Author Archives: krspecialcollections

“Everyone is in admiration of it”: visiting the country house

In the second of our Historical Association’s ‘Local and Community History Month’ blogs, we look at the development of tourism of the country house.

In  the modern times the country house has a significant British culture presence, with heritage tourism generating billions of pounds. Yet looking around country houses has long been a popular English pastime. The country house speaks of the power of the landed classes, telling of their interests from classical architecture to landscapes of the picturesque, agriculture and rural improvement, from old master paintings to model dairies. Such establishments were at the height of their importance in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And during this period visiting country houses, including such houses in Hampshire, became an established form of tourism.

With the developments in the road network, which enabled easier and faster travel, the number of travellers to country houses increased. Visiting these establishments offered a glimpse at the lives of the rich, an opportunity to view fine collections of art and architecture and to tour the grounds.

"Highcliffe in Hampshire" drawn by Callander, 1784 [Cope Collection]

“High Cliff in Hampshire, the seat of the Earl of Bute”: drawn by Callander; engraved by W.Watts, London, 1784 [Cope Collection cqHIH 72; print number pr599]

For the owners there was no financial incentive to granting access but it was seen as an indication of their politeness, as this letter from Mary Mee, Viscountess Palmerston, to her husband, second Viscount Palmerston, describing a visit by Lord Duncannon to Highcliff, shows.

Lord Duncannon had been in the morning to see Highcliff.  The servants refused him even entering the outward gate. He however sent in a note to Lady Bute and she ordered him to be admitted to the great astonishment of all the servants, but to the housekeeper in particular who could not refrain from exclaiming all the time she was shewing the house “Well I cannot conceive how you got in.  Its the most extraordinary thing I ever knew.  You are the first person that ever was admitted when my lord was down.” 

[MS62 Broadlands Archives BR11/11/1]

The growth of tourism within the UK saw a parallel development in travel writing and production of tour guides.  These guides included descriptions of country houses in their pages, elevating their status to that of public sites of importance.

John Bullar’s tour guide for the area around Southampton, for instance, included a map that listed the country houses. Although the county was essentially rural, comparatively few aristocrats had their principal residence in the area, and there were probably only around 50 families in the county with estates in excess of 3,000 acres.

Map of the county around Southampton for John Bullar (1819) [Cope Collection]

Map of the country around Southampton printed for John Bullar A companion in a tour round Southampton comprehending various particulars, ancient and modern, of the New Forest Lymington, Christchurch, Ringwood, Romsey, Winchester, Bishop’s Waltham, Titchfield, Gosport, Portsmouth, etc., with notices of the villages, gentlemen’s seats, curiosities, antiquities, etc. occurring in the different roads described; and various biographical sketches fourth edition (Southampton, 1819) [Rare Books Cope 04; copy number 52-293007]

Bullar was to describe Broadlands, the seat of Lord Palmerston, in the following terms:

 About a mile from Romsey, we cross the Andover canal, and approach Broadlands, the sate of Lord Viscount Palmerston. The house is highly finished, in a style of elegant simplicity. There is a fine collection of paintings. The park and gardens are excellent. Few dairies are more singular tha[n] that of Broadlands. The cattle are all of the same breed, and are curiously belted round the body with a broad stripe of white. The river Test runs through the park; and the neighbouring bridge across it, is a good object from the house.

Broadlands printed by Ackermann [Cope Collection]

“Broadlands, seat of the Rt. Hon. Lord Viscount Palmerston” [London, Ackermann, 18- ] Aquatint 11.4 x 18.1 cm. Plate 14, vol. 6 of Repository of Arts, 1809-1818. [Cope Collection cq72 BRO; print number pr 41]

The Brayley and Britton guidebook The beauties of England Wales likewise focused on the simplicity of the Broadlands house and its fine art collection

The house is a neat edifice of white brick, standing on the eastern side of the river Test, which flows through the park; it was rebuilt by the late Lord Palmerston, who ranked among the most eminent connoisseurs of his time. The collection of paintings made by this nobleman and preserved in this mansion, is extremely fine.

In their description of Paulton’s, another Hampshire county house, they focused instead on the grounds. Paulton’s grounds, like Broadlands, had been landscaped by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, and they “present a pleasing specimen of his skill, the area being judiciously opened into ample lawns, which too thickly crowded with timber: the house is in a low and secluded situation”.

[Edward Wedlake Brayley and John Britton’s The beauties of England and Wales; or, delineations, topographical, historical and descriptive...: vol. 6 (London, Vernor & Hood, 1805) Rare Books Cope 03; copy number 59225007]

Lithograph of Paultons, [c.1830] [Cope Collection]

Lithograph of “Paultons, the seat of William S.Stanley esq.” printed by Engelmann, Graf, Coindet & Co. [c.1830] [Cope Collection cq72 PAU; print number pr60]

Whilst the number of visitors in no way compares to those experienced by heritage sites of today, it could certainly be claimed that by the early nineteenth century, country-house tourism had become a significant cultural practice.

Protest stories (3): We Protest! – campaigning for change

Welcome to the third and final of our blogs featuring highlights from the Special Collections We Protest! exhibition. This week we look at campaigns by protest groups from the 1960s onwards, in particular student protests and the work of a very singular Jewish organisation: the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry.

Handcuffs used at Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry demonstrations

Handcuffs used at demonstrations by the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry [MS254 A980/5/4/3]

Student protests

Although mass student protests had been taking place prior to May 1968, it was the demonstrations in Paris of that year that brought newfound energy to political campus activism. At Southampton that activism was to reflect many of the social, economic as well as political concerns of the modern era and the form that student protests have taken — such as marches, boycotts and sit-ins — likewise have followed the repertoire of contention of campus protests.

The material featured in the exhibition dates from the 1960s onwards. In this decade it was the apartheid regime in South Africa, as well as the Vietnam War, that was to be the focus of demonstrations.

Student group leaflet for boycott against South Africa, 25 November 1969

Student group leaflet advocating boycott against South Africa, 25 November 1969 [Rare Books Univ. Coll. c LF 788.89]

Students at Southampton were amongst those at a number of institutions involved in sit-ins in the 1970s: for instance, the 48 hours occupation of the Administration Building on 14-15 November 1973 in support of the National Union of Students’ campaign for grants.

Student sit-in in support of the grants campaign

Headline from Wessex News, reporting on the sit-in in support of the NUS grants campaign, 1973 [Univ. Coll. LF789.9]

The late 1980s saw student loans coming to the fore as an issue, with the Students Union passing a motion in 1988 describing top-up loans, as ‘merely the thin end of the wedge … eventually leading to a full loans system’.

No_Loans_MS1_19_263 (2)

“No loans” campaign by students [MS1/Phot/19/263]

Current activism, such as that on climate change, likewise reflects the concerns of the present era.

“Those wonderful women in black” – the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry

Campaign badges of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry

Badges of the 35’s: Campaign for Soviet Jewry [MS254 A980/5/4/1]

Established in 1971, the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry was a pressure group set up to assist members of the Jewish community in the Soviet Union wishing to leave the country, but denied permission. The term “refusnik” was coined to describe these individuals. On hearing the news that thirty-five-year-old librarian Raisa Palatnik from Odessa had been arrested for distributing samizdat, (banned literature), a small group of women decided to hold a protest outside the Soviet Embassy in London. From these modest beginnings grew the campaign on behalf of the refusniks.

Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry demonstration at the Soviet embassy, London, 1973

Demonstration held at Soviet Embassy, London, with placards bearing slogan ‘SHKOLNIK YAVOR USSR How Many More?’ and ‘Sheffield Concern for Soviet Jewry’, Autumn 1973 [MS254 A980/4/20/1]

Many of the founder members of the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry (affectionately known as the 35s due to the average age of the group) were middle-class, Jewish housewives from North West London who had no previous experience of activism or campaigns. They proved themselves to be a formidable force, conducting a tireless campaign to heighten public awareness of their cause, and were known for their effective and highly imaginative demonstrations.

Women's campaign for Soviet Jewry demonstration at Wembley Arena

Demonstration outside Wembley Arena, with placards in support of Anatoly Sharansky and a protester wearing a Brezhnev mask [MS254 A980/4/22/178]

Indeed, the “wonderful women in black” were to prove to be excellent examples of how clothing could be used in a performance capacity to support political activism and demands for social reform.

Red protest t-shirt worn by the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry

Red t-shirt used for Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry demonstrations featuring Yuri Federov, Josef Mendelevich and Aleksey Muzhenko on the front. Ida Nudel, Anatoly Sharansky and Vladimir Slepak are featured on the back. [MS254 A980/5/1/3]

White protest t-shirt of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry

White t-shirt used for Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry demonstrations with the logo ‘KGB release Sharansky’ [MS254 A980/5/1/2]

We hope that you have enjoyed over the last three weeks this showcase of some of the items from the recent Special Collections exhibition. We hope that you will be able to join us for future exhibitions, both in the galleries and online.

Protest stories (2): We Protest! – opposing fascism

This second blog, presenting highlights of the Special Collections We Protest! exhibition, looks at organisations in the 1930s that opposed fascism.

One such was the Jewish People’s Council Against Fascism and Anti-Semitism for which there is material within the archive of Dr James Parkes.

Fascist Hooliganism! leaflet of the Jewish People's Council, 1936

“Fascist Hooliganism!”: leaflet of the Jewish People’s Council Against Fascism and Anti-Semitism, 1936 [MS60/15/53]

In the mid-1930s, the British Union of Fascists, under the lead of Oswald Mosley, concentrated their anti-Semitic activities in the East End of London as this was where a large proportion of the Anglo-Jewish community was based. Their campaign drew on an anti-Semitic tradition that dated back to the period from the 1870s to the start of the First World War and to the influx of large numbers of Jewish migrants from Eastern Europe. This BUF focus on anti-Semitism had the effect of  increasing the involvement of the Jewish community in anti-fascist activities as they became more closely linked to opposition to anti-Semitism.

Oswald Mosley, 1954

Oswald Mosley attending a meeting, 1954 [MS60/17/16]

It was in this environment that the Jewish People’s Council Against Fascism and Anti-Semitism came into being. It has been described as one of the period’s most confrontational anti-fascist bodies. It is certainly clear, as this memorandum shows, that the organisation saw its duty to actively oppose fascism and the activities of the British Union of Fascists:

Memorandum of the Jewish Council Against Anti-Semitism and Fascism

Memorandum of the Jewish  People’s Council Against Anti-Semitism and Fascism [MS60/17/16]

“For the first time in the history of this country, a mass organisation seeking political control makes its main appeal on the basis of anti-Semitism. The campaign of slander and vilification of the Jews is already resulting in making their position an increasingly precarious one. It is therefore urgently necessary that the whole Jewish People should unite in the struggle against every form of Anti-Semitic expression. In order to combat the already obvious growth of Anti-Semitism, every Jew, irrespective of political opinions or attitude to religion, and every Jewish organisation must be united, and the fear and hatred of Fascism which is felt by every Jew must be translated into effective action.

The Jewish People’s Council Against Fascism and Anti-Semitism has been formed with a view to facilitating by all constitutional means the unity of the Jewish people and the drawing together of all Jewish organisations in the work of combating Fascism and Anti-Semitism.

The only way of effectively fighting Anti-Semitism is by attacking the organisation responsible for this Anti-Semitic campaign, i.e. the Fascist party.

The fight against Fascism also puts us in close cooperation with the existing anti-fascist organisations, and strengthens our hands in our campaign against Anti-Semitism. 

The struggle for democratic liberty is the concern of the Jews as such, because it is only under a democratic form of Government that the Jews can hope to enjoy equality of citizenship, as history has proved abundantly in the past…”


Headlines from the Nottingham Gazette about the Battle of Cable Street, 5 October 1936

Headlines from an article in the Nottingham Gazette, 5 October 1936 [Rare Books Parkes quarto BZ8221.P73]

The “Battle of Cable Street” which took place on Sunday 4 October 1936 has been portrayed as a peak of a wave of anti-fascist activity in which the Jewish People’s Council and members of the Jewish community were very much at the heart. During this event a large force of anti-fascist protesters, including communist and socialist as well as Jewish groups, clashed with the Metropolitan Police, sent to the London’s East End to protect a march of members of the British Union of Fascists. Whilst the event could be seen as a victory against fascist forces — the march was prevented and Oswald Mosley the BUF leader beat an ignominious retreat — it was to unleash in its wake greater Jewish intimidation since it allowed Mosley to portray a picture of British citizens prevented from exercising their lawful right to demonstrate.

Crowds at the "Battle of Cable Street", October 1936

Image of crowds at the “Battle of Cable Street” in the Illustrated London News, 10 October 1936 [Per A]

Opponents of fascism in Britain, including the Jewish People’s Council, learned important lessons from Cable Street. One such lesson was that it was better to organise politically and to infiltrate the far-right groups gathering intelligence than to confront them. In recognition of this, the Jewish People’s Council began to urge Jews to stay away from BUF marches or meetings. And it was this lesson about gathering intelligence that organisations formed in the 1960s to oppose new extreme right organisations, took to heart.

Join us next week for the final part of the exhibition as we look at protest groups in action in the latter part of the twentieth century.

Protest stories (1): We Protest! – 19th-century protests

Join us in the next three blogs as we explore highlights of the Special Collections exhibition We Protest! which is now closed to visitors due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

In putting together this exhibition we took as its starting point the Cato Street Conspiracy, the bicentenary of which was in February. This so-called “horrible conspiracy” fitted into the pattern of unrest over a range of social, economic and political issues at the end of the eighteenth and start of the nineteenth century, issues that were also to factor in the two other nineteenth-century protest movements that we feature.

The exhibition has proved an opportunity to utilise some little-known material relating to these protests within both the Wellington and Palmerston collections. Pages of notes taken by Lord Palmerston as the Cato Street conspirators were examined before the Privy Council in March 1820 were one such exciting discovery. Whilst the Wellington Archive provided not only samples of handwriting of the conspirators, but a hand-drawn map of the “Swing” riots in Hampshire and amongst the intelligence collected and sent to him about Chartist activity, a fascinating and slightly macabre illustration of the Chartist ‘rising’ in Newport in 1839.

Cato Street Conspiracy

Illustration of Cato Street, 1820

Illustration of Cato Street from a view published in Old and New London (1820)

On 23 February 1820, the Cato Street Conspirators were arrested. This small group, led by the prominent radical Arthur Thistlewood, included individuals from England, Scotland and Ireland, as well as one Jamaican man, William Davidson. Influenced by radical ideas, and responding to repressive measures by the government to previous protests, their aim was to assassinate the cabinet. By this action Thistlewood hoped they would trigger a massive uprising against the government.

Unfortunately for the group, they had been infiltrated by a police spy, George Edwards. The authorities stormed the room at Cato Street and arrested the conspirators. During the fracas Thistlewood shot and killed a policeman.

The Cato Street Conspirators were tried at the Central Criminal Court in London, but as the document below shows also were questioned before the Privy Council. This extract records that Arthur Thistlewood had nothing to say, whilst James Ings expressed a hope that he might be comfortable since he had not previously had “the necessities of life” such as a clean shirt.

Notes by Lord Palmerston of the examination of Cato Street Conspirators before the Privy Council, 1820

Extract of notes taken by Lord Palmerston when Thistlewood and Ings, alongside the other conspirators, were examined before the Privy Council, 1820 [MS62 PP/HA/A/4]

Thistlewood along with James Ings, John Brunt, William Davidson and Richard Tidd were executed on 1 May 1820 after being found guilty of treason; other conspirators were transported.

Sample of the handwriting of Arthur Thistlewood

Sample of the handwriting of Arthur Thistlewood, written at Newgate Prison, 27 April 1820 [MS61 WP1/660/1]

Report of the Cato Street Conspiracy in the Gentleman's Magazine (1820)

“Horrible conspiracy and murder!”: report of the Cato Street Conspiracy in the Gentleman’s Magazine (1820) [Rare Books Per A]

Report from the Gentleman’s Magazine (1820):


                Wednesday, Feb.23.

                In consequence of private information received by the Civil Power, that it was in the contemplation of a gang of diabolical ruffians to make an attempt on the lives of his Majesty’s Ministers, whilst assembled at the house of Earl Harrowby, in Mansfield-street, to a Cabinet Dinner, this evening, R. Birnie, Esq. with a party of 12 of the Bow-street patrole, proceeded about eight o’clock to the place which had been described as the rendezvous of these desperadoes in Cato-street, John-street, in the Edgeware-road; where, in a kind of loft, over a range of coach-houses, they were found in close and earnest deliberation. The only approach to this Pandemonium was by a narrow ladder. Ruthven, one of the principal Bow-street Officers, led the way, and was followed by Ellis, Smithers, Surman, and others of the patrole. On the door being opened, about 25 or 30 men were seen within, all armed some way or other; and, for the most part, they were apparently engaged, either in charging fire-arms, or in girding themselves in belts similar to those worn by the military. There were tables about the room, on which lay a number of cutlasses, bayonets, pistols, sword-belts, pistol-balls in great quantities, ball-cartridges, &c. As the Officers entered the room, the conspirators all immediately started up; when Ruthven, who had been furnished with a warrant from the Magistrates, exclaimed, “We are Peace-officers! Lay down your arms!” In a moment all was confusion. A man, whom Ruthven described as the notorious A. Thistlewood, opposed himself to the Officers, armed with a cut-and-thrust sword of unusual length. Ruthven attempted to secure the door; and Ellis, who had followed him into the room, advanced towards the man, and, presenting him pistol, exclaimed, “Drop your sword, or I’ll fire instantly!” The man brandished his sword with increased violence; when Smithers, the other patrole, rushed forward to seize him; and on the instant the ruffian stabbed him to the heart. Poor Smithers fell into the arms of his brother Officer Ellis, exclaiming “Oh God!” and in the next instant was a corpse. While this deed was doing, the lights were extinguished, and a desperate struggle ensued, in which many of the Officers were severely wounded. Surman, one of the patrole, received a musket-ball on the temple; but fortunately it only glanced along the side of his head, tearing up the scalp in its way. The conspirators kept up an incessant fire: whilst it was evident to the Officers that many of them were escaping by some back way. Mr. Birnie exposed himself every where, and encouraged the Officers to do their duty, while the balls were whizzing round his head. At this moment, Captain Fitzclarence (one of the gallant sons of his Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence) arrived at the head of a detachment of the Coldstream Guards. They surrounded the building; and Captain Fitzclarence, with Serjeant Legge and three files of grenadiers, mounted the ladder and entered the room, now filled with smoke, and only illuminated by the occasional flashes of the fire-arms of the conspirators. A ruffian instantly approached the gallant Captain, and presented a pistol to his breast; but as he was in the act of pulling the trigger, Serjeant Legge rushed forward, and whilst attempting to push aside the destructive weapon, received the fire upon his arm. Fortunately for this brave man, the ball glanced along his arm, tearing the sleeve of his jacket from the wrist to his elbow, without wounding him. It is impossible to give a minute detail of the desperate conflict which followed, or the numerous instances of personal daring manifested by the Peace-officers and the military, thus brought into sudden contact with a band of assassins in their obscure den, and in utter darkness. Unfortunately, this darkness favoured the escape of many of the wretches, and the dreadful skirmish ended in the capture of only nine of them. These were instantly handcuffed together, placed in hackney-coaches, and brought down to the Police-office, Bow-street, under a strong military escort; and Mr. Birnie, having arrived at the same moment, instantly took his seat upon the Bench, and prepared to enter into the examination of the prisoners. They were immediately placed at the bar in the following order:- James Ings, a butcher; James Wilson, a tailor; Richard Bradburn, a carpenter; James Gilchrist, a shoemaker; Charles Cooper, a bootmaker; Richard Tidd, a bootmaker; John Monument, a shoemaker; John Shaw, a carpenter; and William Davidson, a cabinet maker.

                Davidson is a man of colour, and a worthy coadjutor of Messrs. Watson, Thistlewood, and Co. upon many occasions. At the meeting in Finsbury market-place a few months ago, he was one of the principle speakers.

                Ings is a hoary ruffian, a short squat man, apparently between 50 and 60, but of most determined aspect. His hands were covered with blood; and as he stood at the bar, manacled to one of his wretched confederates, his small fiery eyes glared round upon the spectators with an expression truly horrible. The rest had nothing extraordinary in their appearances. They were for the most part men of short stature, mean exterior, and unmarked physiognomy.

                The office was crowded with soldiers and officers, bringing in arms and ammunition of various kinds, which had been taken on the premises; muskets, carbines, broadswords, pistols, blunderbusses, belts, and cartouch-boxes, ball-cartridges, gunpowder (found loose in the pockets of the prisoners), haversacks, and a large bundle of singularly-constructed stilettoes. These latter were about 18 inches long, and triangular in form; two of the sides being concave, and the other flat; the lower extremity having been flattened, and then wrung round spirally, so as to make a firm grip, and ending in a screw, as if to fit into the top of a staff. Several staves indeed were produced, fitted at one end with a screwed socket; and no doubt they were intended to receive this formidable weapon.

                The depositions of a number of officers, most of them wounded, and several of the soldiers, having been taken, their evidence substantiating the foregoing narrative, the prisoners were asked whether they wished to say any thing. Cooper and Davidson the black were the only ones who replied; and they merely appealed to the officers and soldiers to say, whether they had not instantly surrendered themselves. Ellis, the patrole, who received the murdered body of his comrade Smithers in his arms, replied, that Davidson made the most determined resistance. At the moment when the lights were extinguished, he had rushed out of the place, armed with a carbine, and wearing white cross-belts. Ellis pursued him a considerable distance along John-street, and, having caught him, they fell together; and, in the deadly struggle which ensued, Davidson discharged his carbine, but without effect, and Ellis succeeded in securing him.

                Capt. Fitzclarence had seized and secured one or two of the prisoners with his own hands; and he was not only very much bruised, but his uniform was almost literally torn to pieces.

                At eleven o’clock, the deposition having been taken, as far as the circumstances of the moment would permit, the Magistrate committed the prisoners for further examination on Friday; and they were then placed in hackney-coaches, two prisoners being placed in each coach, accompanied by two police officers, with two soldiers behind and one on the box, and the whole cavalcade escorted by a strong party of the Coldstream Guards on foot.

                The following morning an extraordinary Gazette was issued, offering 1000l. for the apprehension of Arthur Thistlewood. He was taken by Bishop and a party of police officers, about 12 o’clock the same day, at No. 10, White-street, in Little Moor fields.

                The house is kept by a person named Harris, who is foreman to a letter-founder; at the time of the apprehension Harris was from home, and supposed to be at his work; but the offices took his wife with them to Bow-street. The house is full of lodgers; none of whom were aware of Thistlewood being on the premises till the officers entered; nor was he ever seen there before.

                The following are circumstantial particulars of Thistlewood’s arrest. At 9 o’clock in the morning, Lavender, Bishop, Ruthven, Salmon, and six of the patrole, were dispatched; and, arriving at the house, three of the latter were placed at the front, and three at the back door, to prevent escape. Bishop observed a room on the ground floor, the door of which he tried to open, but found it locked. He called to a woman in the opposite apartment, whose name is Harris, to fetch him the key. She hesitated, but at last brought it. He then opened the door softly. The light was partially excluded, from the shutters being shut; but he perceived a bed in a corner and advanced. At that instant a head was gently raised from under the blankets, and the countenance of Thistlewood was presented to his view. Bishop drew a pistol, and presenting it at him, exclaimed, ‘Mr. Thistlewood, I am a Bow-street officer; you are my prisoner:’ and then, ‘to make assurance double sure,’ he threw himself upon him. Thistlewood said, he would make no resistance. Lavender, Ruthven, and Salmon, were then called, and the prisoner was permitted to rise. He had his breeches and stockings on, and seemed much agitated. On being dressed, he was handcuffed. In his pockets were found some ball-cartridges and flints, the black girdle, or belt, which he was seen to wear in Cato-street, and a sort of military silk sash. A hackney coach was then sent for, and he was conveyed to Bow-street. In his way thither he was asked by Bishop what he meant to do with the ball cartridges? He declined answering any questions. He was followed by a crowd of persons, who repeatedly cried out, ‘Hang the villain! Hang the assassin!’ and used other exclamations of a similar nature. When he arrived at Bow-street, he was first taken into the public office, but subsequently into a private room, where he was heard unguardedly to say, that ‘he knew he had killed one man, and he only hoped it was Stafford,’ meaning Mr. Stafford, the Chief Clerk of the office, to whose unremitting exertions in the detection of public delinquents too much praise cannot be given. Mr. Birnie, having taken a short examination of the prisoner, sent him to Whitehall, to be examined by the Privy Council. Here the crowd was as great as that which had been collected in Bow-street. Persons of the highest rank came pouring into the Home Office, to learn the particulars of what had transpired. The arrest of Thistlewood was heard with infinite satisfaction he was placed in a room on the ground floor, and vast numbers of persons were admitted in their turn to see him. His appearance was most forbidding: his countenance, at all times unfavourable, seemed now to have acquired an additional degree of malignity: his dark eye turned upon the spectators as they came in, as if he expected to see some of his companions in guilt, who he had heard were to be brought thither. He drank some porter that was handed to him, and occasionally asked questions, principally as to the names of the persons who came to look at him. Then he asked, ‘To what gaol he should be sent? – he hoped not to Horsham.’ (This was the place in which he was confined in consequence of his conviction for sending a challenge to Lord Sidmouth.)

                At two o’clock he was conducted before the Privy Council. He was still handcuffed, but mounted the stairs with alacrity. On entering the Council-chamber he was placed at the foot of the table. He was then addressed by the Lord Chancellor, who informed him that he stood charged with the twofold crime of treason and murder, and asked him whether he had any thing to say for himself? He answered, that ‘he should decline saying any thing on that occasion.’ He was then committed to Coldbath-fields prison.

                The other prisoners, apprehended the night before, were likewise taken before the Privy Council, and recommitted. In addition to the Cabinet Ministers, there were present, Viscount Palmerston, the Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer of Scotland, Sir William Scott, Mr. Sturges Bourne, the Attorney and Solicitor-General, Sir John Nicholl, &c. They continued in examination of the prisoners till past six o’clock, when the prisoners, who had been kept in separate rooms, were removed in hackney-coaches to the House of Correction, escorted by a party of the Life Guards, amidst the execrations of those assembled round, and Thistlewood was loudly hooted and groaned at when he was taken from Bow-street Office.

                In the course of the day, further arrests took place. Among others secured is a man of the name of Brunt – who is stated to have been second in command to Thistlewood. He was apprehended at his lodgings in Fox-court, Gray’s-inn-lane; in his room a vast quantity of hand-grenades, and other combustibles, were found.  These were charged with powder, pieces of old iron, &c., calculated, upon explosion, to produce the most horrible consequences. A great number of pike-blades, or stilettoes, such as were discovered in Cato-street, and a number of fire-arms, were likewise found. The whole of these, together with the prisoner, were taken to Bow-street. He was afterwards sent to Whitehall, and then committed to Coldbath-fields.

                Firth, the person by whom the stable was let to Harrison, has likewise been arrested. He admits that he has attended some of the Radical meetings, but denies any knowledge of the conspiracy. Warrants have been issued for securing six others, whose names and descriptions are known.

                John Harrison, who hired the room in Cato-street, was apprehended in his lodging in Old Gravel-lane. He was 10 years a private in the Life Guards, from which he was discharged about six years ago.

                Robert Adams, who had been five years a private in the Oxford Blues, and Abel Hall, have also been taken. Adams is a middle-aged man, and of respectable appearance.

                The lodgings of Thistlewood, and of all the others who were in custody, have been searched, and several important papers, and quantities of arms, have been discovered and seized.

                It is a singular fact, that when Thistlewood was arrested, he had not a farthing of money in his possession. The same observation may be made with respect to his comrades, all of whom were in the most wretched state of poverty.

                A man was apprehended by Taunton and Maidment, charged with making handles for the pikes which were seized at the stables. He was committed for further examination.

                Wm. Symmonds, a footman, at No. 20, Upper Seymour-street, was apprehended by Lavender and Bishop, charged on suspicion of being concerned with the assassins. He is suspected of giving them information respecting the transactions of the higher orders. He was detained.

                Since obtaining the preceding intelligence, the following particulars have been received: –

                A detachment of thirty of the Cold-stream Guards was ordered from Portman-street Barracks a quarter before eight o’clock (the men thought it was to attend a fire); Captain Fitzclarence headed them. On coming into the neighbourhood of Cato-street, Capt. F. commanded them to halt and fix bayonets, and every man to be silent. Almost immediately afterwards they heard the report of a pistol: they were instantly commanded to advance in double quick time, upon the spot from whence it proceeded. On reaching the stable, a man darted out and was making off, but was prevented: finding his retreat intercepted, he pointed a pistol at Captain Firzclarence; Serjeant Legge broke his aim knocking the pistol off at the instant of its discharging, and was thus himself wounded in the right arm; the man was then secured. The Captain then ordered the men to follow him into the stable; their entrance was opposed by a black man, who aimed a blow at Captain F. with a cutlass, which one of his men warded off with his firelock: he exclaimed, “Let us kill all the red-coats; we may as well die now as at any other time;” he was also secured. They then entered the stable. Captain F. being first, was attacked by another of the gang, who pointed a pistol, which flashed in the pan: the soldiers took him likewise, to whom he said, “Do’nt kill me, and I’ll tell you all about it.” The soldiers then mounted into the loft; there they found the body of the murdered officer, and another man lying near him; the latter, who was one of the gang, was ordered to rise; he said, “I hope you will make a difference between the innocent and the guilty. Don’t hurt me, and I’ll tell you how it happened.” Five more were then secured, one of whom declared he was led into it that afternoon, and was innocent.

                Davidson was one of those who, at the last meeting in Smithfield at which Hunt presided, paraded the streets of the metropolis with a black flag, on which was described a death’s head.”

Although the Cato Street Conspiracy was used by the government to justify the Six Acts of Parliament that it had passed two months previously — dealing with groups training with weapons, mass meetings, sedition and libel — this did not mark the end of protest for causes in the subsequent decades of the nineteenth century as we shall see.

The “Swing” riots

The “Swing” riots of 1830-1 saw agricultural workers protesting about low wages and the inadequate Poor Law allowances that were used to supplement these wages, as well as the use of threshing machines which they felt threatened their livelihood. Labourers became desperate and resorted to poaching to try and feed their families, leading to an increase in crime rates. William Cobbett had recorded in his Rural Rides his horror at the state of the rural poor in Hampshire, which had a sizeable population of agricultural labourers on subsistence wages. And Hampshire was one of the counties where these riots were most severe. It was also where the riots were most severely punished, as the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, the Duke of Wellington, was determined to crush any unrest. One of the particular characteristics of these riots was the threatening letters signed by “Captain Swing” sent to all landowners in Hampshire, including Wellington, an example of which is below.

Threatening letter from Captain Swing to the Duke of Wellington

Letter signed by “Captain Swing” to the Duke of Wellington threatening assassination, n.d. c.November 1830 [MS61 WP1/1159/114]

The alarm felt by the Hampshire gentry at the prospect of riots is illustrated in a letter from Henry Holmes, Romsey, to Lord Palmerston of 21 November 1830. Lord Palmerston was, of course, another Hampshire landowner and resident of Romsey.

“Your Lordship is of course aware that the country is in a very disturbed state generally…. We are (thank God) quiet as yet in this immediate neighbourhood, but when we see in several parts of this, and adjoining counties, frequent acts of outrage committed and know that a seditious spirit is openly exhibited almost everywhere, we think it proper to call your Lordship’s attention to the subject, and take the liberty of enquiring whether your Lordship thinks it probable that his Majesty’s Government will adopt any general measures for the preservation of the peace….

In the neighbourhood of Andover much mischief has been done as your Lordship will see by the papers. I have just had a man with me who saw the mob break open the gaol and rescue a prisoner.

I had written thus far this morning, when I was interrupted by my man servant whose father had left the mob at Compton near Kingsomborne, where they broke the thrashing machines of Mr. Edwards and extorted money and drink. They had previously attacked Mr Penleazes’ House at Bossington and Mr. Edwards’s at Horsebridge. I sent my son on horseback to reconnoitre – he arrived at Kingsomborne just as they had passed for Ashley. Mr Lutott is just arrived from London – he saw Sir William Heathcote and Mr. Stanley go from Winchester with a troop of cavalry towards Crawley which is not far from Ashley. We are swearing in special constables here, and I have conferred with Watson as to being prepared to defend Broadlands if it should be attacked – but as the troops are on the alert I dare say the mob will be dispersed.

