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The Papers of 1st Lord Fisher of Kilverstone

Reference Code: GBR/0014/FISR

Scope and Contents

The collection held at Churchill Archives Centre includes: official and family correspondence; correspondence about Fisher and his biography collected by Nina, Duchess of Hamilton; papers on naval subjects; material relating to the Oil Commission; material relating to the Board of Invention and Research; printed material: Admiralty, Committee of Imperial Defence, Cabinet and White Papers; material intended for Fisher's printed works, personal notes, papers and albums; letters to newspapers, printed proofs and printed works; press cuttings; photographs; miscellaneous material; material collected by 2nd Lord Fisher about his father; letters from Fisher to George Lambert and material collected by Lambert as Fisher's literary executor.

The collection has close connections with the career of Sir Winston Churchill and includes personal correspondence and official papers involving Sir Winston. There are numerous papers relating to the disastrous Dardanelles Campaign over which Fisher resigned as 1st Sea Lord. There are also fascinating papers illustrating advances in gunnery and torpedoes for which Fisher was largely responsible in the 1880s, and important material relating to his development after 1900 of a reformed system of officer selection and training and his involvement in the design of the Dreadnought class of battleship.


  • Creation: 1696 - 1979

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Biographical / Historical

John Arbuthnot Fisher was born on the 25 January 1841, the son of Captain William Fisher (78th Highlanders) and Sophie Lambe (granddaughter of Alderman Boydell). In 1854 Fisher entered the Royal Navy and served in the Crimean War the following year. From 1859-1860 he served in the China War and took part in the capture of Canton and Peiho. In 1860 he was made a Lieutenant and obtained the Beaufort Testimonial.

In 1866 Fisher married Frances Broughton (daughter of Reverend T Delves Broughton) with whom he had one son, Cecil, and three daughters (Beatrix, Dorothy and Pamela).

In 1882 Fisher served in the Egyptian War and commanded the Inflexible during the bombardment of Alexandria. From 1886-1891 he was Director of Naval Ordinance and was made a Rear-Admiral in 1890. He held a number of positions including: Admiral Superintendent at Portsmouth Dockyard (1891); Controller of the Royal Navy and Lord of the Admiralty (1892-1897); Commander-in-Chief on the North American and West Indies Station (1897-1899); delegate to the Peace Conference at the Hague (1899); Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Station (1899-1902); Second Sea Lord (1902-3); Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth (1903-4); First Sea Lord (1904-1910 and 1914-1915); Member of the Committee of Imperial Defence and Chairman of the Royal Commission on Oil Fuel (1914-1915).

In 1918, his wife died. Fisher died on 10 July 1920.


120 archive box(es)

Language of Materials



The Fisher Papers have been arranged into 16 separate series as detailed in the catalogue.

Other Finding Aids

The collection has been catalogued. The catalogues include: a printed detailed inventory of the collection by Dr Ruddock F Mackay in which each individual document has been given a number (FP 1-5648), and this catalogue of the papers which gives the Churchill Archives Centre call number for each file in the collection (with reference to Mackay's numbers), and a printed name index to the collection. Copies of all of the catalogues are available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Fisher Papers (with the exception of FISR 15-16) were received by the Government in lieu of estate duty on the estate of the Duke of Hamilton in February 1979. In 1979, Mr George Younger MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, accepted the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts that the collection should be allocated to Churchill College, Cambridge. The bulk of the collection was thus deposited at Churchill Archives Centre in January 1980. There have been four further accessions: one box of material deposited in January 2001 by Ms Jan Morris (and added to the collection as FISR 1/26-1/27 and FISR 2/4); 13 boxes of papers deposited in October 2001 by Lord Fisher (added to the collection as FISR 15); 3 boxes of papers deposited in January 2010 by Sophia Lambert (added as FISR 16); 1 box deposited by the family of Gerard Fiennes in August 2017; 0.5 boxes deposited by the estate of Sir Martin Gilbert in May 2017 (rest of accession was for the Churchill Acquired Papers).


Fisher section 14 contained 11 boxes of duplicate printed and typescript material and empty envelopes. It was destroyed in March 2006 as it was considered to be non-archival material and not worthy of permanent preservation.

Related Materials

Churchill Archives Centre also holds the papers of Sir Winston Churchill and the section of the papers which covers Churchill's first term as First Lord of the Admiralty (1911-1915), CHAR 13, includes material relating to the Dardanelles Campaign and to Churchill's relationship with Fisher. A catalogue to the Churchill Papers is available at


This collection (fonds) level description was created by Natalie Adams of Churchill Archives Centre in June 2002, using information from the catalogues to the Fisher Papers. The catalogue to sections 1-13 of the Fisher papers was converted by Natalie Adams in 2006 using information from the existing catalogues. Extra information was added from the Mackay catalogue by Katharine Thomson in 2010.


Fisher, John Arbuthnot, 1841-1920, 1st Lord Fisher of Kilverstone, Admiral of the Fleet

2002-05-27 15:19:27+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087