Monthly Archives: September 2015

The early history of the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus

A big welcome to both first year and returning students on the first week of term! To mark the occasion we take a brief look into the early history of the University’s Highfield Campus.

Early view of the Highfield site (pc 3159)

Early view of the Highfield site (pc 3159)

This postcard from the Cope Collection, at first glance a rather uninspiring view, provides an intriguing glimpse into the history of the Highfield Campus. It shows the first buildings on the Highfield site, which had been acquired by the Hartley University College early in the 20th century with the aim of providing premises more fitting to its ambitions than the cramped and inconvenient Hartley Institution in the High Street.

Opened by Viscount Haldane in June 1914, the renamed University College of Southampton consisted of two separate wings housing an arts block and a range of single story laboratories for biology, chemistry, physics and engineering. Lack of funds meant that the construction of the administration and library building which should have filled the gap between the two arts wings was postponed.

Occupation of the site was also postponed. A few weeks after the official opening, the First World War broke out and the College offered 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.

War hospital staff (pc 2982)

War hospital staff (pc 2982)

In The University of Southampton as a War Hospital (1983) [Cope SOU 45] the author, Norman Gardiner, recalls taking cigarettes, fruit and sweets to the less badly wounded soldiers and seeing military gun carriage funerals passing along University Road.

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 – the refectory apparently occupying a hut bearing the sign ‘Dysentery’.

Financial pressures on the College meant that 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.

Floodlit photo of the library building (ph 3073)

Floodlit photo of the library building (ph 3073)

Much altered and extended since that date, the Library still awaits its tower. According to the programme for the official opening in 1935, this was intended to give dignity to the building and it was hoped it would be added in the not too distant future.

The postcard is from the Peter Cook Postcard Collection, part of the Cope Collection on Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, a fascinating resource, of over 3,000 postcards of Southampton, most of which date from the early years of the 20th century.


Archivist projects: The Cowper-Temples and the Broadlands Conference on the Higher Life

This week archivist John Rooney discusses a recent cataloguing project focusing on the Cowper-Temples and the Broadlands Conference on the Higher Life.

William Cowper-Temple, and his second wife, Georgina, were prominent figures in nineteenth-century Britain. As a member of the Liberal Party, William was MP for Hertford from 1835 to 1868 and Hampshire South from 1868 to 1880. During the course of his career he was a private secretary to his uncle Lord Melbourne, a junior minister in Lord Palmerston’s government, groom in waiting to Queen Victoria, and held positions on the Board of Health and the Board of Works. William was stepson and heir to Lord Palmerston (who was rumoured to be his natural father) and inherited a number of estates, including the Broadlands estate in Romsey, in 1868.

Photograph of William Cowper-Temple (on the left), and his second wife, Georgina, nee Tollemache (on the right).

Photograph of William Cowper-Temple (on the left), and his second wife, Georgina, nee Tollemache (on the right).

After the early death of his first wife, Harriet Alicia (nee Gurney), in 1843, William married Georgina Tollemache, sister of the first Baron Tollemache, in 1848. William and Georgina shared a strong and enduring interest in religious matters. Though never orthodox, William had been closely associated with Evangelicalism since the late 1830s. After their marriage, Georgina notes that they embarked on a search for religious truth. This led to their acquaintance with Evangelical figures such as Henry Drummond and Christian Socialists such as F.D.Maurice, Thomas Hughes and Charles Kingsley. It also led to their association with a number of unorthodox figures, including the American “theo-socialist” Thomas Lake Harris.

Georgina had a particular interest in mysticism and an eagerness to engage with spiritualism and other esoteric religions as a means of truth seeking. The death of her mother had a strong influence on her belief in a connection between earthly life and the spiritual. Despite not all their acquaintances sharing an appreciation for the practice, the Cowper-Temples mixed with leading spiritualist figures from Britain, American and Europe, and attended a number of séances (spiritualist meetings to communicate with the dead).

However, the most notable manifestation of their religious activities was to be the annual ecumenical conference held at Broadlands between 1874 and 1888. Precipitated by the Holiness movement in America, the 1870s saw the emergence of the Higher Life movement in England. Named after William Boardman’s book The Higher Christian Life (published in 1858) the main aim of the movement was to help in advancing the Christian’s progressive sanctification, and enable one to live a more holy, less sinful, life. Though principally Evangelical, the movement was seen as non-denominational. Together with William Boardman, two other key figures helping to spread the holiness message in England were Robert Pearsall Smith and his wife, Hannah, both of whom were acquainted with the Mount-Temples and were involved in the conferences at Broadlands.

The first conference took place over six days in July 1874 and was designed to deepen the work of sanctification through prayer, the reading of scripture, short addresses, and the discussion of personal experience of grace. The beautiful surroundings at Broadlands aimed to create a “foretaste of heaven” with many of the services taking place under the beeches or in the orangery. Among the hundred guests attending were George MacDonald, Andrew Jukes, Edward Clifford, Catherine Marsh, Lady Gainsborough, George Wilkinson, Stevenson Blackwood, Theodore Monod and Professor St Hilaire.

While the conferences have been criticised for being private gatherings of titled persons hosted by wealthy aristocrats, over the years they were to attract a diverse range of people from across both denominational and social divisions. James Gregory notes that “the conferences expressed hope that believers of all denominations could meet and demonstrate the validity of their belief through Christian love and ‘faith in that great and blessed truth that God loves the creatures He has made’, rather than in doctrine.”

Among the Broadlands archives held by the University of Southampton, there is a significant collection of material relating to the Cowper-Temple’s religious interests and activities (see BR43-5; 47-58). I have recently catalogued just a small section of this material (BR49-51) which contains a range of correspondence from people either attending the Broadlands conference or discussing religious and spiritual matters, including letters from R.W.Corbett, Thomas Lake Harris, Laurence and Alice Oliphant, Lord Palmerston, Hannah and Robert Pearsall Smith, and Lord Shaftesbury, among others. It also contains printed and typescript copies of testimonials, programmes for the conference (including subjects for consideration), and notes on matters such as the Christian’s relationship to the world. Finally there is a selection of William Cowper Temple’s notebooks and diaries providing accounts of séances together with his personal thoughts on religious, spiritual and health matters. As a whole, the material offers fascinating insights into the curious social and cultural world of these two intriguing Victorian figures.

A new university for a new reign

Today, 9 September 2015, Queen Elizabeth II overtakes her great-great grandmother Victoria to become the longest reigning British monarch. The 63 years that Queen Elizabeth has reigned have been ones of immense change and there have been 12 Prime Ministers, the same number of American presidents and 7 popes during this time.

Part of the royal charter of the University

Part of the royal charter of the University

The University of Southampton has the distinction of being the first higher education institution to be granted university status in this reign, receiving its royal charter on 29 April 1952.

The arrival of Lord Palmerston at the Hartley Institution for the inauguration of the Institution, 1862

The arrival of Lord Palmerston at the Hartley Institution for the inauguration of the Institution, 1862

The foundation institute of the University was the Hartley Institution, based in High Street, Southampton, which was opened on 15 October 1862 by the then Prime Minister, Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston. From modest beginnings, offering a mixture of public lectures on a range of subjects and evening classes in French and chemistry to residents of Southampton, as well as a reading room and a library, the Hartley Institution — and the University of Southampton — have grown into a multi-disciplinary, internationally renowned university of the twenty-first century.

Letter of congratulation from Exeter University College, 20 April 1953

Letter of congratulation from Exeter University College, 20 April 1953

On being granted its royal charter a number of letters of congratulation were received, including the above letter from Exeter University College, which reads:

“Greetings from Exeter University College to the University of Southampton.

We recently received your letter, Gentlemen, in which you announced that, having now obtained a Royal Charter, you were about to install in this most auspicious year a Chancellor of most illustrious name, and you signified your wish that we should share in your joyful celebration. We thank you greatly for your goodwill and send you triple and threefold congratulations. For we are your neighbours, your rivals, and also your friends; the sun in his daily course reaches us immediately after you. May this be an omen favourable to us, and we be second to you. May your new University, which now so to speak assumes the toga of manhood, flourish—such is our prayer to Almighty God—and may it have youth and vigour everlasting. May friendly rivalry flourish, not only among neighbours and colleagues, but also among all men of every country and profession.”

Exhibition: Creating a Legacy: the Parkes Library

Creating a legacy: the Parkes Library

Drawing on material in the Special Collections, the exhibition will consider the legacy created by Revd Dr James Parkes, through his library and his research on Jewish/non-Jewish relations. James Parkes began collecting material in the 1930s and by the time it arrived at Southampton in 1964, the Library consisted of 4,000 books, 2,000 pamphlets and 140 journals. It has developed into one of the largest Jewish documentation centres in Europe and complements the Anglo-Jewish Archives, also part of Special Collections, which is one of the largest collections of Jewish archives in Western Europe. These research collections have led to the development of the Parkes Institute, which is a research centre focusing on Jewish history and culture, and which continues Parkes’s legacy of teaching and research.

The exhibition will run in conjunction with the Parkes Institute Jubilee Conference, the climax of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations 2014-2015. It will open on Monday 7 September and run until 6 November 2015.

During exhibitions the Special Collections Gallery is open to the public Monday to Friday 1000 to 1600. Admission is free. Visitors may be asked for proof of identity by Library Reception staff.