A comprehensive collection of Chesterton books and memorabilia is now available in London. Chris Rule, a frequent writer of articles and book reviews for News Weekly, and a Canberra-based member of the Australian Chesterton Society, provides a revealing picture of the collection which he and wife, Maree, saw on a recent visit to London.

Chris Rule (centre) with his wife Maree
(right) and the Chesterton Collection
Curator, Alice Tyrell
Aidan Mackey

In September 2023, my wife, Maree, and I visited the G. K. Chesterton Collection at Notre Dame University in Suffolk Street, London. We were shown around the collection by Alice Tyrell, the curator of the collection.

The collection was established by Aidan Mackey, a noted Chesterton expert, and had been housed previously at the Centre for Faith and Reason at Oxford, and then at the Oxford Oratory. It came under the control of Notre Dame, London in 2022.

According to the Notre Dame London Global Gateway website, the collection consists of: “[A] research collection of writings by and about Chesterton, a library of related material, as well as a number of personal items”.

The personal items included a desk/table, typewriters, artwork by Chesterton used for his puppet plays, childhood sketches, diaries, a photo of Chesterton and his rosary beads, both framed. There was also a sketch of him dated March 12, 1922; and a school Latin book to which Chesterton had added copious notes and little sketches. As well there was his personal library of books by other authors. The diaries included not only appointments, but, also, records of those requests for a visit which he had refused.

Corona typewriter used by Dorothy Collins, Chesterton’s secretary taking his diction

Furthermore, there was a collection of copies of Chesterton’s published works including those which had been published in foreign languages. These had been presented to him by the publishers.

The day we visited, a family of six adults from the Philippines was shown around with us. They had come to England as a birthday present for the patriarch of the family who had just turned 85 on that day. They had also visited Beaconsfield to see Chesterton’s house and his grave, showing that it is not only people of the Anglosphere who are impressed by Chesterton.

At the moment, there are no official tours of the collection for the public, but it is possible to arrange a visit by contacting london@nd.edu.

The curator, Alice Tyrell, was informative, mentioning the plans that Notre Dame London has for the collection, particularly to raise money to enable the collection to be conserved and then expanded. Ultimately, the focus of the collection is Chesterton-related research.