Tag Archives: Isle of Wight

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Travels

After following intrepid travellers to far-flung places, in the last in our series of travel posts we look at those who stayed closer to home.

The south coast’s scenery and climate have attracted a range of visitors over the years – especially those in search of a picturesque view, a health cure or even a combination of the two.

Hampshire by John Cary (1793) Rare Books Cope c 90.5 1793

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the Isle of Wight became a magnet for artists keen to record its picturesque scenery, despite the fact that William Gilpin, the main proponent of the picturesque as an aesthetic ideal, found the Island sadly lacking in this this quality.

William Gilpin Observations on the Western Parts of England Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty, to which are Added, A Few Remarks on the Picturesque Beauties of the Isle of Wight (1798)

Gilpin wrote that whilst there were elements of the picturesque in the shipwrecks and in the sea-fowl which darkened the air, the Isle of Wight was really “a large garden or rather a field, which in every part has been disfigured by the spade, the coulter and the harrow”, the coastal views being “much less beautiful than we had expected to find them”.  Naturally, there was some consternation at this description locally and in the Hampshire Repository’s review of his book in 1799, Gilpin’s views were strongly rebuffed, the reviewer going as far as to retrace his footsteps and provide an alternative opinion on the scenery.

Others who visited the Isle of Wight were more impressed with what they saw. John Hassell, a London based artist who illustrated his Tour of the Isle of Wight (1790) with aquatints of his drawings (many with unusual colour washes), wrote of Carisbrooke Castle “it affords a fund of delight to the traveller whose mind is susceptible to the transports which picturesque scenes excite”.

Carisbrooke Castle from: John Hassell Tour of the Isle of Wight v.2 (1790) Rare Books Cope 98.91

A few years later Charles Tomkins recorded both the architecture and the picturesque views of the Island in his Tour to the Isle of Wight (1796), describing how Blackgang Chine “strikes the mind with horror at its dark and sable aspect” .

Blackgang Chine from: Charles Tomkins A Tour to the Isle of Wight v.1 (1796) Rare Books Cope 98.91

In 1784 and again in 1791 the artist and satirist Thomas Rowlandson toured the Island and taking a different approach, made sketches of the various incidents that made up the journey.  The sketches were lost for many years, reappearing at the end of the nineteenth century when they were reproduced in an article in The Graphic (Summer 1891), by Joseph Grego, who added his own commentary on the journey.

From:The Graphic Summer Number 1891 Rare Books Cope folio 91.5

Many of the Isle of Wight visitors travelled via Southampton, which offered tourists excursions to the gothic ruins of Netley Abbey as well as a mineral spring and sea-water bathing to restore their health. Royal patronage had made Southampton a fashionable resort in the later years of the eighteenth century, the Hampshire Chronicle printing a weekly list of arrivals during the summer season.  Southampton’s reputation as a spa waned during the early part of the nineteenth century, as its commercial importance grew, but other resorts developed to cater for the ‘health tourists’ of the day.

 Hampshire Chronicle (17th August, 1778)

Favoured by their sheltered locations and warm temperatures, both Ventnor on the Isle of Wight and Bournemouth (then part of Hampshire) developed as resorts largely thanks to their promotion in prominent publications. In the second edition of The Influence of Climate in the Prevention and Cure of Chronic Diseases (1830), Sir James Clark wrote of his surprise that the Isle of Wight’s Undercliff had been so long overlooked, given its scenery, dry air and a climate which allowed myrtle and geraniums, to flourish even in the colder months. He recommended it as a location superior to any other on the south coast for invalids with pulmonary disease.

Ventnor, Isle of Wight, from: Thomas Roscoe Summer Tour to the Isle of Wight (1843) Rare Books Cope 98.91

Some years later Bournemouth was mentioned very favourably (especially in comparison with Ventnor) in A.B. Granvilles’s The Spas of England and Principal Sea-Bathing Places (1841) “no situation that I have had occasion to examine along the whole southern coast, possesses so many capabilities of being made the first invalid sea-watering place in England”.

Bournemouth from the water, from: Philip Brannon The Illustrated Historical and Picturesque Guide to Bournemouth and the Surrounding Scenery 7th ed. (1863)

Both resorts developed ‘Sanditon style’ in areas previously sparsely populated. At Ventnor, development was piecemeal, resulting in buildings of varying styles. In A few Remarks about Ventnor… (1877), William Spindler, a  German industrial chemist who retired to the Isle of Wight, wrote “We have hotels, churches, shops, cottages and villas in every conceivable style and every outrageous shape” adding that an assembly room, pleasure garden and more planting for shade would be beneficial.

In contrast, Granville thought Bournemouth safe from speculative ‘ brick and mortar contractors’ as fewer landowners were involved in its development. He saw it as having commodious and well-arranged dwellings amongst the pine trees, suitable for invalids “of that class who happen to be wealthy”, with hotels and boarding houses catering for a superior class of visitor.

Ventnor and Bournemouth succeeded in their ambitions to attract wealthy visitors seeking the benefits of a mild climate and sea air, but eventually both resorts had to balance catering for this market with the needs of new tourists holidaying purely for pleasure and amusement.

Bournemouth from the Pier [postmarked 1904] Rare Books Cope pc 326

As the holidays are behind us and we return to the normal routine, we hope you have enjoyed the travellers’ tales from Special Collections.

Geological Excursions in Special Collections

This week we take a look at some geological ‘finds’ amongst the rare books, focusing on the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries when the term ‘geology’ was first used and recognised as a subject in its own right. As canals were constructed and mines sunk, geology’s practical application was becoming increasingly important and its popular appeal can be seen in the many collections of fossils and minerals dating from this period.

Gustavus Brander Fossilia Hantoniensia collecta et in Museo Britannico deposita (1766) Rare Books Cope quarto 55

One keen collector was Gustavus Brander (1720-1787) a director of the Bank of England who collected fossils from Hordle Cliff whilst staying at his country house at Christchurch. These he presented to the British Museum in 1765, the collection being catalogued and illustrated by Daniel Solander (1736-1782). The catalogue attracted much interest as did Brander’s view that the shells could only have survived in a warmer climate. Another collector, on a larger scale, was James Parkinson (1755-1824) who had been collecting fossils for many years prior to publishing his three volume Organic Remains of a Former World (1808-1811). This was aimed at the general reader and became the standard textbook of palaeontology in England.

Plate V James Parkinson Organic Remains of a Former World v.1 (1808) Rare Books quarto QE 711

The interest in geology encouraged the botanical illustrator James Sowerby (1757-1822) to publish British Mineralogy, an illustrated topographical mineralogy of Great Britain which was issued in 78 parts between 1802 and 1817. Sowerby worked from specimens sent to him for identification by mineral collectors from around the country and in 1808 became a Fellow of the recently established Geological Society of London.

Such publications brought fossils and minerals to a wider audience, the illustrations enabling collectors to compare, identify and order their own finds and in turn to contribute to the national geological record. Often hand-coloured, the illustrations provided sufficient detail to act as a proxy for the specimens themselves.

Arsenate of Copper from James Sowerby British Mineralogy v.1 (1804) Rare Books QE 381.G7

The practical and economic significance of geology was evident in the network of canals and expansion of the mining industry in Britain during the eighteenth century. Whilst an understanding of the subject was required for these undertakings, the work itself brought further advances in geological knowledge – often supplying minerals for the collectors and illustrators.

Surveys of the soil and minerals of each county were included in the series of Board of Agriculture reports for Great Britain and Ireland published in the early years of the nineteenth century. That on Derbyshire by John Farey (1766-1826) ran to three volumes and was unusual for its extensive geological coverage. Farey’s interest in stratification stemmed from his association with the geologist, William Smith (1769-1839), creator of the first geological map of Britain, and in the report Farey published for the first time his own analysis of the geometry of faulting.

From: John Farey General View of the Agriculture and Minerals of Derbyshire v.1 (1811) Rare Books Perkins S 453

Descriptions of geological features such as landslips, cliffs and mountains appeared in many of the contemporary guidebooks, sometimes accompanied by illustrations, but it was unusual for such publications to explicitly include geological information. An exception to this was Sir Henry Englefield’s Description of the Principal Picturesque Beauties, Antiquities and Geological Phenomena of the Isle of Wight (1816). Englefield, an antiquarian with geological interests – he was a member of the Geological Society of London himself – commissioned Thomas Webster (1772-1844) a member and employee of the Society to research the geology of the Island and to contribute his findings to the book. Published as an impressive large folio with the subtitle ‘With additional observations on the strata of the island and their continuation in the adjacent parts of Dorsetshire’, the book contains illustrations of many of the geological features of the Isle of Wight and a geological map.

Alum Bay from: H.C. Englefield and T. Webster Description of the Principal Picturesque Beauties, Antiquities and Geological Phenomena of the Isle of Wight (1816) Rare Books Cope quarto 98.55

Map from: H.C. Englefield and T. Webster Description of the Principal Picturesque Beauties, Antiquities and Geological Phenomena of the Isle of Wight (1816) Rare Books Cope quarto 98.55

As well as the copies of Englefield’s book, Special Collections also holds a small collection of correspondence between Webster and Englefield (MS47). This deals mainly with the geology of the Isle of Wight, as do Webster’s notes on what Englefield described in his introduction as ‘that part of natural science lately called Geology’.



The notable art of watercolours

Redhill, August 1876 by Sissy Waley [MS 363 A3006/3/5/4 page 37 1]

Redhill, August 1876, by Julia Matilda Cohen [MS 363 A3006/3/5/4 page 37 number 1]

For any young woman to consider herself accomplished, according to the snobbish Caroline Bingley in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, she required the following skills:

“…a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages….; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions…”

Such accomplishments marked out women as belonging to a certain class and were part of what made them marriageable. Drawing and embroidery were part of a conventional education for young women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and manuals such as Bowles’s Drawing Book for Ladies were produced to provide images for copying.  It has been suggested by some critics that encouraging women to copy from already-existing works of art was a way of constraining originality, thus ensuring that women artists remained amateurs rather than professionals.

Watercolour of view in the garden at Northcourt, 18-- [MS 80 A276/5]

View in the garden at Northcourt, 18–, by Lady Gordon [MS 80 A276/17/5]

As July is World Watercolour Month, we look at some examples of watercolours produced by women held within Special Collections.

Watercolour of garden just made at Northcourt, 1843 [MS 80 A276/17/3]

Garden at Northcourt, 1843 [MS 80 A276/17/3]

The Gordon family collection (MS 80) contains some fine examples of watercolours of the family home and garden, Northcote on the Isle of Wight. These are the work of Julia Isabella Louisa Bennett, Lady Gordon (1775-1867) and possibly also by her daughter Julia Gordon. Lady Gordon was an accomplished artist, remembered as one of J.M.W.Turner’s few known pupils, who also studied with David Cox and took lessons from Thomas Girtin. Other examples of her work are held at the Tate in London and in National Trust collections.

Pride of India, Cape Province, 1932, by Charlotte Chamberlain [MS 100/1/3]

Pride of India, Cape Province, 1932, by Charlotte Chamberlain [MS 100/1/3]

Charlotte Chamberlain was a member of the Chamberlain family of Birmingham, one of seven daughters of the industrialist Arthur Chamberlain. She was a graduate of Newham College, Cambridge, and of the University of Birmingham, the foundation of which her uncle, the politician Joseph Chamberlain, had played a leading role. On the death of their father in 1913, Charlotte and her sister Mary moved to the New Forest and they both became closely involved with the development of and notable benefactors of what was later to become the University of Southampton.

Red gum, Cape Province, 1932 [MS100/1/3]

Red gum, Cape Province, 1932, by Mary Chamberlain [MS100/1/3]

A member of one of the prominent Anglo-Jewish families, Julia Matilda Cohen née Waley (1853-1917) married Nathaniel Louis Cohen in 1873 when she was 20 years of age. The Waley Cohen collection (MS 363) includes Julia’s sketchbooks for the period 1874-81 and 1895.

From Beddgelert [MS363 A3006/3/5/4 page 37 number 2]

View from Beddgelert, June 1875, by Julia Matilda Cohen [MS363 A3006/3/5/4 page 37 number 2]

The earlier sketchbook was an album given to her as a repository for her sketches by her Aunt (Elizabeth) and Uncle (Jacob Quixano Henriques) in September 1874 to mark her reaching her majority. It contains sketches of places she visited around Britain and Europe including: Perthshire, Scotland; Windsor Castle, Chichester and Bournemouth, England; North Wales; and Simplon, The Tyrol, Domodossola, Venice, Verona and Lake Como, Italy.

View from Cricceth Castle, 1878, by Julia Cohen [MS 363 A3006/3/5/4 page 45 number 2]

View from Cricceth Castle, 1878, by Julia Matilda Cohen [MS 363 A3006/3/5/4 page 45 number 2]

‘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.