Tag Archives: University of Southampton

Local and Community History Month – Art and Theatre in Southampton

In this week’s blog post, we continue to mark Local and Community History Month by taking a look at art and theatre in Southampton using our collections.

Hartley Institution

The Hartley Institution – the predecessor of the University of Southampton – was declared open on 15 October 1862. Comprising of a library, museum, and reading room, together with a lecture hall and classrooms, among its earliest activities were public lectures on literature, science and art.

Illustration of the arrival of Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, at the Hartley Institution for the inauguration of the Institution, 15 October 1862 [Univ. Coll. Photos LF 781.14]

Illustration of the arrival of Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, at the Hartley Institution for the inauguration of the Institution, 15 October 1862 [MS1/Phot/39/ph3021]

Art and theatre University departments

The Southampton School of Art was incorporated into the Hartley Institution in 1867 to save it from extinction. With no room for it in the Hartley Institution building, it continued in its existing premises in a single rented room in the old Victoria Assembly Rooms on Portland Terrace. From 1902 Miss E.I. Conway, aided by two part-time assistants, took on the responsibility of providing all the art courses required by the Education Department and also some general art instruction in both day and evening classes. The teaching of art came to an end with her retirement in 1925.

 Illustration of the ‘Royal Victoria Spa and Assembly Rooms, Southampton’ from Phillip Brannon, Picture of Southampton [Rare Books COPE SOU 91.5]

Illustration of the ‘Royal Victoria Spa and Assembly Rooms, Southampton’ from Phillip Brannon, Picture of Southampton [Rare Books Cope SOU 91.5]

George Leake, who was the organist at St Mary’s Church, Southampton, was made the first Professor of Music in 1920 and saw his department given faculty status in 1924. After Leake’s death in 1928, D.Cecil Williams inherited the running of the Music Department. Rather than teaching music as an academic subject, his responsibilities included providing lectures in music appreciation and conducting the annual concerts of the Choral and Orchestral Society. 

Score for ‛The Wessex suite’ for a string orchestra by D.Cecil Williams, who was appointed as lecturer in Music and then Master of Music after Professor Leake’s death [MS 101/14 UNI/2/7/91/2]

Score for ‛The Wessex suite’ for a string orchestra by D.Cecil Williams, who was appointed as lecturer in Music and then Master of Music after Professor Leake’s death [MS101/14 UNI/2/7/91/2]

University societies

Performing arts have been a regular fixture of student life. While no drama society appears to have existed prior to the opening of the Highfield campus in 1914, short plays were often performed at College entertainments. One of the earliest student societies was a Stage Society, formed in 1915.

Programme for the University College Southampton Choral and Orchestral Society production of The Pirates of Penzance, 6-7 March 1936 [MS 224/22 A952]

Programme for the University College Southampton Choral and Orchestral Society performance of “The Pirates of Penzance”, 6-7 March 1936 [MS224/22 A952/4]

From 1926 Gilbert and Sullivan operas were held annually in the old assembly hall and conducted by D.Cecil Williams, Master of Music at University College, Southampton. He was rewarded for his work in 1946 by being appointed Secretary of the Hampshire County Music Committee. 

Photograph album of the University of Southampton Operatic Society’s production of The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu performed in the University Assembly Hall, 3-6 February 1960 [MS 1 UNI/7/198/1]

Photograph of the University of Southampton Operatic Society’s production of The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu performed in the University Assembly Hall, 3-6 February 1960 [MS1 UNI/7/198/1]

By the end of the 1950s the Southampton University Jazz Club had become the University’s biggest student society. Weekly live sessions provided different styles for different tastes, with traditional New Orleans Jazz played in the Refectory and Modern Jazz played in the Terrace Room. University jazz bands included Group One, who won the Southern Semi-Finals of the International University Jazz Festival competition in 1960, and the Dudley Hyams Quintet and Apex Jazzmen, who took first and second place in the Regional Semi-Finals at Bristol in 1962. 

There are now a wide range of jazz and other music orientated groups and events at the University. Learn more about these on the Arts at University of Southampton website.

‘Music hath Charms, A Survey of a jazz club with comments from poets’, Goblio, 1955 [Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

‘Music hath Charms, A Survey of a jazz club with comments from poets’, Goblio, 1955 [Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

Art events at the University

The late 1950s and early 1960s saw an extensive expansion of the Highfield campus and a significant development in the profile of the arts at the University. The first University of Southampton Arts Festival was launched in March 1961 by Sir Basil Spence.

Photograph of Queen Elizabeth viewing an exhibition of kinetic art during her visit to the University in 1966 [Univ. Coll. Photos LF788.45]

Photograph of Queen Elizabeth viewing an exhibition of kinetic art during her visit to the University in 1966 [MS1/Phot/39/ph3371]

Art around the University

Among the developments in the arts were the formation of a Fine Art Committee in 1964 and the appointment of John Sweetman as the University’s first lecturer of Fine Art in 1967. Alongside lecturing on the history of art through the History Department, Sweetman was responsible for organising art exhibitions and managing the University’s permanent art collection, including its collection of sculptures by artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Justin Knowles.

Photograph of Puy De Dôme Figure by F.E McWilliams [MS 1/Phot/19/292]

Photograph of Puy De Dôme Figure by F.E McWilliams [MS1/Phot/19/292]

University art venues

The University’s Nuffield Theatre was officially opened on 2 March 1964 by Dame Sybil Thorndike. The national and local press heralded the opening of Southampton’s “first genuine theatre”– the city had no regular playhouse at that time – so the Nuffield would serve both ‘Town and Gown’. A flexible, multi-purpose venue, it was designed to function as a lecture hall, cinema, concert hall and theatre for both open-stage and proscenium productions. The Nuffield theatre developed a profile and reputation for innovation and quality in Southampton and beyond the city,  and as one of the country’s leading producing theatre companies, creating bold, fresh and vital experiences through theatre. On 16 February 2018, Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST), opened a second venue, NST City, in Southampton’s Cultural Quarter with the world premiere of Howard Brenton’s The Shadow Factory.

10 years at the Nuffield Theatre (Southampton, 1974) [Univ. Coll. LF 789.5N9]

Photographs of performances from the programme ’10 years at the Nuffield’ (Southampton, 1974) [Univ. Coll. LF 789.5 N9]

The expansion of the campus during the early 1960s enabled the Students’ Union to extend into the whole of the West Building, providing sufficient space to support live performances at a time when rock music was on the rise. Performers included Manfred Mann (1966), T-Rex (1968), Pink Floyd (1968 & 1969), Deep Purple (1970), The Velvet Underground (1971), Captain Beefheart (1973 & 1975), Procol Harum (1975), and Talking Heads (1978). What most people recall is the legendary gig by Led Zeppelin in January 1973. 

‘Deep Purple’, from Snapdragon, no.1, October 1970 [Univ. Coll per LF789.9]

‘Deep Purple’, from Snapdragon, no.1, October 1970 [Univ. Coll per LF789.9]

In 1967 a bequest was made by Miss Margaret Grassam Sims to build a hall for the people of Southampton. In response to strong local support for classical performance and the need for better accommodation for the University Concert Society, the Turner Sims Concert Hall was opened in 1974. The opening of Turner Sims was to transform the musical landscape of Southampton. It is now acknowledged as one of the finest music venues in the country, with a year-round programme of outstanding classical, jazz, world and folk music, as well as talks from personalities. 

Photograph of the Steinway piano viewed from the stage of the Turner Sims Hall [MS 373/A3048/4]

Photograph of the Steinway piano viewed from the stage of the Turner Sims Hall [MS 373 A3048/4]

Another key development in the arts came when the Engineering Department’s tidal model building was transformed into a contemporary art gallery. The John Hansard Gallery was formally opened on 22 September 1980 and quickly began to acquire a strong reputation. John Hansard Gallery is one of Britain’s leading public galleries of contemporary art and supports, develops and presents work by outstanding artists from across the world. In 2018 the gallery moved to a new location in the centre of Southampton, opposite Guildhall Square, as part of a new arts complex. It was officially opened on 12 May, and continues to play a dynamic role in the cultural life of Southampton and the region. 

A feasibility report and study on a new gallery for the University of Southampton [MS 428 A4250]

A feasibility report and study on a new gallery for the University of Southampton [MS 428 A4250]

Winchester School of Art was originally founded in 1860 to teach cabinet-making, embroidery and leather work. The school became part of the University’s Arts Faculty in 1996 and now stands as one of the UK’s leading art and design institutions.

Photograph of the Winchester School of Art campus [MS1/Phot/19/311]

Photograph of the Winchester School of Art campus [MS1/Phot/19/311]

Following the acquisition of the papers of the first Duke of Wellington, the Wellington Suite was officially opened on 14 May 1983. The archive was the first major collection of manuscripts to be acquired by the University, and has acted as a catalyst for further developments and acquisitions. The extension of the Hartley Library in 2004 provided an opportunity to incorporate public exhibition space as an integral part of the library environment. The Special Collections Gallery was developed for the display of material from the collections to encourage public awareness and access. Exhibitions in the neighbouring Level 4 Gallery reflect three ideas: themed links with the Special Collections exhibition programme; promotion of the research and education mission of WSA; and work celebrating the University’s contribution to the culture of the city and the region. 

Photograph of the exhibition ‘Zines’, curated by James Branch and Cui Sui, displayed in the Level 4 Gallery from 24 January to 25 March 2011

Photograph of the exhibition ‘Zines’, curated by James Branch and Cui Sui, displayed in the Level 4 Gallery from 24 January to 25 March 2011

To see more images of arts in the archives at Special Collections, please check out our online exhibition: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/archives/exhibitions/online/arts-exhibition.page


Happy Birthday Henry Robinson Hartley

Today we mark the birthday of Henry Robinson Hartley (1777-1850) whose bequest to the town of Southampton led (eventually) to the creation of its University.

Henry Robinson Hartley’s birth recorded in his father’s Prayer Book (1750) [Rare Books Hartley Coll. BX 5145]

Born to Henry and Susannah Hartley, a prosperous wine merchant and his wife, Henry might well have been expected to join the family business and to take an active part in local affairs – as had his father and his great-uncle, George Robinson. This would have been a fitting life for a man who bequeathed the bulk of his fortune to his home town to “promote the study and advancement of the sciences of Natural History, Astronomy, Antiquities, Classical and Oriental Literature” and for the “formation of a public library, garden, observatory and collection of objects connected with the sciences mentioned”. But in Henry Robinson Hartley, the University has a founder whose life followed a very different pattern.

Photograph of the portrait of Henry Robinson Hartley, aged nine [MS1/Phot/39/ph 3000]

After an unremarkable childhood, during which he attended Southampton’s Grammar School – where his friend, John Bullar recalled him as “studious, pleasant and gentlemanly”, Henry Robinson Hartley’s life went somewhat off the rails.

Grammar School at Southampton, late 18th century in: Views in Hampshire, v.4 no.182 [Rare Books Cope ff 91.5]

At the age of twenty-one he made an unfortunate marriage, causing him to become estranged from his father and therefore not to inherit the fortune he had anticipated on Henry senior’s death in 1800. Within four years his marriage was annulled – his wife Celia, giving birth to a daughter who was almost certainly not his child, and there followed a period of “systematic licentiousness” before Henry returned to Southampton to live with his mother. Best described as an eccentric recluse, Henry appears to have passed his time in pursuing his studies of natural history and languages, making travel plans which never came to fruition and using his diary and other writings to record his thoughts on the rigid and complacent nature of English society.

On his mother’s death in 1821, Henry finally inherited his fortune and a few years later, disapproving of the increasingly commercial character of the High Street which disturbed his peaceful, tree-lined garden, he left Southampton for good. For the last twenty-six years of his life he lived in Calais and London, making only brief visits to Southampton.

The High Street houses and tree-lined gardens belonging to Henry Robinson Hartley can be seen in the copy of the 1846 map of Southampton [Rare Books Cope cf SOU 90.5 1846]

The ‘Hartley Bequest’ revealed on Henry’s death in 1850 was something of a shock to all concerned, given his long absence from the town. After minor bequests to family and servants, the Corporation was to receive the residue of the estate, valued at just over £100,000. Unsurprisingly, Henry’s relatives contested the will and the costs of the subsequent legal proceedings and the settlement agreed by Henry’s supposed daughter swallowed up a large proportion of the estate. The Corporation was left with £42,525 and a dilemma as to how best to carry out Henry’s wishes.

Henry’s Letter of Instruction was quite clear on the point that he wished the “select scientific public” to benefit from his generosity rather than the whole population of the town. Of the different proposals aired in the local press, the establishment of a college along the lines of Owens College, Manchester seemed the most appropriate, but the reduced size of the bequest made the scheme for an institution providing popular adult education more achievable and the Hartley Institution opened on 15 October 1862.

The opening of the Hartley Institution 15 October 1862, photograph of an engraving of Lord Palmerston arriving. [MS1/Phot/39/ph 3026]

Would Henry Robinson Hartley have approved of the outcome of his bequest? According to his biographer, Alexander Anderson, the traditional concept of a University as a place where knowledge is pursued for its own sake would have been more likely to meet with his approval than the Hartley Institution, but in his primary aim of preserving his High Street houses and possessions, he would have been disappointed. The houses and gardens were demolished to make way for the Hartley Institution, his papers were destroyed by his trustees who judged them obscene and blasphemous and his other belongings dispersed. All that remained were his books – the first of the Library’s printed Special Collections.

Henry Robinson Hartley’s copy of The First Book of the Fables of Phaedrus (1775) Rare Books Hartley Coll. PA 6563

Henry Robinson Hartley’s copy of John Latham’s A General Synopsis of Birds v.1 (1781) Rare Books Hartley Coll. QL 673










Henry’s diary and writings were quoted extensively by both sides in the legal proceedings relating to his bequest and these form the basis of Hartleyana: being some account of the life and opinions of Henry Robinson Hartley, scholar, naturalist, eccentric and founder of the University of Southampton by Alexander Anderson (1987).

University Developments Through Time: Has anybody here seen Kelly?

Have you heard that a skeleton once haunted Southampton’s halls of residence and refectories? O.K., so that’s stretching the truth a little! But it is true that a skeleton was often present at University events, as documented by images from our photographic collections. This blog post will attempt to get to the bottom of the mystery of Kelly the skeleton, namely her origins, purpose and current whereabouts.

A photograph of Kelly from 1891 [MS1 7/291/22/1/0001]

The story of Kelly goes back to the very beginnings of the Institution. A skeleton was purchased by Mr Dodds, Principal of Art at the School of Art, in France in 1886; the activities of the Southampton School of Art were incorporated into the Hartley Institution in 1867. An alternative history was that the bones were fished out of the water at Southampton Docks; we feel this is less likely!

As well as acting a model for art students, other legitimate reasons for a late nineteenth-century educational institution to own a skeleton were for bone examination in anatomical lectures and demonstration purposes in physical training instruction periods. Reports have stated that the skeleton was formed from a mixture of both female and male bones.

Male students wearing formal college dress with Kelly, 1921 or 1922 [MS1/Phot/39/ph3177]

How Kelly passed from the possession of authorities to the ownership of the student body we do not yet know; a former student reported that Kelly was “found” in a cupboard in the Arts room in 1910. Kelly became a slightly macabre mascot for the students, often present at Rag fundraisers and other events; in later years she was transferred to the possession of the Engineers.

Freshers week, September 1925. The text reads “Come all ye freshers bow down & worship.” And you thought modern initiation ceremonies were weird! [MS1/Phot/39/ph3174]

Perhaps it was the students who decided on the name Kelly, a derivative of skeleton or skelly. A popular music hall ditty circa 1910 was “Has anybody here seen Kelly”: this may have helped to settle on a name. It became one of the College “anthems” sung with great solemnity by students, to the tune of the Lost Chord, when the occasion fitted.

The Rag Bag, 1929

The skeleton was a popular member of academic life while studies were still based Below Bar and it always carried in students’ processions and on view at functions. He made the move to Highfield, along with everyone else as, in the summer of 1924, he was able to welcome the then Prince of Wales when the latter visited Southampton. Geoffrey Smith, who was a student here 1923-6, recalls the Rag in the summer of 1926. The students paraded through the town and Kelly was drawn by members of the Engineering Faculty on the chassis of an old car, driven by Smith and owned by the Engineers.

The provincial Universities ran a London dance known as the P.U.B. (Provincial Universities Ball) and on one occasion in the 1930s Kelly was taken to London and wired up electronically so that her eyes shone.

Photograph of Kelly from the Goblio 1949

Reports from the 1950s state that she was kept in a coffin in the Junior Common Room. Keith Way, a student for the 1947-53 sessions recollected: “I do remember Kelly hanging about in the West Building [now the Students Union] but I think he only appeared in public on Rag days.” A further report was that “in 1953 he was torn to pieces at the Engineering Faculty Ball.”

The Hartleyan of 1953 reports that to celebrate the granting of university status, the London branch of the Hartley Society organised a “Kelly” for the P.U.B. complete with deputy (hired from a natural history supplier) followed by a “Gobli”. The 30 members present at the ball made “quite a good procession for Kelly”.

“Captain Kelly” from the Goblio, 1952

Another alumnus, Pamela Wateres, adds her memories to the record: 

I know that Kelly spent a night in Highfield Hall at some time in the academic year 1953 to 54. How we got him in there any way, I don’t know, but he was accommodated, I think, on top south. When we tried to get a taxi for him back to the Union building, the local drivers refused to carry a coffin, so we had to woman-handle him back along the path and in through the garden. […] Legend in my time was that Kelly was originally dredged up from Southampton harbour – and was really female. He/she was then the union mascot, but was from time to time hi-jacked by the Engineers, who were supposed to keep him/her in a wind tunnel.

[MS 224/35 A788/5]
Engineering Faculty, 1955-56. Can you spot Kelly in his coffin? [MS310/38 A2025/2]

As the years progress, the references to Kelly become less frequent although snippets from the Hartleyan keep us informed. From 1956, Kelly was no longer the University mascot. At a Union meeting it was decided by 110 votes to 28 to dispense with the skeleton’s services; it was agreed to transfer overship to the Engineers. Kelly was present at the hustings preceding the election of the president of the Students’ Union in late January 1959. She was escorted to the meeting in a padded coffin by a guard of Engineers.

The most recent photograph of Kelly is on this rather garish cover of Goblio from 1961.

The Goblio from 1961. The slogan below read “We’ll collect from anybody”

Currently, the last known sighting of was in 1986 when she attended a welcome talk given by Academic Registrar Chris Swann. The whereabouts of Kelly the skeleton are no longer known. But we are hoping our readers might be able to shed light on the mystery. Maybe some alumni can add to the historical record with their own memories of Kelly?

Copies of the Goblio, Hartleyan and other student/alumni publications are available in the University Collection (Special Collections open access). Archival references come from the file MS 224/35 A788/5.


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 [MS 310/34 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 [MS 310/39 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 [MS 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 [MS 310/80 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.

University Developments Through Time: shaping the University grounds in peace and war, 1920-48

Within the Archives and Manuscripts are two volumes of the minutes of the University College’s Grounds Committee.

Minutes of the Grounds Committee [MS1 A4091/1]

Minutes of the Grounds Committee [MS1 A4091/1]

These surprisingly interesting volumes cover the years 1920-48. The first committee meeting took place on October 19th, 1920 and included much discussion of the provision of tennis courts, with the secretary of the Tennis Club present, along with the Registrar and the College Principal, who chaired the meeting. By the end of the year, part of the grounds had been allocated as a botanic garden and planting of shrubs, bulbs and perennials was taking place there and elsewhere. A contemporary plan [MS1/2/2/2] shows the botanic garden situated on a sloping site behind the Engineering Block, now the Eustice building. The George Moore botany building was later built on part of it, opened in 1928 and eventually demolished during the development for the new biological science building. The date plaque from the building has been preserved on site. As the Highfield campus developed and more engineering buildings arrived, the botanic garden was eventually moved to the site of the present Valley Garden, behind the new students union.

