Romsey Abbey: the Broadlands connection

We hope you enjoyed last week’s post on the poetry of local man John Henry Todd of Winchester. The second blog in our series on the History of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight for Local and Community History Month puts the spotlight on the Hampshire market town of Romsey and its delightful Abbey.

The abbey church at Romsey dates from the Norman era. Until the Dissolution of the Monasteries it was the church of a Benedictine nunnery. One of the oldest items in the Hartley Library strongrooms is a charter for Romsey Abbey dating from 1392. The abbey buildings were not demolished when the community of nuns was forcibly dispersed because the abbey church served as a place of worship for the townspeople. However, in 1544 the town purchased the Abbey buildings from the Crown and much was destroyed at that point: the lead and building materials had significant sale value. During the English Civil War the building suffered further material damage at the hands of Parliamentarian troops, including destruction of the organ.

Image of Romsey Abbey Church from the north west taken from an appeal letter, 1845 [MS62/BR/130/8]

The Broadlands Archives, held in the Special Collections, include varies records relating to the Abbey. This post will focus on correspondence with Henry Temple, third Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865); William Cowper Temple, first Baron Mount Temple (1811-88) and Colonel Wilfred Ashley, Baron Mount Temple (1867-1939). These records detail, not a full history of the Abbey Church but snippets of the extended family’s involvement.

A significant proportion of the papers relate to refurbishments: mainly, in fact, raising funds for refurbishments. They can be used to help to track specific changes to the architecture of the Church. Obviously as an older building it would naturally require continual upkeep. Looking through the papers, one gets a feeling of never-ending repairs!

This series of correspondence begins in 1823 with Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, Foreign Secretary and later Prime Minister during the reign of Queen Victoria. The first transaction we have recorded is a subscription for “re-pewing the church”. In 1840 he was sent acknowledgment of his “liberal subscription towards warming our Abbey Church”. A further subscription was established by Revd Gerard Noel in 1844 for “preservation and restoration” of the Abbey Church: “if stripped of modern incumbrancers and restored to its ancient proportions, it would form one of the most magnificent interiors in the Kingdom”. This work was substantial in nature and took over two decades to complete.

Interior of Romsey Church showing the late Lord Palmerston’s pew draped in black from the Illustrated Times [MS62/BR/130/29]

An undated letter, but circa 1850, congratulates “the subscribers upon the acquisition of the splendid organ” – as we know, the original instrument was destroyed in 1643: “the Committee feel confident that the subscribers generally will cordially approve the increased outlay occasioned by the addition of the Choir Organ.” Lord Palmerston died in 1865 and Broadlands House passed to his stepson, William Cowper Temple, first Baron Mount Temple.

In 1867 major aspects of the work started in 1844 by Revd Gerard Noel were completed and the parish celebrated the re-opening of the Chancel. A document marking this achievement also circulated a list of new work required: “of contemplated improvements it is perhaps premature to speak; yet there are some things which cannot long be delayed…” There was a development of the Eastern front of the Church in 1878: “the fine Eastern front of the Church would be effectively developed and the site above-mentioned be again restored to the precincts of the ancient Abbey and thrown open to the public”. In 1887 money was yet again required for improvements and as a local memorial of the 50th year of Queen Victoria’s reign:

At the present time this Church is disfigured by unsightly Galleries in North and South Transepts…and by hideous pews, blocking the centre of the Nave, which are placed with little regard to regularity, or economy of space.


The cost for the work was estimated at £1600. It is possible that these were the pews paid for by Palmerston back in 1823?

Lord Mount Temple died aged 76 at his Broadlands home in October 1888. The following year, the Lord Mount Temple memorial fund paid for a stained glass window in the south transept. The files include letters from some of the subscribers. This is one of several memorials relative to the extended family that can be found in the Church.

The proposed addition of a porch to the north west door of Romsey Abbey was approved in 1908. This was deemed necessary to protect the dogtooth work, the worshipers from draught and persons attending weddings and funerals. Some Romsey residents protested on architectural and aesthetic grounds.

Interior of Romsey Abbey [MS62/BR/130/23]

More money was required in October 1917 when the appeal for the Romsey Parochial Fund encouraged people to make a regular subscription which would be a general fund for current expenses. At that time the parish of Romsey required £650 per year to run: £250 was received by collections and £165 by subscriptions leaving an addition £235 to be raised.

By 1926, the Romsey Parochial Church Council was corresponding with Colonel Wilfred Ashley, William Cowper Temple’s great nephew and heir:

How splendid! & splendidly generous of you. Many years now it is since your family connection with Romsey Abbey began, many and munificent have been their gifts to the Abbey that was the parish church of their home. You, now, carry on the tradition with a munificence that can only be deemed princely.

Letter from Revd W.B.Corban to Colonel Ashley, 26 Jan 1826 [MS62/BR/130/25/2]
Illustration of the proposed new cornice by Revd Corban, 1926 [MS62/BR/130/25/1]

He had generously provided £165 for a cornice on the south (choir) side of the North screen.

In 1927-8 Wilfred Ashley funded an addition to the choir screen, the chancel paving and seating in the ground south of the abbey, previously donated to the Church: “the ground would make a delightful place for Romsey folk to rest in”, comments Revd Corban.

Further documents relate to the “Broadlands pew” and Colonel Ashley’s gift of Churchwarden’s staves in 1928. Plenty more details for a second blog post about the fascinating history of the abbey church! In the meantime, please join us next week for our third blog in our series for Local and Community History Month.

The Poetry of John Henry Todd

Each year in May we celebrate Local and Community History Month, described by the Historical Association as the time to ‘increase awareness of local history, promote history in general to the local community and encourage all members of the community to participate.’

In this spirit we will be posting a series of blogs exploring the history of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and this week’s inaugural post looks at the poetry of a local man – John Henry Todd of Winchester.

The Special Collections at the University of Southampton holds a manuscript volume of his poetry (MS5/26) entitled Poetical Blossoms, dedicated in 1825 to the Duchess of Buckingham:

The first poem, reproduced below, shares the authors’ gratitude at the re-opening of a Winchester theatre and thanks its patrons for supplying the funds necessary for its refurbishment:

Address, spoken at Winchester Theatre

Address Spoken by Mrs Dxxxxx, at Winchester Theatre,

After its having been repaired and decorated. 1823.

From whence Anxiety has fix’d her throne,

From bosoms palpitating – like my own –

Willing embassadress I’m sent to tell

How glad we are to meet our patrons well,

And to convince men that their favours past

Have not been scatter’d on a thankless waste,

But whence has sprung – in form however rude –

Yet rich in fruit – the flow’r of Gratitude.

The theatre described by our poet may have been the so-called ‘New Theatre’, founded in 1785. When the history of Winchester theatre was investigated by Paul Ranger in the 1974 Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club, it was noted that an end section of this theatre, with a window surmounted by the Royal Arms, still survived at No. 40 Jewry Street, opposite the gaol, after which the street was also known. Some thirty years or more after its initial founding the theatre was in need of repair, as Ranger notes: “By 1823 the management felt it ought to deal with the dilapidations and a ‘puff’ was inserted in the local newspaper”:

‘The interior of our theatre is now undergoing considerable repair, preparatory to the commencement of the dramatic campaign. The intended decorations, both before and behind the curtain, are confided to an artist of taste and ability and will form a magnificent improvement in the general appearance of the house’.

It is very likely that these improvements of 1823 are those lauded in John Henry Todd’s commemorative poem.

The denizens of early nineteenth century Winchester, whilst celebrating the renewal of the city’s cultural life, were simultaneously mourning the passing of its historic cultural heritage. The nineteenth century, as well as witnessing the birth of the modern historical-preservation movement, also saw its fair share of cultural vandalism and destruction. Our author was certainly not oblivious to this fact and our second poem by John Henry Todd is titled Farewell to the walls of Winchester. Its tone is both poignant and somewhat indignant, mourning the destruction of a significant portion of Winchester’s historic fabric:

Farewell to the walls of Winchester

Which, after having been the defence and ornament of the City for many centuries, were at length prematurely destroyed, by modern Visigoths, in 1823.

Farewell, thou relic of an age long past!

Annihilation tramples on thee now,

And, as in triumph, strikes her talons fast,

To wrench the ivy from thy solid brow!

Year after year it bloom’d, year after year

Thy strength defied the gluttony of time;

And History now drops a parting tear

On heights, which leaving, she no more shall climb.

No more around thee, where she loves to stand,

Shall [?] Fancy hear the warrior’s head,

Or gaze upon a crested spectre band –

Ghosts of our fathers, who on thee have bled!

No more, superior on the winding hill,

Thy rugged pride shall meet the wanderer’s eye –

For thou must fall – since man’s relentless will,

Which once upraised [?] thee, steals thy destiny!

For thou must fall! In vain my honours plead,

Thy verdant ornaments – all, all in vain;

No warring heroes thy protection need,

And no remembrance can the blow restrain.

Yet not forgotten shall thy glory be

By those who love of ancient deeds to tell;

Hearts still are left to mourn for such as thee –

Hearts still are left to sigh thy last farewell!

View of the Westgate from outside the city walls, c.1939. The buildings to the left of the gate no longer stand but have since been cleared to make way for the Romsey Road (B3040) as it joins up with Winchester High Street. [Cope Collection pc 1071]

View of the Westgate from inside the city walls, c.1938. [Cope Collection pc 1072]

The walls of which our poet speaks once encompassed some 144 acres and originally dated back to the Roman era, although reinforced and altered throughout the Middle Ages. Of the six medieval gates only two now survive: the Westgate (which now houses a museum) and Kingsgate. In 1962 a young archaeologist (Barry Cunliffe) published a report on the city’s walls in the Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and noted that in the autumn of 1824 (the time of our poet) a section of the wall from the Westgate to the Hermit’s Tower was removed by ‘enterprising tradesmen’:

“The Eleventh Book of Ordinance, preserved in the city archives, states (p. 184b) that this gentleman ‘shall have the liberty to take down as much of the Old City Wall Northward from the Westgate of this City as the promises granted by this City Extends and shall have the materials of the said Walls for his Trouble and Expence in taking down the same …’.”

As was also the case in Southampton, whose medieval walls are, nonetheless, much better preserved than those of Winchester, the demands of commerce (more specifically, a commodious route for traffic through the city) were to blame. As Cunliffe notes, the order from the local authorities to demolish the north and south gates of Winchester came in 1771:

‘The lowness of the structure of the arches of the said gates, whereby a tun of hay and a load of straw cannot be brought in or out of the city through the said gates without a great deminution thereof to the apparent loss of the buyer of these commodities and it likewise has been reported to the Mayor and Aldermen that from the great resort of carriages passing and repassing the said gates, Foot Passengers have not only been interrupted by the carriages but have been in danger of their lives in attempting to go through the said gates when carriages have been passing the said gates and especially over the Northgate bridge. It is therefore agreed and ordered at and by this assembly that the said two gates be immediately taken down and the materials thereof sold’.

Obviously the demands of business, as well as Georgian-era health and safety concerns, took precedence over those of historical preservation. Our poet was not alone in mourning the loss of the city’s ancient heritage, as his contemporary the Right Rev. John Milner makes clear in the third edition of his The History and Survey of the Antiquities of Winchester Vol. 2, when he describes the environs of the north gate:

“[…] we proceed through one of those hideous gaps, where, until of late, stood a city gate, constituting at once its ornament and defence. Strange it is, that men, who make profession of consulting the dignity and embellishment of Winchester, reduced as it is to the mere skeleton of its former state, should pretend to effect this by destroying its principal structures, and the honourable marks of its distinction, as an ancient city. We have been assured that these fortifications, such as they were, more than once stopped the fury of a riotous populace from gaining possession of the city.”

To whom our poet refers when he speaks of ‘warring heroes’ we cannot be sure, perhaps the Romans: Cunliffe surmises, based on the archaeological evidence, that the city had been enclosed by a stone wall backed by an earthen ramp sometime around the late second century or early third century, and that at least four of the city’s gates were Roman in origin.

The stories they tell: Leo Baeck College

In this week’s blog post, we take you through the history of Leo Baeck College, an institution for training Reform rabbis in England.

Leo Baeck College prospectus, c.1989 [MS316/A1077/82/1]

The Leo Baeck College for the study of Judaism, London, was founded in 1956. Due to the loss of European centres of learning in the Holocaust and to enable the progressive Anglo-Jewish community to regenerate its religious leadership, there was a wish to establish an institution of higher Jewish learning. Here, the traditions of European Jewish learning could be continued. This was encouraged by Rabbi Dr Leo Baeck who lived in London at the time. Following his death in 1956, the newly established College was named after him. 

Telegram congratulating Leo Baeck College on its inauguration, 24 September 1956 [MS316 A1077/214/4]

Rabbi Dr Leo Baeck

Ministered first in Oppeln, then in Dusseldorf, Leo Baeck also lectured in Berlin at the Hochschule fur die Wissenchaft des Judentums on Midrash and homiletics. He was Spiritual leader of German Reform Jewry and was Chairman of the Rabbinerverband from 1922.

After the Nazis came into power in 1933, Rabbi Baeck was elected head of the Representative Jewish Council of Germany and remained at his post until the liquidation of his congregation in 1943. He was sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp, where he ministered to the other prisoners. He survived the camp, and after liberations, resided in London.

He became the first President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and was a visiting professor at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. The establishment of the college would not have happened if it was not for Rabbi Baeck’s encouragement. He has been described as the leading spiritual figure of modern progressive Judaism, and has written on Jewish philosophy and theology.

College Handbook 1966-7 [MS316/A1077/2/1]

The need for such a college had existed for some time, and was written as one of the original Aims and Objects drawn up in 1946 by British Reform congregations after joining together to form an association. Until then, there was no institution for training Reform rabbis in England and all ministers had either received their training in the United States or had been graduates of the Orthodox Jews’ College.

Beginnings of the College

The beginnings of the College were built upon the Leo Baeck Scholarship Fund. This fund was established through the foresight of Rabbi Harold Reinhart, Chairman of the Ministers’ Training Board of the Association of Reform Synagogues of Great Britain (later the RSGB), which at that time supervised the College. He was succeeded in 1957 by Rabbi Dr Werner Van der Zyl. 

The College was housed at West London Synagogue and opened its doors with two students, Lionel Blue and Michael Leigh. They both went on to lead notable careers. They were joined later by Henry Brandt, Michael Goulston and Dow Marmur.

The College was jointly sponsored by the RSGB (now the Movement for Reform Judaism) and the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues (ULPS, now Liberal Judaism) in 1964. It was decided to accept women candidates to the Rabbanic programme in 1967 and in 1975 the first woman Rabbi graduated. The College gained its first full-time Principal in 1985, Rabbi Professor Jonathan Magonet.

The heart of the College’s ethos was individual freedom and being open to all areas of academic enquiry, which was the basis of Progressive Jewish Thought. Emphasis was put upon the training of Rabbis and teachers for all of the Jewish community. As part of its draft constitution written in the 1960s, it states that it “shall train suitable candidates for the Ministry of the Reform and Liberal Synagogue as well as other Synagogues in this country or abroad and also teachers of the Jewish religion.”

Draft of Leo Baeck College constitution, c.1960s [MS316 A1007 32/1]


The College was created to train Rabbis with the awareness of a dynamic and living tradition, which will lead them to serve God and their fellow human beings. It seeked to maintain and continue the study of Judaism.

A class taking place [MS316/A1077/20/8]

The College’s Rabbinic programme was a five-year course, with a higher degree in Jewish studies taken into account of determining the length of the course. As well as the academic component, which consisted of 82 modules and a thesis of 40,000 words, there was also the vocational component, which consisted of courses in pastoral care and counselling, rabbinic practice, teaching practice, and education, and homiletics. A compulsory year of study in Israel was also included, which was usually taken in the third year. Lastly, there was the congregational work, which normally began in the fourth year.

Students were assessed on their academic knowledge, vocational and practical skills, and personal and spiritual growth to assess their suitability for a Rabbanic career, as well as continuous evaluation.

Assessments consisted of coursework for the BA and MA degrees as well as a Rabbanic thesis written during the final year. Congregational work was assessed by a report from the synagogues to which the student was assigned. The Board of Studies considered their progress at least once a year and a regular report was sent to them on the student, which had previously been agreed with the student. As well as undergraduate and Master’s degrees, the College offered certificates in education and diplomas.

Advert for Leo Baeck College 1982/1983 part-time courses [MS316/A1077/209/2]

About the collection 

The collection reflects the workings of the College and the development of the courses taught. Files of various committees, from financial and funding to education and Board of Education papers are contained.

Syllabus proposal [MS316/A1077/2/1]

Letters written by the Appeal Committee in the early eighties can be seen urging for a body of supporters to be assembled to set the College on a “sound financial base”, in order to enable the College to continue its position in “securing the survival of Jewry and Judaism”  and “providing the Rabbis and teachers on whom the Movement depends.”

Appeal letter written to Reform Rabbis and Chairmen, 12 July 1983 [MS316/A1007/97/12]

The 1980s also signified the need of larger premises for Leo Baeck College. A move took place in 1981 to Manor House, which was later known as the Sternberg Centre in North Finchley. A larger site meant more activities could be accommodated, which included its Extra-Mural Department running daytime and evening lectures and seminars for the wider public. Its Teachers Training Department also expanded and created a separate Education Department that served both the Reform and Liberal movements, later known as the Centre for Jewish Education (CJE). The CJE houses the College Library, which holds 60,000 books, including rare editions.

Manor House [MS316/A1077/20/8]

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the College became more accessible to rabbinic students from Eastern Europe. In 2005, the College welcomed 77 students, some of whom came from Israel, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States.

Leo Baeck College graduates [MS316/A1077/20/8]

As well as the committee papers already mentioned, the collection also contains a smaller series of papers relating to publications and publicity and to the administration of the library. The administrative papers for the College include a ten year plan, 1992; administration group papers, 1980-95; constitution, the articles of association and lists of members 1958-95; company registration papers, 1969-88; minutes and correspondence of Leo Baeck Company Limited, 1956, 1965-89. Amongst the papers for publications are the minutes and correspondence of the publication committee, 1975-81, files for the Leo Baeck College Diary, 1983-95; newsletters, 1966-96; publicity files include correspondence and press releases as well as newspaper cuttings, and photographs, 1963-97.

Advert for Leo Baeck College Shavuot Term 1983 lectures [MS316/A1077/46/6]

You can find out more about how Leo Baeck College is run today here:

Join us next week, when we will begin our series of Local and Community History blogs.

The genteel art of knitting

The exact origins of knitting are unclear, but it has been practised over many centuries in many parts of the world. Whilst the hand knitting industry continued in some poorer rural areas across the UK, by the eighteenth century it had became the domain of wealthier ladies who had the time to devote to developing the skill. By the middle of the following century, so-called “fancy” knitting was flourishing as an elegant drawing room occupation. As well as being part of a refined lady’s repertoire, knitting was deemed an acceptable way for gentlewomen in personal need to earn money. Also seen as a useful skill for poorer members of society, it was taught in orphanages and poor houses.

The genteel art of knitting [MS331/2/1/14/259]

The development of the “fancy” knitting in the nineteenth century was helped by the boom in needlework publications, with the establishment of series such as Family Friend and Weldon’s Practical Needlework. Examples of such publications can be found in the Knitting Reference Library held at the Winchester School of Art Library and in digitised versions on the Internet Archive.

The Special Collections holds material of the Knitting writer and designer, Montse Stanley (MS331-2), including many knitted objects as well as working papers, photographs and postcards. It also holds smaller quantities of complementary material including papers on the Knitting History Group collected by Joan Thirsk and a number of items from the nineteenth century relating to knitting, likely created and collected by ladies who were aspiring to improve their “fancy” knitting skills.  For this blog we are going to look at a couple of these items and try out some of the patterns noted down.

Nineteenth-century notebook containing knitting stitches and patterns [MS330/1]

The knitting that we are going to be focusing on is what is called flat knitting, which is knitting worked in rows using two knitting needles and where the piece is turned from front to back on each row.

All knitting is based on 2 stitches, the plain or knit stitch and the purl stitch.  It is possible to use these two stitches in such a variety of ways that the patterns and designs are endless.

The plain or knit stitch is the basic stitch for knitting.  Where it is used for 2 rows, the garter stitch results.

Although it is the second basic stitch, the purl stitch is never usually used alone.  If you use simply purl stitch then the effect is the same as garter stitch, as can be seen from the two examples below.

Knit or plain stitch Purl stitch

The combination of knitting alternate rows of plain and then purl stitches creates a smooth plain surface in what is called stockinette stitch.

Stockinette stitch: alternate rows of plain and purl stitch.

The first of the patterns tried was that for Van Dyke pattern which includes an open stitch in rows of garter stitch:

VanDyke pattern

Cast on any number of stitches that can be divided by 10.

1st row: pearl knitting

2nd row: plain knitting

3rd row: pearl knitting

4th row: bring thread forward, knit 2, knit 2 together, pearl 1, knit 2 together, knit 2, thread forward, knit 1

Repeat, commence again as first row.

The Van Dyke pattern

The sample was knitted using 30 stitches. The wool and needles are much more sturdy than would have originally been used but still allow the details of the pattern to show. A finer thread and smaller set of needles would produce a more web like effect.

The Van Dyke stitch was named after the Flemish painter, Anthony Van Dyck (1599–1641), who immortalised the collar and beard in his portraits of King Charles I and other notables of the period. The stitch, collar, and beard share a common characteristic—the chevron shape.

Knitting arrived in Scotland in the fifteenth century and quickly became a means for many to earn a living. The pattern we have here represents the lace knitting approach that was used to make shawls.

Scotch pattern

Cast on 7 stitches for each pattern

1st row: knit 2, knit 2 together, cotton f[orwar]d, knit 1, cotton forward, knit 2 together, repeat

2nd row plain knitting

3rd row: knit 1 (a) knit 2 together, cotton forward, knit 3, cotton forward, knit 2 together, repeat from (a)

4th row: plain knitting

5th row: knit 2, cotton forward, knit 2 together, knit 1, knit 2 together, cotton forward, repeat

6th row: plain knitting

7th row: knit 2, cotton forward, knit 2 together, knit 1, knit 2 together, bring cotton forward, repeat

8th row: plain knitting

9th row: knit 2, cotton forward, knit 2 together, knit 1, knit 2 together, cotton forward, repeat

10th row: plain knitting

11th row: knit 3, bring cotton forward, knit 3 together, cotton forward, knit 1, repeat

12th row: plain knitting

13th row: knit 2, knit 2 together, cotton forward, knit 3, repeat

14th row: plain knitting

Commence again at first row.


Scotch pattern detail.

And if you want to try a third pattern, why not try this one, which is a version of the herringbone pattern.

Fish bone pattern

Cast on any uneven number of stitches

1st row: slip 1, knit 1 (a), cotton f[orwar]d, slip 1, talking it in front, knit 1, pass the slip stitch over it, knit 2, repeat from (a).

There will be 3 plain stitches to knit at the end of the row.

2nd row: slip 1 (b), turn the thread round the needle and bring it in front again, pearl [purl] 2 together, pearl 2, repeat from (b)


Happy knitting!

The stories they tell: the Stella Memorial, Southampton

In 1901, the Stella Memorial Fountain was unveiled on what was then known as The Esplanade.  It appears in many postcards of the early 20th century, rather incongruously sited near the cannons below Southampton’s western town walls.  The monument is now found in Mayflower Park, near the Pilgrim Fathers monument, which was erected later (in 1912).

The Stella Memorial [PC1268]

The fountain commemorates the extreme bravery and selflessness of Mary Ann Rogers, a stewardess on the ill-fated SS Stella, a ferry plying the route between Southampton and the Channel Islands.  On 30 March 1899, the ship was bound for Guernsey, when it encountered several banks of fog.  To begin with, it slowed down, but when the third fog bank was met, the Stella continued at speed.  At the time, the railway company owning the ferry was in competition with another   company, so every journey was a race to be first at its destination.  Too late, the captain realised he was nearly on the rocks below the Casquets lighthouse.  The crew tried desperately to avoid them, but all was in vain and the order was made to abandon ship after a submerged reef tore a huge hole in the hull.  Four lifeboats were successfully launched, but the fifth capsized.  Eventually it was righted by a freak wave, and 12 people managed to climb aboard.  Sadly, four of them later died of exposure, but the rest were rescued along with the occupants of the other lifeboats.  

It was obvious that there would not be room for all the passengers in the lifeboats.  Mary Rogers was entitled to a place under the “women and children first” rule, but it is said that she heroically gave her place to a passenger, and refused to enter the lifeboat herself as it was already overloaded.  She also gave her lifebelt to a woman without one.  From then on, she was doomed, along with many of the passengers and crew.  Her last words are said to have been the prayer “Lord have me”.  Captain William Reeks, several members of his crew and over 70 passengers went down with the ship, the captain said to be standing steadfast at the rail of his ship before it capsized.  Only eight minutes elapsed between the collision and the final sinking.  One of the occupants of the lifeboats was an opera singer, Greta Williams, who sang a hymn to comfort her companions.

In recent years, some doubt has been cast on the authenticity of the details of Mrs Rogers’ death.  These appear to have been augmented by contemporary newspaper accounts, including an editorial in The Times of 10 April 1899.   Another stewardess, Ada Preston, is not mentioned, although she was a friend and neighbour of Mrs Rogers.  Two eye-witness accounts, claiming to have seen Mrs Rogers’ final minutes from their lifeboats, are unlikely to have been true, as she would not have been visible to them.  It would seem to suit the mood of Late Victorian England to create such a heroine, and also it would have helped the company to divert attention from their negligence as recorded in the Board of Trade’s inquiry report.  Undoubtedly, she was a very brave woman, but some of her story may have been magnified into legend.

There are parallels with the Titanic, as both vessels had insufficient lifeboats, and both captains, who went down with their ships, were later accused of negligence.  At the time of the SS Stella tragedy, companies were anxious to avoid extra safety regulations coming into force, which would have had serious financial implications.  So despite the Board of Trade report, vessels were still going to sea without enough lifeboats for their passengers.  The Stella had lifeboat capacity for only 148, despite being able to carry as many as 712 passengers.  Owned by the London and South Western Railway, her last voyage was a special Easter excursion to Guernsey, in competition with the rival Great Western Railway, operating a similar trip out of Weymouth.  Both ships were intended to dock at the same time, so the race was on.  After the tragedy, both companies agreed to operate their ferries on alternate days.  The Board of Trade Inquiry into the shipwreck began on 27 April 1900 and lasted six days.  It was decided that Captain Reeks was to blame for his “rashly excessive” speed during fog, when he should have stopped or only proceeded “dead slow” as he approached the Casquets.  The conclusion reached was that the Stella was not navigated with proper and seamanlike care.  This ruling prompted many of the bereaved families to sue the company for compensation.  It was refused initially, but despite the company’s vigorous attempts to avoid paying out, it was over-ruled by the Court of Appeal.   Sadly, many more widows and orphans were left destitute, including the five children of Seaman Thomas Glover.  His wife was unable to support them, and they were all sent to Southampton Workhouse, where they were separated and never saw each other again.

The newspaper accounts stated that “not one man had left the line” until every woman and child were in the lifeboats.  This was plainly untrue, as one of the boats was full of men, with only one woman on board, while many women and children were recorded as having drowned, and several crew members appear in the list of survivors.   But this tragic truth would not sit well with the heroic myth the newspapers were anxious to produce.  It would seem that fake news has a long history.  The tragedy became a matter of national concern, even prompting the “poet” William Topaz McGonagle to compose one of his wonderfully dreadful verses.  Modelled on his Tay Bridge Disaster, it begins:

“Twas in the month of March and in the year of 1899/Which will be remembered for a very long time/The wreck of the steamer Stella that was wrecked on the Casquet rocks/By losing her bearings in fog and received some terrible shocks”

McGonagle was under the impression that the voyage had begun from London, though many of the passengers had indeed travelled to Southampton on the boat train from Waterloo.

Mrs Rogers was born Mary Ann Foxwell in Frome, Somerset, in 1855.  She married Richard Rogers, a seaman, and had two children: Mary Ellen, born 1878, and Frederick, born in 1881.  Tragically her husband was also drowned, in 1880, while a crew member of the SS Honfleur.  Her last home was Frome Villa in Clovelly Road, Southampton.  Her body was never found, but her name was added to the family gravestone in Southampton Cemetery. 

Other memorials to her were constructed in the harbour wall of St Peter Port and in Postman’s Park, London.  A stained glass window in Liverpool’s  Anglican Cathedral commemorates her, along with other heroic women, including Grace Darling.

The memorial window in the Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool

The London memorial, near St Pauls, was proposed in 1887 by the artist G. F. Watts, to commemorate the heroic deeds of ordinary people.  There is an individual tablet for each person, 54 in total, made from glazed Dalton tiles in a pre-Raphaelite style.

Plaque commemorating Mary Ann Rogers in Postman’s Park, London

Watts also advised on the Southampton memorial.  This is octagonal, of Portland stone, with open rounded arches under a low stepped roof surmounted by a little ball, the whole enclosing a drinking fountain.  It incorporates 24 carved Tudor roses, to echo those on the Southampton arms.  A metal plaque carries a lengthy inscription including the phrase ”the glorious heritage of our English race”.  How fortunate for the late Victorians who planned the memorial that Mary Ann wasn’t born in Wales or Scotland!  The unveiling ceremony took place on 27 July 1901, performed by Lady Emma Crichton.  It was paid for by public subscription, of which £250 of the £570 raised went to the Rogers family.

The Stella memorial from above [PC1218]

The wreck of the Stella lay undiscovered in deep water for many years.  Eventually it was found by divers in the 1970s, some distance from where it was believed to lie.  Many dives were subsequently carried out, but the depth of water and the deteriorating nature of the structure made it impossible to raise the wreck.  However, a number of artefacts were recovered, including the steering binnacle, intended for display in Guernsey Museum.

The SS Stella was built in 1890 on the Clyde by Thomsons, later to become John Browns, who  built the Lusitania, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and QE2. There were two sister ships, the Lydia and the Frederica, also built for the L&SWR.  The Stella was provided with two triple expansion steam engines to power twin propellors, giving a top speed of over 19 knots, fast for the time.  Every modern convenience was provided including electric light.  Unfortunately navigational aids were not so advanced, it being over 50 years before radar was developed and even predating Marconi’s electric telegraph system.

The Casquets reef lies seven miles west of Alderney and is nearly a mile long.  At low tide, its many submerged granite rocks are dangerously close to the surface.  Over the years they have been responsible for nearly 300 shipwrecks, including that of HMS Victory in 1744. A lighthouse, originally consisting of three towers arranged in a triangle, was constructed in 1724.  Trinity House replaced them with a single tower and a more powerful light in 1877.  There was also a fog signal, but this was not heard by the Stella’s crew until it was too late, possibly due to the muffling effect of the dense fog.

The wreck of the Stella was said to be the worst disaster involving civilian passengers ever to take place in the English Channel, as 105 of the passengers and crew were lost, while 112 were saved.  However, this dreadful total was surpassed by The Herald of Free Enterprise incident, just off the Belgian port of Zeebrugge in March 1987, when 193 passengers and crew were lost.  Again, an enquiry found the captain and crew members responsible, this time, for not ensuring that the bow doors of the RORO car ferry were closed.  The ship lacked watertight compartments, so water quickly filled the entire car deck, causing it to capsize on to its side after only 90 seconds.  A nearby ferry and the Belgian navy were quickly on the scene, but many people were trapped below decks.  Again, like the Stella casualties, many died from hypothermia in the cold March seawater.  The disaster did result in design improvements, including the installation of indicators on the bridge of RORO ferries to show whether the bow doors were closed, and to ensure watertight compartments on the car decks.

The Herald of Free Enterprise after salvage

There is a stained glass memorial and tablet to the victims of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster in St Mary’s Church, Dover.

Queen Victoria sent her condolences to the bereaved of the Stella disaster, as did the President of France.  The first bodies were recovered on Good Friday, but the last was not washed up until nine months later.  Most were found wearing lifebelts, and it appears that they died from exposure rather than drowning, the sea water still being very cold at the end of March.

A number of seamen and civilians received medals for gallantry as a result of their efforts in rescuing survivors of the Herald of Free Enterprise, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sent a message at the time of the disaster.  The ship was salvaged, but there were no buyers to repair it, so it was scrapped in Taiwan after a memorable final voyage where it encountered the Great Hurricane of October 1987, causing further damage.  The owning company changed its name and rebranded its remaining ferry vessels.

Both disasters were followed by official enquiries, which castigated both captains, but resulted in lasting improvements to ferry companies’ practises and ship design.  There are physical memorials to the victims of both tragedies in their home ports and elsewhere.

Celebrating women: Charlotte Chamberlain

As part of Women’s History Month, this week we focus on Charlotte Chamberlain (1878-1956), a major benefactor of the University of Southampton, keen supporter of New Forest life and more unusually, champion goat-breeder.

University Fine Art Collection

A member of the well-known Chamberlain family of Birmingham – Austen Chamberlain was her uncle and Neville her cousin – Charlotte, her six sisters and two brothers were brought up to value the importance of both education and service to the community. Her father, Arthur, a prominent industrialist, had himself been involved in setting up the School of Commerce at Birmingham University, of which Austen was the first Chancellor.

Charlotte read Geology at Newnham College, Cambridge, returning to Birmingham to study for an MSc. which she received in 1903. It was whilst at Birmingham that she first became involved in a scheme to provide a hall of residence for female students, becoming secretary of a committee set up to raise funds for that purpose. As a result of the committee’s work, University House, which provided accommodation for 80 women, opened in 1908.

It fell to Charlotte to help care for her father, an invalid for the last six years of his life, and after his death in 1913 she made the move to the New Forest in Hampshire with her sister Mary. This was an area she knew well from visits to an old college friend and outings with the New Forest Hunt. The sisters moved into Westons, near Lyndhurst where they both became actively involved in the local community, Charlotte also carrying out welfare work in London during World War I.

Postcard of Highfield Hall [MS 310/78/6]

It was a fortunate day for the University College of Southampton when the Chamberlains settled close by. Maintaining their interest in higher education, in particular in relation to women, they were generous donors to many college initiatives. Both their first and last associations with the college were to support the building of halls of residence for women. The journal Wessex recorded that the new Highfield Hall building, opened in 1930 by the Duke of York and providing accommodation for 104 women, was “largely made possible by Miss Charlotte Chamberlain” whilst in the 1950s, Charlotte and Mary each contributed £50,000 to the building of Chamberlain Hall, though sadly neither sister lived to see it open in 1961.

Programme for laying the Foundation Stone at Chamberlain Hall, 1958 [Rare Books Univ. Coll. c LF 789.6C63]

Less well known is their support for the construction of a Physics Laboratory in the late 1930s – they provided an initial £15,000, also making up a shortfall in funds and they donated £20,000 towards the Union Building which opened in 1940 providing common rooms and a new refectory for students.

Union Building [MS 1/22/5 p.9]

Charlotte Chamberlain’s support for the college went far beyond the provision of timely financial gifts. She played an important part in college life, being a member of the Halls and Refectory Committee which she chaired for twenty years, also representing it on the Finance Committee and on University Council. In his memorial address, the Vice-Chancellor, D.G. James, recalled that at committee meetings she was known for her passionate speaking on issues she considered important whilst remaining somewhat reserved in other circumstances.

Changes requested to plans for the first hall of residence at Glen Eyre by the Halls of Residence Accommodation Sub-Committee [MS 1/MBK/4/H2]

Beyond the college, Charlotte and Mary were involved in many aspects of New Forest life. They supported the New Forest Agricultural Show, Charlotte being President in 1939, and were members of the New Forest Association which worked to counter threats to both the New Forest landscape and to the rights of residents. They were also keen members of the Emery Down and Bank Women’s Institute, buying land and financing the building of a hall for its meetings, even transforming the “goat van” into a bus to take members to meetings.

It was as a result of her welfare work and the possibility of using goat’s milk as an alternative to cow’s milk that Charlotte first established her herd of goats at Westons. Joining the British Goat Society in 1917, she became a well-regarded show judge and served as President from 1945-1947. She was also a founder member and first chair of the Hampshire Goat Club in 1948. Charlotte’s herd produced many prize-winning goats and their certificates are still on show in her goat house which can be seen on New Forest Knowledge which also features film of Charlotte.

New Forest Agricultural Show, 1925 [Cope c 97.08]
Prizes awarded by Charlotte Chamberlain at the New Forest Agricultural Show, 1925

As D.G. James remarked at the end of his memorial address, life had given Charlotte Chamberlain many advantages and having had instilled in her from an early age the importance of helping others, she used her wealth and abilities to advance the causes which she held important – much to the benefit of the University of Southampton and the local area.

Celebrating women: Miss Eleanor Aubrey

We continue celebrating Women’s History Month, by focusing on a key personality around the University in the early part of the twentieth century, Miss Eleanor Aubrey.

Portrait of Eleanor Aubrey [MS310/71/2/3]

Miss Eleanor M. Aubrey was a student of the University when it was the Hartley Institution, and was one of the College’s first graduates in arts.

She later became Senior Lecturer in English at the University when it was named University College Southampton, and taught for 35 years.

As well as teaching, Miss Aubrey took on positions in the residential services, such as Supervisor of Women Students and in 1917, Warden of the Yorke House Hall of Residence, where she undertook excellent preparations for the beginning of the next academic year despite the wartime difficulties. Miss Aubrey continued as Warden even when the women’s hall of residence was transferred from Yorke House to Highfield Hall. Here she was responsible for 70 women.

Highfield Hall from the front [MS224/6 A913]
The green study in Highfield Hall [MS224/6 A913]
Women students in front of Highfield Hall, 1920s [MS224/6 A913]

Miss Aubrey retired from the University in 1931. K.H. Vickers spoke the following words on Miss Aubrey’s retirement:

“Miss Aubrey has been a lecturer in the English department for 35 years, and in addition to that, she laid the foundations of the residential system on the women’s side.”

She had also been member of the Senate, and secretary for the Southampton Historical Record Society for many years:

“Miss Aubrey in particular has earned the gratitude of all interested in local history by her masterly edition of ‘Speed’s Manuscript History of Southampton.’” [Southampton Record Society, Hartley University College Magazine, Summer 1914 Vol.15, No.41, p.16]

As well as refereeing hockey matches and acting as accompanist for many musical programmes given by students, Aubrey took on committee positions and membership in many other University societies, including as President of the Tennis Club; member of the Literary and Debating Society; President of the Christian Union Women’s Branch; member of the University College Magazine Committee; and President of the Choral Society. She was also President of the Soiree Committee, of which we found the following commemorating her contribution:

“We must also thank Miss Aubrey, our President, both for her music and her unflagging enthusiasm in all matters connected with the social life of the College; without her help it would be almost impossible to carry on our work successfully.” [Soiree Notes, Southampton University College Magazine, Winter 1914 Vol.16, No.42, p.55]

Residing in Ryde, during her retirement, Miss Aubrey took an active position in the public activity of the Isle of Wight.

Miss Aubrey and her dog in the grounds [MS224/6 A913]

Join us next week, when we will continue our celebration of the women in our collections by focusing on Charlotte Chamberlain.

Celebrating women: Asenath Petrie

Today’s blog will focus on the life and work of Asenath Petrie, a psychologist, a poet and a humanitarian whose papers are held under MS349 at the University of Southampton’s Special Collections:

Asenath Petrie was born in London in 1914, the only daughter of Rabbi Avigdor Schonfeld and the sister of Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld. Before moving to Israel in 1973 her working life was divided between Harvard Medical School and its associated hospitals as well as those connected with London University. It was in London that she worked at a military hospital during the Second World War. At the end of the war she was involved in the selection of people who helped in the concentration camps, immediately after the liberation from the Nazis. She was also involved in the care of children from Nazi-occupied Europe and related activities.

Petrie was successful in academia as a psychologist and one of her published works, Individuality in Pain and Suffering (University of Chicago Press, USA, 1967), was well received and reviewed as widely from the Boston Globe to the British Dental Journal, as revealed by the newspaper clippings she kept, which form a small part of MS349. In this particular work Petrie documented her research into how different people experience the sensory world with varying degrees of intensity. Petrie divided participants into three groups according to the manner in which they cope with sensory stimulation: augmenters amplify the strength of their sensations, reducers decrease the intensity of their sensations and moderates­, somewhere in the middle of the continuum, neither increase nor decrease the intensity of their sensory experiences to any great degree. Petrie blindfolded participants and asked them to estimate the size of wooden objects that they held in their hands or the number of books balanced in their palms. She found that augmenters overestimated by approximately half the actual size or weight of objects whereas extreme reducers underestimated by half. Petrie also placed willing participants in an iron lung in order to examine responses to sensory deprivation and found that, whilst augmenters are more intolerant of physical pain they can cope better with sensory deprivation. Conversely, reducers showed a higher tolerance of pain but did not cope at all well with the sensory deprivation of the iron lung.

One fellow lecturer in psychology summarised the essence of her findings as follows: “The reducer’s tolerance of pain appears to depend on his built-in tendency to decrease the perceived intensity of painful stimuli . But when stimulation is sparse, this same tendency causes him acute distress, even panic, by reducing the already limited stimulation below the level necessary for the normal functioning of the brain.” [MS 349 3/12: clippings of reviews of Individuality in Pain and Suffering]

Petrie’s interest in pain and suffering was not limited, however, to the realm of academia and her own intellectual curiosity but extended to a genuine humanitarian instinct and a sympathy for those in need. The collection includes much correspondence between Petrie and others whose help she elicited in order to bring relief to those in distress. In a letter dated 14th December 1970 a friend of Petrie’s writes to a potential donor on her behalf in order to raise funds for the education of a woman with health problems which had prevented her from working: “You were good enough to respond to my appeal to you on behalf of Mrs Petrie for a grant to a Palestinian-Arab widow with three children […] knowing of your concern for the Palestinian Arabs, and believing that it is in individual actions of compassion that the best hope lies of arranging understanding and friendship between Jew and Arab, I make this appeal.” The gratitude of the widow is expressed in a later letter dated 1972 addressed to Asenath Petrie: “Dear Dr Petrie, thank you very much for your kind letter, which gave me a lot of pleasure and encouragement. I appreciate very much your help, and assistance, and shall never forget your kindness.” [MS 349 2/4: ‘Arab family scholarship’]

Collections of published poetry by Asenath Petrie [MS 349 3/14]

In addition to her work in academia and her charitable endeavours Petrie was also an accomplished poet. The various parts of her life – intellectual, humanitarian, creative and spiritual were not, however, totally separate from each other but were in fact connected by a common thread of compassion. In one of her poetry collections published in 1987, ‘Whitening the Sunshine – Jerusalem Poems’, the title poem is dedicated to a survivor of the Belsen camp and includes the line: ‘Since Belsen the smoke blackens our sun’. Despite a distance of some forty years Petrie had clearly not forgotten those in need and distress. Petrie died in January 2001.

Celebrating women: Trude Dub

We will be celebrating Women’s History Month by focusing on a different woman in our collections every week during March. This week, we focus on Trude Dub.

Gertrude Felman, was born in Novy Bydzov, Czechoslovakia, in 1910 but spent most of her younger years in Prague. In 1933, married her Polish-born husband Isidor Dub (also known as Izio or Izydor). 

Trude and Isidor Dub.
[Photograph used with kind permission of Jewish-Gilroes and Leicester Hebrew Congregation]

In 1939, Hitler marched into Prague and Trude and Isidor knew it could no longer be their home. At that time it wasn’t easy to get passports and the necessary travel documentation but they managed to escape on the last train out of Prague before the borders were sealed. They had tried to convince their relatives to join them but sadly none did. They were almost sole survivors of their families. 

Twenty-five years ago, on March 15, 1939, I woke up from an uneasy sleep and switched on my bedside radio. The time was 5.30 in the morning, the place was Prague. The voice of the announcer said:

“PLEASE KEEP LAW AND ORDER-the German army is invading Czechoslovakia from all four sides….PLEASE KEEP LAW AND ORDER-the German army is invading Czechoslovakia from all four sides…”

I woke my husband and together we listened to the voice that proclaimed not only the death of one of the finest democracies in Europe, but also the end of an epoch in our lives-and epoch that meant roots, security, and human dignity. Even as that voice droned on, we were being turned into fugitives, our crime being that we were Jewish.

Trude Dub, “The last train from Prague”, The Listener, 14 May 1964

When the Dubs first came to the UK, they lived in Birmingham but a few years later, in 1941, they chose to settle in Leicester. They became prominent members of the Jewish and wider community. Trude worked as a freelance writer, journalist, a creative writing teacher at Leicester Adult Education Centre, and translator and interpreter in both Czech and German. 

Evacuations necessitated by the war caused Leicester to expand to such an extent that the community was able to support five different Minyanim [prayer groups]. Trude realised that there was little in Leicester for newly arrived immigrants and so quickly established cultural and social events. She was actively involved in many of the committees of the Leicester Hebrew Congregation.

For over 40 years, from 1961 until her death, Dub was the Leicester correspondent of the Jewish Chronicle. She was so prolific that London readers believed Leicester to be a much larger community than was the case. Her contributions included coverage of the local social, political, arts and educational scene and the writing of profiles, obituaries, theatre and film criticism, book reviews and commissioned articles. She filed her last report in the week before her death. The collection housed at the University of Southampton (MS 325 Papers of Trude Dub) mostly contains cutting of JC articles by Dub. 

She also wrote for magazines including Good HousekeepingThe Lady and She, together with various American-Jewish journals. She broadcast over 50 talks on BBC national and local radio and was published in the Listener and in two BBC anthologies. Trude was a translator and interpreter in both Czech and German and her work included the publication of several technical handbooks for local industry and a number of literary translations, including poetry.

She was a founder member of the Leicester Writers’ Club in 1958, and became a life member in 1992 having served as press officer, president and vice-president. An award was named in her honour: The Trude Dub Award for Non-fiction which is awarded annually.

Trophy awarded to the winner of the Trade Dub Award for Non-Fiction.
[Photograph by Emma Lee; used by kind permission of Leicester Writers’ Club]

Those who knew Trude have described her as “a giant personality in a small frame who kept friends and strangers spellbound with her many vivid recollections”. Friends commentated that she possessed a quick wit, a penetrating intelligence, a fund of wisdom and an indomitable spirit. 

Trude died in Leicester, aged 91, in 2002.

Join us next week, when we will be telling you all about the MS 349 Papers of Asenath Petrie.

Hartley University College, 1902-1913

So you join us at the start of a new century and a new beginning for the institution, at this point in its history renamed as the Hartley University College. Our previous post The Hartley Institution and Hartley College, 1862-1902 ended with the last days of the Hartley College. The change in legal status was confirmed in 1902 with the establishment of a Court of Governors, Council and a Senate. A design for a College seal with the motto Strenuis ardour cedunt (the heights yield to endeavour) was chosen.

The object of the College was set out as follows:

The provision of a liberal education, and such instruction as may enable residents in Southampton and Hampshire, the Isle of Wight Dorset and Wiltshire … and the county boroughs of Portsmouth and Bournemouth, and others to qualify for degrees at any university in the United Kingdom: the giving of such legal, medical technical or other instruction as may be of service in professional, commercial or industrial life; the spread of higher education by providing instruction in the form of lectures, combined with class teaching and examinations, at such places and in such subjects as shall be determined from time to time by the Statutes of the College; and generally the promotion and increase of knowledge.

Temple Patterson, University of Southampton, pp.109-110

The University College was affiliated to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge for awarding degrees. The College calendar, which made its first appearance at this time – listed day classes preparing students for London University degrees in arts, science and engineering, for the medical and teaching professions, the civil service, or advance study at Oxford of Cambridge. This period marked the end of the Department of Art. 

The earliest College Calendar in the University Collection dates from the 1903-4 session

A significant proportion of the University College’s students were in the engineering department. Instruction in engineering made its appearance almost at the very start of the Hartley’s teaching activities; the department’s continuous history dates from the arrival of John Eustice in 1892. The Physics and Chemistry departments also date from these early days.

On the humanities side, Professor Hearnshaw, key in founding the Southampton Record Series, taught history. Professor Mason gave instruction in Latin and English. Terms averaged 12 weeks in duration. A college cap, maroon with gold edging and a badge was supposed to be worn by all male students. A committee of staff and students formed the Students’ Union. This controlled the men’s and women’s common rooms, created in 1902. The annual membership fee was 10s 6d, for men, or 7s 6d for women.

Women’s common room. The men’s, for which we do not have an image, was intriguingly known as “the Den”.

During this period there were fairly numerous and frequent meetings of societies and the playing of games. The lack of a college playing field was a handicap to sports clubs and outside these formal opportunities, social intercourse was restricted. Each term would see about 12 functions called “soirees” which featured music, games, dancing and perhaps a short topical play or charade. These included the Welcome Soiree given by the seniors to the freshers at the beginning of term and the “At Home” of the hostel residents at the end of the first term. It’s reported that the Welsh students had an annual outing on St David’s Day; whether students from Wales were allowed out on other days is not recorded! There were very occasional Whit Monday picnic excursions to the New Forest by cycle and train.

Windsor House, 1906 [MS1/7/291/22/1/17]

A second hostel for women, Windsor House, soon joined Bevois Mount House. Strict restrictions were placed on social intercourse between male and female students: female students residing in the hostels were forbidden to converse with male students outside the College grounds except at recognised college functions. Female students could attend evening functions only if chaperoned by the Supervisor of Women, Miss Aubrey (a former student and one of the College’s first graduates in Arts, who also lectured in English and was joint secretary of the Southampton Record Society), or some other female member of staff. Hostel residents had to obtain their lady superindent’s permission before arranging excursions or accepting evening invitations of any kind. They were not allowed to be out without permission later than 6pm on winter and 8.30pm on summer weekdays, or 8.45 on Sundays and had to retire to bed by 10. Finally, they must not go boating without an experienced boatman! It appears that the rules were not always strictly enforced.

Female students, 1903 [MS1/7/291/22/1/13]

Not long into its life as a University College the institution was yet again beset by both financial issues and internal politics. The College’s newly acquired status was threatened in two ways and from two directions – as a day training college by criticisms of the Board of Education and as a university college by the University Commissioners and the Treasury. Internal disputes became very spiteful and public which was dangerously detrimental to the College’s already uncertain future. In 1905, the Board of Education inspectors’ were critical of the piecemeal construction of the accommodation and buildings which had resulted in “dirty dinginess and decorative disrepair”. They also felt that the crowded part of town was ill-chosen for the work of a training college. There was a genuine danger it could relapse into a local technical college. Student numbers were still gradually increasing and so the College buildings got even more cramped. In 1904-5, there were only 20 full-time teaching staff; three of the nine departments (History, Modern Languages and Biology combined with Geology) were still staffed by just one person.

Students’ Council, 1906 [MS1/7/291/22/1/15]

By 1909 it was clear that any further extension or improvement of the existing college buildings, even if the money could be found, would no longer satisfy the Board of Education or Treasury. Therefore the University College started to explore the possibility of obtaining an entirely new site somewhere on the outskirts of the town with room for subsequent expansion. In June 1909 an eleven-acre site on the Highfield Court Estate was secured for sale at a price of £5,000. There was a campaign to raise funds. Prominent local people subscribed and both Southampton Town Council and Hampshire County Council put forward financial support which gave the College a stronger footing to move forwards.

Bust of Claude G.Montefiore

Around this time, two individuals joined the College’s leadership who were to be instrumental in steering the course of the institution for many years to come. The first was Mr Claude G.Montefiore, elected as Acting President in January 1910. Temple Patterson describes him “as unselfish a benefactor and as wise and great leader as any modern university institution has ever had.” He was made President in 1913 and was active in the College’s life for the next 25 or 30 years.

Dr Alex. Hill [MS1/7/291/22/1/05]

The second individual is Dr Alex. Hill who was appointed Principal In January 1913. An increase in salary meant that for the first time in it’s history, the Principal was an individual of more advanced years, with high academic standing and wide experience. One of his first actions in the piecemeal transfer of the College from the High Street to the Highfield site was to secure a lease on Highfield Hall. It opened it 1914, partly as a home for his family and party as a hall of residence for a limited number of members of staff and students, with himself as warden. Mr Montefiore had warned that as long as the College lacked a hall of residence for men which could serve as a social centre, it would remain disadvantaged in competition with other colleges.

1913 [MS1/7/291/22/1/23]

These interventions – the increase in funds and strong leadership – gave the College a respite which enabled it to begin turning a corner. The financial difficulties, however, were not fully resolved. A serious increase in buildings costs had made it necessary to modify the plans for the new buildings at Highfield. The administration block had to be postponed and only 2 wings of the proposed Arts building, without its centre, could be constructed with the money available. A gradual transfer from the High Street site was no longer an option and there was therefore no possibility of continuing using any of the premises. Quasi-temporary or stopgap labs and engineering shops were hastily erected at Highfield.

The following extract comes from a letter sent from Montefiore to a meeting of the Court of Governors in early 1914:

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, and since a university college already exists there, it is eminently desirable that this growing concern should be that strong university college, that future university of which the southern counties stand in need… To make the College a full success, to enable to do all that it should do, all that I will truly help the large area it serves by doing, it must now forge rapidly ahead. it must have its one big site, its classrooms and its laboratories and workshops; it must have its hostels and social opportunities, it must have its library and its hall and its playing fields. All these are needful for the full academic life, and this full academic life is not only necessary for the students whom we already have, but is essential to draw hither the many more students whom we want to have and ought to have.

Early in the summer of 1914, the first instalment of the new buildings at the newly renamed University College of Southampton were ready to be opened. The “Arts Block” included 28 large and many small lecture rooms, private rooms for professors and labs for biology, chemistry, physics and engineering.

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]

The Lord Chancellor, Viscount Haldane, presided over the opening ceremony on 20 June. After performing their “Gobli” or war dance with its accompanying “Goblio” or war cry around the Chancellor, the students staged a mock attack on his car by two of their number dressed as militant suffragettes waving hatchets – real suffragettes had recently thrown a hatchet at the Prime minister. After a moment of – not unjustified – alarm, Haldane too the “rag” in good part.

But great changes for the whole country lurked just around the corner. Eight days later Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated and the First World War started soon after. For the next instalment of the story, describing events during the War and after, see They came from near and far to do their patriotic duty – staffing the University War Hospital and Highfield Campus 100: 1919.