Sir Marc Brunel (1769-1849) and the Duke of Wellington

The Wellington Papers held by the Special Collections, Hartley Library, contain extensive correspondence with Marc Brunel, born in France in 1769 and the father of the more celebrated Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Marc was also a gifted and innovative engineer whose most famous project was the Thames Tunnel, the first successful tunnel ever to be built under a body of water, and for which achievement he was knighted by Queen Victoria. This year is the 250th anniversary of his birth.

Marc’s first major contact with the Duke of Wellington was after the financial failure of his project to construct boot-making machinery for the army, although he had previously corresponded with him on other projects including a plan for a new bridge at Rochester in 1819-20. The demand for boots collapsed after Waterloo, which resulted in Marc’s incarceration for 88 days in 1821 in a debtor’s prison, along with his wife Sophia. He felt that he had been treated very unfairly by the Government, and appealed for help to the Duke, who managed to secure a grant of £5000 to obtain his release. Wellington wrote to Charles Arbuthnot in July 1821 “..Mr Brunel has rendered most important services to the public in all departments of the state whose business is to superintend the provision of the equipments for carrying on war” [MS 61 WP1/673/3].

Marc Brunel’s many other inventions included a stocking knitting machine, improvements in printing and Liverpool’s first floating landing stage. Another major achievement was his improved block-making machinery for the Admiralty, pulley blocks being essential parts of rigging on sailing vessels, and the reason he first came to England in 1799. In September 1821 he sent drawings of two chain bridges to the Duke of Wellington with a letter explaining his reservations about the design of the first, and why he believed his own design was superior.

Drawing of two chain bridges by Marc Brunel [MS 61 WP1/679/8]

Drawing of two chain bridges by Marc Brunel, 1821 [MS61 WP1/679/8]

The Special Collections holds a number of letters, including drawings, from Marc Brunel concerning the Thames Tunnel. The Tunnel was planned to link Rotherhithe and Wapping and Marc designed an ingenious tunnelling shield to achieve this. This idea is the basis of modern tunnelling shields, including that used in the Crossrail project under London. Brunel’s original patented design was circular, but unfortunately, partly due to lack of funds, a rectangular shield was adopted for the Thames, allowing disastrous inundations.

Tunnelling shield: drawing by Marc Brunel, 1838 [MS 61 WP/2/49/34]

Tunnelling shield: drawn by Marc Brunel, 1838 [MS61 WP/2/49/34]

Letter from Brunel relating to tunnelling shield, 1838 [MS61 WP2/49/33]

Letter from Brunel relating to tunnelling shield, 1838 [MS61 WP2/49/33]

“I may, I presume, take the liberty of saying a word from our Region (1of morning). All is going on well here; but it is through an expedient applicable to the emergency. Emergencies I may say. Pelted as we have been by the River with all kind of missiles besides water, I have resorted to protection which I frequently illustrate by the Blinds of your Grace’s windows. . . . Every one of the boards may be unhinged easily without affecting the stability of the rest.”

Lithograph showing men at work in the tunnel from Marc Brunel A new plan for tunnelling

Lithograph showing men at work in the tunnel from Marc Brunel A new plan for tunnelling [Wellington Pamphlet 1094]

Work began on the tunnelling project in 1825, but suffered many setbacks and was not completed until 1843. The ground under the river did not consist of the solid clay that had been hoped for, but included water-bearing sand and gravel. This caused a number of very dangerous inundations, one of which carried away the young Isambard Kingdom Brunel who was assisting his father with the project, and causing him serious injuries. Working conditions were made even worse by the state of the river at that period, which was little more than an open sewer, causing much sickness among the workmen. Throughout the project, Marc Brunel kept the Duke of Wellington informed of its progress, as on 1 September 1837 when work had just resumed after another inundation.: “It is from the lowest regions of the Thames that I have the honor of addressing you. … [I] found the Shield undisturbed and not one brick missing to the structure”. [MS61 WP2/47/65]

Plan of the Wapping shaft: drawn by Brunel, 1842 [MS61 WP2/83/12]

Plan of the Wapping shaft: drawn by Marc Brunel, 1842 [MS61 WP2/83/12]

The last letter that we hold from Marc Brunel is dated March 1844 [MS61 WP2/118/15], when the tunnel was complete except for the carriageways to the entrances. Brunel requests a pension from the government, and outlines his long career:

“I came to this country five and forty years ago. In 1802 I erected . . . the Block Machinery at Portsmouth, which remains to this hour successfully at work . . . I was subsequently employed in erecting Saw Mills on a new principle in both Woolwich and Chatham Dock Yards. . . .Several other mechanical inventions, the Great Circular Saw, now so extensively used, the Cotton-winding machine, which led to the general use of cotton thread, are also instances if improvements of which I am the Author.”

Wellington has written a draft reply across the letter:: “[The Duke of Wellington] is the Commander in Chief of the Army … not the President of the Board of Trade. He has no control over the Public Purse.” The Duke received a great many requests of this nature, and had there are many other examples of such replies.

Reply from Wellington to Brunel, 29 March 1844 [MS61 WP2/118/15]

Draft of reply from Wellington to Marc Brunel, written across the top of the letter, 29 March 1844 [MS61 WP2/118/15]

Marc Brunel’s tunnel under the Thames is still in use today as part of London’s railway network. Trains began running here in 1869, although the tunnel was originally intended for horse-drawn traffic and pedestrians. Brunel was unable to construct the carriageways down to the tunnel as the money had run out, but pedestrians were able to access it by a spiral staircase.

Some of the Brunel items feature in the new Special Collections exhibition The Leonardo link: image-making from anatomy to code which will open on Monday 18 February.

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Archivist projects: Cataloguing the Papers of Michael Sherbourne

This week archivist Lara Nelson discusses a recent cataloguing project focusing on the papers of Michael Sherbourne, a human rights activist who played an influential role in the movement to win Jews the right to emigrate from the Soviet Union.

Michael Sherborne [MS434 A4249 7/2]

Michael Sherborne [MS434 A4249 7/2]

Born on 22 February 1917 in London, Michael Sherbourne’s family name was Sheinbaum. His father’s parents were from Poland and his mother’s Sephardi family (descendants of Spanish exiles), had lived in England since the seventeenth century. His father worked as a tailor and a taxi driver, and his mother was a housewife. In the 1930s Michael and his three brothers anglicised their surname to Sherbourne.

Michael was politically engaged from an early age. When British fascists attempted to march in one of the Jewish areas of London, a 19 year old Michael was to be seen taking part in the anti-fascistic action of the Jews, who filled the streets and blocked the march. This single event made Michael realise the importance of unity and determination in gaining victory over a powerful enemy. He took this on in his fight for the independent Jewish state and in his struggle for the liberation of Jews from Soviet captivity.

As a result of the Great Depression in 1929, unemployment was rife in Great Britain, peaking at just below 3 million by 1932. This partly led to Michael Sherbourne leaving school at sixteen, and joining the Civil Service. Interested in Zionism however, Sherbourne soon left the Civil Service and went to what was then Palestine, and joined the Zionist organisation Hechaluts, which means “the pioneer”.

Young Michael Sherbourne, 1939 [MS434 A4249 7/3]

Young Michael Sherbourne, 1939 [MS434 A4249 7/3]

Hechaluts was a group for the youth, providing news about the land of Israel (which at the time was Palestine); courses in Hebrew; Hebrew songs and dances; and pioneer training, which was named Hachshara. Sherbourne joined this training programme at the age of eighteen. The trainees practised agriculture and learned to be farmers. Sherbourne put what he learnt into practice at a training farm in Kent, where he was to meet his future wife, Muriel Cohen. After receiving their certificate for Aliyah, they left for Palestine on the first day of World War Two, 1 September 1939. They joined Kibbutz Anglo Balti for 6 months, then left for Haifa, where Michael was employed in the Royal Navy, and where their eldest daughter Norma was later born. Sherbourne’s involvement in the Eastern Mediterranean Fleet of the Royal Navy provided the opportunity for him to become fluent in French and Hebrew and to study Arabic.

Michael Sherbourne and his wife Muriel in USA, 1989 [MS434 A4249 7/2]

Michael Sherbourne and his wife Muriel in USA, 1989 [MS434 A4249 7/2]

 After World War Two ended, the Sherbourne family returned to England. Shortly after the birth of Sherbourne’s second daughter Lana, Michael was forced to return to Palestine in 1948 to join the Israeli Army during the War of Independence. Michael was a fighter in the IDF (Hativat Sheva, Mahal), and participated in the decisive battle for Latrun.

As Muriel contracted tuberculosis, the Sherbournes could not stay in Israel long-term. In London Muriel underwent treatment for this over a 2-year period. Sherbourne focussed on training to become a teacher, taking a 13 month course at a teacher’s training college in London. At the College were 30 Jews, of which 28 were members of the Communist Party, causing Sherbourne to always be in disagreement with them. As a result of a challenge to learn Russian Sherbourne learnt took up evening classes, and went on to study a degree in Russian. Some say that Sherbourne also learnt Russian to learn the language of the enemy. After achieving his degree, Sherbourne switched from teaching metalwork and machine-tool mechanics to teaching foreign languages, and became Head of the Department of Modern Foreign Languages at a large secondary comprehensive school in North London, until he retired in 1979.

MS 434 A4249_4_12_2 Section of Soviet Socialists Map

Section of Soviet Socialists map, c.1960s [MS434 A4249 4/12/2]

Even after taking a school party to the Soviet Union, and speaking to Jews at the Synagogue in Leningrad, Sherbourne did not learn about the Jewish problem in Russia until he attended a meeting in London where Jewish women from Leningrad spoke of their experiences. Following this meeting, the Association of Jewish Ex-service Men and Women organised a committee to help Soviet Jews, to which Michael and his wife Muriel asked to join. After telling the Committee that he could speak Russian, the first job delegated to him was to ring some of the Jews that had suffered in Russia. As Sherbourne made the phone calls, he received more and more numbers to call, particularly from a lady called Eder Nudel. Nudel made it her business to find Jewish prisoners who were given the misleading title of prisoners of Zion. Over a period of fifteen years, Sherbourne made up to six thousand telephone calls. Sherbourne would use the phone calls to find out when the person had applied for permission to immigrate, when they were refused, what difficulties they had faced from the police, and what their current situation was. Sherbourne would then communicate this information to the Israeli Embassy in London, and the activist group, the 35’s Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry. Over time, Sherbourne succeeded in forming a solid chain of communication between what he termed the “Refuseniks” and Jewish organisations wishing to help them emigrate from Russia.

Michael Sherbourne on the telephone with his recording equipment, c.1980s-1990s [MS434 A4249 7/4]

Michael Sherbourne on the telephone with his recording equipment, c.1980s-1990s [MS434 A4249 7/4]

After meeting members of the 35s Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry at a conference held by the Chief Rabbi in Britain, Sherbourne began to work closely with the organisation. Peaceful protests were made outside theatres where Soviet artists performed, publicising the names of refuseniks and calling on the Soviet Union to release the Jews. Jeans were also sent to refuseniks to help them to earn money.

Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry calendar, 1989 [MS 434 A4249 5/6]

Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry calendar, 1989 [MS434 A4249 5/6]

Retiring from the synagogue and teaching in the late seventies left time for Sherbourne to write articles and give public talks on Soviet Jewry. Topics of these talks included “Russian Jewry: Triumph or Tragedy?”, “A Brief Account of Russian Anti-Semitism and the 35s Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry”, and “Jews in the U.S.S.R. – Cultural Genocide”. Sherbourne also attended talks relating to these topics, such as “Final Reckoning: Was the Soviet Union really ‘bad for the Jews’?” given by John Klier at the sixth annual Maccabean Lecture at King’s College London. Known as a strong personality in the campaign for Soviet Jewry, Sherborne received many enquiries, such as authors requesting his thoughts on their books and articles on the subject. An example includes Martin Gilbert on his publication Shcharansky Hero of Our Time.

Poster for talk given by Michael Sherbourne on ‘Russian Jewry Past, Present, and Future’, 2004 [MS 434 A 4249 1/3 Folder 8]

Poster for talk given by Michael Sherbourne on “Russian Jewry Past, Present, and Future”, 2004 [MS434 A4249 1/3 Folder 8]

Putting his skill of being able to read and write in Russian to good use, Sherbourne also spent his time in the 1990s translating documents from Russian and Hebrew into English. Documents included publications, poems, and even family history and legal documents.

Front cover of We are from Russia by Paulina Kleiner translated from Russian by Michael Sherbourne , MS434 A 4249 2/1/1 Folder 1]

Front cover of We are from Russia by Paulina Kleiner translated from Russian by Michael Sherbourne, [MS434 A4249 2/1/1 Folder 1]

In 1971 Sherbourne invented the term “Refusenik”, when the Jewish movement in the USSR started to expand and the number of Refuseniks increased dramatically. Sherbourne went so far as to write to dictionary publishers and writers of newspaper articles when he thought that they had defined the word incorrectly, or had used the term incorrectly. Criticism included specifying that the term Refusenik refers only to a Jew, and that the term is not Yinglish, as it is a direct translation of the Russian word “Otkaznik”. He has also corrected publishers when he believed that definitions provided for “Red Sea” had been incorrect.

Some records within the Sherbourne collection relate to Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry. These include correspondence discussing the history of the organisation, newsletters and bulletins, and circulars and calendars. We also hold the collection MS 254 Papers of the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry.

The Sherbourne collection provides a rich resource of material for the study of the campaign against the Soviet Jewry. Not only is there material which shows the point of view of parties outside Russia, there are also copies of the Russian magazine Kohtekct that contains articles relating to Soviet Jewry. Extensive material also relates to the conflict in the Middle East, as well as on anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and the Kristallnacht.

Thanks to the efforts of individuals like Michael Sherbourne, and organisations like the Women’s Campaign for the Soviet Jewry, Jewish communities in Russia have formed that have direct contact with many synagogues in Great Britain, who regularly meet.

“But there, in – inside the former Soviet Union, the children are teaching their parents to understand Judaism. It’s—it’s an amazing thing, how it’s risen, like Phoenix from the ashes. It’s amazing.” (Interview with Michael Sherborne, p.23, 6 September 2003 [MS434 A4249 1/1]

Michael Sherbourne on protest march in San Francisco near the Soviet Consulate, [MS434 A4249 7/2]

Michael Sherbourne on protest march in San Francisco near the Soviet Consulate, [MS434 A4249 7/2]

 

 

Highfield Campus 100: 1919

Welcome to the first in the series of Special Collections blogs that chart the development of university life at the Highfield campus from 1919 onwards.

University College at Highfield, from the south wing, c.1919 [MS1 Phot/39/ph3100]

University College at Highfield, from the south wing, c.1919 [MS1/Phot/39 ph3100]

The development at Highfield was part of an ambitious expansion plan by the University College of Southampton to create new and enhanced facilities to attract more students and to compete with other educational institutions.

The first part of this plan was the acquisition of the lease of Highfield Hall by the College’s Principal Dr Alexander Hill. This was opened in early 1914, partly as a home for Dr Hill and his family, and partly as a hall of residence for a number of staff and students.

Highfield Hall showing winter garden, c.1914 [MS 1/Phot/39 ph 3128a]

Highfield Hall showing winter garden, c.1914 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3128a]

The progress and plans for the buildings at the Highfield site were to be subject to various modifications as compromises had to be made to keep the project within budget.

Details of plans from 1912

Detail from proposed plans, 1912

Firstly, due to increasing building costs, the construction of the proposed administration building was postponed. It then became clear that only two wings of the Arts building, without its centre, could be constructed with the money available. This “Arts block” consisted of 28 large and various small lecture rooms as well as private rooms for professors and laboratories for biology, chemistry, physics and engineering connected to the Arts block and each other by covered ways.

South wing and front of building under construction, c.1913 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3089]

South wing and front of building under construction, c.1913 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3089]

Front of building under construction, c.1913 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3095]

Part of front of building under construction, c.1913 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3095]

Despite the compromises that had to be made with the construction, a sense of optimism prevailed and in a letter to the Court of Governors in early 1914 the President of University College, Claude Montefiore, wrote: “There is a need for a strong university college in the southern counties, which shall ultimately develop into a local university…. A natural seat of such a university or university college is Southampton.”

The first instalment of buildings was officially opened by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Haldane, on 20 June 1914.

The architect presenting the keys to Lord Haldane at the official opening of the Highfield buildings, 1914 [MS1/2/5/17]

The architect presenting the keys to Lord Haldane at the official opening of the Highfield buildings, 1914 [MS1/2/5/17]

Eight days later Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo and war was declared on 4 August. The College made the decision not to move its operations from the High Street and a special meeting of the Council on 7 September was called to consider offering the War Office the new buildings at Highfield as a temporary hospital.

University War Hospital, 1915 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3106]

University War Hospital, 1915 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3106]

The Highfield buildings continued to be used as a war hospital into 1919. The War Office gave up the tenancy in May, although discussions had begun early in that year for the return of the buildings to the University College. The College took the view that as the buildings had been new when they were taken over by the War Office, there would be damage that could not be made good. Instead, as noted in the Council minutes of 24 February 1919, it would prefer “that they should remain as ‘honourable scars’ testifying to the service which the College was able to render to the state during its time of trial”.

Notice of thanks from the Army Council to University College for the use of the Highfield buildings as a military hospital 1914-May 1919 [MS 1/2/5/20]

Notice of thanks from the Army Council to University College for the use of the Highfield buildings as a military hospital 1914-May 1919 [MS1/2/5/20]

On assessing the extent of the damage, however, the Principal Dr Hill reported to the Council on 23 June that “the architect … was astonished at the amount. … The fitting up and furnishing of the new buildings would be extremely costly, even though the utmost use should be made of all materials which could be removed from the old buildings. The absolutely indispensable equipment would cost several thousands of pounds”. Renewed negotiations with the War Office led to the agreement for “all the huts, fittings, furniture and other equipment provided for the war hospital” to be retained by the College to enable it to accommodate the influx of students and wounded military personnel wishing to return to study.

University College buildings, showing huts, 1925 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3076]

University College buildings showing huts retained from War Hospital, 1925 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3076]

When the move was finally made from the “Old Hartley” to Highfield campus for the start of the academic year 1919 “upward of 300 full time day students had been admitted and more were coming in every day….” marking a new beginning for both the University and for college community life.

What awaited the new students who joined the College in the autumn of 1919?

In terms of the facilities, the new buildings at Highfield were praised as an improvement on those at the city centre, although accommodation was restricted. Lecture rooms could be small and some facilities had to serve multiple purposes.

Department of Modern Languages [MS1/2/5/17/49]

Department of Modern Languages [MS1/2/5/17/49]

Omnibus room which served as a staff common room, committee room and overflow library [MS1/2/5/17/90]

Omnibus room which served as a staff common room, committee room and overflow library [MS1/2/5/17/90]

Whilst the wooden huts left by the military provided much needed additional accommodation, they still had in some cases traces of their hospital origins. The staff refectory bore the inscription “dysentery” on its door for some time. And although they provided more spacious accommodation than the rooms in the main buildings, the huts were fairly spartan environments.

Hut used as a chemistry laboratory [MS1/2/5/17/30]

Hut used as a chemistry laboratory [MS1/2/5/17/30]

There was also no room specifically designed as a library since this has been part of the central block which had not been constructed. Stock had to be distributed across the College in the various departments.

Department of Chemistry Library [MS1/2/5/17/209]

Department of Chemistry Library [MS1/2/5/17/209]

Maintenance grants were available to support students wishing to study at the College. The rates set by the College’s grants committee in 1919 ranged from £90 pa for single men who were residing with their parents and did not contribute to household costs, to £150 pa for single men and £200 pa for married men who resided independently. No mention is made of grants for women students.

Seniors, 1919, with Dr Hill in the centre [MS1/7/291/22/1 p. 43]

Seniors, 1919, with Dr Hill in the centre [MS1/7/291/22/1 p. 43]

Whilst student numbers had been maintained during the war years by an increase in women students, there was an influx of male students returning to study in 1919. Men and women staff and students might teach and study together, but otherwise existed quite separately. There were designated common rooms for female staff and students, away from those for the male staff and students, and halls of residence were equally separate.

Women staff common room [MS1/2/5/17/92]

Women staff common room [MS1/2/5/17/92]

In keeping with a new beginning at a new location, new staff joined the University for the 1919 academic year although the overall staff complement remained quite modest: G.F.Forsey was appointed lecturer in Classics, finally marking a separation of this subject from English; E.E.Mann became a lecturer in civil and mechanical engineering; A.E.Clarence Smith was appointed a lecturer in physical chemistry; W.H.Barker became lecturer in geography; and the first lecturer in Economics joined the staff. By 1919 the starting salary for the lecturers was £350 pa, whilst that of a professor was £500. This was apparently quite low in comparison with other higher education institutions of the time.

Fancy dress event, 1919 [MS1/7/291/22/1 p.45]

Fancy dress event, 1919 [MS1/7/291/22/1 p.45]

Student activities and student societies had continued throughout the war period, although on a more modest scale. The academic year of 1919 was as much one of transition and adjustment for student social and sporting activities as for academic matters. The student magazine returned to a termly publication rather than the annual one it had been during the war and student societies began developing their future plans. Yet while student events were organised, the lack of space at Highfield campus meant that certain groups such as the Physical Culture Society and the Scientific Society were unable to initiate meetings again at the start of the 1919/20 academic year. Moreover the annual soirée for new students was held at the old Hartley Institution building as there was no room large enough at Highfield.

As we move into the 1920s, the University College entered a new phase: to find out more about this look out for the next blog in February.

Stocking the Shelves of Special Collections

The increasing interest in books as cultural artefacts means that some which have previously been thought of little consequence now find themselves on the shelves in Special Collections. Unlike traditional ‘rare books’ often characterised by their pristine condition, some of these books will have led harder lives and as a result have stories to tell about their manufacture and use.

One criteria for transfer is survival. Older books provide not only physical evidence of developments in book production but also show contemporary cultural and artistic influences. At Southampton books printed before 1850, the products of the hand press era, are routinely transferred to Special Collections. Elsewhere this date has advanced to 1860 and even 1900 in order to preserve examples of late 19th-century developments in printing. The output of small presses, examples of extremely large or extremely small books and those with distinctive bindings and illustrations are also important in showing aspects of book history. Through their post-production life – the bookplates and annotations – books also reveal evidence of their past ownership and use, an expanding area of research and study. Some examples of books added to the printed special collections help to show the changing nature of rare books.

China: Political, Commercial and Social in an Official Report to Her Majesty’s Government by R. Montgomery Martin (London, 1847) is a book which not only fulfils the criteria of having been printed before 1850, but in retaining both its bookseller’s label and its Southampton Reading Society circulation label provides evidence of its past use. With none of today’s concern for privacy, the names of all those who borrowed the book are listed, displaying the reading tastes of the members of the Society. A step up from the circulating library, the Southampton Reading Society, ran from the early years of the 19th century to 1863, when it donated its stock to the Hartley Institution, the forerunner of the University.

R. Montgomery Martin China: Political, Commercial, Social (London, 1847) Rare Books DS 735

Illustrations of the Textile Manufactures of India (London, 1881) was also part of the Hartley Institution’s Library and retains a label recording it as being on a deposit loan from South Kensington Museum since December 1881. The book contains beautiful illustrations of Indian textiles, such as designs for turbans, clothes, scarves and mats, based on the items bought for the Victoria and Albert Museum by Caspar Purdon Clarke. Commissioned to find examples of objects in everyday use, Clarke returned with over a thousand items, which were intended to provide models of good design for both manufacturers and students.

Illustrations of the Textile Manufactures of India (London, 1881) Rare Books folio NK 8876

Another book which has made its way to Special Collections is notable for its distinctive cloth binding which is still in good condition – suggesting it was never part of the general Library stock. This is an edition of Jules Verne’s Cinq semaines en ballon which was published in the later years of the 19th century by the Hetzel firm of Paris.

Jules Verne Cinq semaines en ballon; Voyage au centre de la terre (Paris, 18–) Rare Books PQ 2469.C5

Finally, an example of a small press publication of the early 20th century. The edition of Richard Jobson’s The Golden Trade (Teignmouth, 1904) was intended as the first in the Saracen’s Head’s Mary Kingsley Travel Books series but appears to have been both the first and last book they issued. Printed on handmade paper and with a woodcut title page, it was published in a limited edition. Its bookplate reveals the broader book-collecting interests of Claude Montefiore, President of University College, Southampton, 1913-1934, whose Library, principally on the subjects of theology and philosophy, was donated to the College after his death in 1938.

Richard Jobson The Golden Trade (Teignmouth, 1904) Rare Books DT 376

Richard Jobson The Golden Trade (Teignmouth, 1904) Rare Books DT 376

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although none of these books is of great financial value – the forgotten or previously unidentified treasure which features in news stories rarely makes an appearance – in telling something of the history of books and their use, they all have a place in Special Collections.

2018 – Year in Review

As we move in to 2019 and new endeavours, we take a moment to reflect on some of the Special Collection activities of the previous year.

Exhibitions and events

2018 saw a programme of very different exhibitions hosted by Special Collections. The first exhibition of the year in the Special Collections Gallery and Level 4 Gallery was Print and Process, 1 March to 8 June. The exhibition, which revealed and identified a broad range of print processes, included prints from the Library’s Special Collections, from the University Art Collection and from Fine Art students at the Winchester School of Art.

Print in Process exhibition

Print and Process exhibition

In late June, we held a conference on Basque child refugees together with the Basque Children 37 Association and the University’s School of Modern Languages. In conjunction with this Special Collections played host to the exhibition In Search of the Basque children: From Bilbao to Southampton by the Salford based artist Claire Hignett. Inspired by the archives of the Basque child refugees, Claire Hignett’s exhibition used the properties of domestic textiles to explore memory and the items we keep as souvenirs of our lives.

Floor game from Claire Hignett exhibition

Floor game exhibit from the Claire Hignett exhibition

The autumn exhibitions under the title The Great War Remembered formed part of the University’s Great War, Unknown War programme marking the centenary of the end of the First World War. My War, My Story in the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery drew on the Special Collections to present a range of stories from the First World War, including of the University War Hospital at the Highfield campus. We were delighted to have on loan as part of this exhibition the oil painting The Shadow of Cross of War, A Night Scene in University War Hospital, 1918 by William Lionel Wyllie. On show in the Level 4 Gallery were John Garfield: Armistice 1918 – The Cost a photographic journey through cemeteries and memorials of the Great War, and My Ancestor, Their Story which drew on family material from members of staff and students at the University.

Soldier of the Great War

In addition to the research sessions and visits for our own students – such as that mentioned in a blog by Dr Jonathan Conlin – we have an on-going series of events and visits for external visitors. These have included themed drop-in sessions on local history and nineteenth-century society and sessions showcasing British culture for Chinese teachers in June. Special Collections took part in Hands-on Humanities for the second year in a row in November 2018, running interactive events relating to handwriting and printing and creating a digital mosaic image from the items created on the day.

Writing and printing activities at Hands-on Humanities Day

Writing and printing activities at Hands-on Humanities Day

We hosted a visit by the Hampshire Archives Trust, including a talk about the history of the University War Hospital and a private view to The Great War Remembered exhibitions, on Saturday 1 December. Special Collections also ran workshops on promoting collections as part of the Southern University Libraries Network training day on Tuesday 11 December.

Social media

As well as the on-going programme for the Special Collections blog, highlights of which are mentioned below, autumn saw the move from using Facebook to the new Twitter account@hartleyspecialc Features on Twitter so far have included tweets about unusual items in the collections and a glimpse behind the scenes for the national Explore Your Archive campaign and extracts of a student account of armistice 1918.

Sample of knitted spaghetti, one of the unusual items featured on Twitter for Explore Your Archive

Sample of knitted spaghetti, one of the unusual items featured on Twitter for Explore Your Archive

The past year marked a range of anniversaries tied to the collections and blog features have included: the 35th anniversary of the arrival of the Wellington Archive at Southampton on St Patrick’s day 1983; the coronation of Queen Victoria in June 1838; the anniversary of the birth of Isaac Watts, father of English hymnology and son of Southampton; and the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the NHS. Some of the commemorative days featured have been International Women’s Day; Knit in Public Day; National Sporting Heritage Day; Dear Diary Day; Read a Book Day focusing on the dangerous art of reading for women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and British Polo Day.

During May we ran a series of blogs on resources relating to Ireland in Special Collections, such as the poem Farewell to Killarney. Heywood Sumner; the celebrated Hampshire naturalist Dr Canning Suffern; William Mogg, a Southampton-born sailor who was involved in Arctic exploration in the 1820s; Richard St Barbe Baker; Charlie Chaplin and, to mark the start of the World Cup, Lord Mountbatten and his association with football organisations, were some of the individuals to be the subject of blogs. The art of watercolours, cooking for court and countryside, China in the 1880s and botanical treasures of Stratfield Saye are some of the other subjects that have featured. University related blogs focused on the student societies – the Boat Club and the Scout and Guide Club – the University as a War Hospital and what the library accession registers showed about cooperation during the Second World War.

New collections

There was an increased volume of new archive material acquired by the Special Collections during the year. Of particular significance was the Honor Frost Archive, which provides a fascinating insight into the work of a pioneering figure in the field of maritime archaeology. We also were fortunate to acquire a small collection of material relating to Sir Denis Pack, one of the Duke of Wellington’s generals in the Peninsular war, and additional collections of papers of Basque child refugees.

Another significant new collection that arrived during 2018 was the Rollo Woods music collection. Rollo Woods (1925-2018) was a former Deputy Librarian at the University of Southampton, but also a leading expert on folk music who wrote several books on the subject. He was a founder member of the Madding Crowd, the Purbeck Village Quire and the West Gallery Music Association. In 2015 Rollo was awarded the gold badge of the English Folk Dance and Song Society for a lifetime of work promoting the folk arts. His collection includes manuscripts of music that he acquired and his working papers relating to his research on West Gallery Music.

Pages from a Dorset carol book, 1803: part of the Rollo Woods music collection [MS 442/1/2]

Pages from a Dorset carol book, 1803: part of the Rollo Woods music collection [MS442/1/2]

The most recent acquisition has been the papers of Gertrude Long. This collection contains a wealth of hitherto unseen images of the University War Hospital, complementing the papers of Fanny Street, another VAD who worked at the Hospital, and whose papers are another recent arrival.

Fanny Street (centre) with her fellow VADs Jennie Ford and Ethel Taylor

Fanny Street (centre) with her fellow VADs [MS416/13/4]

Looking ahead to 2019

With the imminent arrival of further acquisitions, new cataloguing projects, a programme of exhibitions – opening with The Leonardo Link: Image-Making from Anatomy to Code on 18 February 2019 – the Wellington Congress 2019 on 12-13 April and Jewish Archives Month in June, it is already looking to be an active year. 2019 is also the centenary year of the move of the University to the Highfield campus and Special Collections will be contributing to celebrations for this. Look out for the first Highfield Campus 100 blog at the end of the month.

The Gertrude Long collection

The Special Collections is delighted to have acquired a new collection of material that sheds further light on the University as a war hospital. This follows the recent exhibition My War, My Story in the Special Collections Gallery in late 2018, that included a notebook of Gertrude Long from her time as a laboratory assistant at the Hospital.

Gertrude Long (2nd from right at back) and colleagues

Gertrude Long (2nd from right at back) and colleagues [MS101/8 A4303/1/2/2]

Gertrude Long, along with her sister, were members of the Volunteer Aid Detachments (or VADs) who provided various auxiliary as well as nursing support at the University War Hospital. Born in Campton Pauncefoot, Somerset, in 1892, Gertrude Long worked in the capacity of chief laboratory assistant at the Hospital from June 1916 until March 1919. She was to continue working in laboratories for the remainder of her career. Captain William Fletcher, RAMC, the pathologist, who is featured in the photograph above, highly rated her organisational ability and credited her with ensuring that the work at Southampton ran more smoothly than in any other laboratory in which he had worked.

Certificate granted to Gertrude Long in recognition of her services during the war [MS101/8 A4303/2/7]

Certificate granted to Gertrude Long in recognition of her services during the war [MS101/8 A4303/2/7]

The new collection, which contains numerous photographs of the staff and patients, provides a valuable new resource that documents the work at the University War Hospital during the First World War.

Work at Hospital Laboratory [MS101/8 A4303/1/3/2]

Work at Hospital Laboratory [MS101/8 A4303/1/3/2]

The University War Hospital was only a ten-minute run from the docks and designated VAD staff met each ship and were responsible for the process of disembarkation and transportation of the wounded to the hospitals in Southampton. A number of women VADs were part of the team who drove ambulances transporting the patients to the War Hospital.

VAD driver with one of the Red Cross ambulances used to transport patients [MS101/8 A4303/1/29]

VAD driver with one of the Red Cross ambulances [MS101/8 A4303/1/29]

Professional nurses employed by the Hospital were assisted by VAD nurses who did much of the less technical tasks in caring for the patients. The work was extremely hard and nursing staff generally worked shifts of up to 12 hours. The Hospital facilities could be cramped and rather spartan.

Wounded being treated at the University War Hospital [MS101/8 A4303/1/35]

Wounded being treated at the University War Hospital [MS101/8 A4303/1/35]

With the original buildings for the University College soon unable to house the quantity of wounded that were being sent for treatment, a number of wooden huts were built to the rear of the main buildings to act as wards.

Sister Paling and patients from hut 13 [MS101/8 A4303/1/28]

Sister Paling and patients from Hut 13 [MS101/8 A4303/1/28]

The wounded treated at the Hospital came from units drawn from across the UK and from overseas. The photograph below is signed from the “New Zealand rowdies, Hut 1”.

New Zealand soldiers treated at the University War Hospital [MS101/8 A4303/1/54]

New Zealand soldiers treated at the University War Hospital [MS101/8 A4303/1/54]

The cessation of hostilities in November 1918 did not mean that the Highfield site immediately stopped functioning as a hospital. The buildings were not formally handed back to the University until well into 1919, making 2019 the centenary of the move of the University to the Highfield campus. Special Collections will be posting monthly blogs documenting the development of University life at Highfield from 1919 onwards. Look out for the first of these later this month.

“Encourage the reading, help the readers, and to promote the cause, of Jewish books”: The Jewish Book Council

To mark 41 years since the formation of the Jewish Book Council, we take a look at the sources we hold relating to the organisation in MS385.

Jewish Book Week event, 1952 [MS385 A4040 4/1]

Jewish Book Week event, 1952 [MS385 A4040/4/1]

Similar to The National Book Council in promoting the cause of books, the Jewish Book Council was formed with the intention to “encourage the reading, help the readers, and to promote the cause, of Jewish books.” The organisation wished to act as the common connection for all Jewish education, voluntary workers for Israel and Jewries of Europe, and Jewish youth clubs and societies.

The Council started in 1947 as a small group of people led by Dr George Webber, who was a Hebraist and lifelong book fanatic. At the time, there were few Jewish educational activities, and so Webber had the idea of forming an annual festival of lectures accompanied by a book display, which would be called Jewish Book Week. From its beginnings, Jewish Book Week was a community event, and held annually at Woburn House in central London. Various organisations were associated with it, such as the B’nai B’rith and the World Jewish Congress, which also arranged evening lectures as part of the event.

As a public event Jewish Book Week attracts members from across the whole Jewish community.

Aiming to “help and advise the Jewish reader”, the activities of the Council in its early days included composing lists of books (mainly by Anglo-Jewish authors), which they believed should be available for reference or loan in every synagogue, Jewish Society or Club. Other activities of the Council included publishing supplementary lists, helping to arrange exhibitions of Jewish books, and discussing with Public Libraries extension of their collection of Jewish books.

Jewish Book Council introductory leaflet [MS 385 A4040 1/2]

Jewish Book Council introductory leaflet, undated [MS385 A4040/1/2]

The main activity of the Jewish Book Council is organising Jewish Book Week, now an annual event in the Anglo-Jewish calendar. During the early years of the Council, this event involved a short series of evening talks on literary topics, and small amounts of books displayed and sold. Over time, Jewish Book Week has advanced and expanded, with more emphasis placed on the exhibition and sale of books, resulting in lectures and books having equal value in the annual event. A myriad of literary works are now displayed each year, with books from as far as America and Israel, as well as the United Kingdom.

Jewish Book Week leaflet, 1975 [MS 385 A4040 3/2]

Jewish Book Week leaflet, 1975 [MS385 A4040/3/2]

The lectures held as part of the Jewish Book Week have expanded over the years, with programmes arranged for the morning and afternoon, and for target audiences, such as children, women, senior citizens, and Ecumenists. Some of the outstanding lectures conducted at Book Week have included Professor Jonathan Frankel of the Hebrew University speaking about the Jews of Russia in 1981, and an event marking fifty years after the Anschluss in 1988, which included a performance of a string quartet by Joseph Horowitz, specially composed to mark the event, and talks by George Clare and Richard Grunberger.

Jewish Book Council summer lunchtime lecture series advertisement, 1987

Jewish Book Council summer lunchtime lecture series advertisement, 1987 [MS385 A4040/2/3]

The exhibitions at Jewish Book Week have also developed over time with a trade day provided for publishers, booksellers, and librarians. Jewish Book Week has become such a big event in the Jewish community, that Jewish publishers time the release of books of Jewish interest to fall on the dates of the event.

Jewish Book Week exhibition leaflet, 1971 [MS385 A4040 3/1]

Jewish Book Week exhibition leaflet, 1971 [MS385 A4040/3/1]

Over the years, the Jewish Book Council has built up its activities to cater for children, forming a school programme. Every Jewish primary school in the London areas has been invited to send its top class to Jewish Book Week. In doing this the Council have recognised the long-term need of helping schools arranged their own book events so that all children can participate. To encourage further involvement, the Council also organise a nationwide poetry competition, under the patronage of the Chief Rabbi.

An entry for the Jewish Book Council poetry competition c.1993 [MS385 A4040 3/20/2]

Part of an entry for the Jewish Book Council poetry competition c.1993 [MS385 A4040 3/20/2]

The Jewish Book Council used to receive most of its funding and all of its administrative assistance from the Jewish Memorial Council (JMC). Other organisations that provided small contributions included the Association of Jewish Refugees, Federation of Women Zionists, and the World Jewish Congress.

In 1979, the Council experienced financial difficulties and was almost forced to close down. Determined to keep the Council going, chairman of the Council at the time, Joe Lehter, helped make the executive decision for the organisation to operate on a voluntary and independent basis. Following this change, many people have served on the executive committee and have worked tirelessly to keep the event going and make it prosper. In recent years the Council has come to a sponsorship arrangement with the Jewish Chronicle.

Jewish Book Week leaflet reflecting sponsorship by Jewish Chronicle, 1994 [MS385 4040 4/2]

Jewish Book Week leaflet reflecting sponsorship by Jewish Chronicle, 1994 [MS385 A4040/4/2]

Jewish Book Week has expanded over the years outside its traditional venue in central London – many small communities in London have been encouraged to run their own book fairs based on the Jewish Book Week format and there have been events in Cambridge, Manchester, and Glasgow.

Jewish Book Council Newsletter  [MS385 A4040 2/2]

Jewish Book Council Newsletter, 1986 [MS385 A4040/2/2]

Today Jewish Book Week takes place at the Royal National Hotel in Bedford Way, a much larger venue than their previous venue Woburn House. The event is the second oldest literary festival in the UK, and administers the Risa Domb-Porjes Prize for Hebrew-English translation.

The Jewish Book Council collection that we hold mainly contains material relating to Jewish Book week, 1952-2004, together with papers relating to the formation of the trust and charitable status, council minutes, 1974-87, correspondence, reports and accounts.

