As we move into the 1920s, we find the University College settling into its new Highfield site. By 1922, we were home to a grand total of 350 students! In 1925, 32 of these students secured honours degrees, with 9 placed in the first class. While there were 14 departments in total, the bulk of the student body was made up of trainee teachers, engineers and a large contingent of ex-service men financed by Ministry of Labour; those reading for a degree were in a small minority. In terms of staff, the University College had 10 professors, 4 readers, 20 lecturers and 4 demonstrators. The administrative staff consisted of the Registrar, David Kiddle, plus two male clerks. Principal Vickers recounted “what they lacked in numbers […] they made up for by devotion to the interests of their students and their loyalty to the college.”Developing the student accommodation was a key priority for the decade. The first official men’s hall of residence, Stoneham House, was open for the start of the 1921 session and could accommodate 100 residents; it was billed as having “electric light and central heating throughout” – so all the mod-cons! This sixteenth-century mansion house had been the seat of the Barons Swaythling before they moved to Townhill Park House. South Hill House for women “an enlarged private house in beautiful gardens” opened at the same time; this joined Highfield Hall, meaning that there were two residences for female students. Now part of Glen Eyre in Bassett, South Hill was on loan to the College from the President, Claude Montefiore, and received 30 female “freshers”. In 1927, the College bought the freehold of Highfield Hall, with a view to erecting a more modern building. The South wing of the new Highfield Hall was available for occupation by the end of the decade, 1929, although not formally opened by the Duke of York until 1 July 1930. There were several key individuals who were instrumental in the development of the institution. At the top, throughout the decade, Claude Montefiore gave continuity as President (akin to Chancellor), with his long tenure from 1913-1943. At the start of the decade, Dr Thomas Loveday replaced Dr Alex Hill as Principal (i.e. Vice Chancellor); his term was fairly short-lived and he was replaced by Kenneth Hotham Vickers in October 1922 who worked to achieve full university status for the institution. Principal Vickers recounts:
The best and most fruitful stage of my education began when I took up residence in Southampton in September 1922 with very little conception of what lay before me […] On my first day in College I was waylaid by the Professor of Physics who was alarmed at the dangerous condition of his first floor lecture room, which was showing signs of subsiding […] On the whole, the accommodation was sufficient for the work then being done, but the huts were an eyesore, and their upkeep and heating a constant worry. [MS113 LF780UNI 2/7/85/101]
Professor John Eustice was Vice Principal throughout the decade.
At the start of the decade, Albert Cock was appointed as Professor of Education and Philosophy. That same year, the University gained a Chair of Modern Languages with the promotion of Patchett from German lecturer and H.M. Margoliouth as Professor of English Language and Literature.In 1921 the University College gained its first Music Professor, George Leake; he was also organist and choirmaster of St. Marks Church.
The Department of Law was created in 1923. In 1926, Dr W.Rae Sherriffs was appointed first chair of Zoology. That same year, the University College was joined by Percy Ford who worked towards building a faculty not just of economics but social sciences.
The Engineering Faculty also saw great expansion with a scheme of part time and day and evening training for apprentices of local engineering and shipbuilding firms. The project was supported by Messrs. Thornycrofts and Co. of the Supermarine Aviation Works at Woolston and of the Avro Works at Hamble.
Principal Vickers gives an honest account of the physical condition of the Highfield campus:
And Vickers elaborates further on the College accommodation:
Standing in acres of ground lying either side of a public road, it consisted of two wings of the original design joined together by a covered way. As an after thought, three small laboratories and a building for the Engineering Department, all “semi-permanent” structures, had been erected behind these two wings. The Hospital authorities had added a large number of wooden huts of “temporary structure”, which were sold to the College.
The opening of the George Moore Botanical Building by Duke of Connaught in June 1928 was a key achievement. It housed laboratories for the Botany Department and its construction was made possible through a legacy left by George Moore, a former member of the College Council. The driving force behind this project was Professor of Botany, S.Mangham. At the same time, plans were laid for a botanical garden; this now has a second life as Valley Gardens. Various new committees established during this decade including for general purposes, grounds, works and halls and refectory. Alongside this the work of Senate was developed and this also generated several new committees, including Research Committee and Development Committee.
The main structure was not very prepossessing and suffered from the addition of certain stone adornments; it was built of unattractive brick. Already it was showing signs of unsteadiness. In front of the College there was an unmown hay field, at the back all the unoccupied space was a wilderness. Across the road, in front of the College were more huts.
A good social life was as important for students then as it is now. This dance card from 1921 shows that nights out were somewhat more formal 100 years ago.This decade saw the acquisition of an assembly hall and the Montefiore sports field which greatly aided the student social scene. Football, hockey and netball were some of the sports in which the students could partake and these activities are well reflected in our photographic collections. In 1926 Gilbert and Sullivan concerts were held in the Old Assembly Hall, conducted by D.Cecil Williams, Master of Music at University College, Southampton. The “RAG” (student-run fundraising) events also featured heavily. Towards the end of the decade, in 1928, the Wessex publication was founded as “a record of the movement for a University of Wessex”. That same year the Extra-Mural Department formed with Kenneth Lindsay as secretary; classes of various types opened in close co-operation with the Workers’ Educational Association, Women’s Institutes and other bodies in local area. A four year course in education was also instituted.
By the end of the decade the University College had faced its fair share of challenges, many financial, but was well established at its Highfield home. We will close with Principal Vickers reflections on the University College, Southampton spirit:
Not many days had gone by before I realized that there was that corporate spirit and devotion to all that the College stood for, which can only be learnt fully by those who have together passed through days of danger and tribulation […] There was in the College something which was intangible, but very real, compounded of a belief in University education, a devotion to the place and their job and their readiness to give the raw young Principal all the backing that he needed. [MS 113 LF 780 UNI 2/7/85/101]