Tag Archives: Environment

A passion for plants

This week we anticipate Earth Day 2017 with an environmental theme, and highlight some botanical items in the Special Collections at the University of Southampton.  These include printed herbals and floras, dried plant specimens, and a rare example of a 19th-century herbarium. Often charming and beautifully illustrated, they demonstrate that our interest in plants and their habitats is age-old. As a historical record, they have gained in significance over time: we now appreciate that there is a historical perspective to ecological change:

William Curtis, The Botanical Magazine, or Flower-Garden Displayed, vol. 4 p.297 (London 1795) Rare Books Per Q

The botanist William Curtis (1746-1799) brought out the first issue of his Botanical Magazine in 1787.  It was an immediate success with the ‘Ladies, Gentlemen and Gardeners’ for whom it was intended – there were over 3,000 subscribers.  It tapped into the public passion for newly imported exotic plants – an essential feature of the fashionable garden – and much of its success was due to the beauty and scientific accuracy of the illustrations.

W.H. Fitch and W.G. Smith Illustrations of the British Flora: a Series of Wood Engravings, with Dissections, of British Plants, 7th ed. (London, 1908) Rare Books QK 306

This volume was used by Althea Monck, who acquired it in 1909, to create a personal botanical record. The wood-engravings of the plants she observed have been hand-coloured with great delicacy and the date and location noted. The plants identified on these pages were seen at Ash Priors in Somerset and Crowthorne in Berkshire.

Hemp Agrimony, Eupatorium Cannabinum, collected at Shawford, near Winchester in July 1838, from vol. 7 of 8 volumes of a herbarium containing pressed flowers and plants collected and mounted by Emma Delmé Radcliffe, c.1837-52 MS 219 A819/7.

This is an example of hemp, found at Shawford in Hampshire in 1838, from a 19th-century herbarium.  There are eight surviving volumes of this herbarium – from an original eleven – which contain 839 specimens of pressed flowers and plants, gathered principally between 1837 and 1840, mainly from Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Hertfordshire, but with specimens from elsewhere in the south of England and occasional examples from Scotland and Ireland.

The volumes contain plants collected and mounted by Emma Delmé Radcliffe, née Waddington (?1811-1880), the daughter of John H.Waddington of Shawford House, near Winchester. In 1831 she married Frederick Peter Delmé Radcliffe of Hitchin Priory, Hertfordshire, which became her home – a sizeable minority of the specimens are from Hitchin and neighbourhood. Emma mounted these on single sheets of paper, giving their Linnaean class and order, their Latin names (according to the Natural system of classification) and common English names, together with a location and, in many cases, a date. The collection was arranged into volumes later in the nineteenth century, perhaps as late as the 1880s.

While almost all of the specimens were gathered by Mrs Delmé Radcliffe, a few came from other herbaria: detailed research by the late Pete Selby (Recorder for south Hampshire) demonstrated that a few of the Isle of Wight specimens bore the initials of Miss Georgina Elizabeth Kilderbee (1798-1868), who lived at Cowes, and who “features in Flora Vectensis (Bromfield, 1856) as the most prolific contributor of localised records after the author himself.” It seems that Emma and Georgina were cousins and friends who worked closely together on their collections.  While there are references to a Kilderbee Herbarium – this has not survived – and so Emma’s herbarium gives a tantalising glimpse of her cousin’s work as well as a record of botany in Hampshire over 150 years ago.

For more details about the herbarium visit: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/archives/cataloguedatabases/webguidemss219.page

Earth Day 2017 is on Saturday 22nd April: http://www.earthday.org/


In praise of apples

21 October has become celebrated as Apple Day. Launched in 1990 by Common Ground in Covent Garden, the aspiration for this was to celebrate and demonstrate the variety that is in danger of being lost, not simply in apples, but in the richness and diversity of landscape and ecology.

Golden Pippin and Scarlet Nonpareil from Rare Books Perkins SB 356 Charles McIntosh The orchard (London, 1839)

Golden Pippin and Scarlet Nonpareil from Rare Books Perkins SB 356 Charles McIntosh The orchard (London, 1839)

Apples have been cultivated for centuries: Pliny records details of sweet and culinary apples grown by the Romans in Italy. Whilst there is evidence that apples were grown in Great Britain in the Neolithic period, it was the Romans who introduced new sweeter tasting apples. After the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain, many orchards were abandoned as the countryside was beset by raiders. It was only in the wake of the Norman Conquest that apple growing was revitalised and new varieties of apples were introduced from France. During the thirteenth century, several kinds of apples became established in Britain, often grown in orchards attached to monasteries. In the sixteenth century Richard Harris, the chief fruitier to Henry VIII, introduced a number of new grafted varieties, including the famous Pippins and developed modern-style orchards in Kent. Herefordshire orchards were augmented by the best cider apples from France by Lord Scudamore, British ambassador to France during the reign of Charles II. The more scientific cultivation of apples, however, did not occur until the late eighteenth century. Seen as the most valuable and generally cultivated of European fruits, the apple was considered by Dr Thomas Andrew Knight “not the nature produce of any soil or climate, but owes its existence to human art”. The work on pollination undertaken by Knight, who was President of the Horticultural Society of London, led to improved varieties. It was to influence the work of others gardeners throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Until the eighteenth century fruit plants had been an essential part of the landscape in gardens on large estates. However with the swing from Renaissance formality to a more “natural” look, the cultivation of fruit and vegetables was moved to the, usually, walled kitchen garden. Owners were proud of their kitchen gardens both for their layout and display and considerable effort was taken with the cultivation and development of fruit varieties.

MS 62 BR103/6 Plan and notes by second Viscount Palmerston on fruit grown within the garden, 1769

MS 62 BR103/6 Plan and notes by second Viscount Palmerston on fruit grown within the garden, 1769

The kitchen garden at Broadlands House in Romsey was developed in the eighteenth century and the design of it showed an appreciation of the ascetics as well as the productivity and the variety of fruit to be grown. Fruit was an essential part of the diet in a household and would be used to impress guests with unusual varieties. The Italian practice of fresh fruit at the end of a meal became the height of fashion in the nineteenth century.

The Perkins Agricultural Library at the University contains a range of books that reflect this interest in both the planning and cultivation of kitchen gardens and the craft of growing fruit trees. Guides on the development and successful propagation of fruit plants include Dr Thomas Andrew Knight’s A treatise on the culture of the apple and pear and on the manufacture of cider and perry (London, 1818); William Forsyth A treatise on the culture and management of fruit trees ( London, 1803) and Charles McIntosh The orchard (London, 1839).

Court Pendu from Rare Books Perkins SB 356 Charles McIntosh The orchard (London, 1839)

Court Pendu from Rare Books Perkins SB 356 Charles McIntosh The orchard (London, 1839)

In addition to practical advice provided in such works, others such as The Complete family piece provided recipes for medicinal cures and for cooking.

“To make an apple tansy
Take 3 Pippins, slice them round in thin Slices, and fry them with Butter; then beat 4 Eggs with 6 Spoonfuls of Cream and a little Rose-water, Nutmeg and Sugar and stir them together, and pour it over the Apples. Let it fry a little and then turn it with a Pye Plate. Garnish with Lemon and Sugar stewed over it.”

[Rare Books Perkins TX 151 William Thomas Smyth The complete family-piece and, country gentleman, and farmer’s best guide (1739)]

Knight’s Treatise has a manuscript note added at the end of the volume by James Corbett suggesting the best fruit to make cider:

“The fruit I should recommend for cider is the Black Norman, the Green or Brown Thorn, the Red Stier and the Wilding. If you plant these sorts, they will be all ripe together and therefore fit to grind at the same time, which is of very great importance in making cider. If you grind one fruit quite mellow and another quite green, you will find the fermenting (which spoils all ciders) not easily prevented.”

Apple Day is now an integral part of the calendar of many villages, local authorities and city markets and a focus for activities organised by a range of organisations such as the National Trust properties, Wildlife Trusts, as well as museums and galleries and horticultural societies. For information on the day go to: http://www.national-awareness-days.com/apple-day.html

“The poetry of the earth”: exploring the natural world in the Hartley Library Special Collections

Next week we will be following the success of our Exploring the Wellington Archive afternoon with a free open afternoon enabling visitors to discover some of our lesser known delights.


From 1530-1700 on Wednesday 18 November 2015, visitors will have the opportunity to view manuscript and printed material focusing on the theme of the natural world and to meet the curators. On display will be an array of material from across the collections, including on agriculture, botany, meteorology, environmental management and entomology.

The visit to Special Collections will be followed by a short presentation on the Historic River Data and Freshwaters Archive titled Looking Back for the Future of the Worlds Rivers: “The use of historic data for predicting the future of river quality and ecology” by Terry Langford, Visiting Professor, Centre for Environmental Sciences.

Visitors exploring material from the Wellington Archive

Visitors exploring material from the Wellington Archive

To book a place for the presentation please visit our Eventbrite page at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-poetry-of-the-earth-exploring-the-natural-world-in-the-hartley-library-special-collections-tickets-19183713002?utm_term=eventurl_text

We hope to see you then!

Whatever the weather…

As November begins, winter arrives, and we wonder what the weather will bring this season: storm, gale and flood – frost and snow and fun?! This month as part of the Explore Your Archive campaign we will be exploring the earth and the natural world through our Special Collections.

Rough Sea at Clarence Pier, Southsea (pc954)

Rough Sea at Clarence Pier, Southsea (pc954)

We cannot control the weather, but it rules our environment, affects our moods, safety, travel, communication, crops and health. No wonder man has tried to understand and predict it for centuries!

Here in Special Collections we can trace this fascination – both scientific and popular – for natural phenomena, through monographs and private correspondence, scientific periodicals and encyclopaedias. The latter brought observations and explanations of the natural world to a wider audience. Descriptions of events such as meteors and great storms were popular, such as Daniel Defoe’s account of the ‘Late Dreadful Tempest’ of 26th November 1703 [published in 1713, Rare Books PR 3404]. Incidental references to the weather appear in diaries and letters – there are many throughout the Wellington Papers [MS 61] and the Palmerston Papers [MS 62] – which contribute to a study of the weather over time.

Photo of William Mogg wearing the medal presented to him ‘for Arctic discoveries, 1818-1855’ [MS 45 A0188]

Photo of William Mogg wearing the medal presented to him ‘for Arctic discoveries, 1818-1855’ [MS 45 A0188]

Archives have also been left behind by explorers and interested amateurs whose approach was more scientific. William Mogg of Woolston, Southampton, took part in survey expeditions to the Artic in HMS Hecla, in 1821-2, and HMS Fury, in 1824-5; abstracts from the ships’ meteorological journals and notes on environmental conditions during these journeys survive in our collections [MS 45 A0187].

R.C. Hankinson’s weather diary, with charts, open to the page for September 1869 [MS 6/9 (A56)]

R.C. Hankinson’s weather diary, with charts, open to the page for September 1869 [MS 6/9 (A56)]

R.C.Hankinson’s meteorological observations, with charts, were made at Shirley Warren, Southampton from 1863-77. A Southampton banker and JP, he was born in Norfolk in 1824, and had lived in Derbyshire before coming to Hampshire by 1865. The volume includes meteorological observations for all three places. Each right-hand page records the weather for a calendar month, with daily entries for pressure, temperature, wind direction, and rainfall. From 1866, Hankinson drew temperature charts in red and black ink on the left-hand page. He often added notes on subjects that interested him: the growth of fruit and vegetables, flowers and crops, birds, the prevalence of disease locally such as scarlet fever and cholera, as well as meteorological matters: sirocco winds, gales, storms (and shipwrecks), comets, the aurora borealis, sun spots and eclipse. In September 1869 he notes:

“Equinoctial gales for 10th [September] to 19th”;

“18th [September] Storm gales. Much loss in every place. ‘Volante’ yacht wrecked off Ryde. ‘Gensa’ yacht Cherbourg.”

“20th [September] frost in grass.”

This is a fascinating record of our local environment 150 years ago.

Treasures of ecological history… the Southampton Historical River Data Archive

To mark Earth Day we have chosen to publish a piece from our upcoming newsletter on the Historical River Data Archive written by Terry Langford, Visiting Professor at the Centre for Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment.

The River Trent upstream of Burton on Trent, 2010

The River Trent upstream of Burton on Trent, 2010

“On the day the photograph was taken in 2010, the river water was clear, showing waving water weeds on a clean gravel bed. Large numbers of brilliant blue Beautiful Demoiselle damsel-flies (Calopteryx splendens) were flitting over the water and landing on the marginal vegetation prior to mating. An impressive sight for any conservationist or ecologist. Standing on exactly the same spot almost 50 years previously I had seen a flow of black, foetid, fishless water with a layer of foam up to 1m thick in places. A hand-net sample of the river bed produced nothing but a Gordian knot of writhing bright red sludgeworms, the product of millions of gallons of poorly treated sewage and untreated industrial effluents from Birmingham, the Black Country and Stoke on Trent all many miles upstream. Biological diversity was virtually nil.

The change over 50 years was almost unbelievable, but how had it come about and what were the processes involved? Although there were a few scientific papers from the 1950s and 60s, the processes of change had not been well described, mainly because there appeared to be no access to early data. However, as a result of some personal enquiries, a treasure trove of raw data was located, in the shed of one of the biologists who had worked on the rivers at that time. The hoard consisted of over 22,000 individual records of biological surveys in the River Trent Catchment all carefully organised in date order, plus reports and contemporaneous field notes. The material was retrieved very rapidly by staff in the Centre for Environmental Sciences.

Thanks to their foresight and the willing and enthusiastic assistance of the staff at the University of Southampton Archives and Manuscripts, these raw data from biological and chemical surveys, which were about to be ditched by the Agencies, were saved from destruction and the individual records, the products of thousands of man-hours work, are now safely stored and catalogued for academic analysis, future management planning and future work by students. In addition, similar data for eastern rivers were sent to the archive by the Environment Agency in East Anglia, again some dating back to the late 1950s and early 1960s. These data form the longest run of raw river ecology data in the England and perhaps in Europe. Added to this are reports and grey literature that augment the story of the cleaning up of rivers in the English east and west midlands.

Diagram showing pollution and biological conditions observed during 1951 in the River Trent and tributary streams, from MS 347 Historical River Data Archive

Diagram showing pollution and biological conditions observed during 1951 in the River Trent and tributary streams, from MS 347 Historical River Data Archive

The records kept so carefully catalogued and preserved in the Archives and Manuscripts based in the Hartley Library have so far formed the basis of two book chapters, one academic paper, eight MSc projects with a ninth in progress. Most of the work has been done with close collaboration and help by staff of the Environment Agency. As a regular user of the archive, I have found everyone there so helpful and professional both with me and the students. We in CES, intend to develop more work with the Archives and exploit, we hope, their contacts with other archives in Britain and perhaps in Europe. The work on the recovery of British rivers will, we hope, be of great assistance to countries such as China and India who have severe river pollution problems at the present time, mostly caused by exactly the same economic,technical and socio-political history as those of 1950s industrial Britain. There are other archive data round the country that could be linked with the Southampton Archives including those from the Environment Agency and local library archives. For example, much of the peripheral data for our studies came from the Birmingham archives, recently rehoused in the city and from the Lincoln City Archives. The work on rivers is based on the old adage that “those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it”. The return to the black, foetid fishless river in Britain cannot be contemplated. “From there to here” will be a pattern, we hope, for all the newer industrialised countries.”