If Government would let us have the old arms and accoutrements of the yeomanry we would equip a troop and act in concert in case of necessity – as it is we are almost defenceless, but if they come here I trust we shall be able to make a fight, and keep down our own disaffected who are very numerous I am sorry to say.”

[MS62 BR113/12/29]

The extent of the rioting that took place across the county on 22 November is illustrated in a hand drawn map sent to the Duke of Wellington:

Hand drawn map of Swing riots in Hampshire, November 1830

Hand drawn map showing instances of riots across Hampshire, 22 November 1830 [MS61 WP1/1157/2]

Over three hundred men who had been involved in these riots were tried before the Special Commission at Winchester in December 1830. Despite over ninety men being sentenced to death, only two executions were carried out, those of Henry Cook of Micheldever, convicted of riot, robbery and aggravated assault and James Thomas Cooper of Fordingbridge, convicted of destroying machinery and a manufactory at Fordingbridge. Sixty-nine of the prisoners received prison sentences and a further sixty-eight were transported to Australia.

Copy of a letter from the Duke of Wellington, to Lieutenant General Sir Herbert Taylor, sets out the result of the trials, 30 December 1830

 There were 98 capital convictions. Of these the law has been allowed to take its course in relation to six. Three of them concerned in the destruction of manufactories aided by machinery, one in the destruction of poor houses, one for a robbery by night, one for a robbery by day – this last is the man who struck Mr. Baring. It will be recommended that the others should be transported for life.

 Several have been sentenced during the commission to transportation for life, and some for terms of years. But this morning twenty were sentenced to transportation for seven years, and ten to confinement and hard labour from twelve to eighteen months for destroying machines.

Upon the whole this commission has worked well, and has already produced a good effect and I hope that its consequences will be long felt.

It is very curious that throughout these trials we have scarcely heard of distress. Few of the people convicted have been agricultural labourers. They are generally publicans and mechanics. Of those left for execution, one was a hostler at an inn, another a publican, two blacksmiths, one carpenter and one bricklayer.

[MS61 WP4/2/2/58]


The Chartist movement, which could claim to be the first mass movement driven by the working classes, grew out of the failure of the Reform Act of 1832 to extend the vote beyond the property owning classes. In 1838, a People’s Charter was drawn up for the London Working Men’s Association and this was presented to Parliament in June 1839. Its rejection led to unrest across the country, which was quickly and harshly dealt with by the authorities.

The Duke of Wellington was one of the members of the government who received intelligence on possible unrest and within his archives are examples of intercepted letters from Chartist activists. The following is a copy of a letter from a leading Chartist in the north which were passed on to the authorities by “one of the converted Chartists”, since he was concerned “that bloody scenes would soon break out in the middle and north of England, to the disadvantage of the operatives and the ruin of the country”.

Copy of a letter from an unnamed Chartist to Mary Anne, 6 December 1839

“My dear Mary Anne,

You are the prince of correspondents but [f.9r] I do not wish you to do so again unless you think it of importance and above all do not put even your initials, but take another name altogether as the name of the town is sufficient and I know your writing and allusions. Put any name you like but your own and write it at full length, as initials are suspicious should the letter be opened and I do not wish you to be brought into scrapes. I must see our friend, who is ill, at all hazards and that right soon, so, as early as you lay hands on him tell him to put himself in communication with me by letter addressed as your last. Matters are coming to a crisis and that in short space. Most shall not be tried or will have companions he little thinks of; keep this in mind and be astonished at nothing. Depend upon it there will be a merry Christmas. All here are already preparing for a national illumination, I presume in anticipation of the Queen’s marriage, but you know best. These [f.9v] Radicals are humble fellows; at least half a dozen emissaries have been sent to see what state the north of England was in and the universal feeling is that there is no county like [blank]. This is partly to be attributed to the vast extent of moorland which has generated a race of hardy poachers, all well armed and who would think themselves disgraced if they missed a moorcock flying seventy yards off. This, together with the number of weavers necessarily in want has made a population ripe for action, and its neighbourhood, to the Scottish border, with the facilities for a guerilla warfare are said to have determined [blank] to make it the headquarters for a winter campaign. That he is mad enough to attempt this you will easily believe even if there was no other movement in England because, from the feeling of the people towards him, they would follow him to the death and England has not troops [f.10r] enough to quell a border riot with that man at its head. It is too far away, however, to have any effect for a long time…..

[MS61 WP4/10/66 ff.8v-10r]

Wellington likewise received information about the ‘rising’ in Newport in November 1839 which saw thousands of armed Chartists march on the town. In this violent clash at the Westgate Hotel, an estimated twenty two Chartists were shot dead and many more were injured. It has been called the most serious manifestation of physical force Chartism in the history of this movement.

Westgate Hotel, Newport, 1839

Illustration of the attack and defence of the Westgate Hotel, Newport, November 1839 [MS61 WP2/64/74]

Ground plan of Westgate Hotel, Newport, 1839

Illustration of the ground plan of the Westgate Hotel, Newport, showing the position of the 45th Regiment defending the building and of fatalities from the battle, November 1839 [MS61 WP2/64/74]

The illustration of the Westgate Hotel includes images of the soldiers firing from a downstairs window to defend the property. Below it is a ground plan of the hotel which includes pikes to show the points where the Chartists entered the building, firelocks to show the points where the 45th Regiment defended the building and there are stick figures on the plan showing as near as can be ascertained where individuals died.

For our next blog we shall be moving on to protests in the twentieth century and looking in particular at the “Battle of Cable Street”. We hope you can join us.


The stories they tell: emergency rations anyone?

Welcome to our new series of blogs “The stories they tell” which will focus on a single item within the Special Collections to explore what stories these objects have to tell us on a whole range of themes.

And we thought we would start with a look at an object that is perhaps quite pertinent in the current circumstances, where there have been concerns about food and supplies, and that is an Australian Military Forces emergency ration tin found within the Broadlands Archives.

Australian Military Force emergency ration tin, with pull ring

Australian Military Force emergency ration tin, with pull ring

Such emergency rations were issued to every soldier involved in operations and there are a number of such items still surviving with information relating to the person to whom it had belonged. This sample presumably must have come into the possession of Lord Mountbatten during his time as Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia, 1943-6, although sadly there is no information on its former owner.

The problem of supplying and feeding their forces has been an issue for all commanders over the centuries and their approach to resolving this has varied. The invention of the tin can by Peter Durand, in 1810, was said to have revolutionised military rations. By the Boer war, at the end of the nineteenth century, Bovril was involved in producing war ration packs for the British army containing dried beef and cocoa. During the First World War, the emergency rations – or “Iron Ration” – carried by the British army soldiers contained preserved meat, cheese, biscuit, tea, sugar and salt. The equivalent for the US army apparently consisted of cakes made of a concoction of beef boullion powder and wheat, bars of chocolate and packs of salt and pepper.

In the period between the two World Wars, army rations developed into a number of types with emergency rations becoming classified as D rations. A rations were the most desired as they were garrison rations, usually comprised of fresh, refrigerated or frozen food cooked at the garrison. B rations were canned or packed field rations and C were pre-cooked ready-to-eat individual rations. The US forces developed a D emergency rations in the form of a chocolate bar designed to be light and nutritious but not too appealing so that soldiers would not be tempted to eat it unless they absolutely needed to.

The Australian Military D ration here, which were produced by A.Gadsden, comprised of: firstly, blocks of chocolate, which according to instructions inside the lid could be broken up and dissolved in hot water to make hot chocolate; secondly, tea tablets, to be used one per pannikin (small metal drinking cup); and thirdly salt tablets “to reduce fatigue and cure muscle cramps” and to be taken either in water or as desired. Such rations were expressly for emergency use only and the back of the tin has the message: “To be consumed only when no other rations of any kind are procurable. Consumption of this ration must be reported at the first opportunity”.

Back of AMF

Back of AMF Emergency Ration tin

Whilst nutritional science and technology has developed, so that field and combat rations of military forces today are somewhat more varied and might be supplied in pouches rather than cans, it is interesting to see that chocolate still remains a feature in many. So when we are looking to stock up on our supplies, perhaps including some chocolate in there is just good emergency planning.

Look out for next week’s blog when we look at an item within the Council of Christians and Jews archive.

Another of our extraordinary woman: Mrs Cissi Z.Rosenfelder

Concluding our “Celebrating women” blog series as part of Women’s History Month, we focus this week on the papers of Mrs Cissi Z.Rosenfelder, who worked as Honorary Secretary of the Golders Green Beth Hamedrash Refugee Aid Committee from 1938-9. Her papers form part of  MS116, a range of small collections predominantly relating to Anglo-Jewry.

MS116/157 consists of correspondence between Mrs Rosenfelder and various committees and individuals dedicated to helping Jewish children emigrate from both Nazi Germany and German-occupied Europe in the months preceding the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939. Refugee committees, parents, families and concerned individuals were desperately attempting to send children to safety as the situation for Jews in Europe worsened. The collection includes correspondence between Mrs Rosenfelder and both institutional homes for the care of children as well as private homes across Britain, discussing whether or not particular children can be accepted due to limitations on the number of spaces available.

Three children assisted by the efforts of Mrs Rosenfelder: Jakob Israel (aged 4), Johanna Israel (aged 6) and Gustav Israel (aged 5) [MS116/157]

Three children assisted by the efforts of Mrs Rosenfelder: Jakob Israel (aged 4), Johanna Israel (aged 6) and Gustav Israel (aged 5) [MS116/157]

One heart-wrenching letter from the collection dated 17 August 1939, less than a month prior to the outbreak of war, states the following:

Dear Cissy… I should have loved to help you, but there are 26 stateless children arriving for the hostel, and there is only room for 24, but I promise you faithfully that if a child does not arrive, I will ring you immediately and give you the first chance. [MS116/157 AJ396/3]

The letters demonstrate the extreme dedication of Mrs Rosenfelder and others like her in trying to help Jewish children emigrate from Europe to Britain, America and elsewhere in the months leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War. The emigration of Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Europe and Germany has been dubbed ‘the Kindertransport’ by historians and there are differing interpretations amongst historians on the precise nature, meaning and legacy of this historical episode, which preceded the murder of 1.6 million children during the Holocaust. From 1938-9 the ‘Kindertransport’ initiatives brought nearly 10,000 children, mostly Jewish, from territories under Nazi control to safety in Britain, until they were cut short on 3 September 1939.

Popular memory of the Kindertransport often focuses on the success stories, such as that of Sir Nicholas Winton, who in one instance helped evacuate more than six hundred Jewish children from Czechoslovakia prior to the war. These stories are often interwoven into a wider narrative about the humanity of the British people and their steadfast resolve in resisting hateful ideologies and anti-Semitism. Whilst these heroic efforts should not be forgotten, there is a broader story to be told about the nuances of British policy with regards to Jewish refugees escaping from National Socialism in Europe and some historians have emphasised the presence of racist and anti-Semitic attitudes in Britain and hostile warnings of racial or cultural disruption; the grudging nature of the acceptance of Jewish children; the unfriendly intention to ship them off to third countries as soon as was practicable and the exclusion of the children’s parents from entry.

Other commentators have defended British actions, including those of the British government, as praiseworthy and stemming from genuinely humanitarian concerns and have pointed out that the US government, by comparison, had no formal initiative to evacuate Jews from Nazi Germany in the years before the war, as Congress failed to vote on the necessary legislation.

Prior to 1938, Jewish immigration to Britain had been very limited. It is estimated that in the first five years from the establishment of the Nazi regime in Germany in early 1933 until the spring of 1938 less than 10,000 Jewish refugees arrived in Britain from Germany. But this changed from March 1938, subsequent to the ‘Anschluss’ and the arrival of German troops in Austria. This moment represented a turning-point in the intensity of anti-Semitic terror in Europe, particularly in Vienna and other Austrian cities. Greater numbers of Jews started arriving at foreign consulates seeking to emigrate, desperate to escape the increasing tide of hatred unleashed against them in their own countries. In April 1938 the British government announced a new Visa system – any Jewish refugee wishing to enter Britain needed a visa and would apply at consulates in Germany. In November 1938 the Nazi Kristallnacht further terrified German Jews. From the spring of 1938 until the outbreak of war in September 1939, when emigration became all but impossible, another 50,000 Jewish refugees arrived in Britain.

In addition to the limited number of spaces as mentioned above, there were also bureaucratic reasons which prevented some potential refugees from arriving safely in Britain, as revealed in a letter dated 21 August 1939 (less than two weeks before the outbreak of war) from the Jewish Emergency Committee for Refugees – Boroughs of Finchley and Hendon:

[…] a permit cannot be granted to the above-named applicant until her husband has left Germany. I am sorry not to be able to let you have better news […] [MS116/157 AJ396/3]

The papers of Mrs Rosenfelder do contain some more hopeful items however, including a letter (translated from the original German) addressed to Mrs Rosenfelder and dated 8th June 1939 from a woman named Ilse:

Dear Madam! Thank you very much for your letter, which I received together with my permit. I was both surprised and very pleased with my permit, because I had given so many people the job of getting me a job that I didn’t know and still don’t know who I actually owe the permit to. I had previously received no notice from anyone that I had a job and was therefore all the more surprised. I’m coming to Liverpool to the British Federation for University Women. Thank you very much in advance for your help, which was given to me so kindly, and I will gladly make use of it if necessary. I will be going to England in about 6-8 weeks as my permit expires on August 15th. Receive my thanks again for not leaving my letter unanswered and best regards. Yours Ilse […] [MS116/157 AJ396/2]

The organisation to which the correspondent refers was founded in 1907 and still exists, albeit under a new name – The British Federation of Women Graduates (BFWG) and “seeks to promote opportunities for women in education, and public life more generally” and provides “graduate women living in England, Scotland and Wales with information, support and friendship, at local, regional, national and international levels.”

This blog post, the last in our March 2020 series celebrating Women’s History Month, commends women like Cissi Rosenfelder who worked for the causes of compassion, justice and peace. Women’s History Month is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. It is celebrated during March in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Australia, corresponding with International Women’s Day on 8 March, and during October in Canada, corresponding with the celebration of Persons Day on 18 October.

Celebrating women – Honor Frost

Special Collections’ blogs this month will celebrate the work of a variety of women as they mark both Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on 8 March. To start we will look at Honor Frost. She was to become a renowned maritime archaeologist, but her entrance into that field was to spring from her artistic talent and in this blog we take a look at some of her art.

Watercolour by Honor Frost [MS439 HFA/10/2/7]

Honor Frost’s introduction to underwater diving may seem an unlikely inspiration for a new passion and eventual profession; in her book Under the Mediterranean, Honor describes a snow-covered Wimbledon garden under a full moon, and her friends using planks to push her down a cold, black well until the air inside her rubber suit had been let out and the heavy canvas clung tightly to her body. Despite these unnerving-sounding conditions, Honor relished the sensation of weightlessness and detachment from the everyday as she sank into the well, and, after sea diving with a mask and aqualung, quickly concluded that “time spent on the surface was time wasted”. However, the thrill of her “odd psychological reactions” while diving wasn’t the only contributor to Honor’s success as a marine archaeologist: it was her talent and training in art which enabled her to advance the positioning and analysis  of centuries-old underwater shipwrecks by using techniques in three-dimensional plotting and drawing.

Two human figures entwined: work in ink by Honor Frost [MS439 HFA/10/2/1]

Honor Frost was raised in an artistic environment. Orphaned at a young age, she became the ward of the London solicitor and art collector Wilfrid Evill, who gathered works by emerging and contemporary British artists including his client and friend Stanley Spencer. He encouraged Honor’s own interest and talent in art, and she eventually studied at the London School of Art and the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford. She subsequently became a designer for the Ballet Rambert, eventually creating her own full-length ballet, Khadra, with dancer and choreographer Celia Francis.

The Honor Frost Archive contains some of her early sketches and designs, demonstrating various artistic techniques, from rough sketches to detailed scenes, with a range of materials including charcoal, watercolour and ink.

Sketch of a horse and carriage [MS439 HFA/10/2/23]

Along with the sketches there is also a small amount of paperwork relating to the artwork, including ballet scripts and Honor’s letters to her collaborators Mikey Holmes and Celia Francis. In these, she gives insight into her creative thought processes. Discussing one ballet, The Shrine, she writes:

“I have taken one theme and then collected it around various fragments of poetry from different Noh sources and rationalised, both the theme and the symbolism, out of all recognition … it will regain its mystery as a lot of the nature stuff will have an inherent allusive quality once it is put into terms of movement (sic)”. [from MS439 HFA 10/1/1]

Ballet design by Honor Frost [MS439 HFA/10/2/9c]

Honor had her artistic training to thank for her entrance into the field of archaeology: in 1957 she joined Kathleen Kenyon in her last season of excavations in Jericho as a technical draughtsman. Although she found the subject fascinating, Honor soon realised that land-based archaeology wasn’t as interesting to her as underwater exploration, and her new career as a marine archaeologist was born.

Despite leaving the world of ballet design behind, Honor didn’t lose her interest in art nor lose touch with the artistic world, for after Wilfrid Evill’s death in 1963, she inherited his collection and continued to exhibit the works in her London flat. Visitors to these private exhibitions included artist and fashion designer Thea Porter and Erica Brausen, who established the Hanover Art Gallery in 1948. After Honor’s death in 2010, Wilfrid Evill’s collection was sold at Sotheby’s for a total of £41,000,000, which gives an indication of the size and quality of the collection and the standard of art that Honor Frost had been surrounded by, and possibly inspired by, since childhood.

Bullring and bullfight: work in ink and watercolours by Honor Frost [MS439 HFA/10/2/31]

Do join us next week to celebrate the life and work of another remarkable woman.

“Beware! Beware! Beware!”: Wellington and “Captain Swing”

Part of a threatening letter sent by “Captain Swing”, 1830 [MS61 WP1/1159/114]

In the winter of 1830, driven by grinding poverty, the agricultural workers of the southern and eastern counties of England, including Hampshire, were involved in uprisings. The combination of poor harvests, low wages and high food prices with high unemployment and inadequate poor law allowances, led to hunger among the workers and their families. The introduction of new technology, in particular the threshing machine, which took away one of the few remaining opportunities for work during the winter months, made their situation worse.

The protests started in Kent  and Sussex in August and spread fairly rapidly to surrounding counties. They reached Hampshire, where the first Duke of Wellington was the Lord Lieutenant, by November 1830. Hampshire was one of the most severely affected counties and also was the county in which the protest was repressed most severely.

The journalist and champion of traditional rural life, William Cobbett, recorded in his Rural Rides his horror at the poverty amongst the rural poor, making particular reference to the situation in Hampshire. And a letter of 22 December 1830 to the Duke in the Wellington Archive attributed much of the crime recently committed in Hampshire “to the influence of the published opinions of Cobbett” and of the radical politician Henry Hunt, both of whom had resided in the county. [MS 61 WP1/1157/3]

William Cobbett Rural Rides (1830) Rare Books Cope BOT 96 COB

The Swing riots took their name from “Captain Swing” – a made-up name that represented the anger of the poor labourers, but also was designed to spread fear and to protect the identity of the protest leaders. The organisation of the movement was on a local level with leaders or “captains” chosen from the community. The usual practice was for groups of men to travel from farm to farm demanding higher wages and soliciting donations from landowners, with the threat of destroying threshing machines if this was not forthcoming. But in some cases the protesters set fire to hay ricks or destroyed machinery: a threshing machine was destroyed in Rookley House in Hampshire by a large band of men and the “donation” money carried away.

Although the riots in Hampshire only lasted from around 10 to 26 November, they were more widespread and severe than in other counties: the extent of the incidents on 22 November is shown on a map sent to Wellington in December 1830.

Hand drawn map sent by Mr Hollis to Wellington of the riots that took place in Hampshire on 22 November 1830 [MS61 WP1/1157/2]

Wellington, alongside other landowners and farmers throughout Hampshire, was to be the recipient of threatening letters signed by “Captain Swing”. Similar letters had been sent out in both Kent and West Sussex in the earlier riots in these counties. A number of examples of those sent to the Duke can be found in the Wellington Archive at Southampton.

Letter from “Captain Swing” to Wellington, 4 November 1830 [MS 61 WP1/1159/93]:                                                                                         “Your base vile conduct and treatment of your fellow subjects; your determination to turn a deaf ear to their remonstrances, has made you an object of popular vengeance and of popular hatred. Take my advice, act openly and nobly, as becomes a Briton, reform that vile nest of corruption which is bred in Downing Street, destroy those vultures that prey on the public liver or beware, I say beware, beware, beware.”

As the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Wellington was responsible for the maintenance of law and order within the county. He established a Special Commission, which was held at Winchester in December, to deal with the rioters. The Commission handed out what was later considered overly harsh sentences to the accused. 95 of the 300 prisoners tried were formally sentenced to death – although in the end only 6 had their sentences confirmed – many others were imprisoned or transported overseas.

A report of the Proceedings at the Special Commission, holden at Winchester, December 20, 1830, and Eight Following Days (London, 1831) Rare Books Cope 35

Items on the Swing Riots form part of the We Protest! exhibition currently at the Special Collections Gallery. We hope you are able to come along.

Crossing the South Downs by Frog and other Ripping Yarns from our Archives – a tribute to the late great Terry Jones

And now for something completely different… In tribute to the late Terry Jones we delve into the archive collections for some ripping yarns and other delights.

No. 1, not the larch, or a character from Cats, but Captain Mogg, who was a real life hero of exploration and whose diaries we hold, describing his pioneering voyages to the Arctic and South America. [MS45] Other intrepid voyages described included to the unexplored shores of Wales and the West of England. He served on many different ships, notably HMS Partridge (not a very aggressive bird for a warship) and HMS Haughty, presumably in the same squadron as HMS Petulant and HMS Indignant.

Captain William Mogg [MS45 AO183/6]

No. 2: Amazing Victorian inventions worthy of Terry Gilliam’s imagination:

The Steam War Chariot, invented by a Cornish engineer as a sort of proto-tank of the steam age. The details were sent to the first Duke of Wellington by John George and Son of Fowey in June 1836, asking the Duke to exhibit it at the Waterloo Banquet. As far as we know, it was never built.

The John George Steam War Chariot, 1836 [MS61 WP2/40/119]

A prospectus for lighting up the British Channel and Goodwin Sands with gas to guard against shipwrecks, 1850.

Gas lighting for the British Channel, 1850 [MS61 WP2/243/110]

No. 3: Moccasins for British soldiers during the Peninsular War. This DIY piece of footwear was designed to deal with the shortage of boots, and may be the proto type for the Monty Python Big Foot.

Illustration of the finished moccasin [MS61 WP1/261/34]

No. 4: And now for something else completely different: the Duke of Wellington’s reply to Lady Honoria Hervey’s request for a post in the army : “her Ladyship is a female!” [MS61 WP2/160/84] No pulling the wool over the Iron Duke’s eyes, an upper class twit he was not.

No. 5: She’s not the Messiah, she’s a very naughty girl! Otherwise known as the Archivist…

No. 6: Not quite the original Monty Python, but a wonderful illustration from one of our rare books on natural history.

Rees’s Cyclopaedia Plates vol. 5 [Rare Books AE5]

No 7: Prince Alexander of Battenberg, Lord Mountbatten’s uncle, who was briefly the King of Bulgaria. He had a rough time, being kidnapped by rebels and held on a river boat which was sailed to Russia, however the Russians didn’t want him and sent him back. Not surprisingly he abdicated soon afterwards.

Prince Alexander of Battenberg [MS62 MB3/52]

No.8: Richard Cockle Lucas: he was a talented artist and local eccentric of the Edwardian era. He was particularly noted for driving a Roman style chariot through Southampton while dressed in a toga.

Photograph of Richard Cockle Lucas taken by himself [rare books Cope 73 LUC O/S13789]

Photograph of Richard Cockle Lucas taken by himself [Rare Books Cope 73 LUC O/S13789]

He called his house at Chilworth “the Tower of the Winds” with his “Sky Parlour ” on top. Sadly, this does not survive, but we hold two remarkable albums of his own photos including many pictures of Lucas dressed as Shakespearian characters, also some correspondence with the great and the good including Palmerston, who was a personal friend. Lucas had a strong belief in fairies, and claimed to have met one called Hettie Lottie when he was a child.

Tower of the Winds photographed by Lucas in 1864 [rare books Cope 73 LUC O/S13788]

Tower of the Winds photographed by Lucas in 1864 [Rare Books Cope 73 LUC O/S13788]

No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition, but we have to take security very seriously here in the Archives, due to the great historical value of our collections. But you will only see the prof in his cardinal’s robes during graduation. You will be relieved to hear that we don’t have a comfy chair. Please do not compare our facilities to Fort Knox, we have heard this too many times and you will now be fined 50p for saying this – but a prize of 50p for any more original comments. The library café may sell wafer thin mints, but spam is confined to our computers.

Anyone wishing to search for their own Holy Grail in our archives is very welcome. Please see our website for details of access arrangements and archive lists

2019 – a year in review

And so we move to a new decade and an array of new activities for the Special Collections in the coming year. But before we look forward to what is to come, let us take a moment to look back at some of our activities during 2019.

Exhibitions and events

The first exhibition of 2019, The Leonardo Link: Image-Making from Anatomy to Code, which opened in February, worked as a companion to the exhibition of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci on show at the Southampton City Art Gallery. Southampton was one of 12 galleries to feature drawings by da Vinci from the Royal Collection, part of the UK events marking the five hundreth anniversary of the artist’s death.

For the summer we had an exhibition drawing on images of University life over the decades, particularly resonant as 2019 marked the hundredth anniversary of the move to the Highfield campus.

A philanthropic spirit exhibition: a celebration of philanthropic acts

The autumn exhibition, A philanthropic spirit, drew on the Special Collections material to look both at ideas of philanthropic activity and at the work of individual philanthropists. It also featured material on the impact of philanthropy on the development of the University and there was a parallel exhibition in the Level 4 Gallery of portraits from the University Fine Art Collection of notable philanthropists in the development of the University.

In April we hosted the latest Wellington Congress. Featuring keynote lectures from Professor Charles Esdaile, Professor Nicholas Lambert, Dr Alicia Laspra and Dr Richard Gaunt, the 2-day Congress presented a wide range of papers on aspects of military, political, literary and social themes for the nineteenth century. And we were delighted to round off proceedings with the 2019 Wellington Lecture given by Professor Chris Woolgar on Wellington, “the scum of the earth” and the army in the Iberian Peninsula.

Professor Chris Woolgar

Special Collections took part in both the Science and Engineering Day on the Highfield Campus in March and at the Hands-on Humanities at a new venue at the NST City in November. The Science and Engineering Day provided an opportunity to offer a range of activities relating to the printed and archive collections and to the science behind conservation work undertaken by Special Collections.

Poster for Science and Engineering Day, March 2019

Alongside research sessions and introductory sessions for students from a range of disciplines – including History, English, Global Media Management – Special Collections has continued hosting drop-in sessions and visits for a range of groups. And as it was the centenary of the move to the Highfield campus, we held a drop-in session during Freshers’ Week for the first time that focused on student life over the decades since 1919.

Visits hosted in 2019 ranged from members of the Nautical Archaeology Society and from SCONUL to that of the Indian High Commissioner, as well as sessions  for scholars from China visiting the UK as part of the China Scholarship Council scheme. Two items on show that these latter visitors found particularly interesting were nineteenth-century publications on the Chinese language by Robert Morrison.

Visit by teachers from China as part of the China Scholarship Council scheme, June 2019

In November the Special Collections hosted, in conjunction with the Honor Frost Foundation, a workshop discussing issues around curating the heritage of maritime archaeology.

Social media and publicity

Throughout the year we have run a series of blogs and tweets relating to Highfield 100, marking the centenary of the move to the Highfield campus site. Starting in January, we posted monthly blogs looking at the developments of the University from 1919 onwards. An article on the Highfield 100 also was the Archives Hub feature for September 2019.

Since October we have embarked on a Highfield in a 100 objects Twitter series which will culminate in the Spring 2020 when the new Centenary Building on Highfield Campus is due to be officially opened. Images and material from the blogs has appeared on banners and on buildings around campus and have contributed to University publications such as a special edition of Hartley News sent out to thousands of alumni and to editions of Staff Matters. Complementary to these were a shorter series of blogs that looked at aspects of university development through time, such as sports facilities, Rag or the University grounds.

University College of Southampton from the south wing, 1919 [MS1/Phot 39 ph3100]

A number of blogs were linked to anniversaries such as World Poetry Day in March; the passing of the Catholic emancipation act over which the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, fought a duel in April 1829; British beer day in June, in honour of which we brewed a beer based on a recipe from Faulkner’s The Complete Family Piece (1739); the 75th anniversary of D-Day on 6 June; World Watercolour Month in July; the Great Exhibition of 1851 in October; and Human Rights week in December.

Blogs that highlighted different facets of the Special Collections have ranged widely, encompassing newer collections that complement that material within the archive of the first Duke of Wellington In the company of Wellington; Lord Shaftesbury the nineteenth-century philanthropist; geological collections in the Rare Books material; refugees in the twentieth century with a companion blog telling the stories of child refugees from Russia in the 1900s; and sanitation and health in Southampton. For the summer we posted a number of blogs on the theme of travel and voyages, starting with a look at western traditions of maps and map-making. Other blogs looked at travel to Far East and to South and Central America, accounts of three women travelling in Europe between the late eighteenth and early twentieth century and of those travelling nearer to home in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The collections and staff also have featured in local TV and radio broadcasts, including one relating to Victorian valentines in February, and the Anglo-Jewish archives.


The Special Collections has continued to add to its holdings, most notably adding a number of collections that relate to nautical studies and maritime archaeology. The year started with the transfer of the papers of the eminent nautical archaeologist and maritime historian Lucian Basch (1930-2018) to the Special Collections. His extensive collection has been joined by working papers of Sean McGrail, who was a key player in the establishment of the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University, and of the maritime geoarchaeologist, Nicholas Flemming.

Some of the papers of Lucien Basch stored in his apartment prior to the move to Southampton

Amongst some of the smaller collections that arrived in 2019, were a couple of delightful volumes that complemented the existing holdings of the Basque child refugee archives. One is a photograph album recording a visit to the Basque country by Betty Lascelles Arne in May 1997 to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the departure of the Basque children on Habana on 21 May 1937 [MS440/6]. The other is a scrapbook by Helvecia Hidalgo (née Garcia Aldosoro), who was one of the child refugees who travelled in 1937: the album contains a range of photographs, booklets, cuttings and even the id and medical inspection tags pasted into the volume [MS440/4]. This scrapbook was added to a photograph album of Helvecia Hidalgo previously donated to the Archives.

The year also brought a further donation of material that relates to the holdings of the poet F.T.Prince. This was a small collection of correspondence between Professor Michael Kirkham of the University of Toronto with Prince, together with articles by Professor Kirkham relating to Prince which includes reflections by Prince on his poetry [MS328 A4222].

And as we began our reflection on 100 years of the University of Southampton at its Highfield campus, we were delighted to receive as part of a donation of papers of A.Evans – who had been the clerk of works of Hartley University College, Southampton, 1911-14, when the buildings at Highfield were being planned and built – a copy of the proposal for a rather more grand building at Highfield before these plans were scaled back. It provided a real glimpse into what might have been.

Perspective view of the proposed Hartley University College buildings from the South west by Messrs. Clyde F.Young and Hubert S.East, architects, 26 May 1911 [MS416/14]

The year saw the completion of a number of cataloguing projects in the Special Collections. Work on the papers of Michael Sherbourne was the subject of one blog. Perhaps the most substantial archive cataloguing project undertaken by the archivist team in 2019 was the Yerusha Project relating to the Jewish archive collections at Southampton. A major project within the Printed Special Collections was the completion of the cataloguing of the Honor Frost Library.

Looking ahead to 2020

With new cataloguing projects and a new Archives management system, new collections and a range of events already planned, 2020 looks set to be another full year.

Part of leaflet We Protest! produced by the Jewish People’s Council against Fascism and Anti-Semitism, 1936 [MS 60/17/16/18]

The first exhibition of the year will be We Protestdue to open on 17 February. Taking the Cato Street conspiracy of 1820 as its starting point, the exhibition also will look at two subsequent nineteenth-century protests, before exploring the work of a number of 20th-century protest and pressure groups – such as the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry – and of student protests.

As 2020 is also the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Southampton, the Special Collections will be looking at the theme of Voyages of Discovery in blogs and activities during the year. And this will be the focus of the autumn Special Collections exhibition opening in October.

Do look out for details of our activities through social media and the Special Collections website.