Tag Archives: Isle of Wight

‘Hampshire people and places’ event

On Monday 31 July 2017, the Special Collections, Hartley Library, University of Southampton, will host the latest in its “explore the collections” events.

Why not join us between 15:30 and 17:00 to discover more about the resources we hold for Hampshire ranging from topography to details of everyday life.

On show in the Archives and Manuscripts reading room will be an array of printed sources from the Cope Collection, as well as material from our manuscript collections. There will also be an opportunity to investigate the Cope Collection in Open Access Special Collections.

Space is limited. To reserve a place, please go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hampshire-people-and-places-tickets-35816201222

Visitors to the Special Collections, summer 2017

From June to late September the access route to Special Collections will be altered owing to the Hartley Library Refurbishment Project. Access will be up the main stairs to Level 3, following the signs across this floor to the fire stairs at the back of the building and then up to Level 4.

Please note that access to the lifts in the Hartley Library will be restricted for the period of the refurbishment project: please contact staff about access arrangements.


All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints and All Souls

31 October marks the annual celebration of Hallowe’en – or All Hallows’ Eve– now pretty much obsolete: in the middle ages, a hallow (n) meant a holy person or saint.  In the Western Christian tradition, this time of year is dedicated to remembering the dead, and in particular saints and martyrs on All Saints’ Day (1 November) and deceased family members on All Souls’ Day (2 November).   Many Hallowe’en traditions, however, are likely to have had earlier pagan roots, originating, for example, from Celtic harvest festivals.  In modern times, activities like trick-or-treating, costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns and watching horror films seem to grow more popular year-on-year.


King Charles’s window at Carisbrooke Castle from which he made his first attempt to escape, 1839 [cq 98 CAR 93]

Carisbrooke, is a historic castle overlooking the village of the same name, near Newport on the Isle of Wight.  Over 350 years ago, it hosted an important prisoner Charles I, defeated by Cromwell in the English Civil War, incarcerated prior to his execution. Charles, having escaped from Hampton Court sought refuge at Carisbrooke but was detained by Colonel Robert Hammond, governor of the island.  Later, Charles’s two youngest children were also confined in the castle – Princess Elizabeth died there – and it continued to be used as a prison throughout the seventeenth century.

The Castle is reputed to have a number of ghosts although we haven’t come across anything specifically relating to King Charles or his daughter. Elizabeth Ruffin tragically drowned in the deep well and reports claim her disembodied face can still be seen in the well water. A “Grey Lady” wearing a long cloak and accompanied by four dogs is claimed to haunt the castle and the ghost of a man in a brown jerkin and trousers has been seen near the moat.


Captain John Burleigh, executed at Winchester in January 1648 for attempting the rescue of Charles I while prisoner at Carisbrooke [cq 98 CRA 92 pr 297]

The Special Collections hold several books relating to King Charles’s imprisonment in Carisbrooke castle including The pourtraicture of his sacred majesty Charles I : in his solitude in Carisbrook-Castle, A.D.1648 : containing his meditations on death, prayers.

The strongroom also houses a length manuscript poem, “Elizabeth the fair prisoner of Carisbrook”, dating from the mid-nineteenth century.  It’s preface recounts the affair:

After the murder of King Charles by Cromwell and his myrmidons, his second daughter was, by order of the regicides, incarcerated in the Castle of Carisbrook, and subjected to much harshness and indignity.  Pious, learned affectionate and accomplished in a high degree, her sensitive mind soon sunk under the accumulation of misery: she pined, sickened, died, was buried and forgotten… [MS 5/32 AO205]

Princess Elizabeth was buried at St. Thomas’s Church, Newport, on the Isle of Wight.  The preface goes on to recount how Queen Victoria later erected a “beautiful and lifelike” sculpture at the church which apparently “attracts thousands to see and admire it, and few leave the hallowed spot without shedding a tear in memory of The Fair Prisoner of Carisbrook”.

Ghosts in the Strongroom

As Halloween draws closers we delve into some of the ghoulish tales to be found lurking among the shelves of Special Collections…

The Wallop Latch
Thomas Gatehouse’s manuscript history of Hampshire (MS 5/15) is dated 31 December 1778 and is the earliest history of the county recorded. The history, largely a compilation from printed sources but containing some original materials, concludes with the ghost story ‘The Wallop Latch’. Described as being “for the amusement of the Wit or the Sceptic”, it provides an apparently true account of a Miss G___ who moves into a house in the village of Nether Wallop in Hampshire after the death of her father. One evening while sitting in her parlour, she is suddenly disturbed by a great noise produced by the violent rattling of the heavy iron latch on the back door. While initially startled, she disregards the incident as most likely being the product of an idle farmhand looking to frighten her. However, the disturbance recurs on numerous occasions and soon begins to draws the attention of the whole neighbourhood, with the noise being described as “violent and loud enough to be heard in distant quarters of the parish.”

The Square, Nether Wallop c.1939 (pc998)

The Square, Nether Wallop c.1939 (pc998)

In order to solve the mystery, members of the local community arm themselves and surround the house while others wait inside for the rattling to commence. As soon as the latch begins to move, the door is swiftly thrown open only to reveal there is no one there. The narrative then continues by considering and disproving a number of possible tricks or explanations and claims that no imaginable natural cause could have produced the effect. The account is testified and signed by a number of honourable witnesses and it remains for the sceptic to explain the occurrence.

A Ghost in the Isle of Wight
The Isle of the Wight has a long tradition of ghost stories and hauntings, many associated with places such as Billingham House, Carisbrooke Castle, and Knighton Gorges Manor. Sir John Randolph Leslie, 3rd Baronet of Glaslough (1885–1971), more generally known as Shane Leslie, was an Irish born diplomat and writer. He had a lifelong interest in the supernatural which influenced a number of his writings. His novelette A Ghost in the Isle of Wight was published in 1929, in a limited signed edition of 500 copies for sale, and a copy can be found among the Cope Collection on Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The 14th century gate at Carisbrooke Castle (pc115), one of the many sites associated with hauntings on the Isle of Wight

The 14th century gate at Carisbrooke Castle (pc115), one of the many sites associated with hauntings on the Isle of Wight

As with The Wallop Latch, the story appears to report the true account of an actual haunting. It is told from the perspective of a narrator who stayed at the isolated Jacobean manor at Killington during the previous autumn. Having been delayed in London, he travels to the island a week after his companions and their maidservants. On his first evening in the manor he is informed that the place is haunted and that sounds have been heard at night resembling the treading of feet and the clinking of swords accompanied by the smell of lilies. Nearly a fortnight passes before the narrator himself is woken by a series of clear metallic sounds on the stairs. The following morning the whole house is investigated and the property agent questioned. The agent eventually admits that the manor was regarded as the most haunted human abode on the island. As the narrator proceeds to piece the mystery together, the incidents are revealed to be connected with an escaped fugitive, the execution of Charles I, and the story of a murdered lover…

Death on the Line
Eric Jones-Evans was a medical practitioner and actor. He maintained a medical practice in Fawley, near Southampton, and closed his surgery on matinee days to perform at the Grand Theatre in Southampton. In 1928 he formed his own company and both wrote and appeared in a number of his own melodramas, chiefly adapted from the novels of Charles Dickens and George Eliot.

A performance of Death on the Line: A Ghost Story in One Act

A performance of Death on the Line: A Ghost Story in One Act

Among the papers of Dr Eric Jones-Evans (MS 91) is a typescript of Death on the Line: A Ghost Story in One Act, dated 21 December 1952. Based on Dickens’ short story The Signal Man, the play is set in a signal-box in a deep cutting near a tunnel entrance on a lonely stretch of the railway line. The author describes it as a play of “atmosphere and tension”, with the wailing of the wind in the telegraph wires introduced judicially to provide an eerie background to the narrative. It tells the story of a railway signalman who is haunted by a recurring apparition, with each appearance of the spectre preceding a tragic event on the railway. The first is followed by a terrible collision between two trains in the tunnel (likely based on the Clayton Tunnel crash of 1861) and the second by the mysterious death of a young woman on a passing train. The third and final warning of “death on the line” causes the signalman to rush onto the track in an attempt to stop an oncoming train where he is struck and killed. As the driver and other characters stand over his body a telegram is received warning of fallen rocks on the line up ahead. The play ends as they ponder how he could have known and how many lives might have been lost if not for his intervention.

At this time it remains uncertain whether these tales represent the only cases of ghostly encounters to be found within the walls of the Hartley Library or whether further apparitions are yet to appear…

“Peregrinations at the most beautiful place on earth”: holidaying on the Isle of Wight

This week is the second of our two posts focusing on summertime and summer holidays in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The Isle of Wight, located in the English Channel off the coast of Hampshire, has been a popular holiday destinations since Victorian times. The earliest record of a ferry service, transporting people the four miles across the stretch of water known as the Solent, is from 1420 when the Lord of the Manor in Ashey [Ryde] was responsible for boats crossing between Portsmouth and Ryde. A rota of Ryde fishermen had been established by the 17th century and in 1796 a purpose built sailing boat began a regular service from Portsmouth.

Illustration of Culver Down Cliff, Isle of Wight

Illustration of Culver Down Cliff, Isle of Wight

The Special Collections holds a manuscript “journal of seven weeks’ peregrinations at the most beautiful place on earth, namely the Isle of Wight”. It was written by Sarah Jane Gilham and dates from 1850.

Prior to the completion of Ryde Pier in 1814, passengers were carried or transported by horse or cart across the wide shallow sands to the town. By 1850, Sarah Jane would have had the option of travelling to the island by paddle steamer on one of three routes: Portsmouth-Ryde; Southampton-Cowes or Lymington-Yarmouth.

Entry for 2nd September:

[f.64] After walking up a hill, at a short distance on stood the little church, the smallest in England. The outside is covered with ivy, in a small turret is the bell which summons the villagers to church. An aged man showed us the inside: it contains six pews, and an altar piece with a colored pane of glass representing Christ’s ascension. It has lately been enlarged as formerly it contained only three pews.

We remounted and as we advanced every thing seemed to grow lovelier. Steephill Castle rose to view and its white turrets contrasted very prettily with the dark and luxuriant foliage of the trees by which it was surrounded. At last we arrived at the head of the Chine; dismounting, we passed through the bazaar and two boys conducted us down the path to the foot of the Chine. [f.65] At the first sight I and most of us were disappointed. We had expected a rush of water, but it fell only in a trickling stream somewhat resembling a showerbath. Some stationed themselves on the beautiful shingle, and others endeavored to find a cool place beneath the shelter of the rocks. On nearer view the Chine is decidedly grand, the fall about one hundred feet, the rocks rise on each side in bold grandeur, and though somewhat barren are quite in character with the scene. It seems altogether a place for a storm and shipwreck, etc. It would then be seen in all its awful grandeur and the spectator would be unable to resist admiring, though his admiration would be mingled with feelings of a very opposite nature.

[MS 6/8 A179]

Illustration of Shanklin Chine, Isle of Wight

Illustration of Shanklin Chine, Isle of Wight

In its quiet passages this work takes on a contemplative quality, reflecting the journey of religious self-examination Miss Gilham was taking alongside the journey around the Isle of Wight. It was not, however, written as a private journal for the sole pleasure of its author. This is a fair copy to be circulated and shared with others, as it glories in the discoveries made, both in terms of religion and places visited. Indeed, in its wish to discover nature and the way in which it makes this an ‘ideal’ landscape, the journal bears the hallmarks of picturesque tourism. While the scale of the adventure and the daily events are perhaps small, this in no way impacts on the curiosity of spirit or keenness of eye cast upon thoughts, places and events.

Sarah Jane married a London solicitor John Matthews Chamberlain in Lewisham in 1857.  They had two daughters: Bertha in 1861 and Ada in 1863.  Sarah died a year after the birth of their second daughter.

Summertime in Southampton

This week we are publishing the first of two posts focusing on summertime in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

A century ago, a summer stroll along the waterfront provided a welcome relief from the crowded streets of the old town for Southampton’s residents and visitors. The attractions of the area were recorded by local photographers and many of the views are preserved in the Peter Cook Postcard Collection.

The Royal Pier, Southampton (pc2155)

The Royal Pier, Southampton (pc2155)

According to 19th century guidebooks, a promenade along the pier had long been a favourite pastime. Opened by the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria in July 1833, the original pier had a central carriage-way and footways on either side. Intended primarily as a landing stage for ferry and pleasure steamer passengers — the pier having been built largely as the result of pressure from the steamship proprietors — it went on to acquire some of the attractions associated with a traditional seaside pier. The rebuilding of the pier in the 1890s brought a new gatehouse, refreshment rooms and a bandstand which was soon altered to create a pavilion which could accommodate over 1,000 people. The pier extended to an area of four and a half acres and with its 10 berths for steamers providing ferry services or excursions to the Isle of Wight, along the coast and across the Channel, the Royal Pier was the largest steamer or pleasure pier on the south coast.

Southampton, Royal Pier (pc3210a)

Southampton, Royal Pier (pc3210a)

In the early years of the 20th century it was possible to walk from the pier along the new Western Esplanade which followed the shoreline to another of the town’s summer attractions, the open air pool. This had also been built during the 1890s as part of a new baths complex and the outdoor pool, which covered half an acre, had been built out from the shore as a seawater pool, the water changing at every high tide. Beside the baths there were pleasure grounds laid out for tennis or bowls. The pool underwent many refits, most notably in the 1930s when new terraces and dressing rooms were added and it remained popular even when it became landlocked, following the land reclamation work of the 1920s and 30s which left it sandwiched between the Pirelli cable works and the coal fired power station.

A view of the open air pool and the old shoreline (pc3339a)

A view of the open air pool and the old shoreline (pc3339a)

The Royal Pier and Lido both met their ends in the 1970s. The introduction of car ferries meant that ferry services moved away from the pier in the 1960s and although Mecca invested £100,000 in a ballroom at the pavilion in 1963, its popularity eventually declined and both pier and pavilion closed in 1979. Fires in 1987 and 1992 destroyed most of the remaining structure. The hot summer of 1976 had brought a record number of people to the Lido, but the high costs of maintenance led the City Council to close it in 1977. The buildings were demolished in 1981 and the pool, now the site of the National Express coach station, was filled in with local builders’ rubble.