Author Archives: pmromans

Florence Greenberg’s Jewish Cookery Book (London, 1947, Jewish Chronicle)

70 years ago, in the austerity years following the Second World War, the Jewish Chronicle newspaper published a cookery book that was to become legendary in Jewish households across Britain. Written by Florence Greenberg – the ‘Delia Smith’ of the Anglo Jewish community – Florence Greenberg’s Jewish Cookery Book would be reprinted 13 times between 1947 and 1977, latterly by Penguin Books.

Copies of Florence Greenberg’s Jewish Cookery Book, 3rd edition (revised) 1951, 6th edition, 1958.

Florence Greenberg’s Jewish Cookery Book, 3rd edition (revised) 1951, 6th edition, 1958.

Florence was born in Canonbury, north London, on 13 April 1882, into a large Jewish family – she was the fourth in a family of eight (six girls and two boys). Her parents were Alex and Eliza Oppenheimer. In her memoirs she writes: “We were a happy united family with a sweet gentle mother and a rather strict father.” Florence describes a happy childhood. She was educated at Lady Holles School for Girls, and spent a year at a boarding school at Bonn on the Rhine – which she didn’t enjoy. Afterwards, it was decided that Florence would help her mother to run the home – and she was soon cooking for a household of twelve, assisted by a younger sister. “We did this for ten years.  That is where I gained all my cookery experience – by trial and error until I managed to get the result I wanted.” [MS116/63 AJ181/8 ‘Two interesting careers: my memoirs by Florence Greenberg.’]

During this time, when she was busy with home life and charity work, it was Florence’s ambition to be a hospital nurse. Her father was “deadly opposed to women nursing men”, but thanks to the intervention of her elder brother, she commenced training at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton in 1911.  Florence took her final exams as war broke out and immediately put her name down for the Queen Alexandra Nursing Services Reserve. In the summer of 1915 she was sent to the Middle East, travelling the long journey by ship from Plymouth, she transferred first to the temporary hospital ship the Alauria, and subsequently served at Alexandria, Port Said, and Cairo. She was in Egypt at the time of the armistice, but signed on for another six months and transferred to Haifa hospital in Palestine. “After five years of really hard work” Florence returned to England in December 1919, proud to have been mentioned in dispatches for her work in the Gallipoli campaign. Her remarkable diary of these war time experiences, complete with photographs, survives today in the collections of the Jewish Museum in London.

Soon after her return, Florence was introduced to Leopold J. Greenberg, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle. They married the following May, and it was her husband who started her second career – in cookery:

 “Soon after we were married, my husband said to me that he wished I would write cookery articles for him for the paper, and I told him not to be funny – I had no literary ability. He said: ‘What do you want literary ability for. You are a marvellous cook.’  Of course, I couldn’t refuse; so I contributed recipes regularly every week for 42 years.  This started my cookery career….”

Sadie Levine, writing in the Jewish Chronicle on Florence’s retirement in 1962, noted:

“One of her finest achievements to my mind is that during that time she never missed a deadline.  Let me tell you that takes some doing.  I do not know of another journalist who has met a Thursday deadline with unfailing timing every single week for nearly half a century.” [Jewish Chronicle, 28 December 1962]

Florence’s marriage was a very happy one and she was devastated by Leopold’s death in 1931. When his successor at the Jewish Chronicle asked her to put some recipes into book form, Florence, still grieving, was glad to have something to do.  Daily newspapers were publishing readers’ recipes as paperbacks, but Florence could see that the real need was for a modern Jewish cookery book. The Jewish Chronicle Cookery Book, published in 1934, filled that gap.  Five thousand copies were printed at the retail price of 3s. 6d. Unfortunately, in 1941, before a second edition could be published, the London offices of the Jewish Chronicle were blitzed, and the text was destroyed.

Meanwhile, her weekly column and her famous cookbook cemented Florence’s reputation as an authority on Jewish cooking. It was no surprise that during WWII she was recruited by the Ministry of Food – which was sending people out to give talks to housewives on how to make the best use of the food available during the rationing period.  Florence remembered:

“They had no one who knew the Jewish Dietary Laws, so they would like me to talk to Jewish groups. I explained that I wasn’t a lecturer, and really I couldn’t undertake it. She said ‘Mrs Greenberg, I haven’t been talking to you for the last half hour without realising that you are just the person we want, a practical housewife ‘to get it over from me to you’.” I felt I must do it after that, and I accepted the job.”

Florence researched where Jewish children with their mothers were being evacuated. Starting with the Home Counties she travelled to groups in Bedford, Oxford, Cambridge, and as far west as Somerset and Devon. She took samples for display and after her talk, would answer questions and try to solve any problems.  The interest that was shown in her recipes led to regular broadcasts for the BBC on the programme ‘The Kitchen Front’ throughout the war.  Her fan mail was huge.

And so it was, in June 1946, that Florence completed the text for a new cookery book – Florence Greenberg’s Jewish Cookery Book was published by the Jewish Chronicle the following year.  She wrote to the editor:

“Glad as I will be to see it in print I feel rather as if I have lost a baby. For over eighteen months it has been my main interest and has helped to keep me going during a very difficult period.  I hope I won’t be disappointed in the result and that it will really be what the public wants.” [MS150 AJ110/2 f.2 F.Greenberg to I.M.Greenberg, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, 12 June 1946]

Her book was indeed what the public wanted: by the time of her death, aged 98, in 1980, more than 105,000 copies had been sold. Generations of Jewish families had been raised on her recipes and Florence Greenberg had become a household name, not just among the Jewish community. What was the secret of her success? According to Sadie Levine, “She doesn’t only think up the recipes and write them.  It is common knowledge that all Mrs. Greenberg’s recipes are ‘tried and tested’… on a simple little gas stove in her West End flat.”  Put simply, her recipes worked; her explanations of basic techniques and practical tips were accessible; and as tastes changed, she adapted and added new recipes.  70 years on, Mrs. Greenberg would be thrilled to know that cooks around the world are still sharing, discussing and enjoying her recipes.

The Special Collections at the University of Southampton holds a typescript copy of the memoirs of Florence Greenberg, written in the 1970s and annotated in the hand of the author, MS116/63 AJ181/8; plus correspondence with her publisher in MS150 and MS225; and various editions of Florence Greenberg’s Cookery Book.

Florence is featured on the website ‘London Jews in the First World War’ at: https://www.jewsfww.london/florence-greenberg-115.php

Her WWI diary is held at the Jewish Museum:
http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/

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Anyone for Tennis?!

As the heat and the tension rises at Wimbledon this week we look at the history of tennis through the University Archives.

Photo of Hartley University College mixed tennis group, 1910, MS1/7/291/22/1/108]

Hartley University College mixed tennis group, 1910 [MS1/7/291/22/1/108]

This charming Edwardian photo of Hartley University College students in 1910 shows the truly elegant sportswear of the time. While the ladies graced the courts in long skirts and large hats, the must-have fashion accessory for gentlemen seems to have been – the pipe?!

Hartley University College students, 1910-1912

Hartley University College students, 1910-1912 [MS1/7/291/22/1/84]

The Wimbledon Championships – established in 1877 by the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club – is the oldest and arguably the most prestigious of our tennis tournaments. The popularization of lawn tennis (not to be confused with ‘real tennis’ – see below) is widely credited to Major Walter Clopton Wingfield who published, in 1873, the first official rules of a game he called “Sphairistike” (from the Greek: “the art of playing ball”). He patented the rules and equipment of the game the following year and quickly sold 1,000 tennis sets at 5 guineas a piece! His pamphlet “book of the game” is now very rare; it set out the history of the game, the erection of the court, and the rules. These, and the scoring system for ‘lawn tennis’, have hardly changed since the 1890s: so our modern game would have been familiar to the Hartley University College students of one hundred years ago.

The earliest origins of Tennis, however, fade into the mists of time and are disputed – some authorities mention the Egyptians; many refer to a game popular with European monks in the twelfth century. This was played around a closed courtyard and the ball was struck with the palm of the hand, hence the name jeu de paume (“game of the palm”). The name ‘tennis’ may derive from the French word ‘tenez’, from the verb tenir, ‘to hold’.

‘Real’ tennis – also called court tennis or royal tennis – grew in popularity with the French and English aristocracy through the Middle Ages and was played in London in purpose-built covered courts as early as the sixteenth century. Henry VIII was a keen player at Hampton Court Palace.  The fortunes of the game waxed and waned, and by the 1820s, the only London tennis court still in operation was the James Street court near the Haymarket. The members of this newly revived club invited the Duke of Wellington to join them in 1820:

Letter from Robert Ludkin to  Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, 24 June 1820,  with list of members of the tennis club [MS 61 WP1/647/12]

Letter from Robert Ludkin to Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, 24 June 1820, with list of members of the Tennis Club [MS 61 WP1/647/12]

In his letter, Robert Ludkin, Acting Secretary of the Club, writes:

“A ‘Tennis Club’ having been recently established… I am desired to communicate to Your Grace this resolution of the Club and to assure you that its members will be most happy in the honor of your company whenever it may suit your Grace’s convenience to attend.”

You can see the Duke’s pencil draft for his reply, which was written across the front of the letter:

“Compliments the Duke is much flattered at being admitted a member of the James Club; & will be happy to attend whenever in his power.”

Ludkin enclosed a printed list of the present members, which included His Royal Highness the Duke of York –plus the Rules and Regulations of the Club. The latter relate solely to membership, rather than to the game, and record a hefty subscription of two guineas a year:

Rules and Regulations of the James Street Tennis Club, Haymarket, London, 1820

Rules and Regulations of the James Street Tennis Club, Haymarket, London, 1820 [MS 61 WP1/647/12 (enclosure)]

“The Tennis Club do hold their first Meeting and Dinner on the first Saturday after Easter in every Year; and do meet and dine together once a Fortnight to the 8th of July following.”

Did the Duke dine or did the Duke play tennis?  He certainly owned a private tennis court at his country house at Stratfield Saye, in Hampshire.  When in 1845, Prince Albert played here during the royal visit by Queen Victoria and her family, the event was chronicled in the Illustrated London News of 1st February that year:

Illustrated London News of 1st February 1845

Illustrated London News, 1st February 1845.

The ILN appended, for the fashionable Victorian reader, a brief history of the “olden game” of Tennis, concluding: “Thus it was in past ages, a royal and noble game.”

The Accession of Queen Alexandrina Victoria I, 20 June 1837

Queen Victoria, at the time of her accession, aged 18, Illustrated London News, 14 May 1911

Queen Victoria, at the time of her accession, aged 18, (Illustrated London News, 14 May 1911)

William IV died, after a lingering illness, early on the morning of Tuesday 20 June 1837. He had lived to see his niece Princess Victoria celebrate her 18th birthday – and therefore her majority – on 24th May, and he had the satisfaction of knowing that Victoria would succeed to the throne in her own right, without being subject to a regency.

The King died at Windsor Castle. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chamberlain went immediately to Kensington Palace to inform Princess Victoria. She noted in her journal that she was woken at 6 o’clock by her mother, who told her that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham had arrived and wished to see her. She got out of bed and went into her sitting room, in her dressing gown. “Lord Conyngham (the Lord Chamberlain) then acquainted me” she wrote “that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning and consequently that I am Queen”.

Queen Victoria awakened to hear news of her accession, Illustrated London News, 14 May 1911

Queen Victoria awakened to hear the news of her accession, (Illustrated London News, 14 May 1911)

The Lords of the Privy Council assembled that same morning at Kensington Palace and gave orders for proclaiming her majesty, with the usual ceremonies, as ‘Queen Alexandrina Victoria I.’

The name Victoria was rare in England. There had been a major family row at the christening of the young princess on 24 June 1819: the Prince Regent (later George IV, Victoria’s uncle and godfather) had forbidden the names Victoire Georgiana Alexandrina Charlotte Augusta, after her mother and godparents. He eventually agreed to ‘Alexandrina Victoria’ – which honoured the tsar of Russia (her godfather), and her mother (born Princess Marie Luise Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, the Duchess of Kent) – but he would not permit his niece to have any of the names traditionally given to British royal princesses.  Although known as ‘Drina’ for a while as a child, she preferred ‘Victoria’ and quickly dropped the official use of her first name.

At just 18, the Queen was young and inexperienced – but she had been carefully educated and was determined to fill the role to the best of her ability.

It was generally felt that Victoria quitted herself well at her first Privy Council. The Duke of Wellington, who was in attendance, certainly thought so. He wrote the same day to Charlotte Percy, Duchess of Northumberland (who had been governess to the princess), and her reply survives in the Wellington papers at the University of Southampton:

Letter from Charlotte Florentia Percy, Duchess of Northumberland to Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, WP2/46/124-5, 20 June 1837

Letter from Charlotte Florentia Percy, Duchess of Northumberland, to Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, 20 June 1837, with autograph docket by the Duke, WP2/46/124-5

Northumberland House, 20 June 1837
“My Dear Duke
“I have read your gratifying testimony of the successful manner in which the young Queen made her first appearance before the Privy Council, with sensations of real delight. Your opinion is always invaluable to me, and your kind recollection of what must be my feelings at this moment I most gratefully acknowledge. I always have had the greatest confidence in her character, calmness and presence of mind, so essential to her high station and I look forward to her realizing all those bright expectations which her truth, her uprightness of mind have taught me to expect from her.”

Victoria was quickly immersed in the business of state and government.   This is clear from the papers of Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, who was the Queen’s first Foreign Secretary, later Home Secretary, and Prime Minister. The royal correspondence in the Palmerston Papers shows the Queen struggling to understand and even to read all the state papers that were put before her in these early days, however, her determination to get to grips with the work is unmistakable:

“As the Queen has got a great many Foreign Dispatches, which, from want of time she has been unable to read, as yet, she requests Lord Palmerston not to send any more until she has done with those which she already has with her, & which she hopes will be the case by tomorrow  evening.”

Note the use of the third person by the Queen, who did not sign the letter (Queen Victoria to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, 12 August 1837, MS 62 Palmerston Papers RC/F/15/1).

Victoria was to reign – as Queen and Empress – for more than 63 years. She remains one of our most enduringly popular monarchs. The ITV drama Victoria, which aired last year, was a roaring success, attracting more than 7 million viewers per episode. As her rule has gone down in history, so her name – that obscure and foreign name at the time of her christening – has become popular across the English-speaking world. 180 years on, Victoria is, indisputably, a truly royal British name.

Taste the Archive: gingerbread!

Today is World Baking Day – the perfect excuse for making – and eating – our favourite cakes. This week staff at the Hartley Library held a charity bake sale to raise money for Solent Mind, a great cause and one of several charities we will be supporting through 2017 http://www.solentmind.org.uk/

cake-sale-3

We enjoy the tradition of sharing, swopping, and passing on, favourite recipes. Some of these may be older than we think: I recently discovered in the Archives a 19th-century version of a recipe that is a real favourite with my family today: Grantham Gingerbread

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266, mid 19th-century recipe book from the collection of Miss A.M.Trout

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266, mid 19th-century recipe book from the collection of Miss A.M.Trout

This little volume has ‘Ledger’ in red on the spine and contains lined pages – it was intended for recording accounts – but is actually a manuscript recipe book. You can just see the word ‘Receipes’ written in ink on the front. It has a beautiful parchment cover, decorated with blind tooling and embossed to create a raised design, with combed marbled book edges. The brass clasp closure bears the words “improved patent” above the image of a lion:

clasp-crop

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266 Brass clasp closure showing the words ‘Improved Patent’ above an image of a lion

Inside, it has glorious decorative endpapers – perhaps Dutch gilt – showing a printed design of tiny gold stars on a bright pink background. There is even an alphabetical index with finding tabs, each tab printed with two letters. So this is a special book – and it is no surprise that it was treasured and passed on:

index-crop

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266 Interior: printed decorative endpapers in a gold star design; an alphabetical index with printed finding tabs.

The recipe book is undated and we don’t know who originally filled its pages: but it is likely to be mid-19th century and was added to by several owners.  It contains fair copies of recipes in at least two different hands, plus a few printed recipes cut from newspapers.  It was clearly in use long before it came into the collection of Miss Annie Mary Trout, who worked as a lecturer in Mathematics at University College, Southampton, in the 1920s.

It was the recipe for Grantham Gingerbread that caught my eye: seen here on the right-hand page; (on the left-hand page you can see recipes for ‘Cake’, and Hot Cross Buns).

blog copy recipe pp26-7

MS 112 LF 780 UNI 2/7/75/266, pp.25-7

It contains some very old-fashioned ingredients – such as ‘½ an ounce of volatile salts’ and ‘1 penny worth of essence of lemon’! It poses more than a few challenges for the modern cook: the quantities of flour and sugar are quite huge; it doesn’t use an egg; there are no details of cooking temperatures, or timings, and only the scantiest method for guidance:

Grantham Gingerbread
1 ½ lbs flour
1 ½ lbs of very fine sugar
¼ lb butter
1 oz of best ground ginger
2 oz of lemon peel
½ oz of volatile salts ground
& mixed in a teacupful of
new milk, 1 penny worth
of essence of lemon, a little
more milk if required to make
it into a stiff paste, melt
the butter & mix together

Another name for the ‘volatile salts’ in the recipe is ‘Baker’s Ammonia’ or ammonium bicarbonate, which was used as a raising agent in the days before baking powder was commonly available. It has a strong and horrible smell – these were the salts that were used to revive fainting ladies in Victorian times! It wasn’t an ideal ingredient, as the smell of the ammonia released during heating might linger after cooking.  By the mid-19th century, when this recipe was copied out, baking powder was already available – so this was an ‘old’ recipe even at that time.  What did it taste like?

Ginger biscuit photo

You can see that Grantham Gingerbread is not the traditional dark, treacle-based cake that we tend to associate with gingerbread, but a large crisp and chewy ginger cookie. It is apt that we have a historic recipe here – because gingerbread is one of the oldest of all cakes – and there are many different regional variations.   Some are deep ginger cakes; others are thin and crisp biscuits or ‘buttons’, fairings or gingerbread men.  This heritage version went down well with friends and family.  Here is my adapted recipe for World Baking Day:

Grantham Gingerbread 2017
12 ozs plain flour
12 ozs soft light brown sugar
2 ozs butter, melted
2 tablespoons ground ginger (or less or more!)
1 oz mixed peel
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ cup of milk
zest of a lemon
Mix ingredients together until a stiff dough is formed. Pat into a ball and knead until smooth. Divide into 24 equal pieces, rolling each into a ball; place onto a greased baking tray, allowing room to spread.
Bake for 25-30 mins until golden and crisp at 160ºC/325ºF/Gas Mark 3
Remove from oven; leave to cool for a few minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool

Once I had worked out some alternative ingredients, and halved the quantities, the 19th-century recipe seemed easier to make than my modern recipe.  Everything was stirred together, which took little effort (no need to cream butter and sugar, or beat in an egg; no sifting; and using melted butter and a little milk makes it easy to work in the large volume of flour!)  Be careful to pour in the milk, a little at a time.  Add ginger to taste, but note that the original recipe calls for ‘best ground ginger’, probably fresh ginger, rather than the dried ground ginger we use today.

For an excellent modern version of Grantham White Gingerbread try the recipe in Julie Duff’s Cakes – Regional and Traditional.

Happy Baking!

A passion for plants

This week we anticipate Earth Day 2017 with an environmental theme, and highlight some botanical items in the Special Collections at the University of Southampton.  These include printed herbals and floras, dried plant specimens, and a rare example of a 19th-century herbarium. Often charming and beautifully illustrated, they demonstrate that our interest in plants and their habitats is age-old. As a historical record, they have gained in significance over time: we now appreciate that there is a historical perspective to ecological change:

William Curtis, The Botanical Magazine, or Flower-Garden Displayed, vol. 4 p.297 (London 1795) Rare Books Per Q

The botanist William Curtis (1746-1799) brought out the first issue of his Botanical Magazine in 1787.  It was an immediate success with the ‘Ladies, Gentlemen and Gardeners’ for whom it was intended – there were over 3,000 subscribers.  It tapped into the public passion for newly imported exotic plants – an essential feature of the fashionable garden – and much of its success was due to the beauty and scientific accuracy of the illustrations.

W.H. Fitch and W.G. Smith Illustrations of the British Flora: a Series of Wood Engravings, with Dissections, of British Plants, 7th ed. (London, 1908) Rare Books QK 306

This volume was used by Althea Monck, who acquired it in 1909, to create a personal botanical record. The wood-engravings of the plants she observed have been hand-coloured with great delicacy and the date and location noted. The plants identified on these pages were seen at Ash Priors in Somerset and Crowthorne in Berkshire.

Hemp Agrimony, Eupatorium Cannabinum, collected at Shawford, near Winchester in July 1838, from vol. 7 of 8 volumes of a herbarium containing pressed flowers and plants collected and mounted by Emma Delmé Radcliffe, c.1837-52 MS 219 A819/7.

This is an example of hemp, found at Shawford in Hampshire in 1838, from a 19th-century herbarium.  There are eight surviving volumes of this herbarium – from an original eleven – which contain 839 specimens of pressed flowers and plants, gathered principally between 1837 and 1840, mainly from Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Hertfordshire, but with specimens from elsewhere in the south of England and occasional examples from Scotland and Ireland.

The volumes contain plants collected and mounted by Emma Delmé Radcliffe, née Waddington (?1811-1880), the daughter of John H.Waddington of Shawford House, near Winchester. In 1831 she married Frederick Peter Delmé Radcliffe of Hitchin Priory, Hertfordshire, which became her home – a sizeable minority of the specimens are from Hitchin and neighbourhood. Emma mounted these on single sheets of paper, giving their Linnaean class and order, their Latin names (according to the Natural system of classification) and common English names, together with a location and, in many cases, a date. The collection was arranged into volumes later in the nineteenth century, perhaps as late as the 1880s.

While almost all of the specimens were gathered by Mrs Delmé Radcliffe, a few came from other herbaria: detailed research by the late Pete Selby (Recorder for south Hampshire) demonstrated that a few of the Isle of Wight specimens bore the initials of Miss Georgina Elizabeth Kilderbee (1798-1868), who lived at Cowes, and who “features in Flora Vectensis (Bromfield, 1856) as the most prolific contributor of localised records after the author himself.” It seems that Emma and Georgina were cousins and friends who worked closely together on their collections.  While there are references to a Kilderbee Herbarium – this has not survived – and so Emma’s herbarium gives a tantalising glimpse of her cousin’s work as well as a record of botany in Hampshire over 150 years ago.

For more details about the herbarium visit: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/archives/cataloguedatabases/webguidemss219.page

Earth Day 2017 is on Saturday 22nd April: http://www.earthday.org/

Victoria, first Marchioness of Milford Haven (1863-1950)

One of the key collections in the Archives at the University of Southampton is that of Earl Mountbatten of Burma. His official papers are well known, covering his long naval career, his role as last Viceroy of India, and later, at the Admiralty and Ministry of Defence – but the archive also includes personal papers relating to his early life; a remarkable and extensive collection of family photographs; and archives of the German branch of the Battenberg family.

Photographs of Mountbatten’s parents on their wedding day, 30 April 1884, from the album of Prince Louis of Battenberg [MS 62 MB2/A4/4-5]

Photographs of Mountbatten’s parents on their wedding day, 30 April 1884, from the album of Prince Louis of Battenberg [MS 62 MB2/A4/4-5]

Mountbatten’s mother was Princess Victoria Alberta Elisabeth Mathilde Marie of Hesse, the eldest daughter of Ludwig IV, grand duke of Hesse and by Rhine, and his first wife Princess Alice – second daughter of Queen Victoria. His father was Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg, the son of Prince Alexander of Hesse.  Victoria and Louis were first cousins in a large and close family – Victoria tells many anecdotes of her childhood in her recollections, and she describes a happy and affectionate home-life in the ‘New Palace’ at Darmstadt.  There were frequent trips to relatives in Germany, Prussia, and England: often there was sea-bathing at Osborne in the summer. During a long stay in England in 1871/2:

“We were all at Balmoral first, while Uncle Bertie* and his family were at Abergeldie and we children saw a great deal of each other. Unfortunately all the children of both families contracted whooping cough there and I remember a dismal November at the top of Buckingham Palace shut away, coughing my head off.” [*Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VII]

When they were over the worst of the illness there was plenty of fun to be had:

“We found in the former nurseries strange sorts of bicycles with saddles, and adorned with horses’ heads and tails, which had belonged to our uncles and on which we careered down the corridor…”

All the young cousins then moved to Windsor: “and we were a very merry party of children. Our wild romps in the great corridor… were often interrupted by one of the pages bringing a message from the Queen that she would not have so much noise…”

“There were lovely corners and curtains behind which one could hide and leap out in the dark. Outside the Queen’s room there was always a table with lemonade and water and a side dish of biscuits which we used to pilfer secretly.”

These were happy years for Victoria. Tragedy struck the family at the end of 1878, when both her mother and youngest sister Marie died from diphtheria – Victoria was just 15. She wrote:

“My mother’s death was an irreparable loss to us all and left a great gap in our lives… My childhood ended with her death, for I became the eldest and most responsible of her orphaned children.”

The early loss of their mother caused Queen Victoria to take a special interest in the children – and the Queen was to become very fond of Prince Louis too – although:

“Grandmama was at first not very pleased at our engagement as she wished me, as the eldest, to continue looking after the younger ones and keeping my father company… However she consented to the engagement on condition we did not marry until the following year.”

They married at the palace in Darmstadt on 30 April 1884.

Photo of the Princesses of Hesse in 1885, from the album of Prince Louis of Battenberg [MS 62 MB2/A4/6]

Photo of the Princesses of Hesse in 1885, from the album of Prince Louis of Battenberg [MS 62 MB2/A4/6]

This photograph shows Victoria with her sisters in 1885: from left to right: ‘Ella’ (Elisabeth), the wife of Grand Duke Serge of Russia; Victoria; Irene, who married Prince Henry of Prussia in 1888; and Alix, who became the Tsarina, wife of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, in 1889.

Victoria made many summer visits to her sisters in Russia. When Serge was assassinated in Moscow in 1905 by an anarchist’s bomb – thrown at close quarters into his carriage – Victoria went to Ella immediately to offer support. In the summer of 1914, as the political situation deteriorated, she set off on her usual trip to Moscow, travelling first to Perm and from there on a tour of the Ural Mountains, stopping off twice at Ekaterinburg; but this trip was destined to be cut short.  Alix called them back to St Petersburg as the outbreak of war threatened. They arrived on the evening of 4th August, the day that England declared war.  Alix helped them to make hurried preparations and they took a special train to the Russian frontier at Tornio, making their escape via Finland, Sweden and Norway.  From Bergen they sailed on “the last ship” back to England.  Victoria writes:

“I little dreamt that it was the last time I should ever see my sisters again.”

Her written reminiscences end in 1914. She explains to the reader:

“I intend to finish these recollections with the outbreak of the Great War as I find it unnecessarily depressing to go through the experiences of that time during the second Great War. Anyhow my children were sufficiently grown up by then to have recollections of their own to take the place of mine.”

So she seems to have written these recollections during WWII, for the benefit of her four children:

Photograph of the Battenberg family c. 1902 from the album of Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenberg, 1901-10 [MS 62 MB2/B2/6]

Photograph of the Battenberg family c.1902 from the album of Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenberg [MS 62 MB2/B2/6]

This photo of the Battenberg family was taken c. 1902. Princess Victoria is seated in the middle, with Prince Louis Francis on her lap.  On her left sits her husband Prince Louis Alexander, and on her right, her eldest daughter, Princess Alice. Prince George (dressed in a white sailor suit) sits in front of his father while Princess Louise sits on the floor. Louis was born on 25th June 1900 at Frogmore House, Windsor – and was christened Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas of Battenberg on 17th July that year.  He was Queen Victoria’s last godson – she held him at the christening – and baby Louis knocked her spectacles off her nose.

Victoria died in 1950 after a long life. By that time she was a grandmother and great grandmother.  Her biographer states: “she remained throughout her life a determined, stalwart figure, given to progressive ideas and with an interest in socialism and philosophy.”  Mountbatten remembers her remarkable intelligence and quickness; that she was talkative and forthright, very well read, and with a phenomenal memory – her family felt her death acutely.

The reminiscences of Victoria, first Marchioness of Milford Haven, form part of the Archive of Earl Mountbatten of Burma, MS 62 MB21.

Testing Times

MS310/9 A816 Photo showing University students sitting final examinations in St Mary’s Drill Hall, Southampton, 3 June 1959; from the scrapbook of Isabel Syed, 1958-60. Due to the large increase in student numbers in the ‘50s there were too many finalists to seat in the University Assembly Hall; exams were sat off-campus in 1958 and 1959.

MS310/9 A816 Photo showing University students sitting final examinations in St Mary’s Drill Hall, Southampton, 3 June 1959; from the scrapbook of Isabel Syed, 1958-60. Due to the large increase in student numbers in the ‘50s there were too many finalists to seat in the University Assembly Hall; exams were sat off-campus in 1958 and 1959.

This week we post an Archive photo for all those students commencing Semester 1 exams. It’s a familiar scene:  final examinations at St. Mary’s Drill Hall in Southampton, almost 60 years ago.  Note the dress code – shirts and ties for the gentlemen – quite formal by modern standards but positively relaxed compared to earlier times.  The University College of Southampton ‘Rules of Conduct and Discipline’ from 1924-5, required all students to wear full academic dress at lectures and written examinations [LF 783.2]  At that time the academic gown was the uniform of the student – not the badge of success reserved for graduation day.

With sartorial considerations out of the way, how to succeed at examinations?

WP1/984/9 f.3v. Printed ‘Standing Order of the Master-General and Board of Ordnance, dated 21st July 1824’, from the papers of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, Master General of the Ordnance from 1818-27. The Ordnance Department was a very large government department employing many staff.

WP1/984/9 f.3v. Printed ‘Standing Order of the Master-General and Board of Ordnance, dated 21st July 1824’, from the papers of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, Master General of the Ordnance from 1818-27. The Ordnance Department was a very large government department employing many staff.

We find some helpful tips in this 19th-century standing order of the Master General and Board of Ordnance.  It states that every person nominated to a post in the Ordnance Department must undergo examination, which should include the following points:

1st  – His* handwriting must be clear and legible in every respect, of which a specimen is to be produced.  [* no equal opportunity at the Ordnance in 1824!!]

2nd  – It is expected that he will be perfect in the common rules of Arithmetic, viz. – Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division; and when the Office to which he may be nominated shall particularly relate to Accounts, he will be required to pass a further examination of his abilities in the Rule of Three and Fractions.

3rd  – Every person nominated as above, will be required to write grammatically in the English language and to be correct in his orthography.

Handwriting, mental arithmetic and spelling apart, the final hurdle was age: candidates should produce a certificate “in order to verify that the age of 16 years has been attained, and that he is not beyond thirty, though in the latter case, a latitude of a few months will be allowed, and not considered a disqualification for the Office”.

We can see these rules as part of the rise of professionalization in the 19th century – it was now accepted that employees should be competent – and a reminder that the history of examination and education is long and interlinked.  Exams are a test and a rite of passage; a shared experience that ties together students past and present.

Strenuis Ardua Cedunt   [The heights yield to endeavour – University motto.]