for regular transfer of records and their availability for research 50 years after their creation. The Public Records Act 1967 reduced this period to 30 years. These access provisions continued throughout Ede's keepership and have only recently been superseded by the Freedom of Information Act 2000, under which records are now immediately available unless they fall within exempt categories.

Ede's period as Keeper saw the opening in January 1971 of the records of the first 16 months of the Second World War, followed a year later by the accelerated opening of records for the rest of the war - on the same day as the 1871 Census returns became available for research. It was also marked by an enormous growth in the number of readers.

His posts with the Public Record Office included being in charge of the provincial repository at Ashridge Park in Hertfordshire, in the Modern Records Department. He also served as Head of Technical Services with responsibility for the storage, conservation, filming and photocopying of records and making them available in the reading rooms.

Ede had the ability to master an understanding of the essential elements of any task, and to direct it effectively and ensure its careful execution. He was also one of the best drafters in the office; and he played a leading part in a revised Guide to the Contents of the Public Record Office published in 1963.

In July 1959 he was promoted to Principal Assistant Keeper, and to the Deputy Keeper in December 1966. On 1 January 1970 he became Keeper of Public Records, a post that he held until June 1978. A major challenge for Ede as Keeper was planning the new Public Record Office at Kew, which opened in 1977, and the transfer of staff and records from the Chancery Lane office and the Ashridge repository.

Jeffery Ede was born in Plymouth in 1918, the eldest son of Richard Ede, a customs officer. His family later moved successively to Hayle, Cornwall, and Barnstaple, Devon, and, after his father's death in 1927, to paternal grandparents in Saltash, from where Jeffery went to Plymouth College. In October 1937 he went on an open major scholarship, and an exhibition from the Goldsmiths' Company, to King's College, Cambridge, to read Classics, gaining a First in Part I of the Classical Tripos. In the 1950s he repaid his debt to the Goldsmiths' Company by sorting and listing its archives and advising on their care.

In 1939 he began six and a half years of war service in the Intelligence Corps in which he was mentioned in despatches. In 1940 he was posted to France with the British Expeditionary Force and was at Dunkirk. Early in 1941 he went to Syria, where he rose to company sergeant major, gaining his commission in December 1943.

After D-Day he was responsible for port security and a Mulberry harbour at Arromanches, and later similar duties in Belgium and Germany. He was promoted to major as Port Security Control Officer in Hamburg and to GSO II Intelligence (Ports and Frontiers) on the staff of HQ 8th Corps District, before demobilisation in April 1946. He took his delayed MA at Cambridge and joined the Public Records Office in 1947.

In 1944 he had married Mercy Sholl, who was teaching at a preparatory school, which had been evacuated to Alfoxton House in Somerset, a house with historical associations with Coleridge and Wordsworth. Here her brother, Ernest Sholl, was school chaplain and Classics master, subsequently becoming Rector of Holford and Vicar of Stogursey.

Outside the Public Record Office Jeffery Ede was a Lecturer in Archive Administration at the School of Librarianship and Archive Administration at University College London. He also acted as a Unesco expert advising on the national archives of Tanzania in 1963-64. From 1972 to 1978 he was Chairman of the British Academy Committee on Oriental Documents and in 1976-78 Vice-President of the International Council on Archives (ICA). He served for three years as the President of the Society of Archivists, and in 1979 was made a Freeman of the Goldsmiths' Company and of the City of London.

In retirement in Somerset, at Drayton and later at Ilminster, Ede served as a co-opted member of the county council's Libraries, Museums and Records Committee (1980-88) and as Chairman of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society's Library Committee (1987-93). He sorted and listed the society's own administrative records for transfer to the Somerset Record Office; and similarly a collection of records of the Cely Trevilian family of Midelney and papers of the Heritage of the Ile Trust in Ilminster. He also compiled a report on the records of the Clerical & Medical insurance company and undertook several missions for the ICA and Unesco to Cyprus, Lesotho and Iraq.

His abiding characteristics in public and private life were a sense of duty and discipline, leavened by an easy manner and kindness, understanding and courtesy. He was, too, able to stand back and observe himself and others with puckish humour and wit.

Duncan Chalmers

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent