Herbert Edward Douglas Blakiston

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Herbert Edward Douglas Blakiston
Vice-Chancellor of the
University of Oxford
In office
Preceded by Thomas Banks Strong
Succeeded by Lewis Richard Farnell
Personal details
Born (1862-09-05)5 September 1862
Died 29 July 1942(1942-07-29) (aged 79)
Alma mater Trinity College, Oxford

Herbert Edward Douglas Blakiston (5 September 1862 – 29 July 1942) was an English academic and clergyman who served as President of Trinity College, Oxford, and as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford.[1][2]

Family and early life[edit]

Herbert Blakiston was born in Hastings the son of artist, Douglas Yeoman Blakiston (1832–1914) and Sophia Matilda Dent (1826–1912).[3] His father subsequently became a clergyman and the family moved to the vicarage at East Grinstead.[1] Blackstone was a descendent of Sir Matthew Blakiston, the Lord Mayor of London from 1760–1761;[4] he was the great-grandson of Sir Matthew Blakiston, 2nd Baronet Blakiston.

Herbert Blakiston was the eldest of six children, he had two sisters and three brothers. His brother Charles was killed in a firearm accident, at the age of 24, in October 1887. A house surgeon at the Royal Salop Infirmary, Shrewsbury, he was accidentally shot in the back while hunting rabbits with a colleague.[5] Another brother, William, accidentally fell under a train at Charing Cross Station on the night of 1 October 1889, and died in hospital some days later.[6] The third brother, John, was a telegraph clerk who was among those killed while defending Mazowe, Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) on 18 June 1896, during the Second Matabele War.[7]

Herbert Blakiston's parents and sisters all died within a four-year period, just before World War I.[1]

Academic career[edit]

Blakiston attended Tonbridge School. He also studied at Trinity College, Oxford, gaining a first class degree in Literae Humaniores in 1885. He was ordained and became Fellow, Chaplain, and Lecturer at Trinity College in 1887. He then became Tutor in 1892, Senior Tutor and Junior Bursar in 1898, before being elected President of the College in March 1907. He also served simultaneously as Estates Bursar (1915–38). Blakiston was not the college fellows' first choice for the presidency. Robert Rapier was the preferred candidate but he turned the position down, citing his advancing age as an obstacle.[8]

During World War I, large numbers of Trinity staff and students left to join the armed forces. By 1918, there were just nine undergraduates in residence. Blakiston became Vice-Chancellor of the university in 1917 and did much to improve the university's finances, which had been placed under strain by the war. Although his health was affected by the strain of the additional responsibilities.[9] He was badly affected by the loss of 155 Trinity men during the war, many known to him personally, and afterwards devoted much effort to a new library that was to be their memorial.[10] He designed the building himself and paid five percent of its cost from his own pocket.[1]

Blakiston was later described as being unsociable, snobbish, parsimonious and obsessed with finance. The central character Theodore Fletcher, in Joanna Cannan's 1931 novel High Table, was a thinly disguised, cruel caricature of him.[11] During his presidency, Blakiston was largely responsible for college admissions and developed a particular notoriety for refusing applications to Trinity from non-white candidates. Notably, he stubbornly resisted pressure from the India Office to admit undergraduates from British India, something that government department was attempting to promote.[12] During this time, the traditional rivalry between Trinity and Balliol College took on a racial tone as Balliol admitted a number of Asian students.[13]

Blakiston was strongly against Oxford degrees being awarded to women,[1] which began while he served as university Vice–Chancellor and in spite of all he could to do oppose it.[4] However he was also devoted to the college and its students and had the lifelong habit of collecting clippings from The Times that mentioned any former student.[14]

Although he was under no compulsion to retire from the Presidency, he did so on 1 September 1938, having served for 31 years as President,[4] and was succeeded by John Weaver. After living at Trinity College for 57 years,[4] he moved to Boars Hill, near Oxford[15] On 28 July 1942, he was struck by a car while walking in Boars Hill; he died the next day in the Radcliffe Infirmary without regaining consciousness.[16] His funeral took place in the Trinity College chapel and his ashes were interred in the antechapel.[17]


Blakiston wrote articles for the Dictionary of National Biography, including the entry for the explorer Thomas Blakiston,[18] who was his second cousin once removed.[3] In 1894, he wrote an English translation of several of Cicero's works, including the Catiline Orations and Pro Milone.[19] He wrote a brief work on Durham College, Oxford[20] and a history of Trinity College that was published in 1898.[21] A small print–run of his history of the Blakiston family was published in 1928.[22] He also wrote a collection of ghost stories in Latin.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Clare Hopkins, Blakiston, Herbert Edward Douglas (1862–1942), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, September 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31917
  2. ^ "Blakiston, Herbert Edward Douglas". The Concise Dictionary of National Biography. Volume I: A–F. Oxford University Press. 1995. p. 216. 
  3. ^ a b Person Page 17130 at thePeerage.com
  4. ^ a b c d e "The Rev. Dr. H.E.D. Blakiston". The Times (49301). London. 30 July 1942. p. 7. 
  5. ^ "The Fatal Shooting Accident at Shrewsbury". Birmingham Daily Post (9149). Birmingham. 24 October 1887. p. 4. 
  6. ^ "Coroners' Inquests". The Morning Post (36603). London. 9 October 1889. p. 3. 
  7. ^ "The Revolt in Rhodesia". The Pall Mall Gazette (9749). London. 24 June 1896. 
  8. ^ Hopkins (2005), p.336
  9. ^ Hopkins (2005), p.350
  10. ^ "Trinity College WW1 UKNIWM Ref: 31985". United Kingdom National Inventory of War Memorials. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  11. ^ Hopkins (2005), p.338
  12. ^ Hopkins (2005), p.344
  13. ^ Clare Hopkins and Bryan Ward-Perkins, "The Trinity/Balliol Feud", Trinity College Oxford Report (1989-90), pp. 54-60.
  14. ^ Hopkins (2005), p.340
  15. ^ Hopkins (2005), p.381
  16. ^ Hopkins (2005), p.382
  17. ^ Hopkins (2005), pp.381-382
  18. ^ Author:Herbert Edward Douglas Blakiston, WikiSource.
  19. ^ Blakiston, Herbert Edward Douglas (1894). The speeches of M. Tullius Cicero against Catiline and Antony and for Murena and Milo. London: Methuen and Co. OCLC 4713072. 
  20. ^ Blakiston, Herbert Edward Douglas (1896). Some Durham college rolls. Oxford: Oxford Historical Society. OCLC 43333202. 
  21. ^ Blakiston, Herbert Edward Douglas (1898). Trinity College. London: F.E. Robinson. OCLC 593757884. 
  22. ^ Blakiston, Herbert Edward Douglas (1928). The family of Blakiston of Stapleton-on-Tees. Oxford: Oxford University Press. OCLC 24657375. 
  • Hopkins, Claire (2005). Trinity: 450 years of an Oxford college community. Oxford University Press,. ISBN 0-19-951896-3. 

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Henry Francis Pelham
President of Trinity College, Oxford
Succeeded by
John Weaver
Preceded by
Thomas Banks Strong
Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University
Succeeded by
Lewis Richard Farnell