William Bull was born on 29 September 1863, second son of Henry Bull, solicitor and of Cecilia Ann Howard. In 1884 he joined the Birkbeck Institute (later College) as a student, editing the United Law Students Magazine in 1886. He qualified as a solicitor in 1889, then in 1892 was elected to London County Council as representative for the Borough of Hammersmith, a position which he was to hold until 1901. Bull served as a member (later, Chairman) of the Council's Bridges Committee from 1894-97, and in 1897 was responsible for arrangements at the opening of the Blackwall Tunnel.
In 1900 Bull became Member of Parliament for Hammersmith (later serving from 1918-29 as MP for Hammersmith South) and in 1903 he was appointed Political Secretary to Walter Long (Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1905). He was married in the following year, to Lilian Brandon, second daughter of Mrs Brandon of Ravenscourt Park: they had four sons.
In 1905 Bull was knighted and also became senior partner in Bull and Bull, solicitors, on the death of his elder brother, Jack. On the political side, he served as Chairman of London Unionist MPs from 1910-29, also taking on the position of Additional Assistant Commander T Division Special Constables from 1914-31. In 1915, he served as Parliamentary Secretary of the Business Committee, then from 1916-17, was a member of the Speaker's Conference on Electoral Reform, and from 1916-19, a member of the Rubber and Tin Export Committee.
Made a Privy Councillor in 1918, Bull stayed with Walter Long, working as his Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1919 when Long became First Lord of the Admiralty. In 1920 Bull was involved in negotiations with a Russian trade delegation led by Leonid Krassin.
Bull was made a baronet in 1922 and from 1923 served in many capacities, including: Chairman of the House of Commons Channel Tunnel Committee; London Tax Commissioner for Kensington; Principal of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor; Member of Council of Law Society; Justice of the Peace; Maltravers Herald Extraordinary; Member of Parliamentary Mission to India; Member of Parliamentary Committee for the Publication of Biographies of Members of Parliament from 1265 onwards; Member of Council and Trustee of Royal Humane Society; Vice-president Royal Life Saving Society; Member of Committee of Management of West London Hospital and Chairman Seaside Convalescent Hospital, Seaford, Sussex; Chairman Petitions Committee (until 1929); Honorary Colonel 20th (Hammersmith Battalion) County of London Volunteer Regiment. In 1930 he was made the First Honorary Freeman of the Metropolitan Borough of Hammersmith. He died on 23 January 1931.
The collection is made up of diaries kept faithfully by William (or Paul, as he was known to his family and close friends) Bull from 1878, when he was thirteen years old until some three weeks before his death in January 1931. The earlier diaries were illustrated and all the diaries are interleaved with letters, press cuttings, menus, theatre programmes and photographs relating to the events they describe. Twice yearly, in June and December, Bull compiled a 'Retrospect' of the past six months in which he reflected upon the development of his career in politics and in the law, on his own and his family's characters and on matters that had occurred during that period.
Bull's interests were wide and varied and all are explored in the pages of his diaries. He was deeply immersed in every aspect of the life of the Borough of Hammersmith which he served as a Councillor on the London County Council and then as a Member of Parliament for thirty-seven years. Although never holding high parliamentary office himself, as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Walter Long when the latter was Chief Secretary for Ireland and then First Lord of the Admiralty, Bull was close to the sources of power and his diaries provide shrewd comment on major issues of the day, especially Irish affairs, and a fascinating source of political gossip.
While serving on the London County Council, Bull became Chairman of the Bridges Committee and saw the building of the Blackwall Tunnel to its completion. Characteristically, he also urged the case for the building of a Channel Tunnel. A perhaps less obvious cause supported by Bull was the movement to extend voting rights for women and the diaries contain interesting letters from a number of leading suffragettes thanking Bull for his help. As a young man, Bull volunteered to teach in the Bethnal Green Ragged School and throughout his life he was involved with philanthropic enterprises. His correspondence shows this same generosity in his personal relations.
The diaries have considerable interest for the light they throw upon public events but their unique charm lies in the vivid and detailed picture they present of social life within the family and local community from the last quarter of the nineteenth century until the First World War. In his 'Retrospect' of December 1917 Bull wrote, ''I am getting oppressed with the size of this diary. Who will bother to read through it when I am gone? - & yet I cannot leave it off ...'.
Additional sections of the collection include Bull's pocket diaries kept throughout most of his business life and an early diary from his legal office, plus the diaries of Lady Bull from 1927 until well after her husband's death. The collection also contains private letters to Bull with flimsy copies of his replies. These cover the whole range of his affairs from local activities to parliamentary business though the preponderating interest is his legal practice and there are also very many letters soliciting his aid in finding jobs from which it is clear that he was generous with his time and efforts in this respect. There are also some early family letters mainly relating to business. The third component of the collection consists of notes, drafts, cuttings and anecdotes relating to Bull's long career in the House of Commons and to the working and history of Parliament, presumably collected by him with a view to writing his Parliamentary reminiscences.
The Bull Papers were deposited at Churchill Archives Centre in summer 1982 and at the end of 1984 by Bull's sons, Sir George Bull and Anthony Bull.
The collection is on long-term loan to Churchill College from the Bull family.