Category Archives: Printed Collections

Local and Community History Month – Art and Theatre in Southampton

In this week’s blog post, we continue to mark Local and Community History Month by taking a look at art and theatre in Southampton using our collections.

Hartley Institution

The Hartley Institution – the predecessor of the University of Southampton – was declared open on 15 October 1862. Comprising of a library, museum, and reading room, together with a lecture hall and classrooms, among its earliest activities were public lectures on literature, science and art.

Illustration of the arrival of Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, at the Hartley Institution for the inauguration of the Institution, 15 October 1862 [Univ. Coll. Photos LF 781.14]

Illustration of the arrival of Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, at the Hartley Institution for the inauguration of the Institution, 15 October 1862 [MS1/Phot/39/ph3021]

Art and theatre University departments

The Southampton School of Art was incorporated into the Hartley Institution in 1867 to save it from extinction. With no room for it in the Hartley Institution building, it continued in its existing premises in a single rented room in the old Victoria Assembly Rooms on Portland Terrace. From 1902 Miss E.I. Conway, aided by two part-time assistants, took on the responsibility of providing all the art courses required by the Education Department and also some general art instruction in both day and evening classes. The teaching of art came to an end with her retirement in 1925.

 Illustration of the ‘Royal Victoria Spa and Assembly Rooms, Southampton’ from Phillip Brannon, Picture of Southampton [Rare Books COPE SOU 91.5]

Illustration of the ‘Royal Victoria Spa and Assembly Rooms, Southampton’ from Phillip Brannon, Picture of Southampton [Rare Books Cope SOU 91.5]

George Leake, who was the organist at St Mary’s Church, Southampton, was made the first Professor of Music in 1920 and saw his department given faculty status in 1924. After Leake’s death in 1928, D.Cecil Williams inherited the running of the Music Department. Rather than teaching music as an academic subject, his responsibilities included providing lectures in music appreciation and conducting the annual concerts of the Choral and Orchestral Society. 

Score for ‛The Wessex suite’ for a string orchestra by D.Cecil Williams, who was appointed as lecturer in Music and then Master of Music after Professor Leake’s death [MS 101/14 UNI/2/7/91/2]

Score for ‛The Wessex suite’ for a string orchestra by D.Cecil Williams, who was appointed as lecturer in Music and then Master of Music after Professor Leake’s death [MS101/14 UNI/2/7/91/2]

University societies

Performing arts have been a regular fixture of student life. While no drama society appears to have existed prior to the opening of the Highfield campus in 1914, short plays were often performed at College entertainments. One of the earliest student societies was a Stage Society, formed in 1915.

Programme for the University College Southampton Choral and Orchestral Society production of The Pirates of Penzance, 6-7 March 1936 [MS 224/22 A952]

Programme for the University College Southampton Choral and Orchestral Society performance of “The Pirates of Penzance”, 6-7 March 1936 [MS224/22 A952/4]

From 1926 Gilbert and Sullivan operas were held annually in the old assembly hall and conducted by D.Cecil Williams, Master of Music at University College, Southampton. He was rewarded for his work in 1946 by being appointed Secretary of the Hampshire County Music Committee. 

Photograph album of the University of Southampton Operatic Society’s production of The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu performed in the University Assembly Hall, 3-6 February 1960 [MS 1 UNI/7/198/1]

Photograph of the University of Southampton Operatic Society’s production of The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu performed in the University Assembly Hall, 3-6 February 1960 [MS1 UNI/7/198/1]

By the end of the 1950s the Southampton University Jazz Club had become the University’s biggest student society. Weekly live sessions provided different styles for different tastes, with traditional New Orleans Jazz played in the Refectory and Modern Jazz played in the Terrace Room. University jazz bands included Group One, who won the Southern Semi-Finals of the International University Jazz Festival competition in 1960, and the Dudley Hyams Quintet and Apex Jazzmen, who took first and second place in the Regional Semi-Finals at Bristol in 1962. 

There are now a wide range of jazz and other music orientated groups and events at the University. Learn more about these on the Arts at University of Southampton website.

‘Music hath Charms, A Survey of a jazz club with comments from poets’, Goblio, 1955 [Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

‘Music hath Charms, A Survey of a jazz club with comments from poets’, Goblio, 1955 [Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

Art events at the University

The late 1950s and early 1960s saw an extensive expansion of the Highfield campus and a significant development in the profile of the arts at the University. The first University of Southampton Arts Festival was launched in March 1961 by Sir Basil Spence.

Photograph of Queen Elizabeth viewing an exhibition of kinetic art during her visit to the University in 1966 [Univ. Coll. Photos LF788.45]

Photograph of Queen Elizabeth viewing an exhibition of kinetic art during her visit to the University in 1966 [MS1/Phot/39/ph3371]

Art around the University

Among the developments in the arts were the formation of a Fine Art Committee in 1964 and the appointment of John Sweetman as the University’s first lecturer of Fine Art in 1967. Alongside lecturing on the history of art through the History Department, Sweetman was responsible for organising art exhibitions and managing the University’s permanent art collection, including its collection of sculptures by artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Justin Knowles.

Photograph of Puy De Dôme Figure by F.E McWilliams [MS 1/Phot/19/292]

Photograph of Puy De Dôme Figure by F.E McWilliams [MS1/Phot/19/292]

University art venues

The University’s Nuffield Theatre was officially opened on 2 March 1964 by Dame Sybil Thorndike. The national and local press heralded the opening of Southampton’s “first genuine theatre”– the city had no regular playhouse at that time – so the Nuffield would serve both ‘Town and Gown’. A flexible, multi-purpose venue, it was designed to function as a lecture hall, cinema, concert hall and theatre for both open-stage and proscenium productions. The Nuffield theatre developed a profile and reputation for innovation and quality in Southampton and beyond the city,  and as one of the country’s leading producing theatre companies, creating bold, fresh and vital experiences through theatre. On 16 February 2018, Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST), opened a second venue, NST City, in Southampton’s Cultural Quarter with the world premiere of Howard Brenton’s The Shadow Factory.

10 years at the Nuffield Theatre (Southampton, 1974) [Univ. Coll. LF 789.5N9]

Photographs of performances from the programme ’10 years at the Nuffield’ (Southampton, 1974) [Univ. Coll. LF 789.5 N9]

The expansion of the campus during the early 1960s enabled the Students’ Union to extend into the whole of the West Building, providing sufficient space to support live performances at a time when rock music was on the rise. Performers included Manfred Mann (1966), T-Rex (1968), Pink Floyd (1968 & 1969), Deep Purple (1970), The Velvet Underground (1971), Captain Beefheart (1973 & 1975), Procol Harum (1975), and Talking Heads (1978). What most people recall is the legendary gig by Led Zeppelin in January 1973. 

‘Deep Purple’, from Snapdragon, no.1, October 1970 [Univ. Coll per LF789.9]

‘Deep Purple’, from Snapdragon, no.1, October 1970 [Univ. Coll per LF789.9]

In 1967 a bequest was made by Miss Margaret Grassam Sims to build a hall for the people of Southampton. In response to strong local support for classical performance and the need for better accommodation for the University Concert Society, the Turner Sims Concert Hall was opened in 1974. The opening of Turner Sims was to transform the musical landscape of Southampton. It is now acknowledged as one of the finest music venues in the country, with a year-round programme of outstanding classical, jazz, world and folk music, as well as talks from personalities. 

Photograph of the Steinway piano viewed from the stage of the Turner Sims Hall [MS 373/A3048/4]

Photograph of the Steinway piano viewed from the stage of the Turner Sims Hall [MS 373 A3048/4]

Another key development in the arts came when the Engineering Department’s tidal model building was transformed into a contemporary art gallery. The John Hansard Gallery was formally opened on 22 September 1980 and quickly began to acquire a strong reputation. John Hansard Gallery is one of Britain’s leading public galleries of contemporary art and supports, develops and presents work by outstanding artists from across the world. In 2018 the gallery moved to a new location in the centre of Southampton, opposite Guildhall Square, as part of a new arts complex. It was officially opened on 12 May, and continues to play a dynamic role in the cultural life of Southampton and the region. 

A feasibility report and study on a new gallery for the University of Southampton [MS 428 A4250]

A feasibility report and study on a new gallery for the University of Southampton [MS 428 A4250]

Winchester School of Art was originally founded in 1860 to teach cabinet-making, embroidery and leather work. The school became part of the University’s Arts Faculty in 1996 and now stands as one of the UK’s leading art and design institutions.

Photograph of the Winchester School of Art campus [MS1/Phot/19/311]

Photograph of the Winchester School of Art campus [MS1/Phot/19/311]

Following the acquisition of the papers of the first Duke of Wellington, the Wellington Suite was officially opened on 14 May 1983. The archive was the first major collection of manuscripts to be acquired by the University, and has acted as a catalyst for further developments and acquisitions. The extension of the Hartley Library in 2004 provided an opportunity to incorporate public exhibition space as an integral part of the library environment. The Special Collections Gallery was developed for the display of material from the collections to encourage public awareness and access. Exhibitions in the neighbouring Level 4 Gallery reflect three ideas: themed links with the Special Collections exhibition programme; promotion of the research and education mission of WSA; and work celebrating the University’s contribution to the culture of the city and the region. 

Photograph of the exhibition ‘Zines’, curated by James Branch and Cui Sui, displayed in the Level 4 Gallery from 24 January to 25 March 2011

Photograph of the exhibition ‘Zines’, curated by James Branch and Cui Sui, displayed in the Level 4 Gallery from 24 January to 25 March 2011

To see more images of arts in the archives at Special Collections, please check out our online exhibition:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[MS62 Broadlands Archives BR11/11/1]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broadlands printed by Ackermann [Cope Collection]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hampshire’s Local History Champions

May is the Historical Association’s ‘Local and Community History Month’ which we will be marking with a series of blog posts. This week we take a look at two people whose interest in local studies has proved of immense value to generations of Hampshire’s local historians – Thomas Shore and Sir William Cope.

photograph of Thomas Shore

Thomas Shore (1840-1905) from Shore Memorial Volume (1911) Cope 06

Appointed in 1873 as the Secretary and Executive Officer of the Hartley Institution (the forerunner of the University), Thomas Shore effectively became its principal in 1875. He lectured on scientific and technical subjects in addition to his administrative duties and spent so much of his free time exploring the local area, that he described himself as the ‘Hampshire Tramp’. It was this passion for local studies that led to the formation of the Hampshire Field Club – which remains the most important local studies organisation in Hampshire to this day. 

photograph of Hartley Institution entrance hall showing door to Shore's office on the right

The Hartley Institution’s entrance hall with the door to Shore’s office on the right. Rare Books Univ. Coll. LF 781.15 pc1082

On 20th March 1885, Shore convened a meeting in his office at the Hartley Institution with Rev. Thomas Woodhouse, Vicar of Ropley, Rev. William Eyre, Rector of Swarraton, William Whitaker of the Geological Survey and Ernest Westlake, a geologist from Fordingbridge. They agreed that a Society to be called the Hampshire Field Club should be formed, its purpose being to study the natural history and antiquities of the county, or, as Shore later described it to fellow member, G.W. Colenutt, ‘a few of us went into my room to talk this over and we came out of the room as The Hampshire Field Club’.

HFCRules! (2)

Rules of the Hampshire Field Club from H.F.C. Press Cuttings, Programmes etc. 1885-1890 Rare Books H.F.C. q DA 670.H2

As its name suggests, visits to sites of interest were to be a key activity of the group. Arranging and leading these were amongst Shore’s responsibilities – he had become Organising Secretary in 1885 – and the visits allowed him to share his enthusiasm for all aspects of local studies. In Colenutt’s view ‘to his personality was largely due the early and continued increase in the Club’s membership and to the position it attained as a County organisation of importance and influence’.  

The H.F.C.’s early importance and influence was seen in the lobbying role it undertook particularly in relation to the preservation of local antiquities. With its headquarters in Southampton it was well-placed to object to the various proposals of the Corporation which in its view involved the ‘wilful obliteration of antiquities’. The H.F.C. voted to donate £10 towards cleaning and making accessible an undercroft in Simnel Street ‘if it were to be preserved’, objected to plans to build near West Quay, which would destroy part of the town walls and in 1899 the Club’s officers brought their influence to bear in the campaign against the Corporation’s proposal to demolish or move the Bargate, which was proving an obstacle to the new electric tram scheme. 

black and white postcard of a tram going through the Bargate

The problem caused by the electric trams was solved by lowering the road through the arch, rather than demolishing the Bargate. Cook postcard pc1622

As part of Shore’s wide-ranging role at the Hartley Institution he developed both its Museum and its Library.  On the Library side, his standing in local history circles secured for the Institution the bequest, by Sir William Cope of Bramshill, of his Hampshire Collection. Shore’s role is confirmed in a letter from George Minns, editor of the Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club, printed in the Southampton Herald of 23 April 1892. This stated that ‘we are greatly, if not entirely, indebted to the influence and promptitude of Mr Shore’ for the bequest containing many ‘priceless treasures of great local interest’. Cope had apparently conferred with Shore about the disposal of his collection and obtained his advice in the form of words to be used in the bequest.

RB_Cope_fph_BRAMI_96_COP_SirWilliamCope_fph4a_CopyJ (2)

Sir William Cope (1811-1892) Rare Books Cope fph BRAMI 96 COP

Like Shore, Sir William Cope was an incomer to Hampshire, being a distant relative of Sir John Cope, whom he succeeded as baronet in 1851. He had previously been a lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade and after being ordained as a priest, was appointed as minor canon and librarian at Westminster Abbey. Cope’s Hampshire Collection combined his passion for books with his interest in his adoptive county and by 1879 it amounted to over 700 publications, a figure which had doubled by the time of his death. Described in an obituary as ‘earnest, genial, pious and high-minded’, Cope was also said to have been a good friend of Charles Kingsley, the Rector of Eversley, the parish in which Bramshill stood. Later writers have cast some doubt on this, given Cope’s refusal to carry out any improvements at Kingsley’s damp and unhealthy rectory.

engraving of Bramshill House

View of Bramshill from George Prosser Select Illustrations of Hampshire (1834-39) Rare Books Cope quarto 91.5

When the Hartley Institution officially accepted the collection, it stood at some 1,427 books (112 fewer than those listed in the catalogue), fifty bound volumes of pamphlets, seven massive albums of engravings, and a further collection of individual prints. Then, as now, Library staff were keen to display the material and amongst the first visitors were members of the Hampshire Field Club. The April 1893 programme for their annual ‘conversazione’ at the Hartley Institution included the opportunity to view ‘books and prints from a recently arrived special collection’.

printed invitation to the conversazione at the Hartley Institution

Invitation to the Conversazione at the Hartley Institution, 12 April 1893, from H.F.C. Press Cuttings, Programmes, etc. 1885-1890 Rare Books H.F.C. q DA 670.H2

Thanks to Cope’s breadth of vision as a collector, the Cope Collection, as it is now known, is a remarkable resource for the study of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. The county histories and lavishly illustrated topographical works sit alongside well-used local directories. There are learned papers on geology, archaeology and natural history, pamphlets and local acts relate the development of canals and railways and there are many examples of locally printed items of which few copies survive. The University has continued to add to the collection and and it now amounts to over 13,000 books with additional collections of postcards and photographs.

The latter years of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth brought many developments in local studies still of benefit today. In 1886, a year after the foundation of the Hampshire Field Club, the Hampshire Record Society was set up to preserve and publish ancient records and documents relating to the county, the Southampton Record Society following in 1905. Local booksellers and publishers also played a significant part – H.M. Gilbert in Southampton was in regular correspondence with Cope, published some of Shore’s papers and also compiled the county bibliography Bibliotheca Hantoniensis (1872). Through their differing interests in local studies both Shore and Cope made valuable contributions to these important foundations for local studies in Hampshire.

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

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

Handcuffs used at Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry demonstrations

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

Student protests

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

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

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

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

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

Student sit-in in support of the grants campaign

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

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

No_Loans_MS1_19_263 (2)

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

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

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

Campaign badges of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry

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

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

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

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

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

Women's campaign for Soviet Jewry demonstration at Wembley Arena

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oswald Mosley, 1954

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

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

Memorandum of the Jewish Council Against Anti-Semitism and Fascism

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cato Street Conspiracy

Illustration of Cato Street, 1820

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sample of the handwriting of Arthur Thistlewood

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

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

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

Report from the Gentleman’s Magazine (1820):


                Wednesday, Feb.23.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “Swing” riots

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

Threatening letter from Captain Swing to the Duke of Wellington

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

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

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

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

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

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

[MS62 BR113/12/29]

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

Hand drawn map of Swing riots in Hampshire, November 1830

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[MS61 WP4/2/2/58]


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

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

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

“My dear Mary Anne,

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

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

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

Westgate Hotel, Newport, 1839

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

Ground plan of Westgate Hotel, Newport, 1839

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

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

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


The Tichborne Claimant – a Victorian Sensation

On February 28th 1874 one of the country’s longest running criminal trials ended with a swift verdict from the jury. It took the members less than thirty minutes to find that the man claiming to be Sir Roger Tichborne, heir to the title, estates and wealth of the Tichborne family of Hampshire was in fact Arthur Orton, a butcher’s son from Wapping.

Tichborne House c.1875 from Views in Hampshire v.4 no.258 Rare Books Cope double folio 91.5

The case of the ‘Tichborne Claimant’ was the talk of Victorian England with families and friends divided as to the Claimant’s true identity. As a long lost, though legitimate claimant to a Hampshire baronetcy himself, Sir William Cope naturally took an interest in the story and as the whole saga played out in the print culture of the time, he acquired examples of newspaper reports, pamphlets and ephemera for his ‘Hampshire Collection’.

So what was the Tichborne Case? In 1854 twenty-six year old Roger Tichborne was reported lost at sea en route from Rio de Janeiro to Jamaica and subsequently declared dead. On the death of his father in 1862, the baronetcy passed to his younger brother and later to his nephew, but his mother, believing rumours that some survivors of the shipwreck had been taken to Australia, maintained a hope that Roger was still alive. In response to adverts placed in Australian newspapers in 1865, a butcher in Wagga Wagga came forward, claiming to be the missing heir. Having a strong facial resemblance to Roger – though lacking his slender build – he was accepted by Lady Tichborne as her son and provided with an income of £1,000 a year. Other members of the family were not convinced, but former family servants and fellow soldiers from the Dragoons were amongst his supporters.

‘Rescue of Sir Roger Tichborne’ and ‘The Claimant’. From a series of 48 frames on 3 sheets bound into Report of an Action of Ejectment, Tichborne v. Lushington, extracted from the Morning Post v.3 (n.d.) Rare Books Cope quarto 35

To establish the Claimant’s identity a civil case was brought between May 1871 and March 1872. His failure to understand or to speak French despite Roger having been brought up in France, his inability to distinguish Greek from Latin, despite having attended Stonyhurst College and the fact that he lacked a tattoo on his arm, which Roger was known to have had led the jury to reject his claim and he was arrested for perjury. After the jury at the subsequent criminal trial found the Claimant to be Arthur Orton and not Sir Roger, he was sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment.

Evidence of the facial similarity between Sir Roger and the Claimant from: The Trial at Bar of Sir Roger C.D. Tichborne by Dr Kenealy (1875)  Cope quarto 35

After serving ten years the Claimant was released and though he tried to rekindle public interest in his claim and treatment, he was unsuccessful. In 1895 in return for a fee of a few hundred pounds he confessed to The People that he was indeed Arthur Orton – though he later retracted the confession. He died in poverty on 1 April 1898, the Tichborne family allowing a plate reading ‘Sir Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne’ to be placed on his coffin.

Sir William Cope appears to have gone to some lengths to obtain material for his collection, writing to John Coleridge, the Attorney-General, who represented the Tichborne family, to ask about the availability of printed notes of the civil case – Coleridge replied, not unreasonably, that he would require his own set for the next trial. There are volumes of newspaper reports relating to both cases, and also a seven volume description of the criminal trial by Edward Kenealy, the Claimant’s defence counsel, whose conduct during the proceedings ended his legal career. One of the volumes of cuttings also contains examples of printed ephemera including the silhouette cartoons above, a spoof playbill ‘Ballantine and Orton, or Sir Roger versus the Dodger’ and a ‘Tichborne Bond’. The Bonds were sold by the Claimant in order to raise funds when his income ceased with Lady Tichborne’s death in 1868. They guaranteed a payment of £100 should the Claimant be successful.

The ‘Tichborne Bond’. From Report of an Action of Ejectment, Tichborne v. Lushington, extracted from the Morning Post v.3 (n.d.) Rare Books Cope quarto 35

Other Tichborne items which Cope collected include the Tichborne Comicalities a series of coloured cartoons each describing incidents or people involved in the story with captions printed in verse.

Roger Tichborne from: The Tichborne Comicalities (1871) Rare Books Cope 35

The Tichborne Claimant from: The Tichborne Comicalities (1871) Rare Books Cope 35

Examples of broadsides and handbills include the poem ‘The Release of Roger Tichborne’ a verse from which refers to the Claimant’s portrayal of himself as fighting for justice in a battle with the establishment – something which went down well with the audiences on his fund-raising speaking tours, but tended to receive hostile coverage in the press.

The Release of Roger Tichborne (1872) Cope c 35

Public interest in the story was so great during the trials that souvenirs extended beyond the printed form – there were  medallions, handkerchiefs, china figures and toys – whether Cope collected any of these we do not know, but sadly there are no examples in the Cope Collection.

Pictorial Souvenir of the Great Tichborne Trial [London, 1874] Rare Books Cope cf 35

The story of the lost heir and his grieving mother, his reappearance and disputed identity, not to mention the two trials rivaled the sensation novels of the time and has since been the subject of numerous books and also a film ‘The Tichborne Claimant’ (1998).  The answer to the question of the Claimant’s real identity – something which might well be settled by a DNA test today – is usually the same as that given by the two juries – that he could not be Sir Roger Tichborne.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southampton in the 1920s

As we enter the 2020s we take a look at what the Cope Collection can reveal about 1920s Southampton.

The High Street from: Greetings from Southampton (192-) Cope cabinet SOU 91.5

The theme running through most contemporary publications is that of expansion. The map below, taken from the memoir by Sir Sidney Kimber, a prominent figure in local government, shows the town almost doubling in size in 1920 with the addition of Woolston, Weston, Sholing, Peartree, Bitterne and Swaythling. This brought an increase in population of 31,200, but more importantly made a further 4,560 acres of land available to the Council for the houses it was able to build under the Housing Acts of 1919 and 1924.

From: Sidney Kimber Thirty-Eight Years of Public Life in Southampton 1910-1938 (1949) Cope SOU 31

Its progress was recorded in Housing Schemes carried out in the County Borough of Southampton (1930). The new estates for low paid workers were intended to replace the overcrowded slums of the town centre and to cope with a general increase in the population. Work began on the Burgess Road estate in 1926, with 1,164 houses being built by 1929, but despite this and the other schemes, there were still 5,400 unsatisfied applications for council houses in that year.

From: Housing Schemes carried out in the County Borough of Southampton (1930) Cope SOU 30

Many of the projects designed to improve the town in the 1920s were instigated by Sir Sidney Kimber and recorded in his memoir Thirty-eight Years of Public Life in Southampton 1910-1938 (1949). His proposal for a ‘civic centre’ at West Marlands was opposed by Tommy (Thomas) Lewis, leader of the Labour councillors, who argued that housing for the working classes should take priority. The proposed location was also an issue, being described as an ‘obscure hole’, but eventually in return for an undertaking that 2,000 council houses would be built, the plan was approved and the foundation stone for the Civic Centre was laid in 1930.

Sidney Kimber From: Sidney Kimber Thirty-Eight Years of Public Life in Southampton 1910-1938 (1949) Cope SOU 31

Dock handbooks show that plans for expansion were not confined to the Borough Council. Southern Railway, the dock owners, were planning improved facilities for both cargo ships and the lucrative passenger trade.

The Floating Dock from: Southampton Docks: Handbook of Rates, Charges and General Information (1926) Cope q SOU 43.1

The Floating Dock, inaugurated by the Prince of Wales in June 1924, was the largest in the world and at 960 ft long, 134 ft wide and 70 ft high, it could accommodate the largest liners. Its U-shaped hollow steel walls were filled with water to lower it so that ships could enter, the water being pumped out again to raise it.

Even as the Dry Dock was being built, the Board of Southern Railway was planning a more permanent form of expansion, seeking powers to reclaim the mudflats between the Royal Pier and Millbrook Point. The plan below shows the extent of the land reclamation, a total of 407 acres, with a frontage of 2 miles. Work began on the scheme,which was to cost £13 million, in 1927 and it was completed by 1934.

Mudland to be Reclaimed from: Southampton Docks: Handbook of Rates, Charges and General Information (1928) Cope q SOU 43.1

The port had received a boost in 1919 when Cunard made it the terminus for its New York passenger services – the Mauretania sailing from Southampton for the first time on 6 March 1920. Not only could passengers avail themselves of shipping services, the town also led the way with the formation of the country’s first marine airport at Woolston. In 1923 a regular flying boat service to the Channel Islands was established by the British Marine Air Navigation Co. which used three Supermarine Sea Eagles designed by R.J. Mitchell. In 1929 local pride was in evidence when a Supermarine S.6 won the Schneider Trophy – awarded to the winner of a race for seaplanes and flying boats, and staged that year at Calshot.

The Schneider Trophy Contest 1929: Programme Cope 43.4

In contrast to the books which focus on the town’s achievements, thanks to Professor Percy Ford, of University College Southampton, there are also studies of what life was really like for many of its residents. Southampton: a Civic Survey (1931) published for the Southampton Civic Society and edited by Professor Ford was intended to present information relevant to town planning and included chapters by him on ‘Employment and Income’ and ‘Population, House Density and Health’.

Oriental Terrace from: Southampton: a Civic Survey (1931) Cope q SOU 40

Ford’s own book Work and Wealth in a Modern Port: an Economic Survey of Southampton (1934), based in part on a survey carried out in 1928, was designed as a contribution ‘to our knowledge of poverty, its incidences and causes’. It describes Southampton’s main industries, other sources of employment, the labour market and income and poverty in the town, highlighting the effects of the lack of regularity and stability of employment for those working in the docks and shipping industries. In the docks, labour was casualised and shipping and ship repair work, seasonal.

Table of Income Grades from: Percy Ford Work and Wealth in a Modern Port: an Economic Survey of Southampton (1934) Cope SOU 40

Significant events in the life of the town were often recorded in postcards, photographs and ephemera.

On Saturday 6th November 1920, the Cenotaph, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Major-General Jack Seely. Its cost was borne by a public subscription and controversy arose when it became apparent that many names had been omitted. These were added in subsequent years, but despite contributions from the Jewish community, the names of fallen Jews could not be included owing to the presence of a prominent cross on the monument.

The Cenotaph, November 1920 Cook Postcards pc 1873

Earlier the same year, the 300th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower had been celebrated on Saturday 24th July. Events began with a lunch for 300 at the Pier Pavilion, followed by a Historical Pageant Play, John Alden’s Choice, staged on the quay near the Mayflower Memorial and watched by 2,000 spectators from a specially built grandstand. The day ended with a Water Carnival.

Myra Lovett John Alden’s Choice: a Pageant Play (1920) Cope SOU 81

Photographs also record diversions such as charabanc outings arranged by churches, pubs and places of work, and for football fans the early 1920s were years of great success with Saints joining the Third Division of the Football League in 1920 and being promoted to the Second Division at the end of the 1921/22 season.

Crown and Sceptre Outing, 3 August 1921 Rare Books Cope Photographs ph 2701

Southampton Football Club, Third Division Team (1921) Rare Books Cope Photograph ph 2730


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

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

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

Captain William Mogg [MS45 AO183/6]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prince Alexander of Battenberg [MS62 MB3/52]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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