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friendship book
19th Century book brings Edge Hill’s earliest days to life

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19th Century book brings Edge Hill’s earliest days to life

September 11, 2023

A friendship book, featuring the insights of Edge Hill students from 1885, has been returned to the University's archives.

Edge Hill’s archives trace the institution’s history, right from the start of its journey as the first non-denominational teacher training college for women in England.

Friendship books were very popular amongst Edge Hill students, and this one is in incredible condition despite its age. Through vibrant drawings, perfectly calligraphed poems and heartfelt messages between friends, the book clearly shows the closeness of the relationships and friendships between the 41 students who made up its first-ever year group.

Dan Copley, from the University’s Archives Team describes the importance of finding this artefact:

“This friendship book is an outstanding addition to our collections. The poems, artworks and messages within it are a wonderful insight into the loving friendships and bonds that developed between our very first cohort of Edge Hill students.

“Each of the entries is an incredible time capsule that offers a rare opportunity for researchers to connect directly with the lives of young women living almost 135 years ago. We can’t wait for more people to discover this remarkable and unique glimpse into the late 19th century.”

friendship book with archives team

The messages tell us a lot about the relationships, how young women in the late 19th century expressed their feelings of friendship, and how the stories and poems convey the cultural and social influences of the time. One of the entries is ‘Love’s Patent Thermometer’, listing the steps these young women expected to potentially go through as they fall in love; from exchanging of letters and the first kiss to darker feelings of turmoil and angst.

The changing role of women and their self-perception is expressed through their strong bonds with each other, their excitement at entering the professional world of teaching; as well as apprehension/excitement about marriage and motherhood. In another of the friendship books, one page features the suffragette psalm calling for the shackles of marriage to be shaken off, while only a few pages later another writer talks about the importance of loyalty to your husband.

The University has many friendship books in its archives, but this one is the only one that’s been discovered from the founding year 235 miles away in Essex. The book is an invaluable, tangible link back to the very first year of Edge Hill and it’s now back in its rightful home.

The digitally scanned version of the book is available for anyone to access below: Autograph Album (, whilst the physical copy will be kept preserved and for research purposes in Edge Hill University’s archives.


September 11, 2023


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