Monthly Archives: November 2016

National Tree Week

The UK’s largest tree celebration, National Tree Week, has been running since 1975 and launches the winter tree planting season. This week, in honour of our ‘treescape’, we take a look at the trees and forest in Hampshire through items in our University Special Collections.


King Edward VIII planting a tree at Adsdean Park, Mountbatten’s house in West Sussex, summer 1936. MB2/L17 p58

There is a long – and royal – tradition of tree planting for commemoration and celebration: in this photo, King Edward VIII wields a spade at Adsdean, Earl Mountbatten’s home in West Sussex – (note the pipe!) Mountbatten’s guests were often invited to plant trees. In April 1957, H.M. the Queen and Prince Philip planted mulberry trees in the gardens at Broadlands to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the granting of Romsey’s Royal Charter. During the royal jubilee in 1977 the Queen returned to Hampshire to plant trees at Ampfield and Woodley.


Watercolour view of Broadlands and Romsey, n.d. MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR Map 142.

Earlier owners of Broadlands were also concerned that trees should enhance the beauty of the pleasure grounds. After a ‘perfect hurricane’ in March 1842, Samuel Hereman, head gardener at Broadlands, wrote to Viscount Palmerston to report damage to a great many trees:

“One of the large elm trees in the pleasure ground immediately behind the dairy yard fell, broke down the cow shed, where the cows were, and took off a piece of the garden wall, but I am happy to say all the cows escaped unhurt. The large tree in the stable yard near the kitchen entrance to the mansion fell and took down with it all the wall from the small door leading through the shrubbery to the ashes and faggot shed immediately adjoining the brushing room.  The tiled roof of the stables is considerably deranged, many parts quite stripped.  The fine Cedar of Lebanon close by the large doors entering into the pleasure ground at the east front of the mansion lost two of its largest limbs, which in their fall, broke down the wooden fence and wall, and drove the coping stones to a considerable distance.  Besides these many of the finest trees have lost very large branches and others have been torn up by the roots both in the pleasure ground and park…” [BR114/5/17/1-2]

The Broadlands estate papers show that Palmerston was keen to replace these losses – in November that year Hereman listed more than 200 shrubs and trees ‘arrived from London’ including ‘40 Lombardy Poplars… 6 Leucomb [Lucombe] Oaks… 40 Pinus Pallasiana’ [pines] and ‘6 Upright Cypress’ trees [BR114/6/53]. One of the more exotic trees to be planted was the Monkey Puzzle tree.  In May 1842, Palmerston was sent a small box containing two cones of the Araucanian Pine from Colonel John Walpole in Chile.  “You will often have heard of the beauty of this tree in its conformation and I know of no one of the species which can rival it for size and proportions.  I send you these seeds because from the applications which I have directly and indirectly received from English nurserymen I have reason to think that they have not yet become common…”[BR114/5/37-8]

By May 1843, Hereman had carefully planted the seeds in the vinery, the melon yard, and the new greenhouse at Broadlands, exactly following ‘the last directions given in the Gardener’s Chronicle’ [BR114/8/17]. By this date the practice of managing and planting woodland was becoming more scientific, aided by the growing number of publications offering advice. Timber after all was a valuable resource for estate owners. Early examples among our rare book collection at Southampton include: The Manner of Raising, Ordering, and improving Forrest-Trees by M. Cook, published in 1676; and A sure method of improving estates by plantations of Oak Elm Ash Beech and other timber-trees, by Batty Langley, 1728 [Rare Books Perkins SD 391].  William Cobbett – the famous farmer and political commentator who lived in Hampshire – also wrote The Woodlands, a treatise that was serialised in the Political Register between 1825-8.

So trees have been associated with both profit and pleasure down the ages. Some are even visited as tourist attractions, famous due to their size or age. You might have seen the ancient Knightwood Oak near Lyndhurst, thought to be from 450 to 600 years old, and probably the oldest oak in the New Forest.  Other local trees acquired notoriety for more amazing reasons:


The Hampshire Wonder or The Groaning Tree being a full and true account of the Groaning Tree, in the New Forest, near Limington in Hampshire, which has been heard for some time past by thousands of people, who come from all parts to hear this amazing and portentous noise, by P.Q. M D. F.R.S., London, 1742, Cope 97.58.

The Groaning Tree apparently stood ‘about two Miles distant from Limington in a solitary part of the New Forest’. It was a famous elm tree ‘which has been heard to groan like a human Creature in the Agonies of Death, for several Hours together’…. ‘the amazing Groans which are now every Day heard to proceed from its Trunk; and these indeed are so terrible and shocking to human Nature, that few who hear them have Power to stir from the Place till proper Cordials have been administred to revive their sinking Spirits and confounded Imaginations.’

Enjoy National Tree Week!

User perspective: a postgraduate’s experience in using the Special Collections for the first time

To coincide with Postgraduate Open Day, MA student Jenny Whitaker reflects on her experience of using the Special Collections.

Jenny Whitaker, MA student

Jenny Whitaker

The Hartley Library’s Special Collections are one of the University of Southampton’s greatest assets, but as an undergraduate student studying here I must confess I didn’t fully get to grips with the scale and variety of the resources available. In several recent MA History Research Skills sessions, which have involved examining just a few of the Collection’s myriad resources, I came to appreciate much more fully the richness of the material we are lucky enough to have here at Southampton. Our focus during the classes has been on specific issues, such as the process of documentation or the role of numbers in historical sources. Whilst these criteria helped to focus our academic attention and regard the sources in new ways, for me the most striking aspect of the Collections is the sense of having history at one’s fingertips. Nothing, for me, engages the mind on a historical question, figure, or event, in quite the same way as a primary source in your hands. Deciphering elegant but illegible historical handwriting and tracing life stories through ledgers are activities which can seem to many the preserve of the only most established academics. However, the Special Collections is highly accessible and welcoming. Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of the material for me was its incredible liveliness; especially the evocativeness of individual handwriting styles and notes taken in the margins. Moreover, whilst archival research is usually driven by a precise aim or question, it often seems to throw up serendipitous little pieces of information which a researcher would not have anticipated, or amusing snapshots of past lives. One such occurrence, spotted by an eagle-eyed classmate, occurs in an eighteenth-century account book detailing payments made to the servants of one Henry Temple; a payment has been made to a ‘cook maid’ by the eerily appropriate name of Mary Berry.  Strange coincidences aside, interacting with the Special Collections has been an incredibly interesting and insightful experience, and one I’m looking forward to repeating as my postgraduate career continues.

Mary Berry, cook maid

MS 62 BR 10/1/1 Mary Berry, cook maid, listed as staff at Broadlands, 1740

Voltaire, he “continues to act his own pieces upon his own stage”

Today would have been the 238th birthday of Francois-Marie Arouet.  Better known by his nom de plume Voltaire, he was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.  He advocated freedom of religion, freedom of speech and separation of church and state.


Portrait of Voltaire by French painter Nicolas de Largillierre, 1724 or 1725, displayed at the Palace of Versailles

During his European tour, the young Henry Temple, second Viscount Palmerston, stayed with Voltaire at Ferney in September 1763. He had already travelled through much of Switzerland and was on his way to Italy.

I dined yesterday with Voltaire who lives about 4 miles from hence [Geneva] upon the French territory: he is just now 70 complete. He seems feeble and complains of continual pains in his head; but notwithstanding seems to have lost nothing of his spirits or intellects and still continues to act his own pieces upon his own stage. […] He received us with much politeness and attention. [Broadlands Archives BR11/2/7]

I am now settled at Voltaire’s house and am regretting the time I wasted in the neighborhood before I came hither. My recommendations to him were such and from such quarters as could not fail to procure me great civilities. [Broadlands Archives BR11/2/8]

Palmerston served as an MP for many years but his first love was travel and culture and he collected antiques, paintings and sculptures, many of which now adorn what was his country estate, Broadlands, in Hampshire. The Special Collections hold travel diaries and correspondence which provide a detailed account of Palmerston’s life.

BR101/34 List of pictures and marbles purchased by Henry Temple, second Viscount Palmerston, in Italy, 1764

BR101/34 List of pictures and marbles purchased by Henry Temple, second Viscount Palmerston, in Italy, 1764

Some commentators have criticized Voltaire for his attitude towards Jewish people while others state he was hostile to all religions, and not specifically anti-Semitic. The Parkes Library on Jewish/non-Jewish relations contains a selection of texts concerning Voltaire and his views including Antoine Guénée’s Lettres de quelques Juifs Portugais, Allemands et Polonais à M. de Voltaire, avec up petit commentaire, extrait d’un plus grand, à l’usage de ceux qui lisent ses oeuvres, suivies des mémoires sur la ferilité de la Judée (Pairs 1828): letters from Jewish correspondents to Voltaire, with commentary.

The Library holds 18th- and 19th-century editions of Voltaire’s works including The Dictionnaire philosophique (Philosophical Dictionary), an encyclopaedic dictionary first published by Voltaire in 1764; it was a lifelong project for Voltaire and continually edited and reprinted throughout his life.

Update on exhibitions and events

This week’s blog post looks at current and upcoming events taking place in Special Collections.

Archive Senses
We’re happy to announce that Archives Senses, the current exhibition in the Hartley Library’s Level 4 Gallery, will continue for an extended run. The exhibition looks at Archives as a part of the wide-ranging conversation around materiality, and emphasises the continuing importance of the archive object — not just as a less accessible alternative to the digital object as sometimes perceived, but as a critical resource that runs alongside and underpins the digital.

Wellington papers - iron gall ink corrosion to paper

Wellington papers – iron gall ink corrosion to paper

The exhibition represents the material nature of archives through themed sets of images of such things as envelopes and containers, folds and creases, marks and annotations, the nature of ink and paper — and the space and the labour of the archive. There are also some rather unexpected archive objects.

Ceiling ducting for air-conditioning

Ceiling ducting for air-conditioning

WSA Professor Jussi Parikka has written an introductory wall text:


If you have not yet had a chance to visit be sure to drop by. For more images from the exhibition please visit the Level 4 Gallery blog at:

Exploring Arts in the Archives
Special Collections will be continuing its current run of Explore Your Archives events on Wednesday, 14 December 2016, with an open afternoon focusing on music, theatre and the visual arts. The afternoon will provide an opportunity to view material from the collections and meet the curators. It will also include a talk by Eloise Rose from the John Hansard Gallery.


Space is limited. To reserve a place please go to:

Visitors at the Exploring the Wellington Archive event

Visitors at the Exploring the Wellington Archive event

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who attended our previous sessions. It’s been great meeting you all and we hope to see you in Archives again soon!

Reopening of the Special Collections Gallery
Due to the on-going building project taking place in the Hartley Library, the Special Collection Gallery has been closed since May 2016. We are glad to announce that the Gallery will be reopening in the New Year!

Special Collections Gallery, Level 4 of the Hartley Library

Special Collections Gallery, Level 4 of the Hartley Library

Details of forthcoming exhibitions and events will be posted in due course. Be sure to keep an eye on the blog and check our Events calendar and Facebook page for further updates and announcements.

Upcoming Explore Your Archive events

Following the success of our recent Exploring the Wellington Archive event, Special Collections will be hosting two more open afternoons as part of our current series of Explore Your Archive drop-in sessions.


Exploring health and welfare resource in the Special Collections
On Wednesday 16 November 2016, Special Collections will be hosting an open afternoon focusing on health and welfare, allowing visitors the opportunity to view material from the collections and meet the curators.

The afternoon will include a talk by Dr Brenda Phillips discussing her research on the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley.

Space is limited. To reserve a place, please go to:

1600-1715: Opportunity to view resources from the Special Collections: Archives and Manuscripts reading room, Level 4, Hartley Library

1730-1800: Talk by Dr Brenda Phillips: Library Conference Room, Level 4, Hartley Library


Exploring Arts in the Archives
On Wednesday, 14 December 2016, Special Collections will be hosting an open afternoon focusing on music, theatre and the visual arts, allowing visitors the opportunity to view material from the collections and meet the curators.

The afternoon will conclude with a talk by Eloise Rose from the John Hansard Gallery.

This event will mark the exciting range of arts related activities taking place at the University and across the city, including: the launch of the new Arts at University of Southampton website; the coming of British Art Show 8 to the John Hansard Gallery and Southampton City Art Gallery; and the opening of Studio 144, Southampton’s new arts complex in Guildhall Square.

Space is limited. To reserve a place, please go to:

1615-1715: Opportunity to view resources from the Special Collections: Archives and Manuscripts reading room, Level 4, Hartley Library

1730-1800: Talk by Eloise Rose: Library Conference Room, Level 4, Hartley Library

During the same week we will be launching our ‘Arts in the Archives’ online exhibition which will draw on material from the archives to look at some of the key developments in the history the arts at the University.

To view samples of images from the exhibition, visit our Facebook page at: