by Allie Dillon, senior archivist
We’re very pleased to announce that Great Western Railway (GWR) have named a train in honour of our former City Archivist, Miss Elizabeth Ralph (1911-2000).
She was chosen as a ‘Great Westerner’ after being nominated by members of the Bristol Soroptimists. The train, a new Intercity Express (800020), was formally named in a ceremony at Bristol Temple Meads station on 18 April 2018.
Each Intercity Express features two power cars named after Great Westerners and Miss Ralph shared the honour with Bob Woodward, the founder of the children’s charity CLIC.
GWR also produced a commemorative coin which will be added to our collections. Miss Ralph’s coin pays homage to Bristol’s City Hall, which was the home of the archives until we moved to our current premises at B Bond.
Miss Ralph joined Bristol City Council’s Archives Office as a clerk in 1937. Two years later, she was appointed City Archivist and held the post until 1971.
At the start of her career, she ensured that Bristol’s historic records were protected from the Blitz during the Second World War, by moving them to the safety of a disused railway tunnel on the Portway. After the war, she worked with organisations across the city to bring many significant collections into the archives.
Miss Ralph was widely respected as both an archivist and a scholar and took a leading role in many organisations. She trained at the Public Record Office (now The National Archives) under Sir Hilary Jenkinson and served as the first female chair of the Society of Archivists (now the Archives & Records Association) from 1957 to 1960.
She was general secretary of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society for 38 years before becoming president and for many years she was also an assistant editor for the Bristol Record Society. She was twice president of the Bristol Soroptimists. After her retirement, she actively continued her work with these organisations as well as her own research. She received two honorary degrees from the University of Bristol, an MA in 1953 and a doctorate in 1993.
Miss Ralph is well remembered by many former colleagues and friends. At Bristol Archives, we are proud to continue her legacy as we care for the city’s records.
- Miss Ralph, photographed in 1992.
- Miss Ralph with the Princess Royal at a church service to mark opening of a new building at St Mary Redcliffe School in 1988.
- The new train is unveiled at Temple Meads train station, 18 April 2018.