Battenberg and Mountbatten

The House of Windsor was created on 17 July 1917 when King George V decided that the name of the royal house should be anglicised in response to anti-German sentiment resulting from the First World War. The name Windsor was adopted, replacing Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. At a meeting of the Privy Council on 17 July 1917, George V declared that “all descendants in the male line of Queen Victoria, who are subjects of these realms, other than female descendants who marry or who have married, shall bear the name of Windsor”. It was also decided that the various Tecks, Holsteins and Battenbergs who were British citizens should do the same. Among those affected were the family of Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg.

Letterpress halftone portrait photograph of Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg when First Sea Lord, 1914 [MB2/A12/61]

Letterpress halftone portrait photograph of Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg when First Sea Lord, 1914 [MB2/A12/61]

Born at Graz, Austria, in 1854, Prince Louis was the eldest son of Prince Alexander of Hesse and his morganatic wife, Countess Julia Theresa von Haucke. Family connections with Princess Alice and Prince Albert (both children of Queen Victoria) led to Prince Louis settling in England and becoming naturalized as a British subject. He entered the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1868, at the age of fourteen. In 1884 he married his cousin Princess Victoria, granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Together they had two daughters, Alice (b. 1885) and Louise (b. 1889), and two sons, George (b. 1892) and Louis Francis (b. 1900).

Following a long and successful naval career lasting more than forty years, Prince Louis was appointed First Sea Lord in 1912 by Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty. In July 1914, with the First World War looming, Prince Louis took the initiative to ensure the British fleet was ready for combat. However, this did not shield him from attack on account of his German background and over the subsequent months his position became increasingly untenable. On 29 October he resigned from his position as First Sea Lord – a blow from which he is said to have never recovered. In his letter of resignation to Churchill he writes:

I have lately been driven to the painful conclusion that at this juncture my birth and parentage have the effect of impairing in some respects my usefulness on the Board of the Admiralty. In these circumstances I feel it to be my duty, as a loyal subject of His Majesty, to resign the office of First Sea Lord, hoping thereby to facilitate the task of the administration of the great Service to which I have devoted my life, and to ease the burden laid on HM’s Ministers. [MS 62 MB1/T48]

At the behest of the King he agreed to change his name and relinquished his German titles (of Serene Highness and Prince) in 1917. The family adopted the name Mountbatten, an Anglicisation of the German Battenberg (rejecting the alternative translation of Battenhill). Having renounced their German titles, they were compensated with British peerages of marquess of Milford Haven, earl of Medina, and Viscount Alderney. As a result, Prince Louis became Louis Alexander Mountbatten, first Marquess of Milford Haven; his eldest son George became Earl of Medina (succeeding to his father’s peerage on his death); while his second son acquired the courtesy title Lord Louis Mountbatten (remaining Lord Louis until he was created a peer in 1946).

Black and white photograph of Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg and his sons, Louis (on the left) and George (on the right), 1914 [MB2/A12/34]

Black and white photograph of Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg and his sons, Louis (on the left) and George (on the right), 1914 [MB2/A12/34]

Lord Louis Mountbatten (nicknamed “Dickie” by his family and friends) was serving on board the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth when he acquired his courtesy title. He had begun his naval career four years earlier, in 1913, when he entered the Royal Naval College at Osbourne on the Isle of Wight. In so doing he was following in the footsteps of his father and older brother George, both of whom he idolised. He progressed to the fledgling Royal Naval College at Dartmouth in 1915. By the time he completed his training at the Royal Naval College at Keyham the following year he was eager to see action.

He was posted as midshipman to the battlecruiser HMS Lion on 19 July 1916. A month later, on 19 August, his wish to see action was granted when the Lion was involved in a brief encounter with the German fleet. Not long after he was transferred to the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the flagship of the Grand Fleet, while his brother George was transferred to the Lion – the Admiralty not allowing two brothers to serve on the same ship. Having visiting the front in July 1918, he joined HMS P31 in October of the same year where he was involved in escort and anti-submarine work.

Black and white photograph of the officers and midshipmen of HMS Lion including Prince Louis Francis of Battenberg (later Lord Mountbatten), 1916 [MB2/A12/65]. He can be seen in the uniform of a midshipman, seated cross-legged in the middle of the front row, tenth from the left. He is holding a small dog, probably the ship's mascot.

Black and white photograph of the officers and midshipmen of HMS Lion including Prince Louis Francis of Battenberg (later Lord Mountbatten), 1916 [MB2/A12/65]. He can be seen in the uniform of a midshipman, seated cross-legged in the middle of the front row, tenth from the left. He is holding a small dog, probably the ship’s mascot.

Following the end of the war, Mountbatten interrupted his naval career to study at the University of Cambridge in 1919. He then joined the Prince of Wale on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, and India, in 1920 and 1921. On 22 August 1921, his father was made an admiral of the fleet on the retired list. However, his health was in decline and he died of heart failure following influenza on 11 September.

Mountbatten spent the inter-war period pursuing his naval career, where he specialised in communications. In 1934, he received his first command on the destroyer, HMS Daring.  In 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War, he became commander of the HMS Kelly – the exploits of which were made famous by the Noël Coward film In Which We Serve. The Kelly was sunk by German dive bombers off the coast of Crete in May 1941 with the loss of more than half its crew.

Following his role as Chief of Combined Operations – with the responsibility of preparing for the eventual invasion of occupied Europe – he was appointed the Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command (SEAC), in 1943. Working with General William Slim, he achieved the defeat of the Japanese offensive towards India and the reconquest of Burma. In March 1947, he became viceroy of India, overseeing the transfer of power to India and Pakistan on 14 August 1947. For his services during the war and in India he was created viscount in 1946 and Earl Mountbatten of Burma the following year.

Mountbatten returned to the Royal Navy in 1953, becoming commander of a new NATO Mediterranean command. In 1954 he was appointed First Sea Lord, fulfilling his ambition to succeed to the post that his father had held more than 40 years earlier. Finally, he became Chief of the Defence Staff in 1959, a position he held until 1965 when he retired to civilian life.

The papers of the late Louis, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, form part of University of Southampton Library MS62, the Broadlands archives. The collection includes personal and naval papers of Prince Louis of Battenberg, first Marquis of Milford Haven, 1886-1911 (MB1/T1-10).

Anyone for Tennis?!

As the heat and the tension rises at Wimbledon this week we look at the history of tennis through the University Archives.

Photo of Hartley University College mixed tennis group, 1910, MS1/7/291/22/1/108]

Hartley University College mixed tennis group, 1910 [MS1/7/291/22/1/108]

This charming Edwardian photo of Hartley University College students in 1910 shows the truly elegant sportswear of the time. While the ladies graced the courts in long skirts and large hats, the must-have fashion accessory for gentlemen seems to have been – the pipe?!

Hartley University College students, 1910-1912

Hartley University College students, 1910-1912 [MS1/7/291/22/1/84]

The Wimbledon Championships – established in 1877 by the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club – is the oldest and arguably the most prestigious of our tennis tournaments. The popularization of lawn tennis (not to be confused with ‘real tennis’ – see below) is widely credited to Major Walter Clopton Wingfield who published, in 1873, the first official rules of a game he called “Sphairistike” (from the Greek: “the art of playing ball”). He patented the rules and equipment of the game the following year and quickly sold 1,000 tennis sets at 5 guineas a piece! His pamphlet “book of the game” is now very rare; it set out the history of the game, the erection of the court, and the rules. These, and the scoring system for ‘lawn tennis’, have hardly changed since the 1890s: so our modern game would have been familiar to the Hartley University College students of one hundred years ago.

The earliest origins of Tennis, however, fade into the mists of time and are disputed – some authorities mention the Egyptians; many refer to a game popular with European monks in the twelfth century. This was played around a closed courtyard and the ball was struck with the palm of the hand, hence the name jeu de paume (“game of the palm”). The name ‘tennis’ may derive from the French word ‘tenez’, from the verb tenir, ‘to hold’.

‘Real’ tennis – also called court tennis or royal tennis – grew in popularity with the French and English aristocracy through the Middle Ages and was played in London in purpose-built covered courts as early as the sixteenth century. Henry VIII was a keen player at Hampton Court Palace.  The fortunes of the game waxed and waned, and by the 1820s, the only London tennis court still in operation was the James Street court near the Haymarket. The members of this newly revived club invited the Duke of Wellington to join them in 1820:

Letter from Robert Ludkin to  Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, 24 June 1820,  with list of members of the tennis club [MS 61 WP1/647/12]

Letter from Robert Ludkin to Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, 24 June 1820, with list of members of the Tennis Club [MS 61 WP1/647/12]

In his letter, Robert Ludkin, Acting Secretary of the Club, writes:

“A ‘Tennis Club’ having been recently established… I am desired to communicate to Your Grace this resolution of the Club and to assure you that its members will be most happy in the honor of your company whenever it may suit your Grace’s convenience to attend.”

You can see the Duke’s pencil draft for his reply, which was written across the front of the letter:

“Compliments the Duke is much flattered at being admitted a member of the James Club; & will be happy to attend whenever in his power.”

Ludkin enclosed a printed list of the present members, which included His Royal Highness the Duke of York –plus the Rules and Regulations of the Club. The latter relate solely to membership, rather than to the game, and record a hefty subscription of two guineas a year:

Rules and Regulations of the James Street Tennis Club, Haymarket, London, 1820

Rules and Regulations of the James Street Tennis Club, Haymarket, London, 1820 [MS 61 WP1/647/12 (enclosure)]

“The Tennis Club do hold their first Meeting and Dinner on the first Saturday after Easter in every Year; and do meet and dine together once a Fortnight to the 8th of July following.”

Did the Duke dine or did the Duke play tennis?  He certainly owned a private tennis court at his country house at Stratfield Saye, in Hampshire.  When in 1845, Prince Albert played here during the royal visit by Queen Victoria and her family, the event was chronicled in the Illustrated London News of 1st February that year:

Illustrated London News of 1st February 1845

Illustrated London News, 1st February 1845.

The ILN appended, for the fashionable Victorian reader, a brief history of the “olden game” of Tennis, concluding: “Thus it was in past ages, a royal and noble game.”

“An evocative poet”: the pianist Solomon Cutner

Solomon Cutner, or Solomon as he became known, made his professional debut at the age of eight playing Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto at Queen’s Hall, London.  From then until his early teens he was to be considered one of the most celebrated child prodigies of his era.

Solomon was born in the East End of London in 1902, the seventh child of Jewish parents of Polish and German extraction. Since both of his parents loved music and there was a piano in the home, Solomon, as he noted in an interview years later, “could have been barely five when I first started strumming on the piano and having lessons.  For hours and hours I would practice upon the old instrument which we had at home and forget all about games and toys…. It was the strangest assortment of trifles that my fingers, as rigid as the keys themselves, would delightedly ramble through, ranging from a Beethoven minuet and snatches of 1812 to the popular tunes of the day.” [MS 430 A4254/4/1]

Solomon as a child performer [MS430 A4254/3]

Solomon as a child performer [MS430 A4254/3]

Solomon’s parents were introduced to Mathilde Verne, who had set up a music school in London in 1909, by a member of the Jewish Aid Society.  And it was a bursary from the Jewish Aid Society that supported Solomon’s lessons with Verne.  He moved into her house and undertook a punishing schedule of eight to nine hours a day practice and of numerous concerts.  At the age of nine Solomon performed with the Queen’s Hall Orchestra under the conductor Henry Wood.  Wood was to write to Mathilde Verne that “I have never met such a talent as Solomon’s at the age of 9. His phrasing and rhythmic grip seemed to me quite remarkable.” [Henry Wood to Mathilde Verne, 25 June 1912 MS 430 A4254/4/1].  By the he age of 12 Solomon was playing six Prom concerts and the following year he played 15 concerts with Henry Wood.

Solomon left Verne when his contract expired and, on the advice of Henry Wood, retreated from performance and immersed himself in study.  He returned to performance in early 1920s, first in London and Paris followed by a short tour of Germany.  He made his New York debut in 1926 and performed at the World Fair there in 1939, premiering the Piano Concerto in B-flat by Arthur Bliss.

Solomon's American debut [MS 430 A4254/3]

Solomon’s American debut [MS 430 A4254/3]

During the Second World War Solomon performed for allied troops in Europe.  In the post-war period he undertook extensive concert tours across the world.

Performing in Australia

Performing in Australia [MS 430 A4254/3]

Solomon embarked on a parallel career as a recording artist from 1929 when he signed to Columbia. He subsequently signed to EMI, focusing on the works of Beethoven and on recording the entire sequence of Beethoven’s piano sonatas.  Solomon was part way through the Beethoven recording when in 1956 he suffered a stroke that paralysed his right arm. This effectively ended his performance career.

Solomon was awarded a CBE in 1946. He died, in London, in 1988 aged 85. He is remembered for his superb technique and his playing as an adult was acclaimed for its clarity and overall poetic feel.  He was described as “one of the few contemporary pianists who is master of the subtleties of Chopin”. [MS 430 A4254/1/206]  William Mann called him “an evocative poet”.  For John Cromer, “while Solomon played … the inanimate piano came alive with a new meaning of sound and patterned harmonies.  The three-legged monster with shining white and black teeth became the living bearer of a thousand messages, soft and sweet, tender and poignant.” [MS 430 A4254/1]

Letter from Solomon to his sister [MS 430 A4254/1/39]

Letter from Solomon to his sister Ettie [MS 430 A4254/1/39]

The recently acquired collection of papers relating to Solomon at Southampton contains extensive correspondence from him, predominately to his sister Ettie.  These letters relate to his concert tours in the 1940s and 1950s across North and South America, Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.  They attest both to the rigors of life on tour and to his appreciation of homely comforts such as tea and toast in his hotel room.  The collection further contains photographs of Solomon from a young man to an adult; programmes from concerts all across the world; and volumes of press cuttings mainly of reviews of his performances.  This material provides a glimpse into the world of the person Harold Schonberg of the New York Times called “that most civilized of pianists” and who his family remember as a devoted son and brother.

University balls and dances

With the academic year having come to an end and the celebration of summer balls having recently passed, we look back at a selection of the balls and dances which populated the University calendar in the decade following the University’s receipt of its royal charter.

Student social events have formed part of the University’s calendar since the early days of the institution. Looking at a student handbook from 1906 one can find a number of social functions listed for the session, including a series of soirées, a joint musical evening by the Choral Society, and a garden party. By the time the institution received its royal charter in 1952, becoming a full-fledged University, balls and dances had become a prominent feature of the student social scene.

Programmes for the Union Ball, 1939 [MS 310/78] and 1959 [MS 310/23]

Programmes for the Union Ball, 1939 [MS 310/78] and 1959 [MS 310/23]

One of the key events to mark the beginning of the academic year was the Freshers’ Dance. Specifically aimed at first year students, the dance was intended to provide a sample of University entertainment. However, as with many of the student dances held during the 1950s, the venue for the ball was the old Refectory (forming part of what is now Garden Court, Building 40). The venue proved inadequate, with the student newspaper the Wessex News noting that it was “not designed to accommodate two hundred and fifty whirling couples”. The result was often an overcrowded, hot and noisy event, with the behaviour of certain seniors leading to the annual dance becoming commonly known as “the cattle market”.  The late 1950s and early 1960s was a period of major expansion for the University and by the time of the 1960-1 session the Union was ready to move into the whole of the West Building, providing sufficient space for dances and live performances.

Next on the calendar was the Halloween Ball in October. Established by the Scottish and Old Time Dancing Society, the dance incorporated traditional Scottish music and was host to a selection of witches, devils, bats and similar nocturnal creatures. In 1956 an unexpected guest made an appearance: “Quite in keeping with the general atmosphere of diabolism was the sudden and unexpected entry of Kelly [the Engineering faculty’s mascot] surrounded by hooded engineers, bless their little cotton socks, furiously exploding Bangers.” [Wessex News, 6 November 1956, Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

Kelly the skeleton, the Engineering faculty’s mascot, was a regular guest at student balls and dances [MS 1/7/291/22]

Kelly the skeleton, the Engineering faculty’s mascot, was a regular guest at student balls and dances [MS 1/7/291/22]

A range of faculty and society balls populated the calendar throughout the decade. A description of the Interstellar Ball held by the Science Faculty in January 1957 reads:

“In front of the West Building stood a rocket ready for take-off, and inside the theme was carefully repeated with star-studded portholes, martian television sets, a flying saucer and various galaxies, not to mention a rather static mobile.” [Wessex News, 29 January 1957, Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

One of the most prominent social events on the University calendar was the Engineers’ Ball held in the late autumn. By the 1950s the ball had established itself as a tradition and was widely considered one of the most memorable events of the year. A great deal of effort went into planning and organising each ball. The refectory was decorated with gadgets and other mechanical wonders, bringing welcome relief from the “tedium” of its natural decor. Each year the venue was decorated to a particular theme, including the “Festival of Britain” in 1951, the “Brussels Exhibition” in 1958, and “Underwater” in 1959.

Photograph of students setting up the Engineers’ Ball, c. 1952 [MS 310/34]

Photograph of students setting up the Engineers’ Ball, c. 1952 [MS 310/34]

A review of the 1957 Engineers’ Ball in the Wessex News reads:

“No one who has not seen the Refectory when the Engineers have finished with it could believe that such a transformation of this monstrosity was possible. This year visitors found themselves in a fairground cum circus, with the usual appendages including, strangely enough, a Big Wheel. A large cage divided the bar in the annexe from the dancing room, an excellent idea, since it was mostly monopolised by the jivers who are always a nuisance to civilised dancers.” [Wessex News, 10 December 1957, Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

The Engineers’ Ball was considered more glamourous even than the Union Ball (though it lacked the gloss of officialdom that the latter possessed) with the same reviewer writing:

“The Engineers set themselves a very high standard, which they manage miraculously, year after year, to live up to. One can never judge an Engineers’ Ball by comparing it to other Union dances because they are not in the same class…” [Wessex News, 10 December 1957, Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

The popularity of the event meant that tickets were made available in order of precedence, as follows: Ball Helpers, engineering finalists, a limited number of other engineers, members of the Union, and even members of the University staff.

The spring brought two key events to the Union calendar: Rag day and the Union dinner and ball. Rag day was traditionally held on Shrove Tuesday and consisted of a variety of activities aimed at raising money for charity. It was seen as an occasion for “fun and high spirits” as well as being a means of bringing “pleasure, help and happiness to others”. Central to Rag day was the Rag procession which paraded through the city with all manner of floats accompanied by students in fancy dress. The day’s events culminated in the Rag ball which generally took place in the Guildhall in the city centre.

Route of the Rag procession, 1948 [MS 310/31]

Route of the Rag procession, 1948 [MS 310/31]

Rag day induced a particular atmosphere which some have described as “riotous”. This, on occasion, led to inexcusable acts of hooliganism which threatened the very existence of the Rag. Detailing the revival of Rag in 1948 after a lapse of many years, an article in the Wessex News notes that: “Over enthusiasm on the part of the students had caused the police to intervene in no uncertain manner, and the Rag machinery fell into disuse.” [Wessex News, 16 October 1951, Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9] A similar situation occurred in 1959 leading to the abolishing of the Rag for a number of years. While it was proposed that new University Arts Festival could act as a replacement, the Rag was reinstated again in 1963.

The Students’ Union held its own dinner and ball around the same time as the Rag (with an oversight in 1957 leading to the two events clashing). The event, regularly criticised as elitist, consisted of a dinner with speeches and toasts followed by a ball at the Guildhall. Looking at a programme for the Union Ball from 1939 one can find various ballroom dances listed, including quickstep, waltz, foxtrot, tango, etc., with the evening ending with a toast to “The King”. Fast-forwarding to 1959 we find both an orchestra, with traditional ballroom dances listed, alongside a jazz-band.

Photograph of students at the Union Ball, 1959 [MS 310/23]

Photograph of students at the Union Ball, 1959 [MS 310/23]

By the late 1950s, jazz had established itself as an integral part of the student social scene with nearly all dances and socials featuring jazz groups, either as support or as the main attraction. While balls remain a standard of the University calendar, options for live music at the University broadened in subsequent decades as live jazz and rock became an integral part of many student’s lives.

Today, the Freshers’ Ball, Graduation Ball and Engineering Ball remain some of the most prominent social events of the University year.

The Accession of Queen Alexandrina Victoria I, 20 June 1837

Queen Victoria, at the time of her accession, aged 18, Illustrated London News, 14 May 1911

Queen Victoria, at the time of her accession, aged 18, (Illustrated London News, 14 May 1911)

William IV died, after a lingering illness, early on the morning of Tuesday 20 June 1837. He had lived to see his niece Princess Victoria celebrate her 18th birthday – and therefore her majority – on 24th May, and he had the satisfaction of knowing that Victoria would succeed to the throne in her own right, without being subject to a regency.

The King died at Windsor Castle. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chamberlain went immediately to Kensington Palace to inform Princess Victoria. She noted in her journal that she was woken at 6 o’clock by her mother, who told her that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham had arrived and wished to see her. She got out of bed and went into her sitting room, in her dressing gown. “Lord Conyngham (the Lord Chamberlain) then acquainted me” she wrote “that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning and consequently that I am Queen”.

Queen Victoria awakened to hear news of her accession, Illustrated London News, 14 May 1911

Queen Victoria awakened to hear the news of her accession, (Illustrated London News, 14 May 1911)

The Lords of the Privy Council assembled that same morning at Kensington Palace and gave orders for proclaiming her majesty, with the usual ceremonies, as ‘Queen Alexandrina Victoria I.’

The name Victoria was rare in England. There had been a major family row at the christening of the young princess on 24 June 1819: the Prince Regent (later George IV, Victoria’s uncle and godfather) had forbidden the names Victoire Georgiana Alexandrina Charlotte Augusta, after her mother and godparents. He eventually agreed to ‘Alexandrina Victoria’ – which honoured the tsar of Russia (her godfather), and her mother (born Princess Marie Luise Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, the Duchess of Kent) – but he would not permit his niece to have any of the names traditionally given to British royal princesses.  Although known as ‘Drina’ for a while as a child, she preferred ‘Victoria’ and quickly dropped the official use of her first name.

At just 18, the Queen was young and inexperienced – but she had been carefully educated and was determined to fill the role to the best of her ability.

It was generally felt that Victoria quitted herself well at her first Privy Council. The Duke of Wellington, who was in attendance, certainly thought so. He wrote the same day to Charlotte Percy, Duchess of Northumberland (who had been governess to the princess), and her reply survives in the Wellington papers at the University of Southampton:

Letter from Charlotte Florentia Percy, Duchess of Northumberland to Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, WP2/46/124-5, 20 June 1837

Letter from Charlotte Florentia Percy, Duchess of Northumberland, to Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, 20 June 1837, with autograph docket by the Duke, WP2/46/124-5

Northumberland House, 20 June 1837
“My Dear Duke
“I have read your gratifying testimony of the successful manner in which the young Queen made her first appearance before the Privy Council, with sensations of real delight. Your opinion is always invaluable to me, and your kind recollection of what must be my feelings at this moment I most gratefully acknowledge. I always have had the greatest confidence in her character, calmness and presence of mind, so essential to her high station and I look forward to her realizing all those bright expectations which her truth, her uprightness of mind have taught me to expect from her.”

Victoria was quickly immersed in the business of state and government.   This is clear from the papers of Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, who was the Queen’s first Foreign Secretary, later Home Secretary, and Prime Minister. The royal correspondence in the Palmerston Papers shows the Queen struggling to understand and even to read all the state papers that were put before her in these early days, however, her determination to get to grips with the work is unmistakable:

“As the Queen has got a great many Foreign Dispatches, which, from want of time she has been unable to read, as yet, she requests Lord Palmerston not to send any more until she has done with those which she already has with her, & which she hopes will be the case by tomorrow  evening.”

Note the use of the third person by the Queen, who did not sign the letter (Queen Victoria to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, 12 August 1837, MS 62 Palmerston Papers RC/F/15/1).

Victoria was to reign – as Queen and Empress – for more than 63 years. She remains one of our most enduringly popular monarchs. The ITV drama Victoria, which aired last year, was a roaring success, attracting more than 7 million viewers per episode. As her rule has gone down in history, so her name – that obscure and foreign name at the time of her christening – has become popular across the English-speaking world. 180 years on, Victoria is, indisputably, a truly royal British name.

Remembering Wellington and Waterloo

Waterloo Road, Southampton

Waterloo Road, Southampton

In the aftermath of the battle of Waterloo, both the first Duke of Wellington and the battle were to receive many marks of public recognition. Streets, buildings and public places were named after them. The Percy Histories, published in 1823, identified in London 14 places named after Wellington and 10 sites named after Waterloo. When the first portion of what is now called Regent Street was built in 1815-16, it was called Waterloo Place. One of the new bridges built over the Thames between 1813-19 became Waterloo Bridge. London Waterloo Station was opened  in 1848 by London and South Western Rail as Waterloo Bridge Station.

The Wellington Arms, Southampton

The Wellington Arms, Southampton

Pubs and inns also were given Wellington’s name, including the hastily renamed Hotel Wellington on the battlefield of Waterloo in 1815, and pubs today continue this tradition. Couples in the nineteenth century chose to name their boys Arthur Wellesley in honour of the Duke, just as children were named after Winston Churchill in a wave of patriotic pride in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Fêted as the “saviour of Europe”, Wellington received not only honours and funds granted to him by Parliament to purchase an estate, but was the subject of numerous paintings, statues and monuments, such as the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner in London.

Headed notepaper containing a depiction of the Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London [MS61 WP2/150/61]

Headed notepaper containing a depiction of the Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London [MS61 WP2/150/61]

Wellington appeared in many caricatures — up to 5% of the collection at the British Museum, London — 300 paintings and drawings and 180 published engravings. He also appeared on a range of merchandise, everything from tea sets to snuff boxes.  His achievements, usually in the military field, were recorded in other commemorative items, such as the Wellington Alphabet sent to him in 1836.  Starting with Assaye, the Alphabet concludes with the lines:

“W for Wellington and Waterloo! / What boundless praise to that great name is due / Which there subdu’d the proud and stubborn heart / Of that ambitious tyrant Bonaparte, / The peace of Europe thus accomplished / And left no field unwon for X Y Z.”

The Wellington Alphabet, sent to the Duke in 1836 [MS61 WP2/43/90]

The Wellington Alphabet [MS61 WP2/43/90]

While his military image was to be tarnished in his lifetime by periods of unpopularity with the general public, there was a great outpouring of grief at his death in 1852.  Wellington was rediscovered as a great national hero by the early Victorian public and was accorded a state funeral on a lavish scale attended by massive crowds. For a period he was again elevated to the status he had enjoyed in 1815. The Times wrote in his obituary that “He was the very type and model of the Englishman”, whilst Queen Victoria declared him “the GREATEST man this country ever produced”.

The interest in the funeral was great. The funeral issues of The Illustrated London News of 20 and 27 November 1852 sold two million copies. There was hardly enough room for those attending the funeral and the whole of the funeral procession route was thronged with people.  Shops along the Strand rented out their shopfront, roofs or upper stories. For those who were not able to attend there were memorial services held in churches around Great Britain and at 3pm bells began tolling in every parish church across the country.

Duke of Wellington funeral procession from Apsley House, London

Funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington from Apsley House, London: The Illustrated London News

The outpouring of grief, the discussions on Wellington’s greatness and symbolism as a national hero, that surrounded his death and funeral represented the mythologising of the Duke. Ode on the death of the Duke of Wellington by the Poet Laureate, Tennyson, which appeared two days before the funeral, commemorated Wellington as the “greatest Englishman”, “as great on land” as Nelson was a commander at sea and the “foremost captain of his time”. The first edition of 10,000 copies of this were sold at one shilling a piece and sold out very quickly. Other commemorative works produced in this period were to cast Wellington in similar heroic terms – for Thomas Carlyle he was a “Godlike man”.

Funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington, Somerset House

Funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington on the Strand: The Illustrated London News

Whether the names of Wellington and Waterloo resonate in the same way in the twenty first century, their legacy is still very much in evidence today in the towns and cities of the UK and further afield.

If you wanted to discover more about Wellington and Waterloo remembered, why not join the (MOOC) Massive Open Online course relating to Wellington and Waterloo, led by Karen Robson from Special Collections and Professor  Chris Woolgar from Humanities.  To sign up go to: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/wellington-and-waterloo

Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London

An appointment with the Archives

The Special Collections  has a developing programme of events and visits designed to introduce students to both the collections and the work of the Division.   Last week a group of students joined the team for a behind the scenes visit and a taster session working with the collections.  As well as the opportunity to decipher Queen Victoria’ handwriting, the students assessed albums compiled by the Society of Old Hartleyans relating to student life from the first half of the 20th century, helping to choose items that we could use for promotional purposes.  Here are the choices of three of the group, Greg, Núria and Victoriawith their explanations of why the items appealed to them.

Greg 

As a photograph the striking contrasts of black suit and white shirt make the tone exciting and help to define the faces of the past by highlighting facial features.  Their finely combed hair and crisp collars show the evident attempt on their part to produce a smart picture, tarnished only by the bulb that somewhat hangs randomly on one side of the image as well as the reels of wire stacked in the left of the picture.”

Men's common room, 1918 [MS1/7/291/22/1]

Men’s common room, 1918 [MS1/7/291/22/1]

Greg’s second choice was a photograph of the football team, 1901-2:

Personally, with a keen interest in the history of football in England, this photo gives a sense of the amateur origins of the game of the time.  I love the lack of formality that is conveyed in the mish-mash of clothing on display.  It appeals to me as you are able to see the rugged leather boots and thick long sleeved shirts donned by the players, whilst also seeing the traditional ‛flatcap’ and suit style of the time being worn by gentlemen to the side of the team.  The rawness of the wooden terrace gives a sense of the crowd they played in front of, and the battered pitch an idea of the style of game!

Hartley College football team, 101-2 [MS1/7/291/22/1]

Hartley College football team, 1901-2 [MS1/7/291/22/1]

The early days of the University’s Football Club were on a modest and local scale.  Home matches were mainly played at the Shirley Ground.  The emphasis of the Football Club of 1900s was on “healthy recreation and vigorous exercise for men students” rather than on sporting prowess, hence the lack of formality in the clothing that Greg noted.

Núria

Swimming teams, 1933-6 [MS1/7/291/22/2]

Swimming teams, 1933-6 [MS1/7/291/22/2]

Núria’s choice of photographs of the swimming teams was inspired by both the gender balance in the teams and the costume they wore: “It’s mostly boys in the pictures, although there are 7 girls in one of them, which probably shows the start of gender equality in regards to swimming club membership.  I also like the gender equality in the swimming costumes: the men’s costumes are also covering their chests, like the women’s.  The swimming club photos are the ones where you can see the biggest fashion change!

The one-piece costume as worn by the men in these images was typical of the designs in the 1920s. In response to demand designs became more body-conscious and athletic abandoning long sleeves and replacing them with generously-cut armholes. This mass produced one-piece enjoyed a considerable chunk of the market in men’s swimwear in this decade.

Núria also was drawn to the images of the tennis club in the 1920s and 1930s, evoking memories of her experience of joining a sports club at the University.

Tennis players, 1927-9, 1933 [MS1/7/291/22/2]

Tennis players, 1927-9, 1933 [MS1/7/291/22/2]

The photo album I’m looking at is a collection of photographs from the sports clubs at university.  The tennis photos seem to be the only one where men and women appear together.  I really like the sense of inclusion that these photographs transmit, it reminds me of my own experience when I arrived at Southampton and joined the fencing club, where I made really good friends, both men and women.  I also find it curious that one of the ladies in the 1927 picture is wearing a tie.

There are other photographs in the collection which show women students wearing ties.  This was a period of formal dress codes when academic dress was still required when students attended lectures and exams.

Victoria 

Swimming club, 1951-2 [MS1/7/291/22/3]

Swimming club, 1951-2 [MS1/7/291/22/3]

For Victoria, it was the informality and realism that appealed in this photograph.  “It really looks as though two of the people have got the giggles when the photo was being taken.  The woman on the right is also pulling a face – this might not have been deliberate, but does add realism to the photo.

The second choice relates to the reunion picnic, in the New Forest, at Whitsun, 1951, of the Society of Old Hartleyans: this was the final event of the weekend programme, including a dinner attended by 226 the previous evening.  The minutes of the annual general meeting of the society noted that “11 members attended a picnic to Beaulieu Heath organised by Mr Glover-James”.

Victoria notes, “it is the informality that appeals to [me] more than anything and the fact that … people look happy…. The photo also provides an insight into the clothing… and even though this is a picnic, people are still fairly formally attired”.

Society of Hartleyans reunion picnic, 1951 [MS1/7/291/22/3]

Society of Old Hartleyans reunion picnic, 1951 [MS1/7/291/22/3]

The Special Collections will be running a number of drop in sessions focusing on different aspects of its holdings in the autumn.   So if you are interested, do keep an eye out for announcements.  We hope that you might be able to join us.

Development of the University Library

This summer will see further refurbishment taking place in the Hartley Library, the University’s main library and home to its Archives and Special Collections. Further information regarding its impact on the Special Collections Division can be found on our website.

While the University Library today has a presence on all seven campuses of the University, for this week’s blog post we will be taking a look back at the development of the University’s main Library on the Highfield Campus.

The “old Hartley” Library (1860s-1910s)
The University of Southampton has its genesis in a bequest left by Henry Robinson Hartley, a studious and reclusive character and heir to a family of Southampton wine merchants. In his will Hartley bequeathed a large proportion of his estate to the Corporation of Southampton and called for “a small building to be erected…to serve as a repository for my Household Furniture, Books, Manuscripts, and other moveables”. Out of this the Hartley Institution was formed.

Hartley University College Library, c.1910

Hartley University College Library, c.1910

The original Hartley Institution building, located on the High Street, below the Bargate, was declared open by Lord Palmerston on 15 October 1862. It comprised of a library, museum, and reading room, together with a lecture hall and classrooms. While the Library was initially only accessible to members of the Institution, it was made freely open to the public in 1873. As a result, it acted as both the Institution’s academic library and the town’s public library.

Over the subsequent decades the institution increasingly focused on meeting the demands for popular and industrial education. This resulted in its transition to a university college in 1902, when it became Hartley University College. By 1910, further developments in this direction emphasised the need for premises more fitting to the institution’s ambitions. This prompted a move from the cramped accommodation on the High Street to the Highfield Court Estate on the outskirts of town. However, the move was not welcomed by everyone. Some of the townspeople resented the loss of the privilege of access to the Library, which “they had continued to value in spite of the existence of a free Borough Library since 1889.”

Moving to Highfield (1910s-20s)
The grand opening of the renamed University College of Southampton by Lord Haldane took place in June 1914. The new buildings at Highfield consisted of two separate wings housing an arts block and a range of single story laboratories for biology, chemistry, physics and engineering. However, a lack of funding meant that the construction of the administration and library building, which should have filled the gap between the two wings, was postponed.

Early photograph of the University’s Highfield site. The building in the foreground is now the south wing of the Hartley Library.

Early photograph of the University’s Highfield site. The building in the foreground is now the south wing of the Hartley Library.

Six weeks after the official opening the country declared war on Germany. As a result, the move to Highfield was indefinitely postponed with the College offering the buildings to the War Office for use as a hospital. As the war progressed, the main building proved too small to accommodate the increasing number of wounded soldiers and extra wards were constructed in temporary wooden huts to the rear.

Aerial photograph of the Highfield campus with the wooden huts at the rear of the main buildings, c.1932

Aerial photograph of the Highfield campus with the wooden huts at the rear of the main buildings, c.1932

The War Office eventually gave up the buildings in May 1919 and University College of Southampton began the session of 1919-1920 in its new home, continuing to make use of the wooden huts. Since it had originally been intended to form part of the central block between the two wings, none of the existing buildings had room specifically set aside for a library. A large room on the first floor in the northern wing of the main building served as a reading room and also housed a selection of the books most in use. However, these were only a fraction of the 35,000 volumes which the Library now possessed, with the majority of the books dispersed through the corridors and huts.

The Turner Sims Library and Gurney-Dixon Building (1930s-50s)
The completion of the central block had to wait until the 1930s when the construction of the Turner Sims Library was made possible by the donation of £24,250 by the daughters of Edward Turner Sims, a former member of Council. The Turner Sims Library, which now forms the front of the present Hartley Library, was opened by H.R.H. the Duke of York (later King George VI) in October 1935. The new building filled most of the gap between the two parts of the original building (which now make up the north and south wings of the Hartley Library).

Photographs of the Turner Sims Library, opened in 1935

Photographs of the Turner Sims Library, opened in 1935

While this was welcomed as a long overdue improvement, space remained an issue. Planning began for a much larger extension in 1947 but it wasn’t until 1959 that the Gurney-Dixon Building at the rear of the Turner Sims Library was finally declared open. The extension was named after Sir Samuel Gurney-Dixon who was chair of Council for 21 years. To mark the occasion he presented to the Library six rare editions of Divina Commedia, including a copy of the Brescia edition of 1487.

Photographs of the interior and exterior of the Gurney-Dixon Building, 1959

Photographs of the interior and exterior of the Gurney-Dixon Building, 1959

Developments in collections and services (1960s-80s)
In addition to its main stock, the Library had by now acquired a number of valuable printed special collections. These included the agricultural library of W. Frank Perkins, acquired in 1945. This trend continued with the transfer of the private library of Reverend Dr James Parkes to the University in 1964. Focusing on Jewish/non-Jewish relations, the Parkes Library originally consisted of 4,500 books, 2,000 pamphlets and sets of periodicals. Since that time the collection has expanded significantly and has led to the development the University’s special interest in Anglo-Jewish archives.

Opening of the Parkes Library, 1964

Opening of the Parkes Library, 1964

By 1969 the Library already housed over a quarter of a million books leading to a critical space problem. An extension to the first floor, for the Special Collections, was completed the same year and was followed by an extension to the north wing and mezzanine in 1970, with an ‘attractive and welcoming entrance’ ready by the end of the session. However, the Library’s stock continued to grow. The decade saw the arrival of the Ford Collection of British Official Publications. Originally brought to the University by Professor Percy Ford and his wife Dr Grace Ford, the collection formed the basis of the Parliamentary Papers Library which opened in 1971. Further efforts were undertaken to alleviate space issues in 1978, including the addition of a mezzanine floor to the Turner Sims part of the Library, creating a new area of 500 square metres.

During the same period, the Library was modernising its services. Between 1966 and 1968 the Library was one of the first in the country to introduce a computer-based issue system, employing punched cards. A decade later, this was replaced by a Telepen-based circulation system in 1979-80, making possible a complete up-to-date loan file at all times. An online circulating system was introduced in 1984, eventually replacing the off-line system entirely.

Opening of the Wellington Suite, 1983

Opening of the Wellington Suite, 1983

A new chapter in the development of the Library’s Special Collections commenced with the arrival of the Wellington Papers in 1983, when the papers of the first Duke of Wellington were allocated to the University under the national heritage legislation. This led to the conversion of a part of the Library to provide an archives reading room and storage area, with the Wellington Suite being officially opened on 14 May 1983. The arrival of the Wellington Papers was to stimulate the acquisition of further significant manuscript collections which continues to this day.

The creation of the Hartley Library (1980s-2000s)
In the autumn of 1987 the University celebrate the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Hartley Institution. A special event of this jubilee was the opening of a remodelled Library, renamed the Hartley Library, by Countess Mountbatten of Burma.

Opening of the Hartley Library, 1987

Opening of the Hartley Library, 1987

The Hartley Library was in effect a new Library. It included new strongrooms and reading room for the Special Collections, which was now ready to accept the papers of Earl Mountbatten of Burman from the archives of the Broadlands estate in Romsey. As a result of such major acquisitions the Library developed an additional role, becoming an important centre for primary historical research. Further collections followed, including additional material from the Broadlands archives (notably the papers of third Viscount Palmerston) and the Anglo-Jewish Archives in 1990.

The Hartley Library as it appears on a map of the Highfield campus. The Turner Sims Library is listed as building 12, the Gurney-Dixon Building as building 36, and the wings of the original University building as buildings 10 and 14.

The Hartley Library as it appears on a map of the Highfield campus. The Turner Sims Library is listed as building 12, the Gurney-Dixon Building as building 36, and the wings of the original University building as buildings 10 and 14.

Prior to the 1990s extensions largely focused on accommodation for stock and improving the range of seating available, but from this period increasing attention was being paid to developing workstation and IT provisions in the Library. A small refurbishment project in 1998 saw workstation provisions doubled and a new IT training suite created. The same project saw the south wing of the original 1914 building integrated into the Library.

Further refurbishment projects (2000s-2010s)
Printed collections grew steadily throughout the 1990s and by 2001 the Library was effectively full in terms of stock. By now, the University had grown considerably, as had student numbers, resulting in the need for a major increase in accommodation. Patterns of learning and teaching had also begun to shift with electronic resources growing in importance.

Extension at the rear of the Hartley Library’s Gurney-Dixon Building

Extension at the rear of the Hartley Library’s Gurney-Dixon Building

The aim of the 2002-4 extension project was to create a research-oriented library that provided a high quality, flexible, study environment, with good quality seating, small study rooms and access to networking. The project saw the largest addition to Library space since the University moved to Highfield. The main elements included new reception, security and help desks; a student-centred foyer; improved access to all floors; increased and improved shelving; and an expansion of space for Special Collections, including a new exhibition gallery. Externally the extensions were a mixture of brickwork, steel framing elements, curtain walling, general glazing and rendered walls.

Since 2004 the Library has undergone further refurbishment, as it continues to develop its services and learning environment.  Details on the current Hartley Library Phase 2 refurbishment can be found on the Library website at: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/library/news/2017/03/30-hl-phase2-refurbishment.page

“Viva Inglaterra!”: los niños arrive in Southampton

In May 1937, los niños, the Basque child refugees, were among approximately 4,000 children escaping the dangers of the Spanish Civil War who arrived at Southampton docks on board the Habana.

The Habana

The Habana arrives at Southampton [MS404 A4164/7/1]

On arrival in Southampton, the children were to be sent to a camp at North Stoneham, near Eastleigh, on a 30-acre field lent by G.H.Brown of Swaythling Farm.  This “canvas town”, as it was called, had been hastily erected and then extended to accommodate twice the original number of refugees after the Home Office changed its decision at the last minute allowing in 4,000 rather than the original 2,000 children.  Work was carried out by hundreds of local volunteers — plumbers, carpenters, employees of the Southampton Gas Company and the Corporation Water Department, the Co-operative Society,  Southampton Labour Party, the Trades and Labour Council the Scouts and Guides, Boys’ Brigade, Southampton Boys’ Clubs, members of the Round Table and the Rotary Club and students from University College, Southampton.  Many gave up their Whitsun holiday to help prepare the camp and, according to reports, “entered into the spirit of the occasion with splendid enthusiasm”.

Aerial view of North Stoneham Camp [MS404 A4164/2/4]

Aerial view of North Stoneham Camp [MS404 A4164/2/4]

Appeals went out for clothes and equipment and for further volunteers to staff the depots where donations were to be sent and to assist with cutting up toweling and filling paliasses with straw.  University College students spent several days cleaning and distempering Moor Hill, West End, a house loaned to the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief to accommodate children who were sick or unable to endure camp life.  Women students from Bournemouth Municipal School of Art converted banners that had been made by art students in honour of the coronation of George VI into sleeping bags for the children.

Children on board the Habana [MS 404 A4164/7/1]

Children on board the Habana as it arrives at Southampton [MS 404 A4164/7/1]

 “Viva Inglaterra!” was the cry that went up as the children, packing the railings of the Habana, made its entry into Southampton.  Most of the children recalled the warm welcome that met them on their arrival in the city.

People line the streets of Southampton to see the refugee children arrive [MS404 A4164/7/1]

People line the streets to greet the refugee children arrive [MS404 A4164/7/1]

One sight that excited and enthralled was the bunting and flags that had been put up for the coronation of George VI and which the Mayor of Southampton allowed to be left up for the children.  As one of the children recalled “Southampton was full of decorations — every lamp post, every balcony, everywhere there was flags and golden wands and posters and all sorts hanging and it was quite a sight…”

Nurses taking children for medical examinations [MS404 A4164/2/23]

Nurses taking children for medical checks [MS404 A4164/2/24]

Each child was given a medical check on disembarkation.  They then were tagged with different coloured ribbons to indicate if they needed to go to hospital, to the public baths for a wash or were able to go straight to Stoneham Camp.  Those marked with red ribbons were taken to the public baths, as one girl found after swapping the ribbon because red was her favourite colour.

After the checks were completed the children were bused to the camp at Stoneham. They were amazed to see hundreds of bell tents, that were as one boy noted “round tents like the Indians in America” an image taken from the Hollywood Western films.  This image reinforced a sense of adventure for the children, even if the reality of living in a camp could be some what different, with the latrine trenches hated by many and music broadcast over loudspeakers each morning to wake the children from their beds.

Life at camp [MS370/7 A4010/1]

Life at camp [MS370/7 A4010/1]

With the fall of Bilbao on 19 June 1937 was a realisation that the children were going to have to remain in the UK for longer than intended.  Alternative arrangements were therefore made for the children.  They were dispersed to be cared for by the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army, which accommodated children in a hostel in London, or in the so-called “colonies” set up by local committees across the country.

Set up as a temporary arrangement, the camp was to remain open for four months: the last 220 children departed for St Mary’s Bay Holiday Camp at New Romney, Kent in September.  As the children said “Adios” to their temporary home, the camp administrator, Major Neil Hunter, reflected on the enterprise, including how around 1 million meals had been prepared at the camp over the four month period, and expressed a sincere thanks to all those in Southampton and Eastleigh who had given their support.

North Stoneham Camp [MS404 A4164/7/1]

North Stoneham Camp [MS404 A4164/7/1]

 The Special Collections at the Hartley Library, University of Southampton, holds archives relating to the Basque Children.  There is an online exhibition produced as part of a Heritage Lottery funded project to mark the seventieth anniversary of the arrival of the children.

Taste the Archive: gingerbread!

Today is World Baking Day – the perfect excuse for making – and eating – our favourite cakes. This week staff at the Hartley Library held a charity bake sale to raise money for Solent Mind, a great cause and one of several charities we will be supporting through 2017 http://www.solentmind.org.uk/

cake-sale-3

We enjoy the tradition of sharing, swopping, and passing on, favourite recipes. Some of these may be older than we think: I recently discovered in the Archives a 19th-century version of a recipe that is a real favourite with my family today: Grantham Gingerbread

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266, mid 19th-century recipe book from the collection of Miss A.M.Trout

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266, mid 19th-century recipe book from the collection of Miss A.M.Trout

This little volume has ‘Ledger’ in red on the spine and contains lined pages – it was intended for recording accounts – but is actually a manuscript recipe book. You can just see the word ‘Receipes’ written in ink on the front. It has a beautiful parchment cover, decorated with blind tooling and embossed to create a raised design, with combed marbled book edges. The brass clasp closure bears the words “improved patent” above the image of a lion:

clasp-crop

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266 Brass clasp closure showing the words ‘Improved Patent’ above an image of a lion

Inside, it has glorious decorative endpapers – perhaps Dutch gilt – showing a printed design of tiny gold stars on a bright pink background. There is even an alphabetical index with finding tabs, each tab printed with two letters. So this is a special book – and it is no surprise that it was treasured and passed on:

index-crop

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266 Interior: printed decorative endpapers in a gold star design; an alphabetical index with printed finding tabs.

The recipe book is undated and we don’t know who originally filled its pages: but it is likely to be mid-19th century and was added to by several owners.  It contains fair copies of recipes in at least two different hands, plus a few printed recipes cut from newspapers.  It was clearly in use long before it came into the collection of Miss Annie Mary Trout, who worked as a lecturer in Mathematics at University College, Southampton, in the 1920s.

It was the recipe for Grantham Gingerbread that caught my eye: seen here on the right-hand page; (on the left-hand page you can see recipes for ‘Cake’, and Hot Cross Buns).

blog copy recipe pp26-7

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266, pp.25-7

It contains some very old-fashioned ingredients – such as ‘½ an ounce of volatile salts’ and ‘1 penny worth of essence of lemon’! It poses more than a few challenges for the modern cook: the quantities of flour and sugar are quite huge; it doesn’t use an egg; there are no details of cooking temperatures, or timings, and only the scantiest method for guidance:

Grantham Gingerbread
1 ½ lbs flour
1 ½ lbs of very fine sugar
¼ lb butter
1 oz of best ground ginger
2 oz of lemon peel
½ oz of volatile salts ground
& mixed in a teacupful of
new milk, 1 penny worth
of essence of lemon, a little
more milk if required to make
it into a stiff paste, melt
the butter & mix together

Another name for the ‘volatile salts’ in the recipe is ‘Baker’s Ammonia’ or ammonium bicarbonate, which was used as a raising agent in the days before baking powder was commonly available. It has a strong and horrible smell – these were the salts that were used to revive fainting ladies in Victorian times! It wasn’t an ideal ingredient, as the smell of the ammonia released during heating might linger after cooking.  By the mid-19th century, when this recipe was copied out, baking powder was already available – so this was an ‘old’ recipe even at that time.  What did it taste like?

Ginger biscuit photo

You can see that Grantham Gingerbread is not the traditional dark, treacle-based cake that we tend to associate with gingerbread, but a large crisp and chewy ginger cookie. It is apt that we have a historic recipe here – because gingerbread is one of the oldest of all cakes – and there are many different regional variations.   Some are deep ginger cakes; others are thin and crisp biscuits or ‘buttons’, fairings or gingerbread men.  This heritage version went down well with friends and family.  Here is my adapted recipe for World Baking Day:

Grantham Gingerbread 2017
12 ozs plain flour
12 ozs soft light brown sugar
2 ozs butter, melted
2 tablespoons ground ginger (or less or more!)
1 oz mixed peel
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ cup of milk
zest of a lemon
Mix ingredients together until a stiff dough is formed. Pat into a ball and knead until smooth. Divide into 24 equal pieces, rolling each into a ball; place onto a greased baking tray, allowing room to spread.
Bake for 25-30 mins until golden and crisp at 160ºC/325ºF/Gas Mark 3
Remove from oven; leave to cool for a few minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool

Once I had worked out some alternative ingredients, and halved the quantities, the 19th-century recipe seemed easier to make than my modern recipe.  Everything was stirred together, which took little effort (no need to cream butter and sugar, or beat in an egg; no sifting; and using melted butter and a little milk makes it easy to work in the large volume of flour!)  Be careful to pour in the milk, a little at a time.  Add ginger to taste, but note that the original recipe calls for ‘best ground ginger’, probably fresh ginger, rather than the dried ground ginger we use today.

For an excellent modern version of Grantham White Gingerbread try the recipe in Julie Duff’s Cakes – Regional and Traditional.

Happy Baking!