Monthly Archives: October 2015

Ghosts in the Strongroom

As Halloween draws closers we delve into some of the ghoulish tales to be found lurking among the shelves of Special Collections…

The Wallop Latch
Thomas Gatehouse’s manuscript history of Hampshire (MS 5/15) is dated 31 December 1778 and is the earliest history of the county recorded. The history, largely a compilation from printed sources but containing some original materials, concludes with the ghost story ‘The Wallop Latch’. Described as being “for the amusement of the Wit or the Sceptic”, it provides an apparently true account of a Miss G___ who moves into a house in the village of Nether Wallop in Hampshire after the death of her father. One evening while sitting in her parlour, she is suddenly disturbed by a great noise produced by the violent rattling of the heavy iron latch on the back door. While initially startled, she disregards the incident as most likely being the product of an idle farmhand looking to frighten her. However, the disturbance recurs on numerous occasions and soon begins to draws the attention of the whole neighbourhood, with the noise being described as “violent and loud enough to be heard in distant quarters of the parish.”

The Square, Nether Wallop c.1939 (pc998)

The Square, Nether Wallop c.1939 (pc998)

In order to solve the mystery, members of the local community arm themselves and surround the house while others wait inside for the rattling to commence. As soon as the latch begins to move, the door is swiftly thrown open only to reveal there is no one there. The narrative then continues by considering and disproving a number of possible tricks or explanations and claims that no imaginable natural cause could have produced the effect. The account is testified and signed by a number of honourable witnesses and it remains for the sceptic to explain the occurrence.

A Ghost in the Isle of Wight
The Isle of the Wight has a long tradition of ghost stories and hauntings, many associated with places such as Billingham House, Carisbrooke Castle, and Knighton Gorges Manor. Sir John Randolph Leslie, 3rd Baronet of Glaslough (1885–1971), more generally known as Shane Leslie, was an Irish born diplomat and writer. He had a lifelong interest in the supernatural which influenced a number of his writings. His novelette A Ghost in the Isle of Wight was published in 1929, in a limited signed edition of 500 copies for sale, and a copy can be found among the Cope Collection on Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The 14th century gate at Carisbrooke Castle (pc115), one of the many sites associated with hauntings on the Isle of Wight

The 14th century gate at Carisbrooke Castle (pc115), one of the many sites associated with hauntings on the Isle of Wight

As with The Wallop Latch, the story appears to report the true account of an actual haunting. It is told from the perspective of a narrator who stayed at the isolated Jacobean manor at Killington during the previous autumn. Having been delayed in London, he travels to the island a week after his companions and their maidservants. On his first evening in the manor he is informed that the place is haunted and that sounds have been heard at night resembling the treading of feet and the clinking of swords accompanied by the smell of lilies. Nearly a fortnight passes before the narrator himself is woken by a series of clear metallic sounds on the stairs. The following morning the whole house is investigated and the property agent questioned. The agent eventually admits that the manor was regarded as the most haunted human abode on the island. As the narrator proceeds to piece the mystery together, the incidents are revealed to be connected with an escaped fugitive, the execution of Charles I, and the story of a murdered lover…

Death on the Line
Eric Jones-Evans was a medical practitioner and actor. He maintained a medical practice in Fawley, near Southampton, and closed his surgery on matinee days to perform at the Grand Theatre in Southampton. In 1928 he formed his own company and both wrote and appeared in a number of his own melodramas, chiefly adapted from the novels of Charles Dickens and George Eliot.

A performance of Death on the Line: A Ghost Story in One Act

A performance of Death on the Line: A Ghost Story in One Act

Among the papers of Dr Eric Jones-Evans (MS 91) is a typescript of Death on the Line: A Ghost Story in One Act, dated 21 December 1952. Based on Dickens’ short story The Signal Man, the play is set in a signal-box in a deep cutting near a tunnel entrance on a lonely stretch of the railway line. The author describes it as a play of “atmosphere and tension”, with the wailing of the wind in the telegraph wires introduced judicially to provide an eerie background to the narrative. It tells the story of a railway signalman who is haunted by a recurring apparition, with each appearance of the spectre preceding a tragic event on the railway. The first is followed by a terrible collision between two trains in the tunnel (likely based on the Clayton Tunnel crash of 1861) and the second by the mysterious death of a young woman on a passing train. The third and final warning of “death on the line” causes the signalman to rush onto the track in an attempt to stop an oncoming train where he is struck and killed. As the driver and other characters stand over his body a telegram is received warning of fallen rocks on the line up ahead. The play ends as they ponder how he could have known and how many lives might have been lost if not for his intervention.

At this time it remains uncertain whether these tales represent the only cases of ghostly encounters to be found within the walls of the Hartley Library or whether further apparitions are yet to appear…


Exploring the Wellington Archive

This year the Explore Your Archive campaign will run from 14-22 November 2015. To tie in with the campaign, Special Collections will be hosting a number of open afternoons allowing visitors to view material from our holdings and to meet the curators.

Explore Your Archive

The first open afternoon will take place from 3.30pm on Wednesday 28 October 2015 and will provide an opportunity to explore material from the Wellington Archive. The event has been arranged in conjunction with the 27th Wellington Lecture “Wellington Portrayed” which will be given by the 9th Duke of Wellington and is scheduled to take place at 6.30pm the same evening.

The University holds the principal collection of the papers of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington: it contains approximately 100,000 items, political, military, official and diplomatic papers covering all aspects of his career. On display will be material relating to Wellington’s military career from India to Waterloo, as well as papers relating to local and national politics and much, much more. Discover whether the Duke really did use the phrase “scum of the earth” after the Battle of Vitoria, see the death threat sent by Captain Swing and the nautilus shell engraved by C.H.Wood depicting the Duke on one side and St George slaying the dragon on the other.

For the week of the Explore Your Archive campaign we will be hosting an open afternoon on Wednesday 18 November 2015 focusing on material relating nature and the environment, with a third open afternoon focusing on food set to take place on Wednesday 9 December 2015. Both of these events will be followed by a lecture relating to the topic. More details are to follow!

To register for the Exploring the Wellington Archive please go to:

To register for the 27th Wellington Lecture please go to:

We hope to see you in the Archives soon!

A new term and a new VC

Newly appointed Professor Sir Christopher Snowden is the tenth Vice Chancellor of the University of Southampton. Just as the University is the successor to the Hartley Institution, Hartley College and University College, Professor Snowden and the other VCs are also successors to the ten Principals who led and governed the earlier institutions.

Recently a portrait of our former VC Professor Don Nutbeam was completed and is due to be unveiled in the Senate Room in Building 37, where it will join those of his predecessors, the earliest being that of Sir Robert Wood.

Portrait of Sir Robert Wood, Principal (1946-52) and Vice Chancellor (1952)

Portrait of Sir Robert Wood, Principal (1946-52) and Vice Chancellor (1952)

Wood became Principal of the University College, Southampton, in 1946. He led the University College to full university status in 1952, becoming its first Vice Chancellor when Southampton was granted its Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.

Dr David Gwilym James, a Professor of English at the University of Bristol, succeeded as Vice Chancellor in October 1952, remaining in post until 1965. It was under his Vice Chancellorship that the transformation of the University began, with expansion of student numbers and an ambitious building programme transforming the Highfield and other university sites. The Parkes Library on Jewish/non-Jewish relations was accepted by the University in 1964 and this has become one of the core collections of Hartley Library Special Collections and a factor in the development of the extensive Anglo-Jewish Archives at Southampton.

The development of the University continued with the appointment of Kenneth Mather, who was VC from 1965 to 1971. His background was a geneticist and botanist and he established a new medical school for the University. Amongst the holdings of the Special Collections are those of Dr Donald Acheson, who was the first professor of medicine at the University (MS 353).

Lawrence Cecil Bartlett (Jim) Gower was VC for the 1970s. One key achievement of his term was with regard to student accommodation which was increased by 32 per cent. Gower also served on Harold Wilson’s Royal Commission on the Press for which the Special Collections hold papers (MS 105).

The University has had a long association with the Dukes of Wellington. From 1902 to 1907, the fourth Duke was President of the University College; his grandson, the seventh Duke, followed in his footsteps from 1949 to 1952 and was subsequently appointed the first Chancellor of the new University, the fruition of a campaign supported by his family for a University of Wessex. The University has continued to maintain strong links with this illustrious Hampshire family. It is therefore fitting that under the tenure of the eminent historian, Professor John Roberts, the University’s fifth VC (1979-85), Southampton became the home of the archive of the first Duke of Wellington (MS 61) when the collection was allocated to the University under the national heritage legislation.

Portrait of Professor John Roberts, Vice Chancellor (1979-85)

Portrait of Professor John Roberts, Vice Chancellor (1979-85)

Sir Gordon Higginson, who had been a Professor in Civil Engineering at the University of Durham, succeeded John Roberts as VC in 1985. He remained in post for nearly a decade. Sir Gordon played a key role in advancing the University’s development within Southampton and it was during his time that the University acquired the site that is now Avenue Campus. He also oversaw the development of a series of key research centres, including the Southampton Oceanography Centre. The Broadlands Archives (MS 62), which include third Viscount Palmerston and Earl Mountbatten of Burma, arrived at the University during this period.

Sir Howard Newby, VC 1994-2001, was at the helm when an expanded University moved into the new millennium with a number of institutions, including Winchester School of Art, becoming part of the University and a masterplan for development of the Highfield campus was established, with new buildings designed to enhance the entrance to the campus along Burgess Road and University Road.

Professor Sir William Wakeham, VC 2001-9, was a chemical engineer by training. As VC, he played a leading role in regional affairs, chairing SEEDA’s South East Science, Engineering and Technology Advisory Committee (SESETAC), and was an active member of the board of the Southampton Strategic Partnership. It was during these years that the University emphasised its role as one of the UK’s leading research universities and among the top 100 in the world. In autumn 2004 the Hartley Library completed a two-year building project that included a new Special Collections Gallery, providing for the first time facilities to exhibit the Special Collections.

Professor Don Nutbeam’s arrival as VC in 2009 marked a personal return to Southampton. A world-renowned expert in public health, he had completed his postgraduate education at the University in the 1980s. It was during Professor Nutbeam’s tenure that the redevelopment of the Boldrewood Campus took place. In 2010, the University completed a successful fund-raising campaign to secure for Southampton, and for the nation, the Broadlands Archives. As Professor Nutbeam noted: “The Broadlands Archives … have a special place here in Hampshire – and at the University of Southampton – because of the strong local links with Lord Palmerston and Lord Mountbatten.”

The arrival of Professor Snowden, formerly Vice Chancellor of the University of Surrey, on 1 October 2015 marks the start of a new phase as the University’s global reputation for research, education and enterprise continues to rise and it welcomes the largest intake of students in its history.

Conserving the Wellington Papers

With a special Explore the Wellington Archive event and the 27th Wellington Lecture taking place at the end of the month, we take the opportunity to look at the ongoing work being done to conserve the Wellington Papers.

The Wellington Papers came to Southampton with a major challenge of conservation: some ten percent of the collection was so badly damaged it was unfit to handle and 10,000 documents were in a parlous condition. The University has made good progress: about seventy percent has been conserved and is now available for research, including papers for 1822 (for the Congress of Verona), for Wellington as Prime Minister in 1829 (the year of Catholic emancipation), and for some of the Peninsular War.

A campaign to raise funds for the conservation of the Wellington Papers was launched in October 2010. Grants from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, the J.Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust and the Rothschild Foundation as well as modest funding from alumni supported the conservation of the badly degraded and mould-damaged papers from 1832, which is described in this article. A current project, jointly funded by the Foyle Foundation and the University and appropriate for the bicentenary of Waterloo, is focussed on the military papers for 1815.

Conservation process

The conservators began by working with the less severely damaged materials for 1832 to enable them to develop expertise in conserving this type of exceedingly fragile material before tackling the most fragmentary bundles.

Documents were fully documented before separation. Tests carried out before treatment included fibre analysis, chemical spot tests, pH tests to determine acidity, mechanical rub tests for surface cleaning, examination under optical microscopes and UV light and tests to determine ink solubility and the extent of iron gall ink corrosion.

Papers were separated manually and collated. Separation, particularly of the most severely damaged bundles, is a painstaking and time-consuming task. In some instances papers have fused together due to compression whilst damp and great care is necessary to prevent disintegration of the paper.

Surface cleaning was undertaken where possible and where necessary individual items were given aqueous treatments, including washing supported on non-woven polyester on silk screens in cold and warm water to remove discolouration and soluble degradation products, calcium phytate treatment to stabilise iron gall ink corrosion and deacidification with calcium hydrogen carbonate. Fragments were washed alongside documents either loose or within non-woven polyester pockets. These were then realigned with the original which was lined to hold all fragments in place during the repair procedure.

The documents were repaired by leafcasting similarly toned paper pulp consisting of a blend of cotton and hemp fibres. The conservators have created a reference tool of differently toned papers that match the papers within the collection. Griffin Mill Papermakers produced a special making of handmade paper to our specification.

After humidification, pressing and resizing where necessary, documents were refolded and stored in custom made four flap folders and acid free boxes. Any fragments that could not be identified were noted, housed in melinex pockets and stored alongside the documents. Photographic documentation was made of all the processes.

To date most of the bundles of documents have been conserved using leaf casting and paper pulp repair. The expertise gained by the conservators has enabled them to concentrate on the most fragile items with work underway on the separation and stabilisation of the final 6 bundles. These present some of the most severe conservation challenges as the separation of fragmented material can take several months to complete before any treatment is possible.

Many of the fragmented bundles for 1832 are now accessible for the first time since the 1940s. This is historically very significant material as it includes the first Duke of Wellington’s papers relating to the first Reform Act. As Wellington was the leader of the Tories in the House of Lords during the progress of the Act, by enabling archivists to access and catalogue the material, the whole picture of the debate now will be available.

As noted above, on Wednesday 28 October 2015 the Special Collections will be hosting a free open afternoon in conjunction with the 27th Wellington Lecture.  It will provide an opportunity for visitors to view some of the Wellington Archive and to meet the curators. For further information and to register please go to: