Category Archives: Exhibitions and Events

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.


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.

The pattern of handwriting

Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Hands-on Humanities at NST City yesterday. We hope you enjoyed the opportunity to discover more about printing over the ages and to try your hand at some of the related activities.

Hands-on Humanities printing activity

And there was certainly a great deal of fun to be had trying to write with a quill!

Hands-on Humanities writing activity

In honour of this activity, we have a look in this blog at some of the developments in handwriting in Western Europe over the centuries.

The development of English handwriting from the mid-twelfth century onwards was determined by the increasing demand for books and the rise of the universities, which created a voracious demand for texts and commentaries. This led to different styles of handwriting and a hierarchy of scripts depending on purpose and urgency. For finer quality items, in which the appearance of the book was the most important element, a highly calligraphic and elaborate “display” script known as textura was developed. This formal and conservative Gothic text was to change little between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, although the degree of embellishment, and the thickness and angle of the strokes did vary from time to time.

Detail of folio from Ordo quatuor evangelistarum in die parascheves, late 14th century – 15th century [MS26/2]

For more utilitarian volumes, smaller simpler handwriting forms were used. By the end of the thirteenth century the cursive script known as Anglicana, that first appeared in England in the twelfth century for the production of documents, was introduced into books as well. This handwriting form predominated until the middle of the fifteenth century.

Example of script used in 1460 [MS36 AO143/2]

One of the features of English handwriting in the fifteenth century was the gradual infiltration of a new script – what became known as secretary – until by the sixteenth century it had become the principal script. Though more angular than the Angliana script, it could be written more swiftly.

Detail from a grant from 1489 [MS41 AO167]

The Renaissance had brought a major reform with the introduction of an entirely new form of handwriting – Italic: this was a cursive script that would lay the foundation of modern handwriting. The spread of Italic was slower in northern Europe, but by the sixteenth century it would appear that the nobility followed royalty in using it for their general correspondence whilst their secretaries continued to employ secretary. By the early part of the seventeenth century the hands became more mixed using letters from both forms of handwriting.

Sample of handwriting from 1695 [MS41 AO167]

The influence of the writing-masters saw this mixed hand refined further until it developed into what became known as round hand and swept the continent in the eighteenth century.

Detail of a list of pictures at Broadlands written in 1764 [MS62 BR101/34]

Handwriting was to become more individual in character as we moved into the nineteenth century and this has been a feature from that period onwards, in particular with developments in paper and writing implements.

An example of handwriting from 1871 [MS62 BR103/9/32]

For more on the wonders of handwriting and how to read old documents, why not look at the Special Collections introduction to palaeography.

Francis Cleyn the Elder

We take the opportunity of the new Special Collections exhibition – exploring image-making in relation to the Leonardo da Vinci drawings on display at the City Art Gallery – to look at a collection of drawings held by the Special Collections.

The Librarian of the Hartley Institution was authorised to spend £5 a year (around £313 today) on Old Master drawings and by the late 1870s there was a growing collection. The album of 163 sketches by Francis Cleyn the Elder was one of these acquisitions.

Cover of Cleyn album [MS292]

Cover of Cleyn album [MS292]

Unprepossessing in appearance, with its limp paper and parchment binding of the first half of the seventeenth century and sheets of a stained and dirty rag paper, the album represents one of the largest collections of Cleyn’s drawings and designs. Cleyn was best known for his tapestry designs, but he was also an accomplished designer of seals, title pages, book illustrations and decorative interior design schemes. Many of the sketches in the album have been identified as preparatory studies for engravings, sculpture and tapestries.

Cleyn was the chief designer at the Mortlake Tapestry Factory for Charles I of England and under the Commonwealth. Originally from Rostock, Cleyn worked first for King Christian IV of Denmark before Christian loaned his services to his brother-in-law, James I of England. James I set up the Mortlake Tapestry Factory in 1619: by the reign of his son Charles I it employed as many as 140 people and produced some of the finest tapestries woven in Europe in the 1620s and 1630s.

Drapery studies by Cleyn, including kilt of Roman soldier [MS292 f.18r]

Drapery studies by Cleyn, including kilt of Roman soldier [MS292 f.18r]

Sketch by Cleyn of winged putti [MS292 f.5r]

Sketch by Cleyn of winged putti [MS292 f.5r]

Cleyn was considered one of the best ‘storytellers’ in English art and played a remarkable role in tapestry design. Among the drawings in his album are five for a series of ‘Love and Folly tapestries, for Charles I, which were probably prepared in 1626, perhaps in connection with the King’s marriage to Henrietta Maria, and three designs for the Mortlake series of ‘Horses’ tapestries — Perseus and Andromeda, Meleager and the Calydonian Boar, and Minos and Scylla, from a set of six.

Preparatory sketch by Cleyn for a tapestry ‘Perseus and Andromeda’ [MS292 f.34r]

Preparatory sketch by Cleyn for tapestry Perseus and Andromeda [MS292 f.34r]

The ‘Horses’ tapestries were among the possessions of Charles I inventoried after his death whilst the Leonardo da Vinci drawings currently on display in Southampton and 11 other venues around the UK became part of the Royal Collection in the reign of Charles II in the late seventeenth century.

Drawings from the Cleyn album are on display in the Special Collections exhibition The Leonardo Link Image-Making from Anatomy to Code which opened on Monday 18 February.

2018 – Year in Review

As we move in to 2019 and new endeavours, we take a moment to reflect on some of the Special Collection activities of the previous year.

Exhibitions and events

2018 saw a programme of very different exhibitions hosted by Special Collections. The first exhibition of the year in the Special Collections Gallery and Level 4 Gallery was Print and Process, 1 March to 8 June. The exhibition, which revealed and identified a broad range of print processes, included prints from the Library’s Special Collections, from the University Art Collection and from Fine Art students at the Winchester School of Art.

Print in Process exhibition

Print and Process exhibition

In late June, we held a conference on Basque child refugees together with the Basque Children 37 Association and the University’s School of Modern Languages. In conjunction with this Special Collections played host to the exhibition In Search of the Basque children: From Bilbao to Southampton by the Salford based artist Claire Hignett. Inspired by the archives of the Basque child refugees, Claire Hignett’s exhibition used the properties of domestic textiles to explore memory and the items we keep as souvenirs of our lives.

Floor game from Claire Hignett exhibition

Floor game exhibit from the Claire Hignett exhibition

The autumn exhibitions under the title The Great War Remembered formed part of the University’s Great War, Unknown War programme marking the centenary of the end of the First World War. My War, My Story in the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery drew on the Special Collections to present a range of stories from the First World War, including of the University War Hospital at the Highfield campus. We were delighted to have on loan as part of this exhibition the oil painting The Shadow of Cross of War, A Night Scene in University War Hospital, 1918 by William Lionel Wyllie. On show in the Level 4 Gallery were John Garfield: Armistice 1918 – The Cost a photographic journey through cemeteries and memorials of the Great War, and My Ancestor, Their Story which drew on family material from members of staff and students at the University.

Soldier of the Great War

In addition to the research sessions and visits for our own students – such as that mentioned in a blog by Dr Jonathan Conlin – we have an on-going series of events and visits for external visitors. These have included themed drop-in sessions on local history and nineteenth-century society and sessions showcasing British culture for Chinese teachers in June. Special Collections took part in Hands-on Humanities for the second year in a row in November 2018, running interactive events relating to handwriting and printing and creating a digital mosaic image from the items created on the day.

Writing and printing activities at Hands-on Humanities Day

Writing and printing activities at Hands-on Humanities Day

We hosted a visit by the Hampshire Archives Trust, including a talk about the history of the University War Hospital and a private view to The Great War Remembered exhibitions, on Saturday 1 December. Special Collections also ran workshops on promoting collections as part of the Southern University Libraries Network training day on Tuesday 11 December.

Social media

As well as the on-going programme for the Special Collections blog, highlights of which are mentioned below, autumn saw the move from using Facebook to the new Twitter account@hartleyspecialc Features on Twitter so far have included tweets about unusual items in the collections and a glimpse behind the scenes for the national Explore Your Archive campaign and extracts of a student account of armistice 1918.

Sample of knitted spaghetti, one of the unusual items featured on Twitter for Explore Your Archive

Sample of knitted spaghetti, one of the unusual items featured on Twitter for Explore Your Archive

The past year marked a range of anniversaries tied to the collections and blog features have included: the 35th anniversary of the arrival of the Wellington Archive at Southampton on St Patrick’s day 1983; the coronation of Queen Victoria in June 1838; the anniversary of the birth of Isaac Watts, father of English hymnology and son of Southampton; and the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the NHS. Some of the commemorative days featured have been International Women’s Day; Knit in Public Day; National Sporting Heritage Day; Dear Diary Day; Read a Book Day focusing on the dangerous art of reading for women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and British Polo Day.

During May we ran a series of blogs on resources relating to Ireland in Special Collections, such as the poem Farewell to Killarney. Heywood Sumner; the celebrated Hampshire naturalist Dr Canning Suffern; William Mogg, a Southampton-born sailor who was involved in Arctic exploration in the 1820s; Richard St Barbe Baker; Charlie Chaplin and, to mark the start of the World Cup, Lord Mountbatten and his association with football organisations, were some of the individuals to be the subject of blogs. The art of watercolours, cooking for court and countryside, China in the 1880s and botanical treasures of Stratfield Saye are some of the other subjects that have featured. University related blogs focused on the student societies – the Boat Club and the Scout and Guide Club – the University as a War Hospital and what the library accession registers showed about cooperation during the Second World War.

New collections

There was an increased volume of new archive material acquired by the Special Collections during the year. Of particular significance was the Honor Frost Archive, which provides a fascinating insight into the work of a pioneering figure in the field of maritime archaeology. We also were fortunate to acquire a small collection of material relating to Sir Denis Pack, one of the Duke of Wellington’s generals in the Peninsular war, and additional collections of papers of Basque child refugees.

Another significant new collection that arrived during 2018 was the Rollo Woods music collection. Rollo Woods (1925-2018) was a former Deputy Librarian at the University of Southampton, but also a leading expert on folk music who wrote several books on the subject. He was a founder member of the Madding Crowd, the Purbeck Village Quire and the West Gallery Music Association. In 2015 Rollo was awarded the gold badge of the English Folk Dance and Song Society for a lifetime of work promoting the folk arts. His collection includes manuscripts of music that he acquired and his working papers relating to his research on West Gallery Music.

Pages from a Dorset carol book, 1803: part of the Rollo Woods music collection [MS 442/1/2]

Pages from a Dorset carol book, 1803: part of the Rollo Woods music collection [MS442/1/2]

The most recent acquisition has been the papers of Gertrude Long. This collection contains a wealth of hitherto unseen images of the University War Hospital, complementing the papers of Fanny Street, another VAD who worked at the Hospital, and whose papers are another recent arrival.

Fanny Street (centre) with her fellow VADs Jennie Ford and Ethel Taylor

Fanny Street (centre) with her fellow VADs [MS416/13/4]

Looking ahead to 2019

With the imminent arrival of further acquisitions, new cataloguing projects, a programme of exhibitions – opening with The Leonardo Link: Image-Making from Anatomy to Code on 18 February 2019 – the Wellington Congress 2019 on 12-13 April and Jewish Archives Month in June, it is already looking to be an active year. 2019 is also the centenary year of the move of the University to the Highfield campus and Special Collections will be contributing to celebrations for this. Look out for the first Highfield Campus 100 blog at the end of the month.

They came from near and far to do their patriotic duty – staffing the University War Hospital

Staff at the University War Hospital [MS 1/Phot/39 ph3104]

Staff at the University War Hospital, 1918 [MS1/Phot/39 ph3104]

11 November 2018 marks the centenary of the end of the First World War. To commemorate this, we take a look at the contribution of the staff of the University War Hospital at the Highfield campus site.

Under the command of Dr Lauder, who had been the Medical Officer for Health for Southampton, the Hospital was staffed by professional nurses and members of the Volunteer Aid Detachments (known as VADs). As well as nursing, VADs also worked in a range of auxiliary capacities from driving ambulances bringing the wounded to the Hospital, to laboratory assistants, clerks, cooks, housemaids and laundresses.

With the start of the war, Southampton hospitals recruited every nurse, VAD and others who could be spared from auxiliary hospitals in the surrounding counties. But as the war progressed, the need for further staff increased.  Gwynnedd Lloyd, a friend of the daughters of Dr Lauder, was considered too young as a 17 year-old to volunteer in 1914. However, in the aftermath of the battle of the Somme, she was invited to join the VADs and to work at the University War Hospital.

The VADs lacked the training and skill of the professional nurses and tended to perform duties that were less technical. As a new VAD, Gwynnedd Lloyd noted that her duties consisted of “making beds and waiting on sister” as well as taking trolleys around and twice a day collecting rubbish. But as time went on, with the flow of the wounded into the hospitals and the demands it placed on the staff, the line between the professional and the volunteer became far less distinct, leading to recognition that the VAD and nurse differed little beyond the level of training. Gwynnedd Lloyd was assigned to assist with one of the hutted wards at the Hospital and even as a relatively untrained VAD was expected to cover shifts of around 10 hours.

Hutted ward decorated for Christmas, c.1915 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3108]

Hutted ward decorated for Christmas, c.1915 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3108]

The women who volunteered as VADs saw their work as a patriotic duty and a useful contribution to the war effort. Whilst some were local to Southampton, others who served as nursing staff at the University War Hospital came from all across the UK, the Channel Islands, Ireland and Canada. It is estimated that somewhere in the region of 4,500 Irish women served as VADs during the war effort, and amongst the staff of the University War Hospital were women from a number of Irish counties including Counties Kilkenny, Limerick, Longford and Tyrone. Canadian VADs were initially only employed in their homeland working in convalescent hospitals. However, as the war dragged on, it became apparent that they were needed overseas and the staff at the Hospital in 1918 included a number of nurses from New Brunswick in Canada.

Amongst the ranks of the VADs were not only nurses, but a myriad of auxiliary roles such as orderlies, stretcher bearers, clerks, cooks, housemaids and laundresses. Most of the women who served in these roles tended to be from the local area. Fanny Street and her two friends, Jennie Ford and Ethel Taylor, who feature in current Special Collections exhibition My War, My Story, were from Southampton. All three worked in the laundry of the University War Hospital for the whole duration, with Fanny Street becoming the Head Laundress by 1917.

Fanny Street (centre) with her fellow VADs Jennie Ford and Ethel Taylor

Fanny Street (centre) with her fellow VADs Jennie Ford and Ethel Taylor [MS416/13]

And we find that members of the same family all worked together at the hospital. Three members of the Trodd family from Southampton and members of the Bailey family from Eastleigh worked as maids and cooks. Annie and Hettie Needham from St. Denys were both employed as clerks. And Barbara and Gertrude Long, who lived in Freemantle, worked as a clerk and a laboratory assistant respectively. The Archives holds a notebook and three scientific reports kept by Gertrude Long during her time at the Hospital (MS101/8).

Notebook of lab assistant Gertrude Long [MS101/8]

Notebook of lab assistant Gertrude Long [MS101/8]

And so, as we come to the centenary of the end of the First World War, we remember all those who made a contribution, not least the young women who, in some cases, crossed an ocean to help staff the War Hospital here at the University.

2017: Year in Review

This week we take a look at posts from the past twelve months highlighting key activities, events, and anniversaries from 2017.

Due to refurbishment work taking place in the Hartley Library, 2016 only saw a single exhibition appear in the Special Collections Gallery. While refurbishment continued this summer, we were able to provide a full programme. Our first exhibition of the year was Beyond Cartography: safeguarding our historic maps and plans which ran from 20 February to 28 April 2017. Showcasing maps from the Special Collections, it illustrated the challenges that these objects bring to conservators before conservation or long-term preservation takes place. This was accompanied by Cartographic Operations in the neighbouring Level 4 Gallery. Running from 20 February to 10 March, the exhibition brought together three alternative cartographic operations.

Visitors at the Wellington and Waterloo exhibition

Visitors at the Wellington and Waterloo exhibition

The early summer saw a rerun of the Wellington and Waterloo MOOC (originally run in 2015). To coincide with the MOOC, Special Collections ran a number of related events in June. These included a Wellington and Waterloo exhibition, drawing heavily on the Wellington Archive, and a special Wellington and Waterloo revisited event on 17 June, which included a private view of the exhibition, a lecture on the Waterloo Despatch by Chris Woolgar (read by David Brown), and dancing with the Duke of Wellington’s Dancers.

The autumn brought Between The West and Russia, running from 23 October to 15 December 2017. The exhibition considered impressions of pre-revolutionary Russia from western perspectives and revolutionary ideas and influences.  The following month saw the arrival of this year’s Istanbul Biennial, titled A Good Neighbour, in the Level 4 Gallery on 20 November. Curated by the artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, the exhibition explores notions of home, neighbourhoods and how private spheres have changed in recent years. It runs until 4 February.

In addition to our exhibition programme, we also continued our ongoing series of Explore Your Archives events. To tie in with the map related exhibitions in the spring, our first drop-in session was Exploring Maps in the Special Collections on 28 February. The event included a talk by Chris Woolgar, Professor of History and Archival Studies, discussing a range of map material from across the collections.

While the galleries were closed for summer refurbishment, we hosted a drop-in session with a local focus on 31 July. Hampshire people and places provided the opportunity for visitors to discover more about the resources we hold for Hampshire ranging from topography to details of everyday life, including an array of printed sources from the Cope Collection.

Visitors to Hampshire people and places

Visitors to Hampshire people and places

In addition to taking part in Hands-on Humanities day on Saturday, 18 November, our last drop-in session of the year took place during Humanities Week on 22 November. The topics covered in Exploring Protests, Rebellion and Revolution in the Special Collections varied greatly, from the Peasants’ revolt of 1381 to the Swing riots in Hampshire of 1830, from the English Civil War to the European revolutions of 1848.

As ever, cataloguing remains a key activity of the Archives with cataloguing projects over the past year focusing on a broad range of material from across the collections. Blog posts highlighting recent cataloguing activities included a look at volumes relating to Sir David Salomons, baronet, and his nephew and heir, Sir David Lionel Salomons, second baronet, and papers relating to the author Pamela Frankau. Meanwhile, February saw descriptions for an additional one hundred archive collections added to the Special Collections website, including collections relating to Anglo-Jewish institutions and individuals, the Duke of Wellington, Alan Campbell-Johnson, Frank Temple Prince, and knitting! Recent acquisitions include papers relating to the pianist, and celebrated child prodigy, Solomon Cutner and Honor Frost, a pioneer in underwater archaeology (with more details on the latter to come!)

Rehousing illustrations from the printed collections

Rehousing illustrations from the printed collections

Behind the scenes posts included the rehousing of illustrations from the printed collections and a look at the procedure for answering researcher enquiries for Ask an Archivist Day. User perspectives included reflections on MA History Research Skills sessions (including the discovery of a cook by the name of Mary Berry at Broadlands!) as well as post graduate work on the Nuremberg trials and the discovery of a unique copy of Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol.

The past year marked a range of anniversaries which tied in with the collections, including: the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth; the arrival of Basque child refugees into Southampton; the accession of Queen Victoria; the creation of the House of Windsor (and Mountbatten); the deaths of Jane Austen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Princess Charlotte of Wales; the publication of Florence Greenberg’s Jewish Cookbook; the Balfour Declaration; and the birthday of Jonathan Swift. Posts on commemoration days included International Women’s Day; International Children’s Book Day; Earth Day; International Jazz Day; and World Baking Day, while University related posts tied in with Southampton Science and Engineering Week, and explored student balls and dances; student publications; the history of the University’s Library; and the University’s sports heritage.

Netball team, 1928-9, MS1/7/291/22/2/62

Netball team, 1928-9, MS1/7/291/22/2/62

With the arrival of new acquisitions, a full programme of exhibitions, and preparations already underway for next year’s Wellington Congress, it looks to be another busy year ahead. Be sure to keep an eye on the blog to keep up to date on all our latest activities!

Exploring protests, rebellion and revolution in the Special Collections

As part of the Explore Your Archive campaign the Special Collections team will be hosting two events. On Wednesday 22 November, there will be a drop-in session highlighting an array of material from the manuscript and printed collections relating to protests, rebellion and revolution.

Come and find out about protests and revolts, from the Peasants’ revolt of 1381 to the Swing riots in Hampshire of 1830, the Southampton Dockers’ strike of 1890 and the General Strike of 1926.  Protest groups and student activism also are represented, with material relating to groups established to combat fascism in the 1930s and 1990s, student action against apartheid, and the work of the “Women in Black”: 35s, the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry.

Conflict at the Place Maubert

Conflict at the Place Maubert from ‘History of the Revolutions in Europe, 1848’. Supplement to the Illustrated London News (1 July 1848)

Also on display will be a range of material focusing on revolutions, including the English Civil War, the French Revolution, the wars for independence in North and South American, and the European revolutions of 1830 and 1848.

Book your ticket on Eventbrite ( to reserve a place or feel free to drop by on the day. The event will run from 2-5pm.

There will also be an extended opening for our current exhibition ‘Between The West and Russia’ until 5pm. For further details visit:

All are welcome! Please feel free to share. Visitors may be asked for photo ID by Library Reception staff.

The Special Collections team will also be taking part in the Hands-on Humanities day on Saturday 18 November, 1030-1630, Avenue Campus.

Extract from grant for a subscription for a trading voyage [MS62 BR4/1/1]

Extract from grant for a subscription for a trading voyage [MS62 BR4/1/1]

Can you write like scribes of old?  Why not come along and try your hand at this and other practical activities on offer.  For further information on this go to: