Category Archives: Manuscript Collections

The Wellington archive and Ireland

It was 35 years ago, on St Patrick’s Day 1983, that the archive of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, arrived at the University of Southampton.

Wellington Papers, 1828 [MS 61 WP1/950]

Group of Wellington Papers, 1828 [MS 61 WP1/950]

This collection of around 100,000 political, military, official and diplomatic papers for the first Duke was accepted for the nation in lieu of duty on the estate of the seventh Duke of Wellington and allocated to the University of Southampton by the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The official opening of the Wellington Suite, the archive accommodation created to house the archive took place in May 1983, and was attended by the Duke and Duchess of Wellington.

Official event to mark the arrival of the Wellington archive, 1983

Official opening for the Wellington archive: 1983: Bernard Naylor, University Librarian, Professor Smith (hidden), Chris Woolgar, Archivist, and the Duke of Wellington looking at display of papers

Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) was born in Ireland, the son of Garret Wesley, first Earl of Mornington, and Anne Hill, who was the daughter of the first Viscount Dungannon. The archive forms the principal collection of papers of Wellington and covers all aspects of his career from 1790 until his death in 1852. Papers relating to Ireland feature heavily within the collection, ranging from maps and plans to extensive series of papers on parliamentary and government business.

Coloured sketch plan of Dublin Castle and adjoining barracks, March 1844 [MS 61 WP15/26]

Coloured sketch plan of Dublin Castle and adjoining barracks, March 1844 [MS 61 WP15/26]

Wellington started his career as aide-de-camp to two successive Lords Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Westmorland and Earl Fitzwilliam, 1787-93. Between 1790 and 1797 he sat in the Irish Parliament as Member for the family seat of Trim. Wellington was Chief Secretary for Ireland, 1807-9, managing the government interest in Parliament at Westminster and government business in Ireland. Within this material is much on security and maintaining the peace during a period of turbulence and threat of invasion by Napoleonic France.

In a letter from Wellington to Lord Hawkesbury, Secretary of State for Home Affairs, 23 April 1807, he sends details of the preparations made in Cork to deal with the threat of invasion:

“There are two regiments of cavalry and ten battalions of infantry at Cork and in the neighbourhood, which could be assembled at any point in the course of a few hours.

There is a depot of artillery at Cork, a heavy brigade at Fermoy, and a depot at Clonmell, about forty miles from Cork, so that there are means of defending that part of the kingdom if the fleet should turn out to be an enemy.”

[MS 61 WP1/167/18]

Between 1818 and his death in 1852, Wellington held a number of political offices and official posts, including serving twice as Prime Minister. Several thousand letters for the period 1819-32 relate to Ireland, including political, economic and social discussions and material on the introduction of the Catholic Relief  Bill. The descriptions of this material can be accessed through the Wellington Papers Database.

First page of draft Catholic emancipation act drafted by Wellington and Robert Peel [MS 61 WP1/993/80]

First page of draft by Wellington and Robert Peel of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, January 1829  [MS 61 WP1/993/80]

The main series of Wellington’s correspondence for the period 1833 onwards includes material relating to the Irish representative peerage, politics and elections in Ireland, parliamentary bills, church reform, education, the Irish church, tithes, law and order and military defence, the Young Ireland movement and the prospect of a rising in 1848, as well as the Wellington monument in Dublin.

Report of the Benevolent Society of St. Patrick (London, 1820) [Wellington Pamphlet 1104/5]

Report of the Benevolent Society of St. Patrick (London, 1820) [Wellington Pamphlet 1104/5]

The connection between Wellington and Ireland also can be found amongst papers for the numerous societies and organisations with which he was associated. One such was the Benevolent Society of St. Patrick set up to provide “relief for the poor and distressed Irish residing in and around London, and that of their children”. Wellington was a Vice President of the Society in 1820 and was voted as chairman for the following year. The list of subscribers for 1820 listed his donation as 121 guineas: a donation of 20 guineas made the donor a governor for life.

Anniversary festival of the Benevolent Society of St. Patrick [Wellington Pamphlet 1104/5]

Anniversary festival of the Benevolent Society of St. Patrick [Wellington Pamphlet 1104/5]

The Society held an annual festival, usually on St Patrick’s Day. The festival in 1820, held at the City of London Tavern with George Canning in the chair, was delayed until the 6 May due to the death of the King.  The Investigator or Quarterly magazine for 1820 reported that:

“The children were, after dinner, paraded through the room. Their appearance was exceedingly interesting; all of them being clean, healthy and robust.  Several fine young women, who were educated by the society, who are now earning a comfortable and reputable livelihood closed the procession… The Duke of Wellington was nominated chairman for the ensuing year, which office was handsomely accepted by His Grace.  The treasurer then read the list of subscriptions, the total of which, including a bequest of £500 by Captain Morritt, was £1,800.”

The Wellington archive is complemented by a number of other significant manuscript collections that relate to Ireland. These include the Congleton archive (MS 64) which contains personal, family, estate and political papers for the Parnell family, Barons Congleton, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century; the Broadlands archives (MS 62); the Carver manuscripts (MS 63), a collection of papers of the family of Wellington’s older brother Richard Wellesley, first Marquis Wellesley; and papers of the Earls of Mornington (MS 226 and MS 299).

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.


Celebrating the contribution of women: Edith “Edie” Noble

Held annually on 8 March, International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women throughout history and across nations.

The Special Collections at the University of Southampton holds material for a range of women whose contribution in many spheres is worthy of mention. For this blog we will focus on Edith “Edie” Noble, née Davidson or Davidovitz (MS 381).


Edith Noble, June 1973 [MS381 A4136 1/4]

Born in Hull in 1910, she was one of nine brothers and sisters born to Annie and Hyman Davidovitz. She and her two sisters, Sophie and Min, married three London-born brothers, Ziggy, Charles and Bernard Noble. Edie and her husband Charles joined South London Liberal’s Synagogue in 1939, a year after they married.

Edith was heavily involved with the South London Liberal Synagogue, holding the position of Treasurer in the Women’s Society and as a member of their Council.

Passionate about promoting friendly relations among Jewish women, Edith became a founding member of the Streatham Group of the League of Jewish Women as its Vice-Chairman in 1953.

“From that time in 1953, she has worked untiringly with a will and dedication to make the name of L.J.W. respected in many spheres”. [MS381 A4136 1/4]

League of Jewish Women 25th birthday picture supplement, 1968 [MS381 A4136 3/1/1]

A year later, as group representative, Edith was elected to the League’s National Council. She went on to become founder Chairman of the League’s Publicity Committee in 1957 and National Honorary Secretary in 1961. As the League’s first Extension Officer, Edith worked tirelessly to ensure the organisation was reaching Jewish women all over the country, opening 25 UK groups and achieving thousands of new members between 1967-72.

Edith held many positions in the League of Jewish Women, including President in 1973, as well as positions in the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW) and the National Council of Women. This reflected her commitment towards raising the profile of these organisations, and strengthening connections between Jewish women nationally and internationally.

Certificate awarded to Edith Noble from the International Council of Jewish Women for her outstanding services to the organisation, May 1978 [MS381 A4136 1/7]

Using her links around the world, Edith succeeded in widening the communication net of these bodies, such as by setting up the 13th International Convention for ICJW in Bournemouth in 1984, which she chaired.

Keen for women to keep well-informed of social issues, Edith was the League representative on the Women’s Consultative Council, a government sponsored forum, from 1961. In 1969 this group became the Women’s National Commission, a body that still enables the government to obtain women’s thoughts on current issues.

Alongside these committee positions, Edith also completed welfare work, which included visiting patients on a Thursday morning at the Birchlands Jewish Hospital, serving tables at the South London Day Centre, and hosting and supporting Jewish girls who came to England from Morocco and Iran to work in the London Jewish Hospital.

The correspondence, working notebooks, papers and other documents relating to the Jewish Women’s organisations that Edith was involved in, provides a wealth of information on the work of the League of Jewish Women and International Council of Jewish Women from a committee member’s perspective.

