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Wellcome Trust Corporate Archive

  • Wellcome Trust; 1936-
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The archive documents the formation, development and work of the Wellcome Trust as an independent charitable foundation dedicated to improving health through research from its inception in 1936 to the present day. It provides evidence of the Trust's international role in the landscape of health and charts the delivery of its mission and areas of interest through time, including pharmacology and tropical medicine; veterinary medicine; the history of medicine as an academic discipline; clinical trials; mental health; public engagement and infectious diseases.

The archive contains records relating to the governance and management of the Trust, it's grant funding work and internally funded activities carried out to further the Trust's charitable aims, including policy research and advocacy, supporting science education, public engagement and museum, library and collecting activities. The archive also contains records of the Trust's investments function and other support activities, such as finance, communications and media and public relations, as well as material that documents staff activities and experiences at the Trust.

Where original file names have been retained, these are indicated by quotation marks in the catalogue titles.

Uncatalogued material

This collection contains both catalogued and uncatalogued materials. A summary of the uncatalogued materials in this collection is provided below under 'Accruals'. Section E of this collection is also currently uncatalogued. This section contains papers of the Hague Club, 1971-1976 (10 boxes) and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, 1941-1991 (11 boxes). Please contact for more information or to request access to uncatalogued material.



Physical description

1,444 boxes; 10 O/S items; approx 5,922 digital files Uncatalogued: Approx 3,436 boxes; 3 O/S items; 16;836 digital files


Records have been grouped together into sections based on the broad functions and activities that they represent. This arrangement is intended to accommodate organisational change over time. The Wellcome Trust has gone through various reorganisations since its inception, whilst its core functions have remained largely the same.

Section A: Governance and corporate management

Section B: Support activities

Section C: Grant funding

Section D: Direct activities

Section E: External interests - This section has not yet been catalogued. Please refer to 'Description' for an overview of material in this section and information on requesting access to uncatalogued material.

At series level, and occasionally at item level, catalogue records have been linked to "authority files" to capture information about individuals, departments and other entities related to those records. Where listed, click on any of the "Associated Person Entries" beneath the catalogue description to view information and related entities.

Biographical note

The Wellcome Trust is a British registered charity established by the will of Sir Henry Wellcome in 1936.


c.1946-1958 28 Portman Square, London

1958-1972 52 Queen Anne Street, London

1972-1992 1 Park Square West, London

1992-2004 Wellcome Building, 185 Euston Road, London

2004-present Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, London


The Wellcome Trust is a British registered charity established by the will of Sir Henry Wellcome. Upon his death in 1936 ownership of 100 per cent of the shares of the pharmaceutical company Wellcome Foundation passed to the newly formed Wellcome Trust. This income was to be used to advance medical research and support the understanding of its history.

The Trust's early years were spent winding up Sir Henry Wellcome's affairs, administering the bequests included in the will and re-structuring Wellcome Foundation which had previously been largely under Henry Wellcome's personal control. The Trustees were also responsible for paying the Estate Duty which absorbed most of the Trust's income during its first five years. Initial grant giving activities focused on Henry's main interests: pharmacy and pharmacology, veterinary and tropical medicine. The first tropical research unit to be funded was the Wellcome Research Laboratories at Thessaloniki (later Nairobi), which the Trust began funding in 1938. The Trust also endowed medical university chairs, such as in Clinical Tropical Medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (1945) and Parmacology at the School of Pharmacy, University of London (1946). Also popular were the Wellcome Research Travel Grants, introduced in the 1950s, which provided expenses to UK scientists travelling abroad and to foreign scientists visiting the UK. In its first 20 years, the Wellcome Trust gave out £1.2 million in charitable funding though its activities were limited first by its obligations to pay the Estate Duty and then by the postwar financial problems of Wellcome Foundation, which came close to bankruptcy before recovering and steadily growing from the late 1950s.

Under the terms of Sir Henry Wellcome's will the Trust had an obligation to support the understanding of the history of medicine and in the early years this was achieved by developing the Wellcome Historical Medcial Museum and Library. By the 1960s the Trustees were keen to fulfil their obligations through grant funding and in 1966 established the country's first history of medicine university department at University College London (UCL).

By 1966 Wellcome Foundation had not only recovered from its financial problems but had become highly profitable after several lucrative drug discoveries were marketed. This gave the Wellcome Trust much greater scope to develop its funding activities and in 1966 the Trust introduced its first funding policy, articulating what was and was not in scope and setting out new funding streams. The focus was to be on filling national funding gaps and on supporting individuals rather providing funding for buildings and equipment. Until this point, all applications had been considered by the Board of Trustees and the Trust administration was managed by a small number of employees. The focus on personal support resulted in a large increase in the number of grant applications received, leading the Trust to expand its staff and introduce a more sophisticated organisational structure. Advisory panels were introduced to help the Trustees judge applications and the first Wellcome Trust Director, Peter Williams, was appointed in 1967.

The Trust continued to grow throughout the 1970s and early 1980s and its charitable output increased year on year. Additional overseas units were funded to support the World Health Organization's Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases and the Trust continued to encourage interest in the history of medicine through the establishment of several history of medicine units at universities including Oxford (1972) and Manchester (1986). By 1985 the Trust was dissatisfied with its arrangement with Wellcome Foundation. Despite being valued at £1 billion, the Foundation dividends only granted the Trust charitable expenditure of around £26.5 million a year and the Trust Chairman, Sir David Steel, believed greater income could be gained through well managed investments. In addition, Steel was aware of the dangers of relying on one source of income and was keen to diversify the Trust's portfolio. The Board of Trustees agreed and in 1986 Wellcome Foundation was renamed Wellcome Plc and floated on stock market as a private limited company. Twenty-five per cent of shares were sold, leaving the Wellcome Trust as the majority shareholder. A further thirty-five per cent of shares were later sold in 1992. As a result, the Wellcome Trust's income doubled and it became one of the world's largest grant giving charities. As things stood, the Trustees were liable for the entire share sale worth £2.3 billion and so during the 1992 sale a new corporate entity was formed, Wellcome Trust Ltd. This private limited company became the sole Trustee of the Wellcome Trust, and the Trustees became Governors. The Governors, aided by the Wellcome Trust senior management, now had a role similar to that of a board of directors managing a company. The Trust's staffing levels also grew and a new organisational structure was implemented to allow the Trust to maintain and grow its activities. In January 1995 the Board of Governors sold the majority of the remainder of their shares in Wellcome Plc to Glaxo Plc, allowing a takeover to form Glaxo Wellcome Plc (now GlaxoSmithKline).

Asset diversification and shrewd in-house investment led to a long period of growth for the Trust, resulting in a huge increase in the Wellcome Trust's funding activities and its involvement in various large scale initiatives such as establishing the Sanger Institute, which sequenced one third of the human genome, and co-funding the Diamond Light Source synchrotron and UK Biobank. It also refurbished the Wellcome Building at 185 Euston Road and developed the library and public engagement facilities, culminating in the opening of Wellcome Collection in 2007.

The Wellcome Trust's growth in the 1990s put pressure on accommodation and in the early 2000s the Trust purchased land adjacent to the Wellcome Building and construction on the Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road (named after former Chairman Roger Gibbs) was completed in 2004. The Wellcome Building was given over to the Wellcome Collection and Library and included a conference centre and public engagement space.

On 3 January 2019 the Trust opened its first international office in Berlin, Germany to enable it to work more closely with international partners.

Internal structures
Board of Trustees, 1936-1992

Board of Governors, 1992-present

1936-1938 Lyall, GHH

1938-1960 Dale, Sir Henry

1960-1965 Piercy, Rt Hon Lord

1965-1980 Franks, Rt Hon Lord [PC, OM, GCMG, KCB, DL]

1980- Armstong of Sanderstead, Rt Hon Lord [GCB, MVO]

1982-1990 Steel, Sir David

1990-1999 Gibbs, Sir Roger

1999-2007 Cadbury, Sir Dominic

2007-2015 Castell, Sir William

2015-2021 Manningham-Buller, Eliza

2021-present Gillard, Julia

1967-1991 Williams, Peter

1991-1998 Ogilvie, Bridget

1998-2003 Dexter, Michael

2003-2013 Walport, Sir Mark

2013-present Farrah, Jeremy

Terms of use

This collection has been partially catalogued and the catalogued part is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records. Requests to view uncatalogued material are considered on a case by case basis. Please contact for more details.

Accruals note

Some additions (or 'accruals') to this collection have not yet been catalogued. Brief summaries of these materials are provided below. To request access to these uncatalogued materials, or to find out more about them, please contact Some items may have access restrictions which will be explained to you if you request them.

- Acc 2137: A small collection of books formerly owned by the first Director of the Wellcome Trust, Dr Peter Williams, including some items relating to Wellcome, 20th century. 3 boxes, 1 print.

- Acc 2397: Wellcome Trust grant files, c.1300 boxes.

- Acc 2432: Papers of the Hague Club, 1970s. 3 boxes.

- Acc 2442: Material relating to the Wellcome Collection exhibition "Bedlam: the asylum and beyond" (15 September 2016-15 January 2017). 3 files.

- Acc 2443: Wellcome Collection promotional materials, 2000s-2010s. 2 folders.

- Acc 2444: Wellcome Trust medal dies. 1 box.

- Acc 2445: Printed Wellcome Trust and Wellcome Collection ephemera, 2017-2018. 1 folder.

- Acc 2446: Wellcome Trust Genome Campus press records, 1997-1999. 1 box.

- Acc 2449: Wellcome Trust Public Engagement funded outputs, c.2001-c.2015. 2 files, 1 box.

- Acc 2468: Printed Wellcome Trust and Wellcome Collection ephemera, 2018. 1 folder.

- Acc 2470: Wellcome Collection Medicine Man gallery interpretation guide, 2015.

- Acc 2473: Colour sectional drawing of an 'Artesian Tube Well ... at the Wellcome Foundation Research Building. Euston Road, N.W.1.', dated 1931.

- Acc 2475: Wellcome Images departmental records and analogue corporate photography, c.1990s-2000. 6 boxes, 33 binders, 3 albums.

- Acc 2479: Contagious Cities on BBC Radio 3 essays, 2018. 22 digital files.

- Acc 2486: Louise Quarmby portrait and interview for Wellcome Collection's 2018 'Teeth' exhibition, 2 digital files.

- Acc 2487: Records relating to Wellcome Trust financial activity and office procedures c.1980s. 1 box.

- Acc 2491: Wellcome Trust Science Policy Information Newsletter, issue 1 to 1221 [final issue], 2008-2015. c.3,000 digital files.

- Acc 2492: Digital files used in the planning and development of "Wellcome's World", a dedicated part of the former Wellcome Library website, 2010s. 19 digital files.

- Acc 2496: Digital files relating to the planning, implementation and evaluation of Wellcome Collection exhibitions, 2010s. 4929 digital files.

- Acc 2497: Wellcome Collection exhibition programmes, guides and publications, 2010s. 1 folder.

- Acc 2499: Wellcome Library departmental reviews, 1991-2003. 10 digital files.

- Acc 2517: Internal and external Wellcome Trust and Wellcome Collection printed materials, 2012-2019. 1 folder.

- Acc 2518: Wellcome Trust intranet material, 2010-2015. 2 digital files.

- Acc 2519: Internal and external Wellcome Trust reports on Education, Policy, the Wellcome Global Monitor, the Wellcome Success Framework and the Wellcome Trust staff survey, 2001-2019. 338 digital files.

- Acc 2534: Digital audio recording featuring artist Anthony Gormley speaking about the concept of 'the body'. The recording was used in Wellcome Collection's exhibition 'Medicine Now', c.2006. 1 digital file.

- Acc 2535: Physical and digital records relating to Sheep Pig Goat, a research project commissioned by Wellcome Collection as part of 'Making Nature', a year-long exploration of humans' relationship with the natural world. The project was devised by arts organisation Fevered Sleep and took the form of a series of improvised performance-based encounters between dancers, musicians, sheep, pigs and goats, c.2017. 1 box, 91 digital files.

- Acc 2553: Departmental records, grey literature and published materials relating to the activities of the Wellcome Library and the Wellcome Trust Information Service, including administrative files for "What the papers say". Also includes staff training and development resources and a small number of Wellcome Trust records, Wellcome Centre records and Wellcome-funded outputs, 1990S-2010s. 7 boxes, 217 digital files.

- Acc 2557: Physical and digital records relating to Mosaic (, a digital publication from the Wellcome Trust, 2010-2019. 1 box, 1,247 digital files.

- Acc 2567: Digital files and printed ephemera relating to the Wellcome Trust Contagious Cities international collaborative project, 2018-19. 1 folder, 250 digital files.

- Acc 2571: Transcripts for three witness seminars (comprising two volumes) on transformations and regulation in the health system of Maharashtra, India since the 1980s. The seminars were part of a research project funded by the UK Joint Health Systems Research Initiative, including support from the Wellcome Trust, 2019. 1 folder.

- Acc 2572: Wellcome Trust and Wellcome Collection printed ephemera, 2015-2019. 1 folder.

- Acc 2581: Audience responses from a live programming event run as part of Wellcome Collection's "Misbehaving Bodies" exhibition, on display from 30 May 2019 to 26 January 2020. 2 folders, 2 digital files.

- Acc 2584: Wellcome Trust Contemporary Medical Archives Centre (CMAC) and Western Manuscripts department (WMMS) files, 1970s-2000s. 1 box.

- Acc 2589: Internal Wellcome Trust communications regarding the emerging COVID-19 infection, c. Jan-March 2020. 8 digital files, 1 poster.

- Acc 2595: Wellcome Trust COVID-19 building closure digital photographs, March 2020. 11 digital files.

- Acc 2596: Digital recordings of the Wellcome Trust Cloud9Online staff chat show, which aired 20 March-11 December 2020. 26 digital files.

- Acc 2598: Reports, news and views, press releases and webpages captured from the Wellcome Trust's website (, 2000s-2020. 1,148 digital files.

- Acc 2601: Two zines exploring life during the first UK Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, created by a Wellcome staff member and her daughter.

- Acc 2602: Digital diary entry by a Wellcome staff member which explores their personal experience during the COVID-19 pandemic and their adjustment to working from home during the closure of Wellcome's buildings. 1 digital file.

- Acc 2603: Records regarding the development and launch of the Wellcome Trusts's first Trans Inclusion Policy and Trans Inclusion Guidance, 2019-2020. 355 digital files.

- Acc 2604: Digital photograph taken by a Wellcome staff member of public transport in London, social distancing signage, during the COVID-19 pandemic. 1 digital file.

- Acc 2606: Forum piece written by a Wellcome staff member for Wellcome's (then named) BAME network in response to the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

- Acc 2607: "Mark Thomas's lockdown check-up", a six-part podcast series commissioned by Wellcome Collection and written and presented by Mark Thomas plus records relating to the planning and promotion of the series, June-September 2020. 14 digital files.

- Acc 2610: Digital PDF artwork for Wellcome Collection's "What's On" leaflet, covering April to June 2020. This PDF was created Jan-March 2020 but was not distributed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and closure of Wellcome's buildings, March 2020. 1 digital file.

- Acc 2616: Digital files and emails created and collated by Simon Chaplin in his roles as Head of Wellcome Library (Feb 2010-Oct 2014) and then Wellcome Trust Director of Culture and Society (Oct 2014-Aug 2020), 643 digital files.

- Acc 2618: Wellcome Library Wordpress blog XML and CSV exports containing blog content and associated metadata from c.2012-2018. 2 digital files.

- Acc 2619: Digital video recording of a Wellcome Collection Inspiring Our Practice session titled "The Reading Room Frieze" plus transcript and intranet article, April 2021. 3 digital files.

- Acc 2621: Analogue photographic material and cataloguing metadata created by the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum and Wellcome Medical Photographic Library, later inherited and managed by Wellcome Images from 2007 to 2017. Comprises "F" (Microfilm) series reels and cataloguing metadata; "L" (Library) series negatives and cataloguing metadata; "M" (Museum) series glass plate negatives; and "V" (Videodisc) series negatives and transparencies. 790 glass plate negative boxes; 88 negative boxes; 47 lever arch files; 25 ring binders; 9 filing cabinets; 7 volumes; 5 transfer boxes; 2 trays.

- Acc 2624: Physical and digital records created as part of Heart N Soul's residency at The Hub at Wellcome Collection (Oct 2018 - Jun 2021); a research project exploring ideas around human value, difference and love from the perspective of people with learning disabilities and autism. 2018-2021. 1 outsize box, 2 outsize folders and 897 digital files.

- Acc 2625: Episodes 1-4 of the Wellcome Trust's LGBTQ+ staff network's podcast series and accompanying intranet articles, 2020-2021. 8 digital files.

- Acc 2628: Women of Wellcome 'Covid life' profiles, a series of intranet articles in which women working across the Wellcome Trust share their experiences and perspectives of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021. 25 digital files.

- Acc 2635: Khairani Barokka in Conversation with Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz. Digital recording of a Wellcome Collection Live Programme event broadcast on YouTube on 17 June 2021, which discusses Barokka's Wellcome-commissioned work 'Molekuler'. 1 digital file.

- Acc 2640: Wellcome Trust Strategy SharePoint files. Digital files relating to the development and implementation of the Wellcome Trust's new organisational strategy in 2021. 1214 digital files.

- Acc 2643: Wellcome Trust organisational records, transferred from Wellcome's records management function, relating to the following areas and activities: Corporate governance; policy and strategic planning; public engagement funding; science funding; translation work; communications, publishing and branding; Wellcome's library and museum; public programming and exhibitions; Culture & Society division; history of medicine academia; and Wellcome Trust buildings and facilities. 1181 boxes, the majority of which date from 1990s-2000s.

- Acc 2645: Wellcome Trust Strategy Review and Organisation Design: Digital files relating to the development, implementation and communication of the Wellcome Trust's new strategy and the restructuring of the organisation to support the new strategy, 2021. 592 digital files.

- Acc 2650: Digital organisational records relating to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Wellcome Trust and Wellcome's internal and external activities in response to the pandemic. Comprises internal and external communications; research policy and advocacy reports; and internal policies, procedures and guidance for staff. The records capture changes to Wellcome's activities and ways of working during the pandemic, including the closure of Wellcome's buildings and the shift to remote working; provisions for staff wellbeing and safety; and Wellcome-funded Covid research, partnerships, policy and advocacy work, and communications. 2020-2022. 557 digital files.

- Acc 2655: Mark Walport speeches and presentations, c.2003-2004. 180 digital files.

- Acc 2662: Wellcome Trust Board of Governors digital meeting papers, December 2004. 27 digital files.

- Acc 2663: Wellcome Trust Genome Campus architectural slides, c.2000s. 1 file.

- Acc 2671: Wellcome Images 'D' and 'S' series cataloguing metadata, 2 volumes and 2 digital files.

- Acc 2672: Inventory and valuation of Wellcome's collections prepared by Sotheby's, August 1981. 1 folder.

- Acc 2675: Wellcome Trust and Wellcome Collection printed ephemera, 2010-2020. 1 folder.

- Acc 2682: Digital files relating to the activities and running of the Global Forum on Bioethics in Research (GFBR) whilst its Secretariat was based at the Wellcome Trust, 2014-2021. 989 digital files.

Further additions to the collection are anticipated.

Ownership note

The majority of the boxes were transferred to Wellcome Collection in 2016 (Acc 2320). Some additional grey literature, acquired through office deposits over preceeding years, was reincorporated retrospectively into the archive at the same time. Since 2018 additional material has been transferred directly to the archive via staff and departments within Wellcome and a small amount of material has been acquired from external sources. The custodial history of this material has been recorded within the catalogue, usually at series-level.

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