Tag Archives: Duke of Wellington

Gifts sent to the Duke of Wellington

Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, victor of Waterloo, was a celebrated public figure. His official correspondence, safely stored in the strongrooms at the University of Southampton, bears witness to the fact that members of the public wrote to him about everything and anything. As well as this, the lucky man received a barrage of gifts! In reality, this was not as good as it first sounds; as we discussed in a previous post on the matter, he was so overwhelmed that he was required to direct staff at Apsley House, his London residence, to refuse all packages. Of course, not all the “gifts” he received were straightforward; many people sent items to Wellington with ulterior motives, as we will soon discover.

A true gift is something given willingly, without payment. Some of the items sent to the Duke appear to be genuinely that: no strings attached. On 3 March 1831, W.Thorpe of Manchester informed the Duke he was sending him one hogshead of cannel [coal] to Apsley House. Thorpe stated that while he had a very large family and a small income, he intended sending a portion of cannel to the Duke every winter as he is indebted to the Duke for “the comfort I enjoy by my fireside”. In his reply, the Duke is grateful but unable to accept gifts and wishes to know how to send payment. [WP4/3/4/11]

Some people chose to send medical supplies to Wellington. This includes J.R.King of Bath who in October 1841 followed up his delivery of a box of lozenges by asking whether the product was efficacious. Does it seem callous to suggest that some people might have ulterior motives in sending these gifts? Wellington’s approbation of your product would be hugely significant; the Duke was nobody’s fool and was acutely aware of the significance of his patronage. [WP2/79/70]

The Duke received his fair share of consumables. William Spicer sent blackberries in August 1842 [WP2/90/98]. Another delivery contained a three brace of partridges from Mr Lowndes of Dover in January 1830. Charles Culling Smith, London Customs — the intermediary — notes that Lowndes is a good politician who admires Wellington as a statesman and a soldier. [WP1/1084/4 and reply WP1/1090/12]

Samuel Triscott [WP2/84/23-4 27] sends a cask of arrowroot from Bermuda and from Sir John Hobhouse, a sample of Assam tea [WP2/73/170-1] along with a note. At this time arrowroot was used in biscuits, puddings, jellies and cakes. When boiled with beef tea or milk it was considered an easily digestible food for children and people with dietary restrictions. Triscott and Hobhouse are not just sending free gifts but aiming to generate trade.

MS 62 Wellington Papers 2/73/171

Other more substantial deliveries include two Shetland ponies send by Thomas Edmundston of Buness in Shetland in August 1842 [WP2/91/32]

Three ponies standing in a field under an oak tree. Etching by J. Scott after B. Marshall. Credit: Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

At Christmas 1841, the Duke received a boar’s head from Ernest Augustus the King of Hanover. This letter caused us some consternation! Should it be included with the blackberries and partridges as food? Or as miscellaneous other?! And, most importantly, what sort of state was it in when it got to the Duke having been sent from Germany? [WP2/73/92-3

The Hanoverian King hadn’t gone all “Godfather” on the Duke: there really is a Boar’s Head Feast Christmas festival. This ancient tradition of sacrificing a boar and presenting its head at a Yuletide feast may have roots in Germanic paganism. In fact, it’s still celebrated in some public schools and parts of America. Fortunately, we now have no idea respecting the whereabouts of the aforementioned boar’s head; we have no idea what the Duke did with it but hope it’s long been disposed of!

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.


Highfield Campus 100: 1950s

It’s a University!

The 1950s saw the move for Southampton obtaining university status gain ground more rapidly than anticipated.  In 1952 Southampton became the first university to be created in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, receiving its royal charter on 29 April of that year.

Blazer with badge of the University crest, 1950s [MS310/26 A1073]

In announcing that the University had come into existence, Sir Samuel Gurney-Dixon noted to the Council “those who in the past had worked long and hard to create the tradition and the conditions which had made this possible, in particular Dr Claude Montefiore, Alderman J.S.Furley and the late Principal, Mr Kenneth Vickers”.

The Duke of Wellington was appointed as the first Chancellor of the University, with Sir Robert Wood its first Vice Chancellor and Professor Forsey Deputy Vice Chancellor.  The University of Southampton Act which transferred all rights to the newly created University, received its Royal Assent on 6 May 1953. On 3 July the ceremonious installation of new Chancellor, the Duke of Wellington, took place at the Guildhall in Southampton.

Part of a congratulatory letter from the University of Manitoba

As well as representatives of many overseas universities attending the event, delegates from various universities presented their addresses of congratulations to the Chancellor at Connaught Hall.  A garden party was held at South Stoneham House –  at which a message carried in relay by members of the Southampton Athletics Union from the Chancellor of the University of London was presented to the Duke of Wellington – and in the evening the Chancellor hosted a dinner for the first honorary graduands of the University.

A message from the Chancellor of the University of London to the Duke of Wellington presented by Peter Holdstock of the Athletics Union at the garden party, 3 July 1953 [MS1/7/291/22/4]

It could be said that the decade started quietly with no major developments; yet by the end of the 1950s Southampton had embarked on a major expansion which was to continue well into the next decade. In 1952/1953, the number of students at the University was 935, rising to over 1,300 by the end of the decade. As it became apparent that a permanent increase in a university population could be expected, and that provincial universities would need to expand to take these increased numbers, the University began to proceed with its building programme and planning for future developments over the period 1957-67. Sir Basil Spence, the designer of Coventry Cathedral, was the consultant architect for the layout of the expanded University and for a number of buildings constructed  in this period.

The main building projects in the early part of the decade were the completion of the remaining blocks of Glen Eyre Hall in October 1954 and the conversion of a purchased site into the botanic gardens, supported by a donation from the former Mathematics’ lecturer Miss Annie Trout. By the late 1950s a number of building projects were in hand, some to be completed in 1960 onwards. The new Economics block was opened by Emeritus Professor Percy Ford in October 1959, whilst in December of that year Sir Samuel Gurney-Dixon opened the Library extension, the Gurney-Dixon building to extend library space to 400 user places and to accommodate 150,000 books.

Gurney-Dixon Library extension, 1959

With the acquisition of University status in 1952/3, changes were introduced to departmental structures and to courses as the University began to  issue its own degrees. In 1953, the Department of Legal Studies became the Faculty of Law, offering University degrees rather than preparation for Law Society examinations.

During the decade a number of new chairs were created: for German (Dr W.I.Lucas) and Geography (Dr F.J.Monkhouse) in 1953; in 1957 in Engineering as Dr P.B.Morice became Professor of Civil Engineering; in 1958 for Economic Theory and Geology; and in 1959 in Modern History (J.S.Bromley), Theoretical Mechanics (Dr Bryan Thwaites) and Engineering (Dr L.G.A.Sims).

Other staff changes saw the departure of some long serving members of the University. Professor George Frank Forsey, resigned as Chair of Classics in 1954: he was replaced by Professor H.C.Baldry. Professor Neil Kensington Adam who had been responsible for development of the Chemistry Department stepped down after nearly twenty years service. And in 1957 Frank Templeton Prince, who was a reader in the Department of English, was appointed as Chair of English to replace Professor B.A.Wright.

Whilst it has been observed that there was more of a gender balance of male and female students at Southampton than some other universities, this was not reflected across all of the university.  There were, for instance, as one student recalls, no female post-graduate students in chemistry at Southampton during the period 1955-8. Indeed there was only one female member of staff in Chemistry at that time – Dr Ishbel Campbell.

Department of History graduates, 1959 [MS310/23 A1048]

Student life was still governed by a certain formality in this period. Students at Glen Eyre halls of residence were expected to attend dinner in the dining hall at 7pm on weekdays and for lunch at 1pm on Sundays. A former student noted that  “it was still an era when all students were required to wear a black academic gown at dinner in the evening”.

Signed programme for the University College Drama Society’s production of Hamlet, 1950 [MS416/15 A4311]

The Students’ Union was to be the hub of most student activities. Student societies encompassed a range of faculty and departmental societies, including Engineering, Law and Geography, alongside union societies such as the Camera Club, Choral, Debating, Jazz and Operatic Societies, the Organ Club, the Scottish and Old Time Dance Society and the Theatre Group. The Athletics Union supported clubs ranging from athletics, cross country, fencing, lacrosse to mountaineering, rugby, sailing and tennis.

Scottish and Old Time Dance Society, 1951 [MS224/16 A943/1]

Held on Shrove Tuesday each year, the annual Rag Day included a procession of tableaux on lorries, with a trophy awarded to the winning hall or society.

Rag day procession, 1957 [MS310/23 A1048]

As former student Peter Smith recalls: “The annual Rag Day was a highlight of the Winter term … Somehow the townsfolk tolerated generously the antics of the students in fancy dress out collecting money, including in the afternoon a procession of decorated floats on lorries lent by local firms… The Engineers were always very prominent during Rag – they were often accompanied by their human skeleton mascot “Kelly”…. There was always an annual Rag Ball … at the Guildhall and a revue format.”

Engineers Society with the mascot “Kelly”, 1956 [MS224/14 A941]

There were a wide range of other activities on offer in the student calendar. Dances ranged from the regular Saturday night dances at the Union called “hops”, to the formal Union ball at the Guildhall in Southampton in February, featuring a dance programme of quicksteps, waltzes and foxtrots. Societies produced performances and production of plays and shows and at Glen Eyre halls of residence the annual Christmas pantomime was written and produced by students.

The Union Ball, 1959 [MS310/23 A1048]

As the University moved into the 1960s it was already embarked on its ambitious programme of expansion, leading to a new and exciting phase in its development. To find out more about life at the University in the 1960s look out for the next blog in June.

In the company of Wellington

On St Patrick’s day we mark the anniversary of the arrival of the Wellington Archive at Southampton in 1983. Since then, the Special Collections has acquired a wide range of material that relates to this archive and we take the opportunity to explore some of these.

Part of Wellington Archive

Part of Wellington Archive

The Wellington Archive [MS61] represents the political, military and official papers of Wellington, so collections that provide a more personal perspective on the Duke are always of interest. Christopher Collins entered Wellington’s service in 1824 and worked as his confidential servant for the remainder of the Duke’s life. Amongst the papers in this collection [MS69] are notes and letters from the Duke issuing instructions about ordering straps with buckles and boots, arrangements for mending razors, for preparations for his room at Walmer Castle and the cleaning and maintenance of uniforms.

Note from Wellington to Collins sending instructions for preparing his room at Walmer Castle, 1838 [MS69/2/15]

Note from Wellington to Collins sending instructions for preparing his room at Walmer Castle, 13 September 1839 [MS69/2/15]: “have some fire in my room; some hot water for tea; and some boiling sea water for my feet”.

Collins kept a notebook listing the Duke’s diamonds, ceremonial collars, field marshal batons and coronation staves, 1842 [MS69/2/1] and amongst the objects in the collection are the blue ribbon of the Order of the Fleece and the red ribbon of the Order of the Bath which belonged to Wellington [MS69/4/11-12].

Red ribbon of the Order of the Bath [MS69/4/11]

Red ribbon of the Order of the Bath [MS69/4/11]

Collins also kept notes on Wellington’s health [MS69/2/3] and the collection includes a number of recipes, such as one for “onion porage” to cure “spasms of the chest and stomach”, 1850, below.

Recipe for "onion porage" [MS69/4/19]

Recipe for “onion porage” [MS69/4/19]

Three letters from Wellington to William Holmes, Tory Whip, in December 1838 [MS272/1 A9231/-3], likewise deal with the Duke’s health and in particular reports in the Morning Post about this. The Duke complained in a letter of 22 December 1838: “If people would only allow me to die and be damned I should not care what the Morning Post thinks proper to publish. But every devil who wants anything writes to enquire how I am.”

A small series of correspondence of Wellington, and Deputy Commissary General William Booth, which is a more recent acquisition, provide some insight into the management of Wellington’s estates at Waterloo, 1832-52 [MS414].

Illustration of the Duke of Wellington [MS351 A4170/9]

Illustration of the Duke of Wellington [MS351 A4170/9]

A number of military archive collections, including some of officers who served with Wellington, now join company with the Wellington Archive at Southampton. Papers of Sir John Malcolm, 1801-16, [MS308] provide important evidence for Wellington in India, at a formative stage of his career, in comparatively informal and personal correspondence with a friend and political colleague; it includes Wellington’s letters written in the field throughout the Assaye campaign. MS321 is composed of seven volumes of guardbooks of correspondence and papers of Lieutenant Colonel John Gurwood, who was editor of Wellington’s General Orders and Dispatches. The collection relates to Gurwood’s military career as well as his editorial work.

Letter from Gurwood to his mother in which he reports he led the "forlorn hope" at Ciudad Rodrigo, 20 January 1812 [MS321/7]

Letter from Gurwood to his mother in which he reports he led the “forlorn hope” at Ciudad Rodrigo, 20 January 1812 [MS321/7]

Sir Robert Hugh Kennedy served as Commissary General of the forces commanded by Wellington in the Iberian Peninsula, with Sir John Bisset serving in Kennedy’s stead in 1812, and their collection of letter books, accounts and other papers cover the period 1793-1830 [MS271], providing evidence of the work of this department during military campaigns over this period. An order book of the general orders of Sir Edward Barnes, Adjutant General of the army in Europe, 10 May 1815 – 18 January 1816, covers the period of the battle of Waterloo and the allied occupation of France [MS289]. And the diary of George Eastlake, recording a visit to northern Spain with Admiral Sir Thomas Byam Martin in September 1813 to discover Wellington’s requirements for naval assistance, provides details of Wellington’s headquarters at Lesaca as well as the army camp at Bidassoa [MS213].

A journal sent by General Francisco Copons y Navia to the Duke of Wellington details the operations undertaken by the Spanish First Army for the period 2-20 June 1813 in relation to those of General Sir John Murray. Murray had landed with a British force at Salou in Catalonia on 3 June and laid siege to Tarragona [MS253].

"Journal du blocure de la place de Barcelonne" [MS360/1]

‘Journal du blocure de la place de Barcelonne’ [MS360/1]

Formerly part of a larger series of documents, Special Collections holds two booklets, signed by F.Mongeur, the Commissaire Ordonnateur for Barcelona, at Perpignan on 3 June 1814, that relate to the administration of Barcelona in 1814. The first, the ‘Journal du blocure de la place de Barcelonne’ has a daily record from 1 February to 3 June 1814 of the French forces [MS360/1]. The succeeding document in the series is a general report, in French, on the administration of the siege of Barcelona by the armée d’Aragon et de Catalogne, between 1 January and 28 May 1814, which gives details of the period of the evacuation of the place, as well as of the food and consumption of foodstuffs and expenditure on supplies during this period. There is a detailed analysis of the composition of the forces, the different corps of troops, companies and detachments making up the garrison at Barcelona [MS360/2].

Signature of Daniel O'Connell, 1815 [MS64/17/2]

Signature of Daniel O’Connell, 1815 [MS64/17/2]

Material relating to politics in the Wellington Archive is paralleled by that within a number of significant other collections at Southampton. The archive of the Parnell family, Barons Congleton [MS64] which contains extensive material relating to Irish politics. Amongst the papers of Sir John Parnell, second Baronet, is material for the Union of Ireland and Great Britain, whilst the papers of the first Baron Congleton include material about Roman Catholic emancipation.

Letter from Daniel O'Connell to Sir Henry Parnell, 13 June 1815 [MS64/17/2]

Letter from Daniel O’Connell to Sir Henry Parnell, 13 June 1815, relating to Catholic emancipation [MS64/17/2]

The Broadlands Archives [MS62] also contain much on British and Irish politics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as papers of two nineteenth-century Prime Ministers in the form of Lords Palmerston and Melbourne. A collection of correspondence between John Wilson Croker and Palmerston for the period 1810-56 [MS273] includes much on political, military and official business. Papers of Wellington’s elder brother, Richard, Marquis Wellesley, include material relating to his tenure as ambassador in Spain, 1809, and as Foreign Secretary, 1809-12 [MS63].

Letter from Simon Bolivar to Lord Wellesley, 22 January 1811 [MS63/9/7]

Letter from Simon Bolivar to Lord Wellesley, 22 January 1811 [MS63/9/7]

Since its arrival in 1983, which also heralded the development of the Archives and Manuscripts as a service, the Wellington Archive has acted as an irresistible draw to other collections to join its company.

To find out more about Wellington, or research that has drawn on the collections held at Southampton, why not join us at this year’s Wellington Congress. Registration is open until the end of March.

Sir Marc Brunel (1769-1849) and the Duke of Wellington

The Wellington Papers held by the Special Collections, Hartley Library, contain extensive correspondence with Marc Brunel, born in France in 1769 and the father of the more celebrated Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Marc was also a gifted and innovative engineer whose most famous project was the Thames Tunnel, the first successful tunnel ever to be built under a body of water, and for which achievement he was knighted by Queen Victoria. This year is the 250th anniversary of his birth.

Marc’s first major contact with the Duke of Wellington was after the financial failure of his project to construct boot-making machinery for the army, although he had previously corresponded with him on other projects including a plan for a new bridge at Rochester in 1819-20. The demand for boots collapsed after Waterloo, which resulted in Marc’s incarceration for 88 days in 1821 in a debtor’s prison, along with his wife Sophia. He felt that he had been treated very unfairly by the Government, and appealed for help to the Duke, who managed to secure a grant of £5000 to obtain his release. Wellington wrote to Charles Arbuthnot in July 1821 “..Mr Brunel has rendered most important services to the public in all departments of the state whose business is to superintend the provision of the equipments for carrying on war” [MS 61 WP1/673/3].

Marc Brunel’s many other inventions included a stocking knitting machine, improvements in printing and Liverpool’s first floating landing stage. Another major achievement was his improved block-making machinery for the Admiralty, pulley blocks being essential parts of rigging on sailing vessels, and the reason he first came to England in 1799. In September 1821 he sent drawings of two chain bridges to the Duke of Wellington with a letter explaining his reservations about the design of the first, and why he believed his own design was superior.

Drawing of two chain bridges by Marc Brunel [MS 61 WP1/679/8]

Drawing of two chain bridges by Marc Brunel, 1821 [MS61 WP1/679/8]

The Special Collections holds a number of letters, including drawings, from Marc Brunel concerning the Thames Tunnel. The Tunnel was planned to link Rotherhithe and Wapping and Marc designed an ingenious tunnelling shield to achieve this. This idea is the basis of modern tunnelling shields, including that used in the Crossrail project under London. Brunel’s original patented design was circular, but unfortunately, partly due to lack of funds, a rectangular shield was adopted for the Thames, allowing disastrous inundations.

Tunnelling shield: drawing by Marc Brunel, 1838 [MS 61 WP/2/49/34]

Tunnelling shield: drawn by Marc Brunel, 1838 [MS61 WP/2/49/34]

Letter from Brunel relating to tunnelling shield, 1838 [MS61 WP2/49/33]

Letter from Brunel relating to tunnelling shield, 1838 [MS61 WP2/49/33]

“I may, I presume, take the liberty of saying a word from our Region (1of morning). All is going on well here; but it is through an expedient applicable to the emergency. Emergencies I may say. Pelted as we have been by the River with all kind of missiles besides water, I have resorted to protection which I frequently illustrate by the Blinds of your Grace’s windows. . . . Every one of the boards may be unhinged easily without affecting the stability of the rest.”

Lithograph showing men at work in the tunnel from Marc Brunel A new plan for tunnelling

Lithograph showing men at work in the tunnel from Marc Brunel A new plan for tunnelling [Wellington Pamphlet 1094]

Work began on the tunnelling project in 1825, but suffered many setbacks and was not completed until 1843. The ground under the river did not consist of the solid clay that had been hoped for, but included water-bearing sand and gravel. This caused a number of very dangerous inundations, one of which carried away the young Isambard Kingdom Brunel who was assisting his father with the project, and causing him serious injuries. Working conditions were made even worse by the state of the river at that period, which was little more than an open sewer, causing much sickness among the workmen. Throughout the project, Marc Brunel kept the Duke of Wellington informed of its progress, as on 1 September 1837 when work had just resumed after another inundation.: “It is from the lowest regions of the Thames that I have the honor of addressing you. … [I] found the Shield undisturbed and not one brick missing to the structure”. [MS61 WP2/47/65]

Plan of the Wapping shaft: drawn by Brunel, 1842 [MS61 WP2/83/12]

Plan of the Wapping shaft: drawn by Marc Brunel, 1842 [MS61 WP2/83/12]

The last letter that we hold from Marc Brunel is dated March 1844 [MS61 WP2/118/15], when the tunnel was complete except for the carriageways to the entrances. Brunel requests a pension from the government, and outlines his long career:

“I came to this country five and forty years ago. In 1802 I erected . . . the Block Machinery at Portsmouth, which remains to this hour successfully at work . . . I was subsequently employed in erecting Saw Mills on a new principle in both Woolwich and Chatham Dock Yards. . . .Several other mechanical inventions, the Great Circular Saw, now so extensively used, the Cotton-winding machine, which led to the general use of cotton thread, are also instances if improvements of which I am the Author.”

Wellington has written a draft reply across the letter:: “[The Duke of Wellington] is the Commander in Chief of the Army … not the President of the Board of Trade. He has no control over the Public Purse.” The Duke received a great many requests of this nature, and had there are many other examples of such replies.

Reply from Wellington to Brunel, 29 March 1844 [MS61 WP2/118/15]

Draft of reply from Wellington to Marc Brunel, written across the top of the letter, 29 March 1844 [MS61 WP2/118/15]

Marc Brunel’s tunnel under the Thames is still in use today as part of London’s railway network. Trains began running here in 1869, although the tunnel was originally intended for horse-drawn traffic and pedestrians. Brunel was unable to construct the carriageways down to the tunnel as the money had run out, but pedestrians were able to access it by a spiral staircase.

Some of the Brunel items feature in the new Special Collections exhibition The Leonardo link: image-making from anatomy to code which will open on Monday 18 February.

The Accession of Queen Alexandrina Victoria I, 20 June 1837

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remembering Wellington and Waterloo

Waterloo Road, Southampton

Waterloo Road, Southampton

In the aftermath of the battle of Waterloo, both the first Duke of Wellington and the battle were to receive many marks of public recognition. Streets, buildings and public places were named after them. The Percy Histories, published in 1823, identified in London 14 places named after Wellington and 10 sites named after Waterloo. When the first portion of what is now called Regent Street was built in 1815-16, it was called Waterloo Place. One of the new bridges built over the Thames between 1813-19 became Waterloo Bridge. London Waterloo Station was opened  in 1848 by London and South Western Rail as Waterloo Bridge Station.

The Wellington Arms, Southampton

The Wellington Arms, Southampton

Pubs and inns also were given Wellington’s name, including the hastily renamed Hotel Wellington on the battlefield of Waterloo in 1815, and pubs today continue this tradition. Couples in the nineteenth century chose to name their boys Arthur Wellesley in honour of the Duke, just as children were named after Winston Churchill in a wave of patriotic pride in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Fêted as the “saviour of Europe”, Wellington received not only honours and funds granted to him by Parliament to purchase an estate, but was the subject of numerous paintings, statues and monuments, such as the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner in London.

Headed notepaper containing a depiction of the Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London [MS61 WP2/150/61]

Headed notepaper containing a depiction of the Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London [MS61 WP2/150/61]

Wellington appeared in many caricatures — up to 5% of the collection at the British Museum, London — 300 paintings and drawings and 180 published engravings. He also appeared on a range of merchandise, everything from tea sets to snuff boxes.  His achievements, usually in the military field, were recorded in other commemorative items, such as the Wellington Alphabet sent to him in 1836.  Starting with Assaye, the Alphabet concludes with the lines:

“W for Wellington and Waterloo! / What boundless praise to that great name is due / Which there subdu’d the proud and stubborn heart / Of that ambitious tyrant Bonaparte, / The peace of Europe thus accomplished / And left no field unwon for X Y Z.”

The Wellington Alphabet, sent to the Duke in 1836 [MS61 WP2/43/90]

The Wellington Alphabet [MS61 WP2/43/90]

While his military image was to be tarnished in his lifetime by periods of unpopularity with the general public, there was a great outpouring of grief at his death in 1852.  Wellington was rediscovered as a great national hero by the early Victorian public and was accorded a state funeral on a lavish scale attended by massive crowds. For a period he was again elevated to the status he had enjoyed in 1815. The Times wrote in his obituary that “He was the very type and model of the Englishman”, whilst Queen Victoria declared him “the GREATEST man this country ever produced”.

The interest in the funeral was great. The funeral issues of The Illustrated London News of 20 and 27 November 1852 sold two million copies. There was hardly enough room for those attending the funeral and the whole of the funeral procession route was thronged with people.  Shops along the Strand rented out their shopfront, roofs or upper stories. For those who were not able to attend there were memorial services held in churches around Great Britain and at 3pm bells began tolling in every parish church across the country.

Duke of Wellington funeral procession from Apsley House, London

Funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington from Apsley House, London: The Illustrated London News

The outpouring of grief, the discussions on Wellington’s greatness and symbolism as a national hero, that surrounded his death and funeral represented the mythologising of the Duke. Ode on the death of the Duke of Wellington by the Poet Laureate, Tennyson, which appeared two days before the funeral, commemorated Wellington as the “greatest Englishman”, “as great on land” as Nelson was a commander at sea and the “foremost captain of his time”. The first edition of 10,000 copies of this were sold at one shilling a piece and sold out very quickly. Other commemorative works produced in this period were to cast Wellington in similar heroic terms – for Thomas Carlyle he was a “Godlike man”.

Funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington, Somerset House

Funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington on the Strand: The Illustrated London News

Whether the names of Wellington and Waterloo resonate in the same way in the twenty first century, their legacy is still very much in evidence today in the towns and cities of the UK and further afield.

If you wanted to discover more about Wellington and Waterloo remembered, why not join the (MOOC) Massive Open Online course relating to Wellington and Waterloo, led by Karen Robson from Special Collections and Professor  Chris Woolgar from Humanities.  To sign up go to: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/wellington-and-waterloo

Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London

Wellington and Waterloo events – June 2017

Wellington and Waterloo MOOC
Starting on 5 June 2017 there will be a re-run of the free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the Duke of Wellington and the battle of Waterloo.

Over three weeks, the course will cover events from the French Revolution to the decisive battle that finally defeated Napoleon, the significance of the conflict, the ways in which it changed Europe forever and how the battle and its heroes have been commemorated.

Chris Woolgar and Karen Robson will use the Wellington Archive at the University of Southampton to provide an insight into these momentous events from the early nineteenth century.

For further details and to sign up please visit:

Wellington and Waterloo revisited – Special Event
In conjunction with the MOOC, the Special Collections will be holding a Special Event on Saturday 17 June. This will feature a private view of the exhibition Wellington and Waterloo in the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery, a lecture on the Waterloo Despatch, followed by tea and dancing with the Duke of Wellington’s Dancers.

To register and for joining instructions please visit:

This event it open to everyone. We would be delighted if you could join us!

Wellington and Waterloo exhibition
Special Collections Gallery

The Battle of Waterloo, fought on Sunday 18 June 1815, between allied forces and the French forces commanded by Napoleon, brought to a close more than two decades of conflict. Drawing heavily on the Wellington Archive at the University, this exhibition captures the final act of these wars from the perspective of the Duke of Wellington. It considers the diplomatic background to the military campaign of 1815, the battle itself, its aftermath and the occupation of France and the commemoration of both Wellington and Waterloo. It includes descriptions of the battle in the official reports of Wellington’s commanders, and a poignant letter from Wellington to Lord Aberdeen informing him of the death of his brother Sir Alexander Gordon, one of Wellington’s aides-de-camp. Amongst the items relating to the commemoration of Waterloo and Wellington are the catalogue of the Waterloo Museum, an establishment opened in the immediate aftermath of the battle, exhibiting memorabilia, and a nautilus shell, engraved by C.H.Wood, dating from the 1850s, which contains an image of Wellington on one side and St George on the other.

The exhibition runs from 5 – 23 June during which time the gallery is open weekdays, 10am to 4pm.

For further details visit:

Napoleon’s empire comes to an end

April 1814 saw the end game of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte, with the abdication of the Emperor and the final military conflicts at Toulouse, Bayonne and Barcelona.

After meeting with his military commanders on 4 April, who urged Napoleon to abdicate, he did so on 6 April. The allies then were faced with the question of what to do with him. They concluded that he needed to be deposed and sent into exile as they feared that any attempt to overthrow him would risk civil war.  As Lord Liverpool, the British Prime Minister noted ‘any peace with Buonaparte will only be a state of preparation for renewed hostilities’. Signed by the allies on 11 April 1814, the Treaty of Fontainebleau set out the conditions of Napoleon’s abdication. In return for his abdication as Emperor of the French, Napoleon was granted the title of Emperor, given the sovereignty of the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy, and granted an annual pension of 2 million francs from the French government.

Cartoon, ‘The journey of a modern hero, to the island of Elba’, by J. Phillips.

Cartoon, ‘The journey of a modern hero, to the island of Elba’, by J. Phillips.

This cartoon, by J. Phillips, was published in May 1814, and shows the disgraced emperor riding backwards on a donkey, a typical pose of humiliation, with his sword broken. The poem makes much of the immorality and consequences of his ambition.

Napoleon: A throne is only made of wood and cover’d with velvet

Donkey: The greatest events in human life is turn’d to a puff

Saddlebags: Materials for the history of my life and exploits. A bagful of Mathematical books for my study on ELBA.

The Journey of a modern Hero, to the Island of ELBA

Farewell my brave soldiers, my eagles adieu; Stung with my ambition, o’er the world ye flew; But deeds of disaster so sad to rehearse, I have lived — fatal truth for to know the reverse. From Moscow. from Lipsic; the case it is clear I was sent back to France with a flea in my ear. A lesson to mortals, regarding my fall; He grasps at a shadow; by grasping at all. My course it is finish’d my race it is run, My career it is ended just where it begun. The Empire of France no more it is mine, Because I can’t keep it I freely resign.

Lithograph of after the battle of Toulouse [MS 351/6 A4170/2]

Lithograph of after the battle of Toulouse [MS 351/6 A4170/2]

Whist the details of the abdication of Napoleon were being finalised in Paris, in the South of France and northern Spain the war continued. News had started to filter through of the defeat of Napoleon at Arcis-sur-Aube and that the House of Bourbon had been proclaimed at Paris, but until these reports were confirmed neither Marshal Soult, the commander of the French forces, nor Wellington as commander of the allied army, could think of suspending their operations. Thus on Easter Sunday, 10 April 1814, the allied forces attacked Soult’s forces holding Toulouse. Although there were subsequent actions at Bayonne on the 14th and Barcelona on the 16th, Toulouse marked the last major battle between the main allied and French armies before the final end of the war. The battle of Toulouse was to inflict heavy losses on the allied forces, with around 4,500 killed. The French retained control of the northern part of the Heights of Calvinet, but recognising that his position as untenable, and concerned that enemy cavalry was moving to cut him off, Soult decided to retreat to Carcassonne and left the city of Toulouse on the 11 April. Jubilant inhabitants invited Wellington to enter the city the following day, where he received news of the abdication of Napoleon that afternoon.

Wellington and Napoleon never faced each other on the battlefield throughout the years of the Napoleonic wars. This was to change in 1815, when they met for the first and only time at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June.

La Chateau et la Ferme d’Hougoumont

La Chateau et la Ferme d’Hougoumont, Waterloo [MS 351/6 A4170/7/4]

A MOOC on the Duke of Wellington and the battle of Waterloo, drawing on the Wellington archive at Southampton, and led by Karen Robson, Head of Archives, and Professor Chris Woolgar of the School of Humanities, will be given a re-run from 5 June 2017. Further details of this three week course will be available shortly.

In conjunction with this MOOC, the Special Collections will be mounting an exhibition in its Special Collections Gallery, 5-23 June, and there will be a Special Event on Saturday 17 June.  This will feature a private view of the exhibition, a lecture on the Waterloo Despatch, followed by tea and dancing with the Duke of Wellington’s Dancers.  For further details and to book for the event please go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wellington-and-waterloo-revisited-tickets-33522712335

We hope that you can join us on 17 June.

“A friend of science”: the first Duke of Wellington

In honour of Southampton Science and Engineering Week at the University (10-19 March), in conjunction with British Science Week, and the anniversary of the arrival of the Wellington Papers at the University on 17 March 1983, this blog will look at science and technology material within the Wellington Archive (MS 61).

The victory at Waterloo raised the first Duke of Wellington to a level of fame and prominence that ensured a tidal wave of correspondence, elements of which came from those discussing new discoveries or inventions, or seeking Wellington’s patronage and support. The material relating to scientific developments within the Wellington Archive ranges from a copy of the minutes of the council of the Royal Society relating to Charles Babbage’s calculating machine [MS 61 WP1/996/3]; correspondence regarding the discovery of the cause of magnetic variation in the compass and a law to predict the variation [MS 61 WP1/814/16]; to material on new medical apparatus to treat complaints such as headaches, gout or rheumatism [MS 61 WP2/110/52].

Lorenzo Giordano medical apparatus to treat rheumatism

Lorenzo Giordano medical apparatus to treat rheumatism [MS 61 WP2/110/52]

As a career soldier who rose to be the Commander in Chief of the army, Wellington had a interest in developments in military technology. He served as Master General of the Ordnance in the 1820s, a department that he described as being specially charged with “all military equipments, machines, inventions thereof and their improvement”. The archive includes correspondence with Colonel Shrapnel, the inventor of the shrapnel shell, and with Sir William Congreve, together with material relating to improvements in artillery. In a letter of August 1822, Congreve describes the results of experiments of his rockets and concludes that “under Your Grace’s patronage and protection, I feel confident of giving complete perfection to the rocket system in a very short time and making it not only the most powerful but also the most economical weapon that can be used”. [MS 61 WP1/718/6]

Not all inventions, however, were considered to have such potential. An artificial hill, suggested by a Captain of Marines in 1812, “which was nothing more than a high pole” on which Wellington might be hoisted to overlook the movement of the enemy forces, elicited the objection from Wellington: “Damn me, sir, I may tumble down to break my neck”. [MS 61 WP1/361 f. 1]  A steam war chariot designed by John George and Sons, although fascinating and frightening, does not seem to have progressed beyond the design stage.

John George steam war chariot

John George’s steam war chariot [MS 61 WP2/40/119]

Developments in steam and steam transportation in the early part of the nineteenth century are represented in the archive. There is material relating to the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in September 1830 which Wellington, as Prime Minister, attended. The event was sadly overshadowed by the tragic death of William Huskisson, the popular Member of Parliament for Liverpool, an occurrence that shocked the other dignitaries present and potentially coloured Wellington’s opinion of trains henceforth. His archive also contains correspondence relating to the development of steam coaching as an alternative to steam trains, and includes correspondence from Sir James Caleb Anderson, first Baronet, an inventor much interested in the development of steam coaching [MS 61 WP1/1003/21], as well as material on the journey made by one of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney’s steam carriages.

Sir Goldsworthy Gurney (1793-1875) was a surgeon and chemist as well as an inventor. During the period 1825 to 1829, Gurney built a number of steam-powered carriages intended to commercialise steam road transport. Whilst the earlier versions were not a success, a version designed to provide a separate carriage hauled by an engine made the journey from London to Bath in July 1829. Reaching an average speed of 15 mph, the journey is reputed to be the first undertaken by a mechanised vehicle at a sustained speed and pre-dated the journey of the Stephenson’s Rocket.

Steam carriage journey from London to Bath

Journey of Gurney’s steam carriage from London to Bath [MS 61 WP1/1034/29]

Wellington had connections with the engineer and inventor Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849), the father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, from the period of the Peninsular War, when Brunel undertook contracts for the government, including the supply of soldiers’ boots. Brunel was subsequently to suffer imprisonment for debt due to several unsuccessful projects and Wellington was one of those who pressed the government to secure his release. Brunel’s designs included the Île de Bourbon Suspension Bridge and the operation to build a tunnel under the River Thames. Work on the Thames Tunnel began in 1825 and was eventually completed in 1842.

Drawing of the elevation of a chain bridge over the River Tweed, and of a chain bridge designed by Brunel for the Île de Bourbon

Chain bridge over the River Tweed and a chain bridge designed by Brunel for the Île de Bourbon [MS 61 WP1/679/8]

For anyone wishing to explore a more modern take on science and technology the University of Southampton Science and Engineering Day, is on Saturday 18 March and will be a fitting finale to the week’s events. We hope you enjoy the day.