From Edith’s final speech as President of League of Jewish Women:

“It has been said that if it be true that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, then eternal participation is the price of a good society. May the League never lack women to identify with us and participate in the Jewish contribution to the good society.” [MS381 A4136 1/4]


Scroll commemorating Edith Noble’s appointment as the Streatham Group of the League of Jewish Women’s first Life President, 26 May 1976 [MS381 A4136 1/7]

For other blog posts we have completed on women, please click on the following links:

The University of Southampton will be hosting a number of events to mark international women’s day and details can be found at the following links:

University blog –

Events page –

William Mogg and Arctic exploration

As Britain and Europe experiences a period of extreme cold and snow, we delve into the journal of William Mogg describing his experience of Arctic exploration in the early 1820s.

Iceberg adhering to icy reef, 1828

Iceberg adhering to icy reef [MS 45 AO183/2 p.349]

William Mogg (1796-1875) was born in Woolston in Southampton. He joined the Royal Navy as a volunteer in 1811 and served in the continental blockade of the Napoleonic war. He was part of a number of survey expeditions in the brig Investigator in 1817 and in 1827-30 voyaged on the Beagle alongside Charles Darwin. Mogg  also served as a clerk during Captain William Edward Parry’s second and third Arctic expeditions, on board HMS Hecla and HMS Fury, 1821-5. The journal – part of a set of 6 volumes (MS 45) held in the Special Collections – covering these journeys provides a fascinating insight into these expeditions.

Captain Parry was to be a key figure in the discovery of the North West Passage and the three voyages that he made between 1819 and 1825 produced invaluable research. During his first expedition, he voyaged through the Parry Channel and three quarters of the way across the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

HMS Hecla and Fury sailed from Deptford in April 1821 for the second expedition, the goal this time being to find a passage near the northwest end of Hudson Bay. Having sailed through Hudson Strait and investigating Foxe Basin, they found themselves frozen in at ‘Winter Island’ for nine months when the ice closed in. During Parry’s third expedition in 1824-5, ice in Baffin Bay disrupted progress and the expedition was forced to winter in Prince Regent Inlet.

HM Ships Hecla and Fury in winter quarters

HM Ships Hecla and Fury in winter quarters [MS 45 AO183/2 p.359]

Mogg describes how “the ice began to form in a compact manner around the ship … strongly indicated … that our present position should become our winter quarters”. [MS 45 AO183/2 p.62] Crews were put to work cutting a channel to enable the ship to sail further up the bay. “Our first weeks imprisoned in our first icy quarters was fully occupied, clearing and preparing for the winter, every arrangement was made, which could contribute to our general health and comfort by our worthy Commander (Parry).” [MS 45 AO183/2 p.63]

Conditions were testing. While there was provision of a warming stove as way of heating, the crew had to undergo a reduction of rations to ensure that there were sufficient supplies.

Despite the hardships endured, Mogg’s journal reflects the indomitable spirit of those on the expedition, recording delight at the encounters with the groups of inhabitants of those inhospitable regions of the world, whom Mogg called Esquimaux, of the wildlife he observed, including bears, foxes, wolves and whales, and of the adventures of the crew.

Snow village of the Esquimaux

Snow village of the Esquimaux [MS 45 AO183/2 p.141]

Of the measures introduced to relieve boredom of life on board – theatrical performances and evening schools – Mogg wrote of the production of R.S.Sheridan’s play The Rivals: “the first performance came off this evening and evidently gave general satisfaction if we may judge by the constant plaudits from the stentorian voices of the audience”. [MS 45 AO183/2 p.72]

List of cast for The Rivals as performed by crew for the Theatre Royal, Winter Island

List of cast for The Rivals as performed by crew for the Theatre Royal, Winter Island [MS 45 AO183/2 p.70]

There also was a pleasure to be derived from culinary treats. He noted that on Christmas Day 1821, the crews enjoyed a dinner of roast beef, which had been killed and frozen upward of 12 months previously, “garnished with mustard and cress, of a pale colour from being grown between decks in the dark, … with sundry pies and puddings of preserved meats and cranberries, not to be despised in any climate”. [MS 45 AO183/2 p.82]

Explorations by the crew on the ice in temperatures of “59° below the point of freezing” brought with them the risk of frost bite. “It is not an uncommon circumstance that in the operation of applying the hand to the frozen cheek, or nose, it also becomes frozen while doing so, but in order to prevent serious casualties of this nature Captain Parry issued general instructions that no person should quit the ships alone, or un-armed, in order that the companion might detect the burns in each other’s face.” [MS 45 AO183/2 p.90]

So as we venture out into the snow and chilling temperatures, let us give a thought to Captain Parry, Mogg and the intrepid crew of these Arctic ventures.


A glimpse of China

To mark Chinese New Year 2018, this blog catches a glimpse of China as seen by Prince Louis of Battenberg, on board HMS Inconstant in 1881-2.

Decorations for Chinese New Year, February 1882

Decorations for Chinese New Year, Hong Kong, February 1882 [MS 62 Broadlands Archives MB2/A20 p. 81]

A career naval officer, Prince Louis of Battenberg (1854-1921) became a cadet in the British navy at the age of 14 years in October 1868. The following year Battenberg joined the Royal Alfred as a midshipman, achieving pr0motion to the rank of lieutenant in 1876. In August 1881, he was appointed to HMS Inconstant, the flag ship of Rear Admiral Lord Clanwilliam, and part of the “Detached Squadron”.

HMS Inconstant [MS 62 Broadlands Archive MB2/A20]

HMS Inconstant [MS 62 Broadlands Archives MB2/A20]

HMS Inconstant was one of only three steam-assisted but also fully masted frigates that were built by the Royal Navy. Designed by Sir Edward Reed, who was Director of Naval Construction, in response to faster American frigates, the ship carried a crew of 600. The “Detached Squadron” left Spithead in October 1880, eventually arriving at Shanghai on 23 November 1881. From there it called at Amoy (Xiamen) in December and remained in Hong Kong from December until February 1882, although it left before Chinese New Year. The Squadron arrived back in Spithead in October that year, almost two years to the day from its departure.

Pagoda near Shanghai [MS 62 Broadlands Archives MB2/A20 p.71]

Pagoda near Shanghai, 1881 [MS 62 Broadlands Archives MB2/A20 p.71]

English quarter, Shanghai, 1881 [MS 62 Broadlands Archive MB2/A20 p.76]

English quarter, Shanghai, 1881 [MS 62 Broadlands Archives MB2/A20 p.72]

Shanghai and Amoy (Xiamen) were among the treaty ports opened to foreign involvement from the 1840s onwards. Shanghai grew at a phenomenal rate in this period, changing from a village into a city which contained enclaves administered by the British, French, and Americans, each with it its particular culture, architecture, and society.

Xiamen, known as Amoy, 1881 [MS 62 Broadlands Archive MB2/A20 p.76]

Xiamen, known as Amoy, 1881 [MS 62 Broadlands Archives MB2/A20 p.76]

Xiamen, or Amoy, as it was known in its Romanised form in the nineteenth century, being the primary international port for Fujian, became a centre of China’s tea trade, with hundreds of thousands of tons shipped yearly to Europe and the Americas. European settlement in the port was concentrated on Gulangyu Island rather than in Xiamen: here as in Shanghai these foreign enclaves had their own particular architectural style.

Further information on Prince Louis of Battenberg or other material in MS 62 the Broadlands Archives can be found at the online resources.

We wish you a very Happy and Prosperous Year of the Dog!


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)

‘The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere.’
(Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in a broadcast on the death of Gandhi, 70 years ago.)

The assassination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, known to many as Mahatma – “great soul” – on 30 January 1948, brought thousands to the streets of New Delhi in silent mourning. He had been shot at point blank range by a young Hindu, Nathuram Godse, who held Gandhi responsible for the partition of his country.  Gandhi had in fact been a passionate supporter of a united India, and believed it would be a serious error for the British to partition the country.  The mourners included Mountbatten, then Governor General, and his wife Edwina, both of whom subsequently attended Gandhi’s funeral.

Mountbatten’s “first meeting with Gandhi”, 31st March 1947 MB2/N14/8

Mountbatten’s “first meeting with Gandhi”, 31st March 1947 MB2/N14/8

This photo, from Mountbatten’s papers, dates from his first meeting with Gandhi, prior to Partition, on 31st March 1947.  As newly appointed Viceroy, Mountbatten embarked on a series of interviews with Indian leaders, details of which were recorded as soon as they were completed.  According to his biographer, Mountbatten was “fascinated and delighted” by Gandhi’s personality – and they met again on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd April at Viceroy’s House:

Gandhi’s first ever meal eaten at Viceroy’s House, 1 April 1947 MB2/N14/10

Gandhi’s first ever meal eaten at Viceroy’s House, 1 April 1947 MB2/N14/10

Mountbatten’s papers include conference papers, minutes of meetings and records of the interviews which took place over the following months, as well as his official correspondence as Viceroy.

On 2 June 1947, Lord Mountbatten’s plan for Partition was presented to the Indian leaders. Immediately afterwards, he had a meeting with Gandhi and, apprehensive of the disruption that his opposition might cause, was enormously relieved that he chose not to break his day of silence. To the Viceroy’s amazement, Gandhi wrote on the back of some envelopes:

“I am sorry I can’t speak. When I took the decision about the Monday silence I did reserve two exceptions, i.e. about speaking to high functionaries on urgent matters or attending upon sick people. But I know you don’t want me to break my silence.”

one of the envelopes on which Gandhi wrote notes at his meeting with Mountbatten, 2 June 1947 MB1/E193

One of the envelopes on which Gandhi wrote notes at his meeting with Mountbatten, 2 June 1947 MB1/E193

Independent India and Pakistan came into being on 14/15 August 1947.

The assassination of Gandhi in January 1948 tested the character of the new India. ‘The father of the Indian nation’, he had not invented the nationalist movement, but he had shaped it into a force that was wholly different from any other anti-colonial struggle faced by the British.  As his biographer notes, he remains “an international symbol and inspiration… a towering figure of the twentieth century.”



Honor Frost Archive weighs anchor in Southampton

The Special Collections is delighted to have recently added to its manuscript holdings the Archive of Honor Frost (1917-2010).

Honor Frost was described as a woman of many talents – artist, ballet designer, scholar and writer – with a consuming passion for the world beneath the oceans. Honor Frost was a pioneer in the field of underwater archaeology and in its pursuit as a scientific discipline.

Honor Frost

Honor Frost

Honor Frost studied at Central School of Art, London, and the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford, and then worked as a designer for the Ballet Rambert and director of publications at Tate Gallery before moving into the realm of archaeology.

In her account of her early experiences as a maritime archaeologist Under the Mediterranean: travels with my bottle (1963) Honor wrote of how she was introduced to the delights of diving in a garden well in Wimbledon. Thus began a lifetime’s devotion to underwater discovery. In the early 1950s, she began training at Cannes with the Club Alpin Sous-Marin, where she met Jacques Cousteau, the inventor of the aqualung. Cousteau’s assistant, Frédéric Dumas, became her close friend and mentor. It was under Dumas’s guidance that she dived to her first wreck, that of a Roman ship at Anthéor, later know as the Chrétienne A.

Honor Frost subsequently worked as a draftsman for an archaeological expedition led by Kathleen Kenyon at Jericho in 1957. Realising that terrestrial archaeology was not for her, Honor moved to Lebanon where, under the auspices of the Institut Français d’Archéologie in Beirut, she began to explore the ancient harbours of Byblos, Sidon and Tyre. This also marked the start of her interest in stone anchors: anchors being a key to identifying wrecks and showing trade patterns.

Artefacts from wrecks surveyed by Honor Frost in Turkey [HFA/1/13/5]

Artefacts from wrecks surveyed by Honor Frost in Turkey [MS 439 HFA/1/13/5]

In 1960, Honor was involved in the first season of the excavation off the coast of Turkey of a Bronze Age Phoenician ship. This was the first excavation of a shipwreck using techniques under the direction of underwater archaeologists, marking the genesis of scientific underwater archaeology. Between 1966 and 1967, Honor surveyed and partially excavated a Roman shipwreck, in Mellieha Bay, Malta. Among her most important projects was an expedition, sponsored by UNESCO, in 1968, which surveyed the Pharos (lighthouse) site in the Port of Alexandria. She confirmed the existence of ruins representing part of the Pharos, as well as the remains of submerged buildings representing the lost palace of Alexander and the Ptolemies, thus establishing the site’s importance.

In 1969, the Sicilian authorities and the British School at Rome appointed Honor to direct the underwater survey of an area off the coast of western Sicily near Marsala. In August 1971, her team discovered a Punic shipwreck believed to have been a “longship” (perhaps an auxiliary military supply vessel) used by Carthage in the Battle of the Aegates Islands (241BC), the last battle of the First Punic War. For several years Honor and an international team of marine archaeologists worked on the site, before eventually restoring the wreck for display in a local building requisitioned for its museum display.

Honor Frost was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1969. She was awarded a medal for pioneering submarine archaeology in Egypt by the French government in 1997, and, in 2005, the British Sub-Aqua Club presented her with the Colin McLeod award for furthering international co-operation in diving.

The Honor Frost Archive (MS 439) provides a comprehensive and meticulously collated record of Honor Frost’s archaeological work. It includes significant material for her maritime projects in France, Sicily, Malta, Egypt, and in the Eastern Mediterranean (Lebanon, Syria and Turkey), together with material relating to Honor’s research on stone anchors and photographic material recording her excavations and travels. Most importantly the archive has an especially complete record for the Marsala ship expedition.

Honor published and lectured prolifically and the archive contains original drafts and offprints of all her key publications on maritime archaeology, together with a comprehensive set of drafts of lectures, c.1961-2007.

Archaeological drawings and sketches from Lebanon and early ballet set designs from 1940 to the mid-1950s beautifully illustrate Honor Frost’s artistic skill.

Sketch by Honor Frost of buildings in Lebanon [HFA/1/9/1/1]

Sketch by Honor Frost of buildings in Lebanon [MS 439 HFA/1/9/1/1]

A prolific letter writer, the archive contains a series of correspondence that Honor maintained with other key figures in the field of underwater archaeology, including Frédéric Dumas, Lucien Basch and Paul Adam. Due to her practice of keeping drafts or carbon copies of letters sent, there is often outgoing correspondence to supplement that of letters received.

The Honor Frost Archive provides a fascinating insight into the work of a pioneering figure and will be available to researchers from 30 March 2018: See the access arrangements for the Archives and Manuscripts.

Honor Frost Archive

Honor Frost Archive

The Honor Frost Foundation seeks to promote the advancement and research of maritime archaeology.  The Centre for Maritime Archaeology provides a focus for maritime archaeological research at the University of Southampton.



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!


Happy New Year

As we ease our way into 2018, we raise a toast to a very Happy New Year.

MS 242 A800 page 51

MS 242 A800 page 51

And to help us celebrate, we have a few lines of poetry for the New Year composed by Mr Lewis for Anne, Lady Palmerston, Broadlands, 5 January 1734:

“If life’s a blessing, as we hold it dear,
‘Tis just to greet you on our new born year….
And if the skies retain in all their store
Some kindlier beams than e’er they shed before.
Be’t with peculiar joys to crown your days,
On you & yours descend those blissful rays!…”

[MS 62 Broadlands Archive BR3/81]

Happy 2018!


Christmas wishes

Watercolour from a commonplace book, 1820s, MS 242 A800 p.77r

Watercolour from a commonplace book, c. 1820s,
MS 242 A800 p.77r

We wish you all a very merry Christmas and share a snowy scene from 200 years ago. This little watercolour appears in a lady’s commonplace book, which records the author’s travels to Scotland and the East Indies, c. 1820-1825. It is filled with beautiful sketches and watercolours of places and scenes that she had visited.  Perhaps these children were playing in the Scottish snow at Christmas?

The giving of gifts has always been a priority at this time of year – and not just in modern times – as shown by the following examples from the Broadlands Archives:

BR11/24/6 Mary, Lady Palmerston, to the second Viscount Palmerston, 23 Dec 1797

Mary, Lady Palmerston, to the second Viscount Palmerston, 23 Dec 1797 MS 62 BR11/24/6

In 1797, Mary, Lady Palmerston, wrote a letter from her home at Broadlands to her husband, sending a list of Christmas presents that he might buy for their children in London. The letter is dated “Saturday night, 23 Dec 1797” so this was to be a last-minute shopping spree!!

“With respect to the children’s presents, the things they would like the best I believe would be as viz. – Harry a small tool box, Fanny a small writing box, Willy the same, and Lilly a little gold necklace. If these are too expensive, then Harry a Spanish Don Quixote, Fanny the same, Willy the Preceptor [a book of instruction] and Lilly an atlas …. with a clasp.  They know nothing of your intention but we were supposing that if we were to have the offer of presents, what we should all like.

I will not trouble you to buy any thing for me except some shoes and a book which I shall write to Walsh about – without you see a nice plated nutmeg grater which would be a great treasure.”

The list gives an insight into the characters of Mary and the children. (Was the “nutmeg grater” the fashionable gift of the day?!) And we all know how difficult it is to buy the perfect present – and keep it a secret at the same time!

Twenty years later, the question of Christmas presents was also on the mind of Emily, Countess Cowper, (who later married the third Viscount Palmerston). This time it was her brother, Frederick Lamb, who had been charged with the shopping:

Emily Cowper, Countess Cowper, to her brother Honourable Frederick Lamb, 4 January 1820, MS 62 BR29/3/1

Emily, Countess Cowper, to her brother, the Honourable Frederick Lamb, 4 January 1820, MS 62 BR29/3/1

“My dearest Fred. I got a letter from you today and a large collection of cards, some very pretty, and last week I received a very pretty gold cup, the saucer of which puzzled us a great deal.  We could not think what it was meant to represent till by daylight next day we saw the reflection in the gold. Thank you for all these things. I am sorry George sent my letter of commissions after you and that you should have taken any trouble about it for they were really not things I absolutely wanted but I could not let people go to Paris and return empty handed.  I thought it was too good an opportunity to let escape and was obliged to sit down and think what I could want, however, if they come I shall be very glad to have them and particularly the ormoulu candlestick: three candles is handsomer but I said two because I had just then seen one of two which Lady Jersey generally uses….”

I wonder what he made of that letter from his sister – and how much trouble it had been to buy all the gifts?!

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy 2018.


SUSU Sport – making history

Are you a member or supporter of Team Southampton ? You are making history!

Generations of students and staff – men and women – have built a strong sporting tradition at Southampton and you are following in their footsteps. In 2017, SUSU has 93 sports teams competing at a national level.  How will your team be remembered?

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

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

Team photos record more than names and faces – they often detail trophies, mascots, special occasions and successes, the sports-wear and sports equipment of the day. Are they formal or informal? What do they show about team spirit and pride? What about the setting – they may be taken on the pitch or show University locations and sports facilities. How does the past link to the present?

In Special Collections we hold many records relating to University teams and their achievements, from the earliest days of the Hartley Institution at the end of the 19th century – to the modern sports teams of today. They include photos, programmes, fixture lists, match reports, accounts and papers – even a rugby shirt worn by R.E.Brown, captain of the first XV in 1933-4!  Together they tell the story of sport at Southampton – an important aspect of University life.

The University Boat Club, 1962-3. MS1/7/291/22/4/125

The University Boat Club, 1962-3. MS1/7/291/22/4/125

This is the University Boat Club, 1962-3. The caption reads: “1st VIII were placed 12th out of 150 crews in the Reading Head of the River, and for the first time the University entered for Henley Royal Regatta in the Thames Cup division” MS1/7/291/22/4/125.

We have recently contributed to a project to celebrate the UK’s sporting heritage.

The aim is to bring together information about sports archives and the people who care for them. By adding details of our collections to this website we are helping to build a national list of all the sporting heritage collections in the UK.  You can use it to search by sport or location; discover what’s on; read featured articles, and more.

The Special Collections also holds manuscript and printed material relating to sport in the county of Hampshire; the sporting interests of individuals – such as Earl Mountbatten of Burma (a famous polo player) – and the sporting activities of Anglo-Jewish youth groups. You can see details of our sporting collections here: