Tag Archives: Lady Swaythling

Celebrating the contribution of women: Lady Swaythling

Today marks International Women’s Day which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women throughout history and across nations. The Special Collections at the University of Southampton holds material for a range of women whose contribution in many spheres is worthy of mention. For this blog post we will focus on Gladys Helen Rachel Montagu, Baroness Swaythling (MS 383).

Photograph of Gladys, Dowager Lady Swaythling, taken by Dorothy Wilding [MS 383 A4000/6/1/5 f2]

Photograph of Gladys, Dowager Lady Swaythling, taken by Dorothy Wilding [MS 383 A4000/6/1/5 f2]

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1879, she was the eldest daughter of Colonel Albert Edward Williamson Goldsmid, MVO, and Ida Stewart Beauclerk Hendricks. In 1898 she married Louis Montagu, the eldest son of Samuel Montagu, first Baron Swaythling (MS 117), founder of the banking firm Samuel Montagu and Company. Louis succeeded as second Baron Swaythling in 1911 and inherited the office of president of the Federation of Synagogues (MS 248), an organisation created by his father to promote the acculturation of Jewish immigrants.

Following their marriage they lived at Townhill Park House, Southampton, purchased by the first Baron Swaythling in 1897. Originally dating from the 1790s, they had the house extended and re-designed by architect Leonard Rome Guthrie in the Italianate style. Guthrie also designed the terraced gardens to complement the style of the house, with the plants laid out by the renowned garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. As Lord and Lady Swaythling they were leading members of the Anglo-Jewish community and leading figures in English society, hosting dinner parties and other social events at Townhill Park where visitors included Princess Alice and Queen Mary (with whom Lady Swaythling had a lifelong friendship).

Belgian soldiers and staff at Allington Manor

Belgian soldiers and staff at Allington Manor [MS 383 A4000/6/1/13 ]

They were also active communal workers, with Lady Swaythling applying much of her energy to the local Southampton area. During the First World War she became President of the Women’s Southampton branches of the Auxiliary of the YMCA and Women’s Emergency Corps, as well as the War Hospital Supply Depot, Southampton. In addition, she served on eighteen different committees, including as chair of the Wounded Allies Relief Committee, established for the provision of convalescent homes for wounded Belgian soldiers.

Country houses were required for medical use as the large numbers of wounded meant there were not enough hospitals able to cope with the seriously disabled or even those simply convalescing. These houses were pressed into service or were donated for the purpose, as their clean country air and fine grounds were considered most helpful to rest and recuperation. Allington Manor, a country house in Eastleigh owned by the Swaythlings, was one of the houses donated as a military sanitorium. Lady Swaythling took a deep interest in the welfare of the sanatorium and would sing to the patients during her visits. Later, she was involved in organising hospitality for American soldiers and sailors, with her efforts leading to her becoming known as the “British godmother” among American naval enlisted men. Other activities included working on the executive committee of Queen Mary’s Governess’ Home in Surrey, and assisting the British Women’s Patriotic League.

Certificate granted to Lady Swaythling [MS 383 A4000/2/1]

Certificate granted to Lady Swaythling in recognition of her
charitable services during the First World War [MS 383 A4000/2/1]

After the war she continued her communal actives, with her roles including President of the Southampton Hostel for Unmarried Women and the Southampton branches of the National Society for Combating Venereal Diseases and the University Extension Lectures movement. She was also chair of the conjoint committee of the British Red Cross and the Order of St John of Jerusalem. In 1919 she joined the Council of the Anglo-Belgian Union and continued to support Belgian exiles during the Second World War. She was an active supporter of refugees throughout her life and, in 1925, addressed a letter to President Coolidge pleading for the admission to the United States of Jewish refugees stranded in Southampton.

Other public offices she held included President of the Electrical Association for Women, established in 1924 to interest women in the electrical development of the country; Honorary President of the Jewish Lads’ Brigade (MS 244), a Jewish youth organisation founded by her father in 1895; President of the Southampton branch of the Girl Guides Association; and Vice-President of the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). She travelled widely, touring countries such as India, Australia, China, Japan, the United States, and Canada, and was the recipient of many overseas honours. She was made OBE in 1953.

Lord and Lady Swaythling had had three sons and a daughter. Their eldest son Stuart became the third Lord Swaythling in 1927 on Louis’ death. The family continued to live at Townhill Park until 1939 when the house was handed over to the Red Cross and used as a convalescent home for British and American soldiers during the Second World war. Lady Swaythling died in 1965 at the age of 85.

This year, Southampton is joining in the International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration theme by ‘Being Bold’ and inviting everyone to West Quay and fringe events in town on Saturday March 11 to promote and celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, both locally and worldwide. For further details visit:
https://www.southampton.ac.uk/blog/sussed-news/2017/02/28/celebrate-international-womens-day-on-11-march/

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Unlocking an archival treasure trove

Catalogues are the key to unlocking the treasure trove of archival material. We are therefore delighted to announce that descriptions for archive collections MS 301-400 now are available on the Special Collections website:
http://www.southampton.ac.uk/archives/cataloguedatabases/webguide1.page

Totalling several thousand boxes of material, the collections MS 301-400 provide an incredibly rich and diverse research resource. A significant proportion of the collections have some Anglo-Jewish focus, complementing the extensive Anglo-Jewish Archives already held at Southampton, but overall they have a broad thematic sweep.

New collections in strongroom

New collections in strongroom

Alongside those of Jewish organisations, such as notable collections for the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain (MS 302) or the Leo Baeck College, London (MS 316), are a range of material for individuals and families, such as Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler, Sir Robert Waley-Cohen, the Henriques family, Dr Schenier Levenberg and William Frankel, who was editor of the Jewish Chronicle, to name but a few.

It is particularly pleasing to note that there has been a slight increase in the number of collections reflecting the lives and work of Jewish women. These range from the archive of Marianne Ellenbogen (MS 324), a German Jew who escaped incarceration by the Nazis after her family were arrested in Germany in August 1943 and went on the run spending two years travelling across Germany, to Trude Dub, Leicester correspondence of Jewish Chronicle (MS 325), Dr Asenath Petrie, psychologist and poet (MS 349) and papers of Gladys, Lady Swaythling (MS 383).

Photocard of Marianne Ellenbogen

MS 324 A2007/1/9 Photocard of Marianne Ellenbogen

Amongst papers of Lady Swaythling relating to her voluntary and philanthropic work, is material for the Wounded Allied Committee and Belgian refugees at Allington Manor, a home of the Swaythlings that was donated as a military sanitorium during the First World War. The collection also includes much relating to social events, and contains dinner books kept by Lady Swaythling that provide a wonderful insight into the etiquette, diet and arrangement of dinner parties in the interwar years.

Belgian soldiers and staff at Allington Manor

MS 383 A4000/6/1/13 Belgian soldiers and staff at Allington Manor

There are a number of small, but significant, collections that complement the papers of the first Duke of Wellington held by the University. The correspondence of Wellington to Sir John Malcolm (MS 308) was used in the compilation of Wellington’s Dispatches and fits perfectly with a second collection, that of the papers of Lieutenant Colonel John Gurwood (MS 321), who was the editor of the Dispatches.  Gurwood served under Wellington during the Peninsular War and distinguished himself leading the forlorn hopes at the storming at Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo.  His archive includes material on his military service, including letters to his mother, 1810-12, alongside the papers relating to his work for Wellington compiling the Dispatches.  Another interesting Wellington related collection (MS 351/6) contains the scrimshaw nautilus shell, engraved by C.H.Wood, depicting Wellington on one side and St George slaying the dragon on the other, produced in the 1850s, together with a number of Peninsular War and Waterloo related illustrations.

Wellington at Waterloo

MS 351/6 A4170/2 Lithograph of Wellington at Waterloo

The papers of Alan Campbell-Johnson, a public relations specialist, who in February 1947 became the first and only press attaché to a Viceroy of India, represent a significant addition to the material held within the Broadands Archives (MS 62). Campbell-Johnson accompanied Lord Mountbatten for the transfer of power to the newly independent India and Pakistan and remained with Lord Mountbatten, while Mountbatten was the first Governor General of India. Campbell-Johnson sustained a connection with Mountbatten for the remainder of his life and his archive provides an insight into the management of the presentation of partition to the media and, in the long term, in the managing of historical reputation.

Frank Prince

MS 328 A834/1/11//10 Frank Prince

Frank Templeton Prince was at one time a professor of English at the University of Southampton and his archive (MS 328) is just one of a number of collections with connections to the University. Prince was a poet of some renown, probably best remembered for his collection Soldiers Bathing (1954), the title poem of which is one of the most anthologised poems of the Second World War. He was admired by and influenced the New York school, a group of writers that flourished in the 1960s. His work has been somewhat overlooked more recently, however, and the archive has been a major resource in a reassessment of Prince’s poetry and legacy.

Finally, we turn to the Montse Stanley Knitting Collection. Montserrat Bayés Sopena was committed to bringing to a wider audience both creative knitting and the history of knitting. The Montse Stanley Knitting Collection at the Hartley Library comprises her working papers, photographs, postcards and illustrations (MS 331) together with a wide range of over 800 knitted objects and garments and small tools and sample yarns (MS 332): an invaluable resource for all aspects of knitting as well as for social history.

Silk purse shaped as a pineapple

MS 332/50/10/3 Silk purse shaped as a pineapple

Printed material from the Montse Stanley collection now forms part of the Knitting Reference Library at the Winchester School of Art Library.

We hope that you enjoy looking through the catalogue descriptions and perhaps find that serendipity moment when you make a delightful discovery of something unexpected.