Here is a quote from a letter written from Motzoei Shabbat Vayikra to Dr Geo J. Webber, founder of the Jewish Book Council, 15 March 1975 [MS 385 A4040 2/1] :

“A magnificent book week. Lectures good, attendances excellent and to me, more important than all else sales of £1, 220 worth of books which means that more people will have more books to take home and who knows – read. In addition I have been invited to set up book-selling units in the J.F.S. and at Carmel College. Also perhaps bookstalls at Jewish Youth Clubs… In all events at no time between 9.50 am and 10.30pm was there less than six or seven people looking at the books… Some people returned three and four times.”

You can find out more about how Jewish Book Week takes place today at the following webpages:

http://www.jewishbookweek.com/

https://vimeo.com/jewishbookweek

Jewish Book Week Logo

Jewish Book Week Logo

 

Letting the violin sing: the acoustics of auditoriums

Possibly one of the best known and most widely distributed musical instruments, the violin is honoured on National Violin Day held on 13 December each year. Recognised early for its singing tone, it developed in the Renaissance from earlier bowed instruments, including the medieval fiddle, the lira da braccio and the rebec.

Students at a study day at the Turner Sims Concert Hall, 1994

Students at a study day at the Turner Sims Concert Hall, 1994 [MS1/Phot/19/299]

Creating the perfect acoustics for concert halls or auditoriums, that allow the violin to sing, depends on factors such as reverberation or the avoidance of echo. The stimulus of reverberation had been recognised as far back as ancient Rome, with Horace writing of poets who recited their poems at the Roman baths: “How sweetly the enclosed space responds to the voice”. It was the American physicist Wallace Clement Sabine (1868-1919) who developed Sabine’s law, which stated that the product of the reverberation time multiplied by the total absorptivity of the room is proportional to the volume of the room. He thus created a formula that architects and engineers could use when designing a concert hall to achieve the best reverberation time for their particular venue.

Construction of Turner Sims Concert Hall [MS373 A3048/3[

Construction of Turner Sims Concert Hall [MS373 A3048/4/1]

The Turner Sims Concert Hall at the University is much valued for recording due to its fine acoustics. In 1967, Miss Margaret Grassam Sims had left the University a bequest which enabled the building of a concert hall to be named Turner Sims in honour of her father. The Concert Hall that opened in 1974, after many revisions to the project, was, according to Professor Peter Evans of Music, “a most effective and attractive auditorium for music”. The acoustics of this hall were the work of the Institute of Sound and Vibration at the University with Professor Philip Ellis Doak acting as a consultant.

The Special Collections holds a small collection of material for Professor Doak (MS373) that relates to his work as consultant on the Turner Sims Concert Hall, including questionnaires relating to tests for the reverberation times of the hall.

Questionnaire from reverberation test on Turner Sims Concert Hall [MS373 A3048/3]

Questionnaire from reverberation test at Turner Sims Concert Hall, c.1974 [MS373 A3048/3]

The Special Collections holds further archive collections relating to acoustics: (MS337) Dr Raymond Stephens and British Acoustical Society; (MS339) Peter Parkin who had a long career in an advisory role at the British Research Establishment; (MS340) the architectural theorist and acoustician (Philip) Hope Edward Bagenal (1888–1979), amongst whose important acoustic projects was the Royal Festival Hall, London; (MS341) Hugh Creighton, who acted as consultant on a range of acoustic projects in the UK, including for the Barbican Centre, London; and (MS342) Keith Rose, who was a consultant for the BBC.

So the next time that you attend a concert or a lecture in an auditorium, spare a thought to those hardworking individuals who have contributed to the perfection of the acoustics.

British Polo Day: Lord Mountbatten and Polo

To mark British Polo Day on the 9th December, which takes place at Jaipur in Northern India, we take a look at our sources relating to polo in the Mountbatten Papers.

“I’ve gone completely dippy about polo, which in my opinion is the best game in the world” [Mountbatten to Prince Albert, 25 January 1922]

Lord Louis Mountbatten on a polo pony, New Barnet, 1923 [MB1/L2/92]

Lord Louis Mountbatten on a polo pony, New Barnet, 1923 [MB1/L2/92]

Polo is a horseback mounted sport, and was invented in northeastern India. The sport was promoted by officers of the British military in the mid-19th century, and is now internationally popular.

The sport is played by two opposing teams with the aim of scoring goals by hitting a small hard ball with a long-handled wooden mallet through the opposing team’s goal. Each team consists of four riders, and the game usually lasts for 2 hours, divided into periods called chukkas.

Lord Louis Mountbatten and the rest of the Warspite polo team, Mandelieu Polo Club, c. January 1927 [MB2/L4/210]

Lord Louis Mountbatten and the rest of the Warspite polo team, Mandelieu Polo Club, c. January 1927 [MB2/L4/210]

In 1921, Mountbatten played his first game in Jodhpur, India. He learnt that it would take practice to become good at polo, which included being a good equestrian. In 1923, he took a month’s course in military equitation with the Life Guards. This, along with coaching by specialists, and a scientific study of his weaknesses, helped him become an exceptional player. As a captain, he helped teams reach achievements that they had not previously, such as the Bluejackets nearly winning the Inter-Regiment trophy twice. The success was a result of detailed discussion and practice. One rule Mountbatten implemented was the team calling each other by their Christian names, which gave the players the opportunity to interpret what the caller was thinking, and to respond appropriately.

“He was the perfect captain, both on and off the field… On the field he never got rattled or bad-tempered. And no matter how silly one was he was always forgiving and encouraging.” [‘Mountbatten and Polo’ by Sir Robert Neville, pp.23-4, MB1/L291]

Lord Louis Mountbatten kissing Queen Mary's hand at the prize-giving ceremony after the Duke of York's Cup polo match, Ranelagh, 1 July 1931 [MB2/L4/211

Lord Louis Mountbatten kissing Queen Mary’s hand at the prize-giving ceremony after the Duke of York’s Cup polo match, Ranelagh, 1 July 1931 [MB2/L4/211]

Mountbatten was not only interested in playing polo, but also improving and refining the sport, going so far as to construct and patent an oval-shaped head to the polo stick which provided “loft and length and a strong head.” [‘Mountbatten and Polo’ by Sir Robert Neville, p.14, MB1/L291] The head was named the R.N.P.A. head, which stands for Royal Naval Polo Association. Mountbatten gave the patent rights to the RNPA, which resulted in them receiving large quantities of royalties for many years.

Frustrated with the existing books on polo not meeting the requirements of a complete beginner, Mountbatten decided to write his own, with the assistance of Peter Murphy. An Introduction to Polo by ‘Marco’ was translated into Spanish and French, and became the bible for all polo-players. Referring to what he learnt when he first started playing polo, Mountbatten begins the first chapter on horsemanship with the following lines:

“Before you start to play polo, make sure that you are able to concentrate on your hitting without having to be busy riding. If you have never ridden in your life, begin by taking lessons from someone competent to give them, for you can’t satisfactorily teach yourself.” [An Introduction to Polo by ‘Marco’ (1931, London), p.3.]

An Introduction to Polo by ‘Marco’ (1937, London) MB6 K3a

An Introduction to Polo by ‘Marco’ (1937, London) MB6/K3a

Mountbatten was also interested in the regulations of polo, which is reflected by the correspondence we hold between Mountbatten and key persons on the proposed international rules of polo. Mountbatten was Chairman of the International Rules Committee between 1939 and 1940, and his role in ensuring one set of international rules was played worldwide involved collecting the International Rules himself, in person. As a result of Mountbatten holding this position, one set of polo rules is used all over the world, whereas previously, the Hurlingham, American and Indian Polo Association rules all differed.

“Your letter dated October 18th with regard to the proposed International Rules and the International Rules Committee arrived here at a very opportune time. The ground that you laid down when you edited the first drafts of a set of International Rules have borne fruit in this country already. I might say that your draft of rules was entirely responsible for the greatest activity that our own Rules Committee has shown in several years. It inspired them to review our own rules completely and at our last meeting numerous changes, none of them fundamental, were suggested.” [Letter from Robert E. Strawbridge, Jr., United States Polo Association, to Lord Mountbatten, 22 November 1939, MB1/L310]

Proposed International Rules of Polo, 1938 [MB1/L310]

Proposed International Rules of Polo, 1938 [MB1/L310]

Thinking of ways that Naval Officers could have their polo interests addressed in the same way that the Army Saddle Club did for Army officers, Mountbatten decided to set up the Royal Naval Polo Association. Organising meetings, funds, and questionnaires, the RNPA was formed in 1930. By 1939 membership of the Association had already reached five or six hundred. The Association changed its name to Royal Naval Saddle Club in 1958.

As well as being the first honorary secretary of the RNPA in 1937, Mountbatten also took up many other committee positions in connection to polo, such as Chairman of the London Polo Committee, Secretary of the Malta Polo Club (and later patron); and in 1955, Patron of Rhinefield (New Forest) Polo Club.

Malta Polo Club Rundle Cup Programme, 4 March 1967 [MB1/L292]

Malta Polo Club Rundle Cup Programme, 4 March 1967 [MB1/L292]

The Mountbatten Papers provide a rich resource for those interested in polo, with material including papers on the early days of the Royal Navy Polo Association and Hunt Club, lists of Royal Naval Saddle Club members and Club minutes, correspondence between different countries on the decision-making of international polo rules, and notes and manuscripts for Mountbatten’s An Introduction to Polo.

“I do hope that you are going to be able to give a little time in your television series to the Admiral’s polo. I believe that you might find that this would be a very popular section of the series with the television viewers. We have had many portrayals of the deeds of the great military Commanders but I think that the combination of outstanding Military leadership with his prowess on the field of sport not only highlights Mountbatten’s amazing ability to keep so many balls in the air at once but makes his exploits of more human and general interest.” [Letter from Major General Sir Robert Neville to Mr Morley, 10 September 1968, MB1/L292]

Lord Louis Mountbatten's polo team, the "Shrimps", after winning the Keyes Cup, Malta, 31 December 1928 [MB1/L4/166]

Lord Louis Mountbatten’s polo team, the “Shrimps”, after winning the Keyes Cup, Malta, 31 December 1928 [MB1/L4/166]

Richard St. Barbe Baker, Man of the Trees

To mark National Tree Week (24th November – 2nd December) we celebrate the life of Richard St. Barbe Baker (1889-1982), the founder of the ‘Men of the Trees Society’ now known as the International Tree Foundation.

A Hampshire man – his great-grandfather had been Rector of Botley in William Cobbett’s time – Baker grew up at West End in a house appropriately named ‘The Firs’. There he helped his father, John St. Barbe Baker, in the tree nursery that he had established after turning his hobby of growing trees into a business following a financial setback. In the book My Life, My Trees Baker described how as a child he explored the extensive woodland nearby, an experience which had a profound effect on him, influencing his decision to dedicate his life to promoting a greater understanding of the vital role of trees in the natural environment.

His father’s involvement in the Evangelical Movement was another important influence and on leaving school, Baker combined his interest in forestry with missionary work when he fulfilled his ambition to move to Canada. There he attended Emmanuel College, Saskatchewan University, and also worked the land as a ‘homesteader’ in preparation for which he had learned to shoe horses in Southampton and practised pioneering in Burridge.

West End c.1904 Rare Books Cope Postcard WES 91.5 CHU

After three and a half years he returned to Britain to take up a place at Cambridge to read Divinity but his studies were interrupted by World War I in which he was commissioned in the Royal Horse and Field Artillery. Wounded three times, his poor health saw him stationed at the Swaythling Remount Depot, before he was invalided out in April 1918. On his return to Cambridge he took the Diploma in Forestry and on being appointed Assistant Conservator of Forests in Kenya began the conservation work for which he became so well known.

Richard St. Barbe Baker Among the Trees (1935) Cope 96 BAK

Baker was ahead of his time in recognising the role of trees as protectors of the environment and the necessity of replacing those which had to be felled for timber, fuel or simply clearing land. After achieving success in this in Kenya, he established the Men of the Trees Society and following a period of five years conserving forests in Nigeria, spent the remainder of his long life working for the Society. Travelling the world he campaigned for the preservation and restoration of forests and the afforestation of desert areas by writing articles, books and scientific papers, also giving popular lectures and holding discussions with government ministers and heads of state. Through his efforts billions of trees were planted as more and more people were persuaded of his view that ‘unless we play fair to our land the Earth we cannot continue to exist’.

Richard St. Barbe Baker My Life My Trees (1970) Cope 95 BAK

In later years Baker often returned to Hampshire, notably in June 1958, when he undertook a ride of 330 miles through Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex, in emulation of William Cobbett. During the nineteen days in the saddle, he spoke to thousands of schoolchildren with the aim of raising their awareness of the environment. The completion of the ride was marked with a lunch for Cobbett’s descendants which he saw as a way of mending relations between the families, his great-grandfather and Cobbett having fallen out.

When visiting the later owners of  The Firs, Baker spent time reminiscing about his childhood and recalling the first woods he knew. There he had recognised that trees maintain ‘the balance between beauty and utility’ and came to believe  that ‘in the sanctuary of the woods we may breathe deeply, exhaling all thought which is not creative and inhaling the breath of life.’

Richard St. Barbe Baker Green Glory (1949) Cope 96 BAK

Baker’s work was recognised by the award of an honorary doctorate from the University of Saskatchewan in 1971 and an OBE in 1978. Following his death in 1982 at the age of 92, he was also remembered locally with a memorial plaque and road naming at West End, and something he would undoubtedly have appreciated, the planting of a grove of thirty trees by The Men of the Trees at Hatch Grange.

A number of Baker’s books can be found in the Cope Collection and a small collection of his correspondence with Grace Mary Mays is in the Archives and Manuscripts Collections MS 92.