The Hartley Institution – the linear predecessor of the University of Southampton – was opened by Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, on Wednesday 15 October 1862. The Inauguration was a great civic event, “a red-lettered day” according to the Southampton Times – when Lord Palmerston, the Prime Minister, was cheered into the city by enthusiastic crowds.
A special supplement to the Southampton Times chronicled the excitement: “From early dawn the streets were all alive, workmen were engaged in putting the finishing touch to the decorations, the shops were almost without exception closed, and everyone seemed bent on having a joyous holiday. The church bells rang out their merriest peals and the strains of martial music every now and then arrested the ear as the various bodies who were to join in the procession marched to the rendezvous headed by numerous bands that had been engaged for the occasion.” [BR115/8/49/2]
The Mayor of Southampton and the Corporation assembled at the Guildhall at noon. From there they were conveyed in carriages to the Second Common-gate (the boundary of the borough) to meet Lord and Lady Palmerston, who had driven over from Broadlands. A “vast concourse of persons” welcomed them with cheering; a salute was fired from a battery on Southampton Common; the bands struck up; and then the great procession wended its way to the High Street, passing through triumphal arches decorated with flags, flowers, and evergreens.
The Special Collections at the University of Southampton is home to Lord Palmerston’s diaries and also those of Anthony Evelyn Melbourne Ashley, his private secretary. Evelyn was the son of the famous seventh Earl of Shaftesbury; his maternal grandmother, Emily, had married (as her second husband) Lord Palmerston and Evelyn would subsequently inherit Broadlands. Both men refer to the Inauguration at Hartley in their diaries:
Palmerston’s entry for 15th October 1862 reads: “To Southampton with Emily in barouche; Fanny, Joscelyn, and girls, and governess, with Dutton in omnibus. Met procession at one o’clock at second turnpike from Southampton to Winchester – followed to Hartley Institution for opening. Took Mr Perkins the Mayor in our carriage. Speeches in theatre by Bishop of Rochester, the mayor, myself, Professor Owen and others. Many very handsome triumphal arches through which procession passed. Emily and others went home. Toasts and speeches after dinner… Home by half past 11. A good deal of rain in course of day. Mild night.” [MS 62 PP/D/22]