Category Archives: Special projects

Preserving and conserving illustrations from the Printed Collections

In this week’s blog post Archives Assistant Emily Rawlings details her recent work rehousing illustrations from the Printed Collections.

As well as several hundred manuscript collections, and over 10,000 rare books, the Archives at Southampton is home to numerous prints of engravings, lithographs, etchings and woodcut illustrations from the 18th and 19th centuries. There are two collections of these: the Cope illustrations were part of the original bequest from William Cope (http://library.soton.ac.uk/cope) and provide an important visual record of the history of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. The Main Library sequence of illustrations was acquired by the Library of the Hartley Institution in the late 19th century, and covers a wide range of subjects, including portraits, landmarks, wildlife and interpretations of Biblical scenes.

The illustrations were originally housed as loose sheets in plan chests, for anyone to consult in the Special Collections Open Access reading room. This arrangement resulted in mechanical damage from poor handling as drawers were rifled through, so the decision was made to move them to the environmentally-controlled archives strongroom in the early 1990s.

Original folders stored on archives shelving

Original folders stored on archives shelving

Once moved into the secure accommodation the illustrations were assessed for preservation needs. The resulting treatment involved surface cleaning and rehousing in inert polyester wallets to protect them from further damage during handling. The original long-term proposal was to mount all the illustrations and store them in bespoke boxes. In the short-term, watercolour collections which had previously been separated by subject were reunited as collections, conserved, mounted and boxed; photographs were also removed and the prints and drawings were stored in their original folders flat on archive shelving. As an interim measure this was not successful as the folders were not rigid enough to adequately hold the slippery polyester sleeves, items that were larger than the folders were vulnerable to damage, and the folders were too large and unwieldy to move securely.

The folders provided inadequate protection for larger items

The folders provided inadequate protection for larger items

Over time individual illustrations were conserved and mounted, often for exhibition, but the plan to mount all the illustrations proved too costly in both time and materials. It was decided instead to re-house the collections in acid-free archival print boxes. These provide rigid enclosures for the prints and are lightweight to enable easy handling, as well as being easier to label and identify than the large, flat folders. Two sizes were chosen to represent the variety of supports, meaning that each collection of illustrations could be divided into two sequences according to the size of the individual prints and therefore held more securely, with less risk of damage to the smaller prints from slipping about in boxes that were too big.

Just like library books, the illustrations are classified according to subject, and they are stored in classmark order with a corresponding manual index. Re-housing the illustrations involved creating a running print-number sequence of illustrations in order of classmark, dividing up the prints into two sequences according to size, placing the prints into boxes in classmark order, and giving each box a number. As the project progressed, I maintained lists of which print numbers are in which box and made labels for each box detailing the class mark range held within.

The illustrations are now housed in the boxes, and are much easier to locate and handle safely.

Acid-free print boxes on archives shelving

Acid-free print boxes on archives shelving

The re-housing project was also an opportunity to carry out a simple condition survey of the collection to identify items requiring conservation treatment. This survey allowed a thorough inventory of the collection, which enabled cross-referencing with the manual index to check that the correct information for each print was recorded. It also gave a simple description of the condition of the collection so that a conservation plan for the illustrations could be formulated. Common examples of damage found in the collection include insect damage, surface and ingrained dirt, surface abrasion, staining and discolouration often due to acidic degradation of the paper, foxing caused by mould or bacteria, tears and lacunae to the object and damage caused by adhesion to poor quality paper supports and mounts.

Tears, dirt and discolouration to an interpretation of Passio Domini Nostri Jesu, engraved by K. Oertel [cq N 8026, print no. 440].

Tears, dirt and discolouration to an interpretation of Passio Domini Nostri Jesu, engraved by K. Oertel [cq N 8026, print no. 440].

Stains and discolouration to a lithograph of Miss Fanny Kemble, drawn on stone by R. J. Lane [cq PN 2598.K28, print no. 525]

Stains and discolouration to a lithograph of Miss Fanny Kemble, drawn on stone by R. J. Lane [cq PN 2598.K28, print no. 525]

There are many ways to treat damaged artefacts, and all treatment decisions are made after careful examination and analysis of each item. A stained and discoloured print can be washed in water and/or solvents to both reduce and remove the cause of the staining. Tears and losses can be repaired using suitable tissues and papers and conservation-grade adhesives, most commonly wheat starch paste. Conservation treatments are both time consuming and expensive: the re-housing project and the basic conservation condition survey have allowed us to plan for this as well as ensuring the preservation needs of the illustrations are met.

The alphabetical subject/author index to the illustrations can be found in the Open Access area of Special Collections, accessible whenever the Library is open. The illustrations are available for researchers to consult in the Archives and Rare Books reading room.

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Family correspondence of Sir William Temple

This week archivist John Rooney discusses his recent cataloguing of the family papers of Sir William Temple as part of ongoing work on the Broadlands archives.

Sir William Temple was the third child of Henry Temple, second Viscount Palmerston, and his second wife Mary Mee. Born on 19 January 1788, he was the younger brother of Henry John Temple, later third Viscount Palmerston. Alongside the two boys were three Temple sisters: Frances (the eldest), Elizabeth, and Mary. However, Mary, the youngest of the siblings, died when she was still a young child as a result of smallpox inoculation.

Letter from William Temple, Munich, to his mother Mary (Mee), Viscountess Palmerston, 11 July [1794]

Letter from William Temple, Munich, to his mother Mary (Mee), Viscountess Palmerston, 11 July [1794]

Section BR32 of the Broadlands archives contains letters from William Temple to his mother, his brother Henry, and his sisters Frances and Elizabeth between 1794 and 1811, covering his early life and education. It begins when William is six years old and initially consists of letters to his mother, primarily relating to family life at Broadlands. In 1798 William followed his brother Henry to Harrow School where he studied until 1803. The correspondence from this period provides insights into his life at Harrow, as he discusses his studies and social engagements, together with details of Henry’s life at the University of Edinburgh, from 1800 to 1803, and subsequent tour of the Highlands. William and Henry were to maintain a close relationship throughout their lives with many of the letters in the collection containing references to (and reflections on) the future Prime Minister’s education and early political career.

It was with the death of their father on 17 April 1802 that Henry inherited the titled of third Viscount Palmerston. The following year he attended St John’s College, Cambridge, while William proceeded to the University of Edinburgh where he studied from 1803 to 1806. Correspondence from this period contains details of William’s life at Edinburgh, including his views on the controversial “Leslie affair” in which John Leslie, a suspected atheist, was appointed to the chair of mathematics at the University over the clergyman Thomas McKnight. Letters from 1805 also contain William’s views on the British victory at Trafalgar and the death of Lord Nelson, of which he writes: “If the report I have heard is true […] the late victory gained over the combined fleets, considering the number of the enemy’s ships taken, and the inferiority of our force; seems to me to be one of the most glorious and decisive that has ever taken place. It is impossible however to contemplate it with any feelings, but what are mixed with the deepest regret, when we consider how dearly it has been purchased; purchased with the loss of undoubtedly the greatest admiral Britain, or perhaps even the whole world, has ever produced.” [BR32/10/6]

As William made the move to Cambridge in 1806, Henry (now Lord Palmerston) was busy establishing his political career. He twice ran as a Tory candidate for the University of Cambridge constituency (first in 1806 and then again in 1807) but was defeated both times. He finally entered Parliament as Tory MP for the pocket borough of Newport in June 1807 and made his maiden speech on 3 February 1808, in which he defended the recent expedition against Copenhagen. Of the speech William writes: “I was surprised to hear him speak with such fluency and with so little hesitation, as speaking at all for the first night, but particularly before so large an audience and on so important a subject must be a most formidable undertaking. He performed however with very great success, and I am very happy to find that Sir Vicary Gibbs has written to Wood mentioning Harry’s debut in high terms of commendation…” [BR32/13/1]

Broadlands, the family home of the Temple children was later inherited by Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston

Broadlands, the family home of the Temple children was later inherited by Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston

A small selection of correspondence covers the period 1833 to 1837 during which time William is serving as British ambassador in Naples (1832-56). The letters from this period are from his sisters Frances (now married to William Bowles) and Elizabeth (now married to Laurence Sullivan), and Emily Ashley Cooper, Countess of Shaftesbury, primarily concerning family life, recent events at Broadlands, and William’s life in Naples. The final two letters date from 1856, the year of William’s death, with one being from Dr. William Ferguson to Lord Palmerston concerning his attending William during his final illness. Sir William Temple died on 24 July 1856, leaving no issue.

The accompanying section BR31 consists of two letters concerning the settlement of William’s estate, including a letter relating to a major collection of antiques bequeathed to the British Museum. By the time of his death both Frances and Elizabeth had passed away, leaving Henry, the eldest, the last surviving of the Temple children.

Lauching our new website

Frequent visitors to the Special Collections website will notice the new and improved design.  It is now constructed to be fully compatible with tablets, mobile phones and other devices.

Home page of the new Special Collections website

Home page of the new Special Collections website

All the familiar features are still present including the searchable archive databases for the Guide to the Collections and the Mountbatten, Wellington and Palmerston Papers plus the Virtual Reading Room which provides access to digital images of material from the Palmerston Papers and the Anglo-Jewish Archives.

We have plans to expand our catalogues and finding aids with A-Z guides of subjects and names of individuals to help you navigate the collections.  This will build on the ten thematic guides on our website giving an introduction to sources for Jewish Genealogy, Refugees in the 20th Century, Holocaust, Sources on the 18th century, University of Southampton, First World War, Military and Political Collections, Sources about Ireland, Genealogical Sources in the Broadlands Archives and Ghettos.  There also will be a considerable expansion of the catalogues accessible online, helping you mine the riches of the collections.

Future social media plans include a Facebook page – watch this space!

Universal Children’s Day

Today, 20 November, is Universal Children’s Day in the UK and many other countries around the world.  Over 60 years ago, the United Nations encouraged all countries to promote mutual exchange and understanding among children and to initiate action to benefit and promote the welfare of the world’s children.  Universal Children’s Day is not simply a day to celebrate children for who they are, but of bring awareness to children around the globe that have suffered abuse, exploitation and discrimination.

We take the opportunity to share with you some of our holdings which relate specifically to the welfare of children.  Recent acquisitions are archives concerning a relatively little-known influx of child refugees just prior to World War II.

20080116_14

Black and white photograph of six boys in a colony; some are giving the clenched fist salute, a symbol frequently used express unity or defiance and resistance in the face of violence. [MS 370]

In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, a group of almost 4,000 children, the niños vascos, plus some teachers and priests, were evacuated to the UK from Santurce/Santurzi, the port of Bilbão/Bilbo in the Basque region of Spain.  They were part of a movement which saw some 20,000 children leave the war zone, dispersed to countries across Europe and overseas. War, hunger, revolution, counter-revolution, denunciations, persecution, summary trials and executions, and mass repression resulted in the disintegration of family and community life and forced thousands of people into exile. Homes or “colonies” were set up all over the UK, mainly in England and Wales, staffed and financed by individual volunteers, church groups, trade unions, and other interested groups. Those Guernica evacuees who remained in the UK became known as the “Basque children” and tried to keep in touch with each other.  An organisation, the Basque Children of ‘37 Association UK, was founded in November 2002 with the desire that these children should not become los olvidados (the “forgotten ones”).

The Special Collections holds archives for the Basque Children of ‘37 Association UK (MS 404), together with small collections relating to Basque child refugees (MS 370) that have come from individuals. There are also a series of interviews of niños vascos conducted as part of an oral history project undertaken by the University of Southampton: http://livesite.soton.ac.uk:1776/archives/projects/losninos.page

The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the University of Southampton, in partnership with Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, a grant for a project under its Your Heritage scheme. Led by Dr Alicia Pozo-Gutierrez and Professor Chris Woolgar, the project recorded life story interviews to document an important facet of the Spanish Civil War and its consequences.  The project looked at the experiences of the children who came to Southampton and the UK, their lives here, the question of return to the Iberian peninsula, and the complex questions that arise from transnational migration in time of conflict. The interviews were carried out by volunteers.

A book, Here, look after him, came out of the oral history project and can be purchased at the online store: http://store.southampton.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=1&catid=150&prodid=1109

You can also view an online exhibition which was produced as part of the project: http://livesite.soton.ac.uk:1776/archives/exhibitions/online/basques.page

Conserving the Wellington Papers

With a special Explore the Wellington Archive event and the 27th Wellington Lecture taking place at the end of the month, we take the opportunity to look at the ongoing work being done to conserve the Wellington Papers.

The Wellington Papers came to Southampton with a major challenge of conservation: some ten percent of the collection was so badly damaged it was unfit to handle and 10,000 documents were in a parlous condition. The University has made good progress: about seventy percent has been conserved and is now available for research, including papers for 1822 (for the Congress of Verona), for Wellington as Prime Minister in 1829 (the year of Catholic emancipation), and for some of the Peninsular War.

A campaign to raise funds for the conservation of the Wellington Papers was launched in October 2010. Grants from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, the J.Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust and the Rothschild Foundation as well as modest funding from alumni supported the conservation of the badly degraded and mould-damaged papers from 1832, which is described in this article. A current project, jointly funded by the Foyle Foundation and the University and appropriate for the bicentenary of Waterloo, is focussed on the military papers for 1815.

Conservation process

The conservators began by working with the less severely damaged materials for 1832 to enable them to develop expertise in conserving this type of exceedingly fragile material before tackling the most fragmentary bundles.

Documents were fully documented before separation. Tests carried out before treatment included fibre analysis, chemical spot tests, pH tests to determine acidity, mechanical rub tests for surface cleaning, examination under optical microscopes and UV light and tests to determine ink solubility and the extent of iron gall ink corrosion.

Papers were separated manually and collated. Separation, particularly of the most severely damaged bundles, is a painstaking and time-consuming task. In some instances papers have fused together due to compression whilst damp and great care is necessary to prevent disintegration of the paper.

Surface cleaning was undertaken where possible and where necessary individual items were given aqueous treatments, including washing supported on non-woven polyester on silk screens in cold and warm water to remove discolouration and soluble degradation products, calcium phytate treatment to stabilise iron gall ink corrosion and deacidification with calcium hydrogen carbonate. Fragments were washed alongside documents either loose or within non-woven polyester pockets. These were then realigned with the original which was lined to hold all fragments in place during the repair procedure.

The documents were repaired by leafcasting similarly toned paper pulp consisting of a blend of cotton and hemp fibres. The conservators have created a reference tool of differently toned papers that match the papers within the collection. Griffin Mill Papermakers produced a special making of handmade paper to our specification.

After humidification, pressing and resizing where necessary, documents were refolded and stored in custom made four flap folders and acid free boxes. Any fragments that could not be identified were noted, housed in melinex pockets and stored alongside the documents. Photographic documentation was made of all the processes.

To date most of the bundles of documents have been conserved using leaf casting and paper pulp repair. The expertise gained by the conservators has enabled them to concentrate on the most fragile items with work underway on the separation and stabilisation of the final 6 bundles. These present some of the most severe conservation challenges as the separation of fragmented material can take several months to complete before any treatment is possible.

Many of the fragmented bundles for 1832 are now accessible for the first time since the 1940s. This is historically very significant material as it includes the first Duke of Wellington’s papers relating to the first Reform Act. As Wellington was the leader of the Tories in the House of Lords during the progress of the Act, by enabling archivists to access and catalogue the material, the whole picture of the debate now will be available.

As noted above, on Wednesday 28 October 2015 the Special Collections will be hosting a free open afternoon in conjunction with the 27th Wellington Lecture.  It will provide an opportunity for visitors to view some of the Wellington Archive and to meet the curators. For further information and to register please go to: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/exploring-the-wellington-archive-university-of-southampton-tickets-18286477346

Archivist projects: The Cowper-Temples and the Broadlands Conference on the Higher Life

This week archivist John Rooney discusses a recent cataloguing project focusing on the Cowper-Temples and the Broadlands Conference on the Higher Life.

William Cowper-Temple, and his second wife, Georgina, were prominent figures in nineteenth-century Britain. As a member of the Liberal Party, William was MP for Hertford from 1835 to 1868 and Hampshire South from 1868 to 1880. During the course of his career he was a private secretary to his uncle Lord Melbourne, a junior minister in Lord Palmerston’s government, groom in waiting to Queen Victoria, and held positions on the Board of Health and the Board of Works. William was stepson and heir to Lord Palmerston (who was rumoured to be his natural father) and inherited a number of estates, including the Broadlands estate in Romsey, in 1868.

Photograph of William Cowper-Temple (on the left), and his second wife, Georgina, nee Tollemache (on the right).

Photograph of William Cowper-Temple (on the left), and his second wife, Georgina, nee Tollemache (on the right).

After the early death of his first wife, Harriet Alicia (nee Gurney), in 1843, William married Georgina Tollemache, sister of the first Baron Tollemache, in 1848. William and Georgina shared a strong and enduring interest in religious matters. Though never orthodox, William had been closely associated with Evangelicalism since the late 1830s. After their marriage, Georgina notes that they embarked on a search for religious truth. This led to their acquaintance with Evangelical figures such as Henry Drummond and Christian Socialists such as F.D.Maurice, Thomas Hughes and Charles Kingsley. It also led to their association with a number of unorthodox figures, including the American “theo-socialist” Thomas Lake Harris.

Georgina had a particular interest in mysticism and an eagerness to engage with spiritualism and other esoteric religions as a means of truth seeking. The death of her mother had a strong influence on her belief in a connection between earthly life and the spiritual. Despite not all their acquaintances sharing an appreciation for the practice, the Cowper-Temples mixed with leading spiritualist figures from Britain, American and Europe, and attended a number of séances (spiritualist meetings to communicate with the dead).

However, the most notable manifestation of their religious activities was to be the annual ecumenical conference held at Broadlands between 1874 and 1888. Precipitated by the Holiness movement in America, the 1870s saw the emergence of the Higher Life movement in England. Named after William Boardman’s book The Higher Christian Life (published in 1858) the main aim of the movement was to help in advancing the Christian’s progressive sanctification, and enable one to live a more holy, less sinful, life. Though principally Evangelical, the movement was seen as non-denominational. Together with William Boardman, two other key figures helping to spread the holiness message in England were Robert Pearsall Smith and his wife, Hannah, both of whom were acquainted with the Mount-Temples and were involved in the conferences at Broadlands.

The first conference took place over six days in July 1874 and was designed to deepen the work of sanctification through prayer, the reading of scripture, short addresses, and the discussion of personal experience of grace. The beautiful surroundings at Broadlands aimed to create a “foretaste of heaven” with many of the services taking place under the beeches or in the orangery. Among the hundred guests attending were George MacDonald, Andrew Jukes, Edward Clifford, Catherine Marsh, Lady Gainsborough, George Wilkinson, Stevenson Blackwood, Theodore Monod and Professor St Hilaire.

While the conferences have been criticised for being private gatherings of titled persons hosted by wealthy aristocrats, over the years they were to attract a diverse range of people from across both denominational and social divisions. James Gregory notes that “the conferences expressed hope that believers of all denominations could meet and demonstrate the validity of their belief through Christian love and ‘faith in that great and blessed truth that God loves the creatures He has made’, rather than in doctrine.”

Among the Broadlands archives held by the University of Southampton, there is a significant collection of material relating to the Cowper-Temple’s religious interests and activities (see BR43-5; 47-58). I have recently catalogued just a small section of this material (BR49-51) which contains a range of correspondence from people either attending the Broadlands conference or discussing religious and spiritual matters, including letters from R.W.Corbett, Thomas Lake Harris, Laurence and Alice Oliphant, Lord Palmerston, Hannah and Robert Pearsall Smith, and Lord Shaftesbury, among others. It also contains printed and typescript copies of testimonials, programmes for the conference (including subjects for consideration), and notes on matters such as the Christian’s relationship to the world. Finally there is a selection of William Cowper Temple’s notebooks and diaries providing accounts of séances together with his personal thoughts on religious, spiritual and health matters. As a whole, the material offers fascinating insights into the curious social and cultural world of these two intriguing Victorian figures.

Perkins Agricultural Library Digitisation Project

Although well-known in agricultural history circles the Perkins Agricultural Library remains something of a hidden treasure within the Hartley Library’s Special Collections. The Perkins Digitisation Project aims to remedy this by both increasing awareness of the collection and improving access. Catalogue records for the books are being added to WebCat, and these will contain links to freely available digital copies. Where none can be found, the Perkins books will be assessed by Conservation staff, and condition permitting, digitised by the Library Digitisation Unit. The online copies will be made available through WebCat and the Internet Archive’s Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Wild White Cattle of Great Britain

John Storer
Wild White Cattle of Great Britain
London: Cassell, [1879]
Rare Books Perkins SF 199.W4

Consisting of 2,000 books on British and Irish agriculture printed before 1900, the collection was presented to the University College of Southampton in 1946 by Walter Frank Perkins, an Honorary Treasurer of the College and a former M.P. for the New Forest. Perkins collected a wide range of books on farming, including practical handbooks, textbooks, studies of crops and livestock as well as books on the development of agricultural chemistry.

General View of the Agriculture of Berkshire

William Mavor
General View of the Agriculture of Berkshire …
London: Printed for Richard Phillips, 1809
Rare Books Perkins S 453

Initially the digitisation project will focus on nineteenth-century publications, online access to earlier titles already being available through the subscription services Early English Books Online and Eighteenth Century Collections Online. The areas to be targeted have been identified with the help of Dr Malcom Hudson and Dr Nazmul Haq from the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, and include pamphlets on the economic aspects of farming and studies of individual crops. Many of the books contain information of potential interest today on crop varieties, yields achieved and environmental conditions of the time. The agricultural handbooks also have value as historical sources, describing contemporary agricultural practices and various aspects of rural life. The series of county agricultural surveys sponsored by the Board of Agriculture between 1793 and 1817 is especially important in this respect.

The Skelton at the Plough, or, The Poor Farm Labourers of the West

George Mitchell
The Skelton at the Plough, or, The Poor Farm Labourers of the West
London: G.Potter, [187-]
Rare Books Perkins HD 1534

Perkins clearly preferred to collect books in a pristine condition, but some still show traces of their previous owners – annotations include recommendations of the best cider apples to grow and recipes for horse powders. Samples of alpaca wool are the most unusual find to date. They accompany a letter dated 1846, from William Danson of Liverpool, asking the recipient to consider using alpaca in the manufacture of velvet, and are found within William Walton’s A Memoir Addressed to Proprietors of Mountain and other Waste Lands, … on the Naturalization of the Alpaca (1843).

For information about the collection and how to access it see the Library website and the digitised books can be seen on Internet Archive.

The 26th Wellington Lecture and Cataloguing the lead up to Waterloo

The 26th Wellington Lecture, titled ‘The longest afternoon. The 400 men who decided the battle of Waterloo’, will take place on 22 October 2014 at 6pm at the Turner Sims, University of Southampton. The lecture will be delivered by Professor Brendan Simms, a professor in the History of International Relations and fellow at Peterhouse College, Cambridge. He is the author of Europe, shortlisted for the Lionel Gelber Prize.

The Wellington Arch

The Wellington Arch

Established in 1989 with an endowment from the Spanish Ambassador, the annual Wellington Lecture explores aspects of the life and times of the first Duke of Wellington, one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century.

Over the years the University of Southampton has welcomed a host of distinguished speakers to present the lecture. This year eminent academic and author Professor Brendan Simms will recount how 400-odd riflemen beat back wave after wave of French infantry, until finally forced to withdraw, but only after holding up Napoleon for so long that he lost the overall contest. Drawing on previously untapped eye-witness reports for accurate and vivid details of the course of the battle, Professor Simms will capture the grand choreography and pervasive chaos of Waterloo: the advances and retreats, the death and the maiming, the heroism and the cowardice.


The Road to Waterloo
Among the events set to mark the battle of Waterloo in 2015, the University will be hosting the Sixth Wellington Congress from 10 to 12 April. In preparation for the anniversary Lara Nelson, an archivist in the Special Collections Division, recently catalogued correspondence from the Wellington Papers focusing on the lead up to Waterloo.

“Containing approximately 100,000 items, the Wellington papers are a treasure trove for those completing research relating to the career of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington. Of particular interest is the correspondence to and from the first Duke of Wellington in the run up to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. During the first half of this year I have been cataloguing the correspondence dating from February and April 1815.

The February correspondence consists of 26 letters, covering the first Duke of Wellington’s time at Vienna as British Plenipotentiary, which he began on 3 February 1815. They cover foreign affairs such as whether Vatteline should become a part of Switzerland, the Secret Alliance Treaty made between Britain, Austria and France, and the preparation of troops in Italy in response to Murat becoming King of Rome. An item of significant interest includes a letter from Sir Neil Campbell, who was responsible for accompanying Napoleon to Elba. Dating the 29th February 1815, the letter concerns a copy of a despatch he sent to Lord Burghersh (Envoy-extraordinary and Minister-plenipotentiary at Florence), which relates to the escape of Napoleon from Elba. He instructs the Duke of Wellington to consult the despatch so as not to lose time, and to transmit it to London for the examination of Lord Bathurst (Secretary of War and the Colonies).

The April correspondence includes 255 letters, which cover the escalation of events, and the planning and organisation of the military attack against Napoleon. The letters reflect discussions on how the invasion is to be a success, and decisions made on the composition of artillery, troops and weaponry. Fascinating items include a memorandum from Sir Hudson Lowe. It provides a list of questions to be addressed to deserters and strangers coming from the direction of the operations of the Enemy’s Army. The questions include “If a deserter: To what Corps belonging? Strength of the Corps? Commander of it?”

Together the correspondence provides a detailed picture of the international events leading up to the Battle of Waterloo. Historians can be taken through the various aspects that are involved in preparing a large military attack; from preparing artillery, troops and weaponry, to determining the logistics of security maintenance and the activities of the enemy.”

Archivist projects: Cataloguing the secretary’s papers of the Jewish Board of Guardians

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, takes place from sunset on the 24th to nightfall on the 26th September 2014. To mark the occasion John Rooney, an archivist in the Special Collections Division, provides a rundown of his work on the recently completed Jewish Board of Guardians cataloguing project.

“Over the past year I have been responsible for cataloguing and indexing the letter books of the secretary of the Board of Guardians for the Relief of the Jewish Poor. The Board was established in 1859 by representatives of the three main London synagogues – the Great Synagogue, the Hambro’ Synagogue, and the New Synagogue. They were charged to constitute a Board of Guardians for the relief of poor Jewish immigrants, referred to as the ‘strange poor’, living in London. However, immediately after its formation the Board began to extend both its scope and revenues, and soon became the chief source of support for poor Jews in the city. The Board helped to keep Jews away from the English poor law, with the burden of maintaining their poor falling almost entirely on the Jewish community. The Boards capacity to both raise and disburse funds grew rapidly, particularly in response to the large influx of Russian and Eastern European Jews escaping persecution from the 1880s.

A Scheme for a Board of Guardians to be formed for the Relief of the Necessitous Foreign Poor, 1859

A Scheme for a Board of Guardians to be formed for the Relief of the Necessitous Foreign Poor, 1859

The letter books of the secretary consist of eight volumes containing correspondence, reports, press cuttings, financial statements, and other papers relating to the activities of the Board from the 1880s to the 1940s. These materials reflect the transformative nature of the Board, which continually adapted its activities to meet changing conditions and needs. The Board achieved this through a range of committees and sub-committees as well as coordinated efforts with other charitable organisations and institutions. While the primary activity of the Board was the administration of monetary relief there were other ways in which the Board provided support. Loans, for example, acted as a preventative measure to help struggling tradesmen or families from falling into pauperism. Meanwhile, the provision of financial aid for emigration assisted cases in travelling to places such as the United States or Australia, or in returning to Europe. Other activities of the Board included the administration of almshouses and convalescent homes, the training of apprentices, the running of workrooms, the provision of medical relief, as well as conducting sanitary inspections of the homes of the poor.

The Board was a philanthropic endeavour and was both established and run by prominent members of the Jewish community. In addition to materials reflecting the activities of the Board’s various committees and associated institutions, there is a significant portion of materials relating to the individuals responsible for the running of the Board. This includes correspondence dealing with the appointment and resignation of both members of the Board and its committees, as well as representatives of the Board at other public bodies. Funding of the Board was also dependent on the generosity of members of the Jewish community with a significant portion of materials relating to the provision of donations and contributions, particularly in the form of legacy bequests.

The collection includes a number of case materials. The majority of these date from the 1880s to the early 1900s and primarily relate to cases of deserted children. These include cases of children being removed from workhouses and placed in the care of Jewish families or Jewish institutions, in particular the Jews’ Hospital and Orphan Asylum in Norwood. The Board also assisted the emigration of children in cases where they could be reunited with their parents.

There are a significant number of materials relating to the Board’s provision of financial assistance for emigration. This resulted in tensions with authorities in the United States and is reflected in correspondence with the United Hebrew Charities in New York in the early 1900s. Likewise, tensions regarding the arrival of Jewish refugees into Britain are particularly evident in materials relating to the Board’s efforts to facilitate refugees from Transvaal arriving in Southampton, en route for Europe, during the Second Boer War.

Letter books of the secretary of the Board of Guardians for the Relief of the Jewish Poor

Letter books of the secretary of the Board of Guardians for the Relief of the Jewish Poor

The project involved providing item level descriptions for approximately 10,000 items. Index terms have also been provided in accordance with the NCA Rules, with UKAT and AIM25 used for the provision of standardised subject terms. Both cataloguing and indexing at an item level was essential due to the physical nature of the collection. Each of the eight volumes contains between one hundred and three hundred pages, with a large number of items attached to each page in a series of folded bundles. While the items are arranged in a general chronological order, the volumes do not contain any form of index, which has resulted in the content of the collection remaining largely obscured.

The letter books are complimented by a range of Jewish Board of Guardians materials that form part of the Archives of Jewish Care. Together these materials offer a deep insight into the activities of this pioneering Jewish charity, with its ability to adapt to the development of statutory welfare services and to meet changing social and economic conditions from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.”

Archivist projects: Cataloguing the papers of Wellington and Palmerston

Tace Fox worked as an archivist in the Special Collections Division from October 2013 to June 2014. In the passage below, she describes her experience cataloguing the papers of the Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, and Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston.

“My main project since becoming an archivist at Southampton University Special Collections has been to catalogue Wellington Papers from 1815, part of a project to mark the Battle of Waterloo next year. This has involved creating descriptions for correspondence leading up to the battle and those directly after. These are both letters to and from Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington. I can’t really say there were any downsides to this project, although there was a lot of French translation involved which has been a challenge at times for me (I would like to be able to claim fluency now but unfortunately…). A lot of contextual research was necessary to understand the history surrounding the Napoleonic Wars and the early nineteenth century. Also training in relation to the peerage system and military ranks was undertaken to ensure we captured the correct position and titles of the individual we were discussing from the letter at that point in history. This project has been a fascinating learning curve and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’m glad to have played a part in bringing this information to the public through our catalogues and database.

Signature of the first Duke of Wellington

Signature of the first Duke of Wellington

Before working on the Wellington project however, I was introduced to the Special Collections procedure for cataloguing through a smaller project working with the Palmerston papers. I was introduced to the collections by cataloguing the naval defence papers of Lord Palmerston from the mid-nineteenth century. This involved cataloguing about two boxes of material and initially asking my boss to decipher illegible handwriting (it took a little while for the paleographical skills to kick in). I was given around six weeks to familiarise myself with these papers and to write the descriptions. The collection itself consisted of a number of letters, rapports, lists and maps directed to or from Lord Palmerston. The letters were sent from a variety of sources and as a result the clarity of the handwriting differed on a grand scale. Some were beautifully written whilst others seemed almost illegible at times. However, this was a great way to introduce me to the Wellington project as the Duke of Wellington has famously terrible handwriting! Again this project was an interesting and engaging activity to be involved in and I feel I have learnt a lot from the experience.”