William J. Gaffney Papers


Reference code: GB-0033-CSU/D22
Title: William J. Gaffney Papers
Dates of creation: 1909-1985
Extent: 2 boxes (0.3 metres)
Held by: Durham University Library, Archives and Special Collections
Origination: William J. Gaffney (1909-1985)
Language: English


William J. Gaffney was born in Eton, Buckinghamshire, in 1909. He undertook seminary training at the English College of Valladolid, Spain, in the early 1930s, becoming the parish priest of St Peter's Catholic Church in Marlow following his ordination. During the Second World War, he served as a chaplain for the British army in Africa, ministering to the local indigenous tribes of Basutoland (now Lesotho) and other places. Gaffney retained a close connection with the English College of Valladolid throughout his life, undertaking research into its history and pubishing (privately) a monograph entitled Elizabethan Students : the story of the founding of the English College of St Alban, Valladolid, Spain in 1979. He also helped to set up a book agency in England for the college. He died in 1985.


Papers of Fr William J. Gaffney, including: papers relating to his role as an army chaplain during the Second World War; draft manuscripts for his book Elizabethan Students; correspondence; personal papers including photographs and other items; and printed material.

Accession details

Donated by Charles Smith, 10 November 2020, Acc No Misc.2020/21:15.

Previous custodial history

Previously stored in the house of Mary Gaffney, William's sister

Conditions of access

Open for consultation.

Copyright and copying

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Clean duplicates removed.


No further accruals expected.


D22/A1-4   11 January - 17 April 1942
Papers relating to Fr William Gaffney's time as army chaplain in Africa during the Second World War
1 file 
D22/A1   11 - 17 January 1942
“Notes on my visit to the Holy Land, 11th-17th January, 1942”
Includes descriptions and observations of various places and religious sites, including the Sinai Desert, Beersheba, Hebron, Bethlehem and Jerusalem
50 pages 
D22/A2/1-12   1942
Photographs and postcards, mostly of Fr Gaffney's visit to the Holy Land, as well as other photographs taken during his time as an army chaplain:
12 BW prints 
D22/A2/1   13 January 1942
Commercial postcard: “Nr. 307 Bethelehem Grotto of the Nativity”. Copyright: Dormitio Jerusalem
Caption: “The cave at Bethlehem. I said Mass here on Tuesday Jan 13th 1942 at the altar on the right of the pillar”
BW print 
D22/A2/2   [?13 January 1942]
Caption: “Bethlehem - the Church of the Nativity”
Ink stamp: Velox
BW print 
D22/A2/3   [?14 January 1942]
Caption: “The well where the Holy Family must have drawn water”
Ink stamp: Nazareth: Virgin's Fountain
Ink stamp: Velox
BW print 
D22/A2/4   [?14 January 1942]
Caption: “A Moslem building on the site of the Ascension”
Ink stamp: Velox
BW print 
D22/A2/5   [?14 January 1942
Caption: “The entrance to the cave where the Incarnation took place is between the steps, under the high Altar”
Ink stamp: Nazareth: Church of Annunciation
Ink stamp: Velox
BW print 
D22/A2/6   15 [January] 1942
Commercial postcard: “Nr. 2044 Jerusalem - Calvary XIII. Station”. Copyright: Dormitio Jerusalem
Caption: “On Mount Calvary. Tradition says that this altar marks the spot where Our Lord was taken down from the Cross. I said Mass here on Thursday 15th 1942”
BW print 
D22/A2/7   16 January 1942
Caption: “The Altar of the Agony. Just in front of the Altar is a square of bare rock where tradition says that Our Lord's Agony took place. I said Mass here on Friday Jan 16th. 1942”
Ink stamp: Church of Gethsemany, Jerusalem
Ink stamp: Velox
BW print 
D22/A2/8   April 1942
Group of newly-baptised indigenous troops from Basutoland
BW print 
D22/A2/9   [?1942]
Group photograph
Front row: Kathleen, Joan, Mary
2nd row: Kathleen's mother, Joan's grandmother, Mary's mother, Mary's sister Kath
Back row: Joan's grandfather, Mary's brother William, Mary's sister Olive, Kath's father, John (then engaged to Kath)
Note by Gaffney: “Joan was a school friend”
BW print 
D22/A2/10   [?1942]
Caption: “Making mud breaks at country house for local cottages”
BW print 
D22/A2/11   [?1942]
Fr William Gaffney in a rowing boat
Caption: “The Punt”
Ink stamp: Velox
BW print 
D22/A2/12   [?1942]
Fr William Gaffney in army uniform
BW print 
D22/A3   17 April 1942
Cutting from The Universe entitled “Five army chaplains baptise 300 native troops”
Newspaper cutting 
D22/A4   [?1942]
Typescript newsletter with a report by Fr William Gaffney on his chaplaincy work
D22/B   [?1970 x 1979]
Draft typescripts of William Gaffney's book, Elizabethan Students: the story of the founding of the English College of St Alban, Valladolid, Spain (1979)
9 files 
D22/C1-15   [5 April] 1931 - 16 September 1980
Correspondence, including:
1 file 
D22/C1-5   [5 April] 1931 - 15 September 1935
Letters from Gaffney to his mother, written during his time as a seminarian at the English College in Valladolid, including a description of a Good Friday passion play on the streets of Valladolid (D22/C1); news that his class will skip a year's seminary training (D22/C2); receiving the tonsure from Bishop McNulty and description of an ordination ceremony, news of the start of his classes, a retreat, and two seminarians deciding to leave (D22/C3); detailed description of his ordination as subdeacon (D22/C4); and description of his ordination as deacon at Zamora (D22/C5)
5 letters 
D22/C6-12   12 July - 14 October 1976
Correspondence between Gaffney, W.H. Smith, the Publishers Association, and Truslove and Hanson, on setting up a book agency for the English College of Valladolid
7 letters 
D22/C13   9 November 1979
Letter from [?John] to [John]: commenting on Gaffney's book ( Elizabethan Students) and arrangements for celebrating the third centenary of the Vulnerata chapel
1 letter 
D22/C14   26 December 1980
Letter from [?] (Prinknash Abbey) to Gaffney: thanking him for a copy of his book and hoping that it can be read in the refectory, Gaffney's ill health, the weather in Canada, and criticism of Father Abbot's choice of officials and his possible replacement
1 letter 
D22/C15   16 September 1980
Letter from Rev Michael E. Williams to Gaffney: praising his book, and Perry and Shepherd's restoration of the college
1 letter 
D22/D1-10   [?1909 x 1985]
Personal papers:
1 file 
D22/D1   6 May 1909
Birth certificate for Gaffney
1 certificate 
D22/D2-8   [?1935 x 1980]
Photographs, including photographs of Gaffney, interior and exterior photographs of St Peter's Catholic Church (Marlow), and prints of Valladolid paintings
D22/D6: Copyright Alan Holmes, Marlow
3 coloured/5 BW prints 
D22/D9   [mid 20th century?]
Notes on Gaffney ancestry
2 items 
D22/D10   [mid 20th century?]
Copies of articles on Benedictine history
9 pages 
D22/D11   1985
Draft prayer card for Gaffney
Includes incorrect life dates
1 item 
Printed publications in the William J. Gaffney Papers will be added to the Durham University Library catalogue in due course and have the prefix D22/E.