Tag Archives: Students

University Developments Through Time: Rag

This blog post on University life will explore the world of Rag. These student-run, fundraising events and organisations have been part of student life for over 100 years.

Rag Day logo from 1953

The name ‘Rag’ is rather obscure and no one is entirely sure of its origins. The Oxford English Dictionary describes the act of ragging as “an extensive display of noisy disorderly conduct, carried on in defiance of authority or discipline”. The thought is that early fundraisers may have ‘ragged’ passers-by until they made a donation. Another idea is that the word came from the Victorian era when students took time out of their studies to collect rags to clothe the poor. More recently, ‘backronyms’ have been invented including ‘Raise and Give’, ‘Raise a Grand’ or ‘Raising and Giving’ to emphasis the philanthropic aspect of the activities.

Rag has been part of University life in Southampton since at least the 1920s. Alumnus Peter Smith describes how it was “a highlight of the Winter term, and it was always held on Shrove Tuesday, as if to get the festivities over before the strictures of Lent.” Over the years, it has consisted of a variety of activities, ostensibly aimed at raising money for charity, including a procession, ball, a show and the publication and sale of a ‘Rag mag’. As the years progressed, the antics became progressively wild. And, as you might imagine, the event has not always existed in harmony with Southampton residents.

The Engineering float depicting the Princess Flying Boat [MS310/34 A1090 p1]

This excerpt from the University College Southampton Rag Bag published in May 1927 describes the early days of Rag:

There is probably little doubt in the minds of the public as to what a University Rag is, even though many have never seen one: and whatever opinions exist on the subject we can say quite safely say that whenever there is a University or a College there is bound to be ragging.  The tradition is established and will persist; and as Colleges grow and develop, so the quantity and quality of its Rags will alter. Up to the present the Rags arranged by the students of University College, Southampton, have been, it must be admitted, very mild affairs, and we apologise very humbly that we have been unable to provide the town with better entertainment. Better times are in store, however. The College is growing fast and by the time Southampton is a University City, Rags will be as permanent and prominent a feature of town life as they are in other seats of learning.

The earliest Rag magazine in our collection, the Rag Bag from 1927. Look out for a future blog post giving the history of Kelly the skeleton.

A key feature of Rag was the publication of a ‘Rag mag’, a small booklet traditionally filled with politically incorrect humour sold in the lead up to Rag Day.  The earliest Rag mag in the University Collection is a copy of Rag Bag dating from 1927. Over the years Rag has been abolished and revived on a number of occasions. Its revival in 1948 was followed by the publication of Goblio, the longest running Rag mag in the collection, with copies dating from 1949-64. From 1967 the University’s Rag mag took on a range of titles, including “Son of Goblio” or; BabelSouthampton City RagFlushDragon; and Southampton Students Stag Rag.

Apparently the 1958 edition of the Goblio was banned and later ritually burned at the Bargate. Consensus among the students was that this was an extreme response with one recounting how the Goblio “was certainly rude and scurrilous, largely satirical, but rarely offensive”. While these magazines might be considered tame by today’s standards, times have changed and we struggled to find any jokes we felt appropriate – or funny enough – to share. Copies of the Rag mags are available in the University Collection in the Open Access area of Special Collections.

The Gaslight Gaities show from 1948 or 1949 [MS310/39 A2032]

The Rag mags bring our attention to another mystery in these matters: who, or what, is a ‘Goblio’? The origins or the word are again a little vague and it has now fallen out of use. It appears to have first been used around 1905. The New Zealand rugby team had just made their first tour of Britain. The story goes that a group of College students went to see the All Blacks depart from Southampton Docks and were deeply impressed by their goodbye ritual – the now famous haka. A “solemn conclave was held by night in the Cowherds’ Inn” to select a suitable yell that could be given in response and ‘Gobli-i-o’ was the outcome. It is described by former students as a “war cry at football matches and in Rags” as well as used as a farewell after student gatherings: the cheerleader would shout ‘Golbio’ and the rest of the group replied ‘Gee’. There was also a ‘Gobli dance’ performed during Rags. The students would form concentric circles around a policeman or tram aimed at causing disruption while, of course, also collecting money for good causes.

For many years, an afternoon procession was a key part of the Rag. Decorated floats on lorries lent by local firms, complete with ‘Rag Queen’ (usually a local girl), would parade through the town providing entertainment and collecting money.

Rag Day 1957 at civic centre with the ‘Rag Queen’ and local dignitary [MS 224/14 A941]. In some years the procession ended at the Guildhall with a trophy presented by the mayor for the best entry.

The Engineering Society were always very prominent during Rag, often accompanied by their human skeleton mascot “Kelly” and their 1920s vintage open single decker charabanc called “Toast rack”. In 1948 they are reported to have produced at 60 ft dragon for the parade!

Rag Day 1926 with the 1904 Bedion Bouton [MS 310/18 A1043]

Other events have included an annual Rag ball with dancing and fancy dress at the Guildhall and a Rag show with a revue format.

Obviously a key aspect of Rag – maybe more so for some years than others – has been raising money. The University has chosen various charities over the years. In 1927 “all money (less Rag expenses)” supported the children’s summer camps organised by the Rotary Club of Southampton. In the years following the Second World War, the festivities were called the Gaslight Gaieties and the money went to the Armed Forces Charity, formerly known as the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association. In 1958 the chosen charities were: Dr Barnardo’s Homes; British Empire Rheumatism Council; National Society for Cancer Relief and the Handicraft & Social Centre for the Blind. A Students’ Union handbook from the 1950s reported that sums raised in recent years ranged from £800 to £1,400.

Rag events programme cover [MD 310/39 A2032]

As with all University cities, there have not always been harmony between ‘town and gown’ and over the years, Rag has been a point of conflict. In 1927, the Rag Mag stated:

Horse play and hooliganism are not ragging, though unfortunately many think the terms are synonymous. We shall try to show they are not, and, indeed, what ragging has taken place in the past has, on the whole, been free from unpleasantness

R.G.Smith, an engineering student here in the 1940s recalls “jovial goings-on which were enjoyed both by ourselves and the citizenry of Southampton […] dressed as Long John Silver complete with parrot, I ‘held up’ the Ordnance Survey Office with a fearsome looking horse pistol and stung the personnel there for contribution to the Rag charity collections.” We wonder if Southampton residents have the same cheery memories of the Rag as Mr Smith?

Rag programme for 1948 [MS 310/31 A1087]

It is clear that, at times, Rag events did get out of hand. Alumnus Olive, who was a student here in the early 1960s describes the attempt to establish a “Charities Week Appeal” in November 1961: “to distinguish from its infamous predecessor ‘Rag’.” She describes how there was “a genuine attempt to get away from the unpleasant features of Rag and to concentrate on the worthwhile task of collecting money for local good causes.”

Things did not exactly go to plan. Olives gives the details: “The whole thing looked as if it was going to be too quiet and respectable until Students’ Council decided to ban Goblio. A packed Union meeting confirmed their decision and inevitably it was reported in the local and national press, radio and television. As there is no such thing as bad publicity £900 net was raised for charity. For the first time there were no letters of complaint either to the University or the local press.”

Souvenir Rag programme for 1948

Despite best endeavours, it was difficult to disassociate the fund raising from the pranks and “the annual flour and water fight” still took place in Charities Week. Although Olive reports positively that “no hard feelings, and a good deal of hard cash (£1450) for charities resulted”.  

Southampton students have organsied various stunts over the years. In the early years – when trams still ran through the town centre – the students used to process into town, stopping traffic and collecting money. May Ellis paints a vivid picture:

The Marlands was a large open space where eventually the civic centre was built. The men wore any kind of fancy dress, and we wore our gowns and were occupied with selling copies of the Rag bag. From the farflung parts of the town we converged on the Clock Tower, at noon. This was a large stone sculpture, Above Bar, in the centre of the road, at the junction of Commerical Road. (It has since moved into the gardens). Around it we formed four concentric circles – 4th years inside and 1st years outside, for “Gobli”, the college war cry. This very successfully halted trams (yes! trams!) and other traffic from every direction.

Rag ‘stunt’ at South Stoneham House, 1963 or 1964 [MS310/80 A4150]

W.Tomsett gives a similar account:

I remember taking part in a Rag on the town during those years. We crocodile down the Avenue, snakewise over the tram lines. When a tram didn’t stop some lay down across the rails until it did. We were in all sorts of fancy dress. Some carried buckets of paste – others theatre bills. These were stuck on bonnets and side of cars (which were halted) and on side of trams.

As the years progress, the stunts got more elaborate and extreme. Various former students have recollected: a banner appearing overnight down the civic centre clock tower; a cannon being lifted from one of the Winchester army establishments by residents from Connaught Hall; painted footsteps leading from Lord Palmerston’s statue in Romsey Square to the nearby lavatory; the “kidnap for ransom” of a top Southampton Football Club player and a banner proclaiming Rag draped over Stonehenge. Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight was broken into by a group of Southampton students as a publicity stunt. The Rag of 1963 featured a trans-Atlantic advertisement as the Queen Mary sailed for New York with Rag painted on her stern; apparently, Cunard were very understanding!

Local M.P. John Denham and Student Union President Simon Coningsby, November 1996 [MS 1/Phot/7/4/5]

In the twenty-first century, Rag has become the major fundraising committee of the University. Along with volunteers, they spend the year raising money for dozens of charities. Events include speed dating in February, hitch-hiking events to Christmas markets and the ‘Big Give’. Don’t worry if this all sounds a little tame compared with the antics of previous decades – there’s still the option of getting your kit off for the annual Rag calendar!

Its not possible to calculate the amount raised for charity by Southampton Rags but, whatever the total, it is heartwarming to think about all the good causes that have benefited from Southampton’s students over the years and the many more thousands of pounds more that will be raised in the future.

Highfield Campus 100: the 21st century

And so we reach the final Special Collections blog looking at the development of the University over the last 100 years.

As we moved into the new millennium, there was a change at the helm of the University with the Vice Chancellor, Professor Howard Newby, departing and being replaced by Professor Bill Wakeham. Following the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), which placed Southampton in the top ten of research-led universities in the UK – and which was described by Bill Wakeham as “spectacular by anybody’s standard” – Professor Wakeham produced his “Vision and Strategic Direction for the University of Southampton to 2010” setting out the future organisation and direction for the University.

Members of Athletics Union, with the Vice Chancellor, who recreated the relay run from London to Southampton to mark the golden jubilee of the University, 2002 [MS1/Phot/19/256]

In 2002, and again in 2012, the University also looked back to its history, celebrating first its golden and then diamond jubilee of gaining University status in 1952. One of the events in 2002 was to recreate the relay run by members of the Athletics Union from London to Southampton: in 1953 this had been to carry a message of congratulations from the Chancellor of the University of London delivered to the Chancellor of Southampton, the Duke of Wellington.

60at60: for diamond jubilee celebrations of the University of Southampton

Indeed, 2012 was to be a double celebration, since it also marked the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Hartley Institution in 1862. The Hartley Institution, which was based in the High Street, Southampton, was officially opened by the then Prime Minister, third Viscount Palmerston, who travelled from his home in Romsey for the event. Papers of Lord Palmerston form part of the Broadlands Archives, one of key collections of the Special Collections, and for which the University undertook a major fundraising campaign in 2009 to ensure that they remained in the UK.

Lord Palmerston arriving for the opening of the Hartley Institution, 1862 [MS1/Phot/39 ph3026]

The near two decades since 2000 has seen considerable development of the Highfield campus with amongst others the extension of the Hartley Library, opened in  November 2004; the re-development and extension of the George Thomas Building housing Professional Services and Student Services; and the Life Sciences building which won an architectural award in 2011. In 2005, a major fire partially destroyed the Mountbatten Building on campus: it successor, also called Mountbatten Building – providing accommodation for the School of Electronics and Computing Science and Optoelectronics Research Centre – was formally opened in 2009. The Highfield campus continues to be developed and reshaped, with the newest building, the aptly named Centenary Building, currently being completed. Developments in sports facilities, both at Highfield campus and elsewhere, will be covered in a successive blog next week.

Hartley Library extension opened 2004

The new millennium also saw developments in other ways: 2004 was the year that the first female Esquire Bedell was appointed at the University. Jo Nesbitt of the International Office was the appointee and it was claimed she was the first women to hold this ceremonial post in any university in the UK. The role was created in 1953 for the first University graduation and for, according to the Rag Magazine of the time, a tall male postgraduate “with a great love of ceremonial born in him”.

Jo Nesbitt featured in Hartley News, 2004

Graduations in 2004 were the first time that the ceremonies were broadcast live to allow all guests to see the proceedings. Graduations ceremonies now take place a number of times a year to accommodate increasing numbers of graduates and the expansion of University activities not just across several campuses in Southampton and Winchester but overseas. Southampton has a campus in Dalian, China – part of its collaboration with the Dalian Polytechnic University – and the Southampton’s Malaysia campus opened in October 2012 offering degrees in engineering. The Confucius Institute, which promotes Chinese culture and language, also was launched at the University in 2012.

Light Opera Society production of The Pirates of Penzance, 2000 [MS1/Phot/10/7/1]

Student life in the millennium is both very different and in some ways familiar with that in the decades since 1919. Student activism, details of which have been touched upon in previous blogs – such as protests in the 1960s – continued in the recent decades, encompassing such issues as higher education loans and climate change.  The opportunities for distraction of social and sporting activities is yet more multiple and varied. The number of clubs and societies supported by the Student Union has risen in the period since 2000 to 300, spanning an array of subjects from Ancient History to Women in Business, numerous performing arts societies and over 80 different sporting activities ranging from court sports to clubs such as windsurfing and sailing.

Mountaineering Club putting their skills to work around campus [MS1/Phot/19/263/1]

The University also can boast that it has sent a competitor to every summer Olympics since 1988 and in the millennium Southampton has seen success in Olympic sailing events. In Sydney 2000, rowing silver medalist Guinevere Batten competed with her sister Miriam in the women’s quadruple skulls. Subsequent successes include Pavlos Kontides who at the London Olympics, 2012, won Cyprus’s first ever Olympic medal, a silver in the Laser class sailing, and a gold medal for Giles Scott in the Finn heavyweight dingy class at Rio in 2016.

Sailing Club in action [MS1/Phot19/266]

As we approach the anniversary of the move to Highfield in autumn 1919, there is change at the helm of the University with the arrival of a new Vice Chancellor, Professor Mark E.Smith, marking another new phase in the institution’s story.

If these series of blogs have whetted your appetite for more about the development of Highfield over the last 100 years, then do check out Special Collections twitter account and the new series Highfield in 100 objects starting in October.

Highfield Campus 100: 1930s

Despite the 1930s being coloured with the economic depression, the College managed to achieve stability and progress. Treasury grants were raised again by the Grants Committee, and student numbers reached a peak at 474 in the academic year 1931-2, and were to reach 500 in the session 1932-3. The opening of New Hall was approaching, and a sense of self-assurance and shared determination infused on campus amongst staff and students.

Pages on New Hall from Booklet for University College, Southampton halls of residence, c.1930 [MS 224 A908/5, pp. 12-13]

New Hall, University College, Southampton Halls of Residence, c.1930 [MS224 A908/5, pp. 12-13]

As a result of generous benefactions, the College was able to construct and develop better facilities for its growing disciplines. At first housed in one small room in the main building and afterwards in two huts, Zoology was moved to the “Science Block” after a gift of £8000 was made by an anonymous donor. Completed in 1931, the building provided facilities for work that was impossible to conduct in the huts. The building also enabled the College to accept treasured zoological and geological collections, such as the Cotton Collection of British Birds, which was formerly housed by the Corporation of Winchester and transferred in 1936.

Corridor in the zoological laboratory from the University College Southampton Prospectus, 1934 [MS 224/22]

Corridor in the zoological laboratory, University College Southampton Prospectus, 1934 [MS224/22]

The College was also involved in city projects, which in turn led to the development of its courses. An example was the Dock Extension Scheme project. This involved construction on land regained from the higher part of Southampton Water of those docks which now expand along to Millbrook Point. The extension was completed in 1934 by many engineers who were former students of the College. It was expected that this docks extension would lead to more shipping companies using the port, and therefore more projects for the College to supply young engineers. Professor Eustice’s retirement as Chair of Engineering in 1930 was taken by the College as an opportunity to think about the future of its Engineering faculty, and to create a clear strategy, in time for Professor Eustice’s successor.

Southern Railway – Southampton Docks. Proposed Dock Extensions – Western Shore, Wessex, Volume 2, 1931-33 [LD 789.9 Univ Coll.]

Southern Railway – Southampton Docks. Proposed Dock Extensions – Western Shore, Wessex, Volume 2, 1931-33 [LF789.9 Univ. Coll.]

Southampton’s location near large engineering works made it a suitable place as a hub for engineering studies in the south of England. In the interests of engineering education, it would be beneficial for the training department to be part of a Higher Education institution, where it could be in close proximity to pure sciences with which engineering had numerous connections. Moreover, the College possessed the only engineering department of Higher Education standard on the south coast. This led to the Chair of Engineering’s salary being substantially increased, and an agreement that £5000 would be spent on equipment during the next two or three years, with a similar amount being saved for further accommodation.

The next Chair of Engineering appointed in 1931 was Wing-Commander T.R. Cave-Browne Cave. His career experience included serving in the Navy as an engineer-officer, and transferring to the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Air Force. He also had been responsible for the design, construction, and trial of non-rigid airships, and had conducted research at the Admiralty, and the Air Ministry, as well as serving on the Aeronautical Research Committee. Alongside his Chair of Engineering duties, Cave-Brown-Cave gave informal talks on aeronautical engineering at the halls of residence. Here is an account of a talk he gave at Stoneham House, featured in an issue of the West Saxon.

“We were fortunate last term in hearing Commander Cave-Brown-Cave give us what amounted to a racy and entertaining history of airships in England… I remember most vividly the thrilling account of the destruction of the R 33 over the Humber, the enthusiastic description of speed trials over the Channel in the R 100, and the wonderful impression of speed to be gained when racing only eighty feet above the clouds.” [The West Saxon, Summer Term 1931, p.91]

Letter written by Commander Cave-Brown-Cave, 19 May 1936 [MS 1 4/126]

Letter written by Commander Cave-Brown-Cave, 19 May 1936 [MS1/4/126]

The effects of the 1930s economic crisis led to the College experiencing a temporary drop in the grants received from the local authorities and the Board of Education, causing a small reduction in income. Cuts were also made to staff salaries. The biggest blow to the College, however, was the sudden dip in the number of students due to the changed policy of the Board of Education, and the damage this incurred on the College revenue. In 1929 a 5-year agreement was made between the Board of Education and the College over the supplementary two-year students. Before the crisis, the total numbers accepted to the Education Department was 375 (200 four-year, 150 two-year and 25 one-year postgraduate students), and this number had been almost fully reached. As a result of the economic crisis however, the Board first reduced the permitted total by 12.5%. They then announced in 1932 that under the current situation, the agreement on the College admitting two-year certificate students until 1934 would have to be terminated, except on conditions that hindered rather than benefitted the College.

Faculty of Education course of study slip, 1933-1934 [MS 104 LF780 UNI 5/374/122]

Faculty of Education course of study slip, 1933-1934 [MS104 LF780 UNI 5/374/122]

To meet this situation several staff appointments were terminated. Full-time members of staff were asked to take evening classes for which part-time teachers had been previously employed, cuts were made on funds for apparatus and equipment, and the administrative personnel was condensed. In spite of all these measures, deficits of £1873, £2882, and £6050 arose in 1933-4 and the two subsequent sessions; and in order to meet bank charges, some of the College’s investments had to be sold.

Advertisement for University College, Southampton, Wessex, Volume 3, 1933-36 [LD 789.9 Univ Coll.]

Advertisement for University College, Southampton, Wessex, Volume 3, 1933-36 [LF789.9 Univ. Coll.]

These deficits were the result of the necessary building programme required to provide the Engineering Department with new facilities, which included lecture rooms, drawing-offices, and workshops. In 1931-2, a new engineering block housing all of these and a new boiler house was constructed. Under a new regulation of London University’s External Council, no candidates for engineering degrees could be admitted to the examination unless they had studied in an approved institution. This meant that the new block required an inspection by London University, to which it passed with flying colours.

Bay of the engineering laboratories from the University College Southampton Prospectus, 1934 [MS 224/22]

Bay of the engineering laboratories, University College Southampton Prospectus, 1934  [MS224/22]

The development of the Engineering Faculty included the introduction of the Aeronautical Studies at the College. This was made possible by the development of a wind tunnel in 1934. To begin with, the tunnel was of a temporary nature and housed in an old hut. In 1941, it was rebuilt in more substantial form and filled with modern machinery. Initially, instruction in aeronautical work was provided to students in addition to their normal degree course. As a result of aircraft being increasingly demanded at a fast pace, and the resulting huge development of the mechanical staff of manufacturing companies, there was now an upward need for instruction of a standard, which would qualify students to take the aeronautical papers of the London degree examination. This led to University College Southampton appointing Mr T. Tanner as Lecturer in Aeronautical Engineering in 1936.

Students studying a model in the 7 x 5 wind tunnel from the University of Southampton 1862-1962 Centenary Appeal booklet [MS224/22 A952/6]

Students studying a model in the 7 x 5 wind tunnel, University of Southampton 1862-1962 Centenary Appeal [MS224/22 A952/6]

By 1931 the insufficiency of the library facilities was deemed so great that a special committee of Senate believed it was halting the effectiveness of the College. The state of finances could offer no solution, until a Mr Edward Turner Sims, a member of the Council who died in 1928, left a generous legacy. In his will he expressed his wish that some sort of memorial to him would be placed in the College. Mr Edward Turner Sims’ daughters, Mary and Margaret, made this wish come true by presenting to the College £24,250 for the construction of a library. In October 1935 H.R.H. the Duke of York (later King George VI) opened the Turner Sims Library. Holding a commodious reading room, a stack room for 12,000 volumes, and six seminar rooms for classics, modern languages, English, philosophy, history and economics, the library was an attractive space for students. So distinguished, the library was provided a prized location in the centre part of the main block on Highfield Campus. Soon after, donations were presented to the library, including in 1938 the collection of Claude Montefiore. The donation consisted of 4500 volumes, of which most focused on theology, Judaica, classical texts, and ancient history. This donation would later become part of the Parkes Library within the Library, which is now one of the largest Jewish documentation centres in Europe.

Official Wessex Edward Turner Sims Library

Interior of the main reading room at Edward Turner Sims Library, c.1938, Wessex, Vol 4, 1937-1938 [LF789.9 Univ. Coll.]

The formation of a School of Navigation had been one of Lyon Playfair’s ideas for the work of the Hartley Institution, and it was finally put into action in 1932, through the Council taking over Gilchrist Navigation School. The Council decided to operate it for an initial 2 years in South Hill. In 1935, the School was made permanent with the support of the local, educational, municipal, and shipping authorities. The appointed Director of the same year was Captain G.W. Wakeford. Restructured and expanded, the School received the recognition of the Board of Trade and the Board of Education. Extending over one year, a residential cadet course was opened in 1937.

Department of Navigation, Wessex Volume 3, 1933-36 [LD 789.9 Univ Coll.]

Department of Navigation, Wessex, Volume 3, 1933-36 [LF789.9 Univ. Coll.]

Despite the development of new facilities, student numbers were falling in the middle and later thirties, and there was a drop in the standard of examination results. Occurring predominantly in the Education Department, where the number of staff members almost matched the number of full-time students, the number of full-time students went from 375 in the session 1934-5 down to 269 in the session 1938-9. Student numbers dipped so low, that the College decided during the session of 1939-40 to have only two halls of residence open – Highfield and Connaught.

Female residents and sub-warden sat in front of Highfield Hall, 1930-31 [MS 224 A919/1]

Female residents and sub-warden sat in front of Highfield Hall, 1930-31 [MS224 A919/1]

It should be noted that this fall in students was not specific to the College, but in fact a countrywide problem. Some institutions however, suffered more than others. One general cause of the fall in students that was known to all higher education institutions was that in times of high employment parents preferred their children to grasp employment opportunities when they existed, rather than to spend time on Higher Education.

Graduates of University College, Southampton, May 1930 [MS224/12 A919/7]

Graduates of University College, Southampton, May 1930 [MS224/12 A919/7]

A Committee was eventually set up to discuss the how the numbers and quality of students could be improved again. They reported in 1939 measures to be taken, which focused on methods of motivating the less reactive students and steps to make the College’s work and resources more widely recognised. The outbreak of World War Two gave little time for these to be put into action however, and the war’s aftermath created a very different situation. Look out for our next Highfield 100 Campus blog post, which will take you through the forties at the University!

“Southampton War Cry” from the Wessex Student Song Book [MS 224 A917/10]

“Southampton War Cry”, Wessex Student Song Book [MS224 A917/10]

Highfield Campus 100: 1919

Welcome to the first in the series of Special Collections blogs that chart the development of university life at the Highfield campus from 1919 onwards.

University College at Highfield, from the south wing, c.1919 [MS1 Phot/39/ph3100]

University College at Highfield, from the south wing, c.1919 [MS1/Phot/39 ph3100]

The development at Highfield was part of an ambitious expansion plan by the University College of Southampton to create new and enhanced facilities to attract more students and to compete with other educational institutions.

The first part of this plan was the acquisition of the lease of Highfield Hall by the College’s Principal Dr Alexander Hill. This was opened in early 1914, partly as a home for Dr Hill and his family, and partly as a hall of residence for a number of staff and students.

Highfield Hall showing winter garden, c.1914 [MS 1/Phot/39 ph 3128a]

Highfield Hall showing winter garden, c.1914 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3128a]

The progress and plans for the buildings at the Highfield site were to be subject to various modifications as compromises had to be made to keep the project within budget.

Details of plans from 1912

Detail from proposed plans, 1912

Firstly, due to increasing building costs, the construction of the proposed administration building was postponed. It then became clear that only two wings of the Arts building, without its centre, could be constructed with the money available. This “Arts block” consisted of 28 large and various small lecture rooms as well as private rooms for professors and laboratories for biology, chemistry, physics and engineering connected to the Arts block and each other by covered ways.

South wing and front of building under construction, c.1913 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3089]

South wing and front of building under construction, c.1913 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3089]

Front of building under construction, c.1913 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3095]

Part of front of building under construction, c.1913 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3095]

Despite the compromises that had to be made with the construction, a sense of optimism prevailed and in a letter to the Court of Governors in early 1914 the President of University College, Claude Montefiore, wrote: “There is a need for a strong university college in the southern counties, which shall ultimately develop into a local university…. A natural seat of such a university or university college is Southampton.”

The first instalment of buildings was officially opened by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Haldane, on 20 June 1914.

The architect presenting the keys to Lord Haldane at the official opening of the Highfield buildings, 1914 [MS1/2/5/17]

The architect presenting the keys to Lord Haldane at the official opening of the Highfield buildings, 1914 [MS1/2/5/17]

Eight days later Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo and war was declared on 4 August. The College made the decision not to move its operations from the High Street and a special meeting of the Council on 7 September was called to consider offering the War Office the new buildings at Highfield as a temporary hospital.

University War Hospital, 1915 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3106]

University War Hospital, 1915 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3106]

The Highfield buildings continued to be used as a war hospital into 1919. The War Office gave up the tenancy in May, although discussions had begun early in that year for the return of the buildings to the University College. The College took the view that as the buildings had been new when they were taken over by the War Office, there would be damage that could not be made good. Instead, as noted in the Council minutes of 24 February 1919, it would prefer “that they should remain as ‘honourable scars’ testifying to the service which the College was able to render to the state during its time of trial”.

Notice of thanks from the Army Council to University College for the use of the Highfield buildings as a military hospital 1914-May 1919 [MS 1/2/5/20]

Notice of thanks from the Army Council to University College for the use of the Highfield buildings as a military hospital 1914-May 1919 [MS1/2/5/20]

On assessing the extent of the damage, however, the Principal Dr Hill reported to the Council on 23 June that “the architect … was astonished at the amount. … The fitting up and furnishing of the new buildings would be extremely costly, even though the utmost use should be made of all materials which could be removed from the old buildings. The absolutely indispensable equipment would cost several thousands of pounds”. Renewed negotiations with the War Office led to the agreement for “all the huts, fittings, furniture and other equipment provided for the war hospital” to be retained by the College to enable it to accommodate the influx of students and wounded military personnel wishing to return to study.

University College buildings, showing huts, 1925 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3076]

University College buildings showing huts retained from War Hospital, 1925 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3076]

When the move was finally made from the “Old Hartley” to Highfield campus for the start of the academic year 1919 “upward of 300 full time day students had been admitted and more were coming in every day….” marking a new beginning for both the University and for college community life.

What awaited the new students who joined the College in the autumn of 1919?

In terms of the facilities, the new buildings at Highfield were praised as an improvement on those at the city centre, although accommodation was restricted. Lecture rooms could be small and some facilities had to serve multiple purposes.

Department of Modern Languages [MS1/2/5/17/49]

Department of Modern Languages [MS1/2/5/17/49]

Omnibus room which served as a staff common room, committee room and overflow library [MS1/2/5/17/90]

Omnibus room which served as a staff common room, committee room and overflow library [MS1/2/5/17/90]

Whilst the wooden huts left by the military provided much needed additional accommodation, they still had in some cases traces of their hospital origins. The staff refectory bore the inscription “dysentery” on its door for some time. And although they provided more spacious accommodation than the rooms in the main buildings, the huts were fairly spartan environments.

Hut used as a chemistry laboratory [MS1/2/5/17/30]

Hut used as a chemistry laboratory [MS1/2/5/17/30]

There was also no room specifically designed as a library since this has been part of the central block which had not been constructed. Stock had to be distributed across the College in the various departments.

Department of Chemistry Library [MS1/2/5/17/209]

Department of Chemistry Library [MS1/2/5/17/209]

Maintenance grants were available to support students wishing to study at the College. The rates set by the College’s grants committee in 1919 ranged from £90 pa for single men who were residing with their parents and did not contribute to household costs, to £150 pa for single men and £200 pa for married men who resided independently. No mention is made of grants for women students.

Seniors, 1919, with Dr Hill in the centre [MS1/7/291/22/1 p. 43]

Seniors, 1919, with Dr Hill in the centre [MS1/7/291/22/1 p. 43]

Whilst student numbers had been maintained during the war years by an increase in women students, there was an influx of male students returning to study in 1919. Men and women staff and students might teach and study together, but otherwise existed quite separately. There were designated common rooms for female staff and students, away from those for the male staff and students, and halls of residence were equally separate.

Women staff common room [MS1/2/5/17/92]

Women staff common room [MS1/2/5/17/92]

In keeping with a new beginning at a new location, new staff joined the University for the 1919 academic year although the overall staff complement remained quite modest: G.F.Forsey was appointed lecturer in Classics, finally marking a separation of this subject from English; E.E.Mann became a lecturer in civil and mechanical engineering; A.E.Clarence Smith was appointed a lecturer in physical chemistry; W.H.Barker became lecturer in geography; and the first lecturer in Economics joined the staff. By 1919 the starting salary for the lecturers was £350 pa, whilst that of a professor was £500. This was apparently quite low in comparison with other higher education institutions of the time.

Fancy dress event, 1919 [MS1/7/291/22/1 p.45]

Fancy dress event, 1919 [MS1/7/291/22/1 p.45]

Student activities and student societies had continued throughout the war period, although on a more modest scale. The academic year of 1919 was as much one of transition and adjustment for student social and sporting activities as for academic matters. The student magazine returned to a termly publication rather than the annual one it had been during the war and student societies began developing their future plans. Yet while student events were organised, the lack of space at Highfield campus meant that certain groups such as the Physical Culture Society and the Scientific Society were unable to initiate meetings again at the start of the 1919/20 academic year. Moreover the annual soirée for new students was held at the old Hartley Institution building as there was no room large enough at Highfield.

As we move into the 1920s, the University College entered a new phase: to find out more about this look out for the next blog in February.

SUSU Sport – making history

Are you a member or supporter of Team Southampton ? You are making history!

Generations of students and staff – men and women – have built a strong sporting tradition at Southampton and you are following in their footsteps. In 2017, SUSU has 93 sports teams competing at a national level.  How will your team be remembered?

Netball team, 1928-9, MS1/7/291/22/2/62

Netball team, 1928-9, MS1/7/291/22/2/62

Team photos record more than names and faces – they often detail trophies, mascots, special occasions and successes, the sports-wear and sports equipment of the day. Are they formal or informal? What do they show about team spirit and pride? What about the setting – they may be taken on the pitch or show University locations and sports facilities. How does the past link to the present?

In Special Collections we hold many records relating to University teams and their achievements, from the earliest days of the Hartley Institution at the end of the 19th century – to the modern sports teams of today. They include photos, programmes, fixture lists, match reports, accounts and papers – even a rugby shirt worn by R.E.Brown, captain of the first XV in 1933-4!  Together they tell the story of sport at Southampton – an important aspect of University life.

The University Boat Club, 1962-3. MS1/7/291/22/4/125

The University Boat Club, 1962-3. MS1/7/291/22/4/125

This is the University Boat Club, 1962-3. The caption reads: “1st VIII were placed 12th out of 150 crews in the Reading Head of the River, and for the first time the University entered for Henley Royal Regatta in the Thames Cup division” MS1/7/291/22/4/125.

We have recently contributed to a project to celebrate the UK’s sporting heritage.

The aim is to bring together information about sports archives and the people who care for them. By adding details of our collections to this website we are helping to build a national list of all the sporting heritage collections in the UK.  You can use it to search by sport or location; discover what’s on; read featured articles, and more.

The Special Collections also holds manuscript and printed material relating to sport in the county of Hampshire; the sporting interests of individuals – such as Earl Mountbatten of Burma (a famous polo player) – and the sporting activities of Anglo-Jewish youth groups. You can see details of our sporting collections here:

https://www.sportingheritage.org.uk/content/collection/special-collections-hartley-library-university-southampton

Ask an Archivist Day: Responding to enquiries

Archivists and curators of Special Collections possess a detailed knowledge of the collections in their care and are always delighted to share this. To mark Ask an Archivist Day we provide a brief breakdown of the process involved in responding to researcher enquiries…

Enquiries come by four main routes: by email, phone, via post, or in person. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these days the majority of enquiries we receive are by email. The Archives inbox is managed on a rota, with Archivists taking turns in dealing with enquiries. However, if there is a large volume they will be shared out among the team. Enquiries come from a range of users both national and international, including students, scholars, educators, authors, family historians, genealogists, and filmmakers. The nature of enquiries can vary dramatically and they continually highlight the richness of the resources housed in Special Collections. While some enquiries can take minutes to process, others can take significantly longer. Below are examples of two relatively straightforward enquiries: one relating to a broad topic and the other with a more specific focus.

Enquiry #1: I’ve found material relating to the slave trade listed on the Wellington Papers Database. What other material do you have on the slave trade in the 19th century?

The topic of slavery and the slave trade is covered by both our manuscript and Printed Special Collections. Turning first to the manuscript collections, material can be found among the papers of two nineteenth-century politicians: those of the first Duke of Wellington (MS 61) and of third Viscount Palmerston (MS 62).

Searching the Palmerston Papers Database

Searching the Palmerston Papers Database

As was noted by the researcher, material on the topic can be found listed on the Wellington Papers Database. The database contains item level descriptions of material from the collection, enabling the researcher to narrow their focus to specific letters or documents. Meanwhile, a look at the catalogue for the Palmerston Papers shows there is a series of letters and papers relating to slavery and the slave trade (MS 62 PP/SLT) among the Papers on Foreign Affairs. Having identified these, a search of the Palmerston Papers Database highlights other parts of the collection containing material on the topic. Again, the database contains item level descriptions for identifying relevant documents.

It is now time to turn to the Printed Special Collections. Two collections immediately spring to mind: the Oates collection and the Wellington pamphlets. The Oates collection contains over 220 books and pamphlets on the West Indies and the abolition of slavery, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. While the Wellington pamphlets cover a broader range of topics, the pamphlets on the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies complement those held in the Oates Collection.

An address to the inhabitants of Europe on the iniquity of the slave trade [Rare Books HT 1322]

An address to the inhabitants of Europe on the iniquity of the slave trade [Rare Books HT 1322]

Material from both of these collections can be searched on WebCat, the library’s online catalogue. As with the manuscript databases, this will help the researcher identify particular items relevant to their research. Additionally, a selection of pamphlets from the Oates collection have been digitised and can be accessed remotely on the Internet Archive.

On replying to the researcher’s enquiry, they are invited to visit to consult the collections and access details are provided.

Enquiry #2: My grandfather was a student at the university sometime between 1900 and 1905. Can you provide me with further details?

This is quite a specific enquiry and relates directly to a single manuscript collection: MS 1 Records of the University of Southampton. The first step is to examine the collection’s catalogue for listings of material relating to students covering the date range provided. PDF versions of catalogues for each collection are available to download on the Special Collections website.

Consulting the paper catalogues

Consulting the paper catalogues

At this point, it should be noted that the University manuscript collection does not contain personnel files for individual members of staff or students. However, a quick search of the catalogue provides a number of potential resources:

MS 1/3/476/3/1 Record of students, 1870-1900

MS 1/3/476/2/5 Register of students of the day training department, 1899-1915

MS 1/3/476/2/6 University examination results, arranged alphabetically by student name, 1905-36

Now it’s time to have a look at the records in the strongrooms! A location guide provides details of where items from the collections are located as there are several kilometres of shelving to navigate.

Accessing material in the strongrooms

Accessing material in the strongrooms

A search of the first volume doesn’t yield any results. The dates covered are possibly too early. The second volume, however, does contain an entry for the individual. Having graduated in 1905 their examination results are also listed in the third volume. As the individual is deceased, data protection rules do not apply and a response it sent to the researcher. They are invited to visit to consult the material themselves or, if they prefer, to order copies of the records (for the purposes of private study and research) through our reprographics service.

So please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding our collections or service. We are always happy to hear from users! Contact details can be found on our website at: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/archives/contact.page

Student publications

With freshers’ week in full swing and semester one having officially begun, a hive of student activity has returned to the University after the summer break. We would like to welcome all new and returning students! With this in mind, this week’s blog post looks at examples of early student publications from the University Collection, a number of which have been digitised and are currently available to view on the Internet Archive.

College Magazines

Covers for the four titles of the college magazine

Covers for the four titles of the college magazine: Hartley College Magazine, March 1901; Hartley University College Magazine, Winter Term 1912; Southampton University College Magazine, Christmas Term 1922; and West Saxon, Autumn Term 1929.

The earliest student publication in the University Collection is the first issue of the Hartley College Magazine from March 1901. The editorial to the issue notes that:

On February 27th, a General College Meeting determined by a unanimous resolution to start a Magazine. It was decided that the General Editor should be a member of the Staff, and that the different sections of the College should each choose two representatives to serve upon the Committee, power being given to add to its members by co-option. […]

It was resolved to publish once a Term in the first instance, and to issue the first number without delay. The size of the Magazine, colour of cover, title, price, and general character of the contents were next discussed, and agreed upon. The result of the deliberations may be seen in the first number of “The Hartley College Magazine.” [Hartley College Magazine, vol. 1, no. 1, March 1901]

The magazine ran under various titles between 1901 and 1939, all the while maintaining essentially the same format found in the first issue: an editorial (covering recent news and events); columns on a range of topics contributed by members of staff and students; along with reports and updates from societies and sports clubs. Later issues also included contributions of prose, poetry, songs, and reviews, as well as columns by past students. The past students society, known as the Society of Old Hartleyans, would eventually have their own publication in the form of The Gobli (later The Gobli Minor and The Hartleyan), first published in 1923.

The title of the college magazine was changed to reflect the transition of the institution to a university college in 1902, becoming the Hartley University College Magazine. Shortly thereafter, more elaborately designed covers began to appear, including a series of issues displaying a photograph of the old Hartley Institution building on the High Street. June 1914 saw the grand opening of the renamed University College of Southampton at its new Highfield campus. Six weeks later the country declared war on Germany. As a result, the move to Highfield was postponed indefinitely with the College offering the buildings to the War Office for use as a hospital.

The editorial to the first issue of the renamed Southampton University College Magazine reflects on the situation:

In troublous times, amidst wars and rumours of wars, when the spectacle of the desolate, the wounded and the dead is ever present with those of us who have hearts and homes, the periodical of the old Coll. which still, thanks to those grim and grey spectres keeping watch and war along our coasts, in common with the rest of our land retains its blissful serenity undisturbed by the turmoil of the outside world, once again makes its appearance. It would be out of place to make more than a passing reference here to the conditions in which we find ourselves placed to-day, and we must be content merely to wish God-speed and a safe return to those of our number-good and true comrades all-who are devoting their lives to the service of their country, whether at home or abroad, in the barrack-room or on the field of battle. [Southampton University College Magazine, vol. 16, no. 42, Winter Term 1914]

Despite the setback for the institution, the college magazine continued through the war years with issues from the period providing details of staff and students in active service, including lists of those injured, missing, or killed in action. Meanwhile, the first issue of the University War Hospital Gazette was published in October 1917, intended as “a monthly magazine of humour, verse and interest by the patients and staff” at the Highfield site.

West Saxon: frontispiece from Autumn Term 1928 issue and cover of Spring 1939 issue.

West Saxon: frontispiece from Autumn Term 1928 issue and cover of Spring 1939 issue. The editorial to the 1939 issue reflects on recent events: “This year West Saxon is draped in black, in keeping with the age. This is the year of gloom, that began with a scare that shook our faith in the permanence of our civilisation. We find it impossible to shut ourselves in our academic ivory tower. The uncertainty of the world situation gives us a haunting feeling of insecurity: we feel the Sword of Damocles over us, yet we do not hear the “two handed engine at the door.” “Don’t work, you’ll never take Finals,” has become the shibboleth of the disillusioned.” [West Saxon, vol. 39, no. 1, Spring 1939]

To support the movement for a University of Wessex, the college magazine adopted a new title of the West Saxon in 1926. The editorial to the Christmas term issue notes that:

In view of the movement which is on foot to make this College the University of Wessex, we deemed it essential to adopt some name which had some connection, historical, geographical, or literary with the area which this College serves, the area which once comprised the kingdom of Wessex. The adoption of such a title would, we thought, have a two-fold, and possibly a three-fold, value. In the first place such a title would be of value in showing the university world of this country (and others) what this College is and hopes to be; secondly, it would kelp to keep before the minds of present students the ideal at which we are aiming; and, thirdly, it would ensure the continuity of the future history of the Magazine, if we could choose a title suitable for use by the University of Wessex. [West Saxon, vol. 27, no. 68, Christmas Term 1926]

Two years later the first issue of Wessex was published. Edited by V. de Sola Pinto, the chair of English, the annual was “a record of the movement for a University of Wessex”, to which members of staff contributed learned articles. Wessex survived for ten years, by which time the plan for a University of Wessex had foundered. By now enthusiasm for the West Saxon was also on the wane. Burdened by the weight of tradition, editorials from the 1930s highlight the struggle faced by the editorial staff. Despite the promise to be both enterprising and efficient, the editor to the Spring issue from 1939 confesses that:

This magazine should be the highest expression of representative literary work, or representative opinion, of the members of the Students’ Union […] We were financed by, and were appointed by, the Students’ Union to produce West Saxon, a magazine with a traditional tone and format, and not the magazine that we might in our heart of hearts desire to provide. And even this traditional West Saxon, could not be what we wanted it to be: we could have lino-cuts, photographs, and gay illustrations-but alas!-the financial position of the Students’ Union has demanded us to exercise the most rigorous financial stringency. Indeed, this traditional magazine seems to be fighting for its very existence. [West Saxon, vol. 39, no. 1, Spring 1939]

The number of issues published each session had decreased over the previous two years with only one (final) issue appearing during the 1938/9 session. A new magazine arrived in the form the Second Wessex in Christmas Term 1944. Maintaining a format similar to the previous publication, the preface to the first issue states that:

This Magazine is an attempt to preserve and foster the writings of the student of University College, Southampton. It includes the work of members of any Faculty, and thus realises the idea that the Undergraduate is concerned with wider education than the mere absorption of his own subject.

Its name is a connection with an older tradition, but the publication has no actual descent, and is indeed entirely separate from that tradition. It is concerned entirely with the culture, the ideas and the affairs of the student. [Second Wessex, vol. 1, no. 1, Christmas Term 1944]

The latest issue of Second Wessex in the University Collection dates from 1968.

Issues of Hartley College Magazine, Hartley University College Magazine, Southampton University College Magazine, and West Saxon are available to consult in the open access area of Special Collections on Level 4 of the Hartley Library. Issues have also been digitised and are available to view on the Internet Archive.

Wessex News

Covers of Wessex News, March 1973, and Small Wessex, 1964

Covers of Wessex News, March 1973, and Small Wessex, 1964

The first issue of Wessex News was published in 1936. Its front page contains a statement by K.H. Vickers, Principal of University College, Southampton, outlining the aim of the publication:

Very often it has been borne in upon me how difficult it is for various members of the College to know what is going on in departments of activity with which they are not intimately associated, and, indeed, I think very few have any appreciation of the large amount of valuable and interesting work that is done on behalf of the College as a whole, and the student body in particular, and of the extent and range of these activities which have all played their part in building up a sound esprit de corps, and a real basis of university life. I hope very much that from week to week “Wessex News” will be read by all those who are taking part in the activities of the College, and, further, as time goes on, by those who are interested in the College, but not closely associated with its work; it should bring home to them how many and various are the aspects of its life. [Wessex News, vol. 1, no. 1, 25 February 1936]

Published by the Southampton University Students’ Council (now the Students’ Union) the format of the publication was closer to that of a newspaper than the student magazine had been. Since its creation, the paper has provided students with regular news, reviews, and opinion pieces and remains the oldest student news provider at the University.

Wessex News became Wessex Scene in 1996 in order to reflect on the broader range of content being fed into the paper. It has evolved over the years and now takes the form of an online news site as well as a monthly printed magazine, available across the University’s campuses and Halls of Residence. Over the years the paper has also included supplements, including Small Wessex and The Edge. Individual issues of Small Wessex focus on specific topics, ranging from fashion, music, and books to rag, societies, and graduate careers. The Edge, a more recent supplement, was first published in 1995. Focusing on entertainment news, it has been published independently since 2011.

Editions of Wessex News (and Small Wessex) available in Special Collections date from 1936 to 1994. Issues of Wessex News from 1936 to 1940 are currently available to view on the Internet Archive.

Rag Mags

Covers of Rag Bag, 1929, and Goblio, 1957

Covers of Rag Bag, 1929, and Goblio, 1957

Rag has been part of University life since the 1920s. Rag day, traditionally held on Shrove Tuesday, consisted of a variety of activities aimed at raising money for charity, including the Rag procession and Rag ball. Other activities included the publication of a ‘Rag Mag’, a small booklet traditionally filled with politically incorrect humour sold in the lead up to Rag Day. The earliest Rag Mag in the University Collection is a copy of Rag Bag dating from 1927. Over the years Rag has been abolished and revived on a number of occasions. Its revival in 1948 was followed by the publication of Goblio, the longest running Rag Mag in the collection, with copies dating from 1949-64.

From 1967 the University’s Rag Mag took on a range of titles, including “Son of Goblio” or; Babel; Southampton City Rag; Flush; Dragon; and Southampton Students Stag Rag. Copies of the Rag Mags are available to access in the open access area of Special Collections.

The magazines mentioned above are just a sample of the publications available in the University Collection. They are a key resource for understanding the development of the institution, providing student perspectives on life at the University as well as insights into significant events in the history of the University and its region.

University balls and dances

With the academic year having come to an end and the celebration of summer balls having recently passed, we look back at a selection of the balls and dances which populated the University calendar in the decade following the University’s receipt of its royal charter.

Student social events have formed part of the University’s calendar since the early days of the institution. Looking at a student handbook from 1906 one can find a number of social functions listed for the session, including a series of soirées, a joint musical evening by the Choral Society, and a garden party. By the time the institution received its royal charter in 1952, becoming a full-fledged University, balls and dances had become a prominent feature of the student social scene.

Programmes for the Union Ball, 1939 [MS 310/78] and 1959 [MS 310/23]

Programmes for the Union Ball, 1939 [MS 310/78] and 1959 [MS 310/23]

One of the key events to mark the beginning of the academic year was the Freshers’ Dance. Specifically aimed at first year students, the dance was intended to provide a sample of University entertainment. However, as with many of the student dances held during the 1950s, the venue for the ball was the old Refectory (forming part of what is now Garden Court, Building 40). The venue proved inadequate, with the student newspaper the Wessex News noting that it was “not designed to accommodate two hundred and fifty whirling couples”. The result was often an overcrowded, hot and noisy event, with the behaviour of certain seniors leading to the annual dance becoming commonly known as “the cattle market”.  The late 1950s and early 1960s was a period of major expansion for the University and by the time of the 1960-1 session the Union was ready to move into the whole of the West Building, providing sufficient space for dances and live performances.

Next on the calendar was the Halloween Ball in October. Established by the Scottish and Old Time Dancing Society, the dance incorporated traditional Scottish music and was host to a selection of witches, devils, bats and similar nocturnal creatures. In 1956 an unexpected guest made an appearance: “Quite in keeping with the general atmosphere of diabolism was the sudden and unexpected entry of Kelly [the Engineering faculty’s mascot] surrounded by hooded engineers, bless their little cotton socks, furiously exploding Bangers.” [Wessex News, 6 November 1956, Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

Kelly the skeleton, the Engineering faculty’s mascot, was a regular guest at student balls and dances [MS 1/7/291/22]

Kelly the skeleton, the Engineering faculty’s mascot, was a regular guest at student balls and dances [MS 1/7/291/22]

A range of faculty and society balls populated the calendar throughout the decade. A description of the Interstellar Ball held by the Science Faculty in January 1957 reads:

“In front of the West Building stood a rocket ready for take-off, and inside the theme was carefully repeated with star-studded portholes, martian television sets, a flying saucer and various galaxies, not to mention a rather static mobile.” [Wessex News, 29 January 1957, Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

One of the most prominent social events on the University calendar was the Engineers’ Ball held in the late autumn. By the 1950s the ball had established itself as a tradition and was widely considered one of the most memorable events of the year. A great deal of effort went into planning and organising each ball. The refectory was decorated with gadgets and other mechanical wonders, bringing welcome relief from the “tedium” of its natural decor. Each year the venue was decorated to a particular theme, including the “Festival of Britain” in 1951, the “Brussels Exhibition” in 1958, and “Underwater” in 1959.

Photograph of students setting up the Engineers’ Ball, c. 1952 [MS 310/34]

Photograph of students setting up the Engineers’ Ball, c. 1952 [MS 310/34]

A review of the 1957 Engineers’ Ball in the Wessex News reads:

“No one who has not seen the Refectory when the Engineers have finished with it could believe that such a transformation of this monstrosity was possible. This year visitors found themselves in a fairground cum circus, with the usual appendages including, strangely enough, a Big Wheel. A large cage divided the bar in the annexe from the dancing room, an excellent idea, since it was mostly monopolised by the jivers who are always a nuisance to civilised dancers.” [Wessex News, 10 December 1957, Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

The Engineers’ Ball was considered more glamourous even than the Union Ball (though it lacked the gloss of officialdom that the latter possessed) with the same reviewer writing:

“The Engineers set themselves a very high standard, which they manage miraculously, year after year, to live up to. One can never judge an Engineers’ Ball by comparing it to other Union dances because they are not in the same class…” [Wessex News, 10 December 1957, Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

The popularity of the event meant that tickets were made available in order of precedence, as follows: Ball Helpers, engineering finalists, a limited number of other engineers, members of the Union, and even members of the University staff.

The spring brought two key events to the Union calendar: Rag day and the Union dinner and ball. Rag day was traditionally held on Shrove Tuesday and consisted of a variety of activities aimed at raising money for charity. It was seen as an occasion for “fun and high spirits” as well as being a means of bringing “pleasure, help and happiness to others”. Central to Rag day was the Rag procession which paraded through the city with all manner of floats accompanied by students in fancy dress. The day’s events culminated in the Rag ball which generally took place in the Guildhall in the city centre.

Route of the Rag procession, 1948 [MS 310/31]

Route of the Rag procession, 1948 [MS 310/31]

Rag day induced a particular atmosphere which some have described as “riotous”. This, on occasion, led to inexcusable acts of hooliganism which threatened the very existence of the Rag. Detailing the revival of Rag in 1948 after a lapse of many years, an article in the Wessex News notes that: “Over enthusiasm on the part of the students had caused the police to intervene in no uncertain manner, and the Rag machinery fell into disuse.” [Wessex News, 16 October 1951, Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9] A similar situation occurred in 1959 leading to the abolishing of the Rag for a number of years. While it was proposed that new University Arts Festival could act as a replacement, the Rag was reinstated again in 1963.

The Students’ Union held its own dinner and ball around the same time as the Rag (with an oversight in 1957 leading to the two events clashing). The event, regularly criticised as elitist, consisted of a dinner with speeches and toasts followed by a ball at the Guildhall. Looking at a programme for the Union Ball from 1939 one can find various ballroom dances listed, including quickstep, waltz, foxtrot, tango, etc., with the evening ending with a toast to “The King”. Fast-forwarding to 1959 we find both an orchestra, with traditional ballroom dances listed, alongside a jazz-band.

Photograph of students at the Union Ball, 1959 [MS 310/23]

Photograph of students at the Union Ball, 1959 [MS 310/23]

By the late 1950s, jazz had established itself as an integral part of the student social scene with nearly all dances and socials featuring jazz groups, either as support or as the main attraction. While balls remain a standard of the University calendar, options for live music at the University broadened in subsequent decades as live jazz and rock became an integral part of many student’s lives.

Today, the Freshers’ Ball, Graduation Ball and Engineering Ball remain some of the most prominent social events of the University year.

An appointment with the Archives

The Special Collections  has a developing programme of events and visits designed to introduce students to both the collections and the work of the Division.   Last week a group of students joined the team for a behind the scenes visit and a taster session working with the collections.  As well as the opportunity to decipher Queen Victoria’ handwriting, the students assessed albums compiled by the Society of Old Hartleyans relating to student life from the first half of the 20th century, helping to choose items that we could use for promotional purposes.  Here are the choices of three of the group, Greg, Núria and Victoriawith their explanations of why the items appealed to them.

Greg 

As a photograph the striking contrasts of black suit and white shirt make the tone exciting and help to define the faces of the past by highlighting facial features.  Their finely combed hair and crisp collars show the evident attempt on their part to produce a smart picture, tarnished only by the bulb that somewhat hangs randomly on one side of the image as well as the reels of wire stacked in the left of the picture.”

Men's common room, 1918 [MS1/7/291/22/1]

Men’s common room, 1918 [MS1/7/291/22/1]

Greg’s second choice was a photograph of the football team, 1901-2:

Personally, with a keen interest in the history of football in England, this photo gives a sense of the amateur origins of the game of the time.  I love the lack of formality that is conveyed in the mish-mash of clothing on display.  It appeals to me as you are able to see the rugged leather boots and thick long sleeved shirts donned by the players, whilst also seeing the traditional ‛flatcap’ and suit style of the time being worn by gentlemen to the side of the team.  The rawness of the wooden terrace gives a sense of the crowd they played in front of, and the battered pitch an idea of the style of game!

Hartley College football team, 101-2 [MS1/7/291/22/1]

Hartley College football team, 1901-2 [MS1/7/291/22/1]

The early days of the University’s Football Club were on a modest and local scale.  Home matches were mainly played at the Shirley Ground.  The emphasis of the Football Club of 1900s was on “healthy recreation and vigorous exercise for men students” rather than on sporting prowess, hence the lack of formality in the clothing that Greg noted.

Núria

Swimming teams, 1933-6 [MS1/7/291/22/2]

Swimming teams, 1933-6 [MS1/7/291/22/2]

Núria’s choice of photographs of the swimming teams was inspired by both the gender balance in the teams and the costume they wore: “It’s mostly boys in the pictures, although there are 7 girls in one of them, which probably shows the start of gender equality in regards to swimming club membership.  I also like the gender equality in the swimming costumes: the men’s costumes are also covering their chests, like the women’s.  The swimming club photos are the ones where you can see the biggest fashion change!

The one-piece costume as worn by the men in these images was typical of the designs in the 1920s. In response to demand designs became more body-conscious and athletic abandoning long sleeves and replacing them with generously-cut armholes. This mass produced one-piece enjoyed a considerable chunk of the market in men’s swimwear in this decade.

Núria also was drawn to the images of the tennis club in the 1920s and 1930s, evoking memories of her experience of joining a sports club at the University.

Tennis players, 1927-9, 1933 [MS1/7/291/22/2]

Tennis players, 1927-9, 1933 [MS1/7/291/22/2]

The photo album I’m looking at is a collection of photographs from the sports clubs at university.  The tennis photos seem to be the only one where men and women appear together.  I really like the sense of inclusion that these photographs transmit, it reminds me of my own experience when I arrived at Southampton and joined the fencing club, where I made really good friends, both men and women.  I also find it curious that one of the ladies in the 1927 picture is wearing a tie.

There are other photographs in the collection which show women students wearing ties.  This was a period of formal dress codes when academic dress was still required when students attended lectures and exams.

Victoria 

Swimming club, 1951-2 [MS1/7/291/22/3]

Swimming club, 1951-2 [MS1/7/291/22/3]

For Victoria, it was the informality and realism that appealed in this photograph.  “It really looks as though two of the people have got the giggles when the photo was being taken.  The woman on the right is also pulling a face – this might not have been deliberate, but does add realism to the photo.

The second choice relates to the reunion picnic, in the New Forest, at Whitsun, 1951, of the Society of Old Hartleyans: this was the final event of the weekend programme, including a dinner attended by 226 the previous evening.  The minutes of the annual general meeting of the society noted that “11 members attended a picnic to Beaulieu Heath organised by Mr Glover-James”.

Victoria notes, “it is the informality that appeals to [me] more than anything and the fact that … people look happy…. The photo also provides an insight into the clothing… and even though this is a picnic, people are still fairly formally attired”.

Society of Hartleyans reunion picnic, 1951 [MS1/7/291/22/3]

Society of Old Hartleyans reunion picnic, 1951 [MS1/7/291/22/3]

The Special Collections will be running a number of drop in sessions focusing on different aspects of its holdings in the autumn.   So if you are interested, do keep an eye out for announcements.  We hope that you might be able to join us.

Testing Times

MS310/9 A816 Photo showing University students sitting final examinations in St Mary’s Drill Hall, Southampton, 3 June 1959; from the scrapbook of Isabel Syed, 1958-60. Due to the large increase in student numbers in the ‘50s there were too many finalists to seat in the University Assembly Hall; exams were sat off-campus in 1958 and 1959.

MS310/9 A816 Photo showing University students sitting final examinations in St Mary’s Drill Hall, Southampton, 3 June 1959; from the scrapbook of Isabel Syed, 1958-60. Due to the large increase in student numbers in the ‘50s there were too many finalists to seat in the University Assembly Hall; exams were sat off-campus in 1958 and 1959.

This week we post an Archive photo for all those students commencing Semester 1 exams. It’s a familiar scene:  final examinations at St. Mary’s Drill Hall in Southampton, almost 60 years ago.  Note the dress code – shirts and ties for the gentlemen – quite formal by modern standards but positively relaxed compared to earlier times.  The University College of Southampton ‘Rules of Conduct and Discipline’ from 1924-5, required all students to wear full academic dress at lectures and written examinations [LF 783.2]  At that time the academic gown was the uniform of the student – not the badge of success reserved for graduation day.

With sartorial considerations out of the way, how to succeed at examinations?

WP1/984/9 f.3v. Printed ‘Standing Order of the Master-General and Board of Ordnance, dated 21st July 1824’, from the papers of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, Master General of the Ordnance from 1818-27. The Ordnance Department was a very large government department employing many staff.

WP1/984/9 f.3v. Printed ‘Standing Order of the Master-General and Board of Ordnance, dated 21st July 1824’, from the papers of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, Master General of the Ordnance from 1818-27. The Ordnance Department was a very large government department employing many staff.

We find some helpful tips in this 19th-century standing order of the Master General and Board of Ordnance.  It states that every person nominated to a post in the Ordnance Department must undergo examination, which should include the following points:

1st  – His* handwriting must be clear and legible in every respect, of which a specimen is to be produced.  [* no equal opportunity at the Ordnance in 1824!!]

2nd  – It is expected that he will be perfect in the common rules of Arithmetic, viz. – Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division; and when the Office to which he may be nominated shall particularly relate to Accounts, he will be required to pass a further examination of his abilities in the Rule of Three and Fractions.

3rd  – Every person nominated as above, will be required to write grammatically in the English language and to be correct in his orthography.

Handwriting, mental arithmetic and spelling apart, the final hurdle was age: candidates should produce a certificate “in order to verify that the age of 16 years has been attained, and that he is not beyond thirty, though in the latter case, a latitude of a few months will be allowed, and not considered a disqualification for the Office”.

We can see these rules as part of the rise of professionalization in the 19th century – it was now accepted that employees should be competent – and a reminder that the history of examination and education is long and interlinked.  Exams are a test and a rite of passage; a shared experience that ties together students past and present.

Strenuis Ardua Cedunt   [The heights yield to endeavour – University motto.]