Percy MANNING (1870–1917)

Antiquary and folklorist

300 Banbury Road, Summertown

Percy Manning
Percy Manning in Goring in 1894
Bodleian Libraries, Library
Records c.1817, frontispiece

Percy Manning was a major figure in developing knowledge of the antiquities, archaeology, folklore, and social and cultural history of Oxfordshire. The enormous collections he amassed and bequeathed to the University of Oxford are an invaluable resource held by the Bodleian Libraries and the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museums. The centenary of his death on war service in 1917 was marked by a series of commemorative events.

He was born in Headingley, Leeds, one of four children to John Manning, railway engineer, and his wife, Sophia Gotobed Youngman. On the death of John in 1874, Sophia moved to Watford. Percy attended a prep school in Hove and then Clifton College. He went up to New College in 1888 to read Literae Humaniores. He obtained a third in honour moderations, and failed Greats in 1892, eventually gaining his degree in 1896. His difficulty is partly explained by an aphasic condition but the focus of his interest had not really been his academic studies. Already archaeology and antiquities had become his consuming interest. In 1892 he had been excavating with J. L. Myres at Alchester. In his first year he had been elected a member of the Oxford Architectural and Historical Society and was secretary 1891–8. He was a founder member of the O.U. Brass Rubbing Society.

Manning was interested in all periods of history and prehistory, collecting Stone Age tools, Roman coins, medieval tiles, and relics of ways of life that were disappearing in his own day, such as decorated police truncheons and local pottery. He methodically documented and explored the archaeology of the county. He collected thousands of prints depicting Oxford and places throughout Oxfordshire as records of changes in the built environment and, ahead of his time, moved beyond material objects to uncover and document disappearing superstitions, folklore and customs. He sought out May songs and morris dances, reviving the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers in 1899. On Boxing Day of that year they were seen by Cecil Sharp and he was inspired to launch the English folk music revival. Manning was the first to use a ‘fieldworker’, one Thomas James Carter, to collect material on local folklore and customs.

300 Banbury Road

Manning resided at the University Lodgings, St Aldate’s for some years.

His last home, from 1912, was 300 Banbury Road, Summertown (left).

He joined the Oxford & Bucks national reserve and was assigned to guard duty at Southampton docks, rising to the rank of sergeant. He died there from pneumonia on 27 February 1917 and is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford.

Percy Manning: The Man Who Collected Oxfordshire
, edited by Michael Heaney (2017);
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, article by Michael Heaney

The plaque was unveiled at 300 Banbury Road on 8 April 2017 by Michael Heaney. The Icknield Way Morris Men danced at the event.


Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board


Antiquary and folklorist

The Man Who Collected

lived here

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