Plan of botanical gardens [MS1/2/2/2]

Plan of botanical gardens [MS1/2/2/2]

It was proposed that the gardening students should look after some of the flower beds and help with the botanic garden. In 1921, Professor Watkins constructed a rockery for alpine plants including “an extensive – probably unique – collection of Sempervivum plants [houseleeks], upon the classification of which he is working”. In 1923, the College purchased a Dennis motor mower, but until then all grass cutting was done by hand mowers, scything or with the help of a pony. “The strain placed upon the machine was a severe one, but it withstood it admirably”. Various plants and cuttings were donated to the college by local landowners. By 1924, the botanic garden was developing well, with plant family beds laid out and gifts from Kew and other gardens.

In the grounds of South Stoneham a rock garden was being rebuilt under the direction of Professor Watkin and a start had been made in making a bog garden nearby. The disused fountain was to be repaired with help from the engineering department.

Fountain at South Stoneham House, c.1920 [Cope Coll. photo SOU 64 ph2420]

The Grounds Committee also was responsible for the College’s playing fields at South Stoneham, with input from the students. There were to be one each of football and rugby pitches with two hockey pitches. A hut was to be erected for changing rooms, but meanwhile a tent would be provided! Cinder and grass tracks for athletics were proposed, also a cricket pitch, while a hard tennis court would be made suitable for netball during the winter.

Tennis club, 1921 [MS1/Phot/39 ph3164]

Tennis club, 1921 [MS1/Phot/39 ph3164]

A furnace/groundsman was employed to look after the playing fields as well as to attend to the furnaces at South Stoneham. He lived in the cottage provided. In May 1925, the Grounds Curator wrote to the groundsman with a number of complaints about the state of the cricket pitch and tennis courts and accusing him of “some degree of negligence”. He was dismissed in 1926. The committee also had trouble with the boy employed to look after the tennis courts, who “seems unable to put in a good days work”. It appears that grazing was carried out during the winter, as it was necessary to protect the cricket pitch from cattle.


Tennis court at South Stoneham gardens [MS383 A4000/6/1/16]

The secretary of the Refectory Committee wrote in 1925 to ask if a hole about a yard square could be dug “for the storage of preserved eggs”. This was said to be a matter of some urgency. The Grounds Committee replied that this was agreed subject to the committee “having no responsibility for said eggs!” The first car park was called the “motor parking ground”. Cycling was still the main means of transport for the students, and accommodation for about 100 bicycles was proposed for South Stoneham. Traffic was beginning to be a problem by 1926-27, with several heavy lorries in Woodmill Lane colliding with the walls of South Stoneham House causing considerable damage. It was suggested that the AA should be asked to erect a “Danger” sign.

In 1927 considerable time was spent discussing the best way to manage the playing fields, and a table was drawn up comparing the practice at other colleges.

In June 1928 the committee recommended the erection of the marble statue presented by Mr Ellaby, dated 1735, “at the back of the central recess in front of the main College building.” Work had begun on a rock and water garden near the new botany building, with a generous donation of plants from the Red Lodge nursery. The greenhouses contained many interesting plants including a collection of South African succulents and a “fine specimen” of a banana plant with fruit. A College grown pineapple was raffled for 17 shillings and six pence for the appeal fund.

West’s Patent [MS1 A4091/1/9]

From 1928 the volumes include a regular report from the Grounds Curator, including details of gifts and exchanges of plants with other gardens and institutions, as well as the development of the grounds. In 1929, a professor from McGill University, Montreal, who was studying insectivorous plants, was provided with a specimen of a Utricularia (bladderwort). Gifts included a valuable collection of South American orchids in 1930. Some specimen blooms were later sent to Kew, where many of them were found to be unrepresented in the Kew herbarium. A piece of waste ground behind the engineering department was being developed as a wild garden with gifts of plants from local gardens. The grass at South Hill was being mown by “an old machine drawn by a very old pony”. The Curator recommended the purchase of a new motor mower as both the gardener and the pony were due for retirement!

The minutes include a lengthy consideration of the condition of elm trees at South Stoneham House. After storm damage in the winter of 1929-30, many of the trees were considered unsafe. The committee were agreed that “the position is serious in the extreme and that drastic action is urgently needed”. Sir Hugh Murray, the prominent arboriculturalist who had been instrumental in setting up the Forestry Commission, was approached for his expert opinion, and condemned most of the trees as highly dangerous. The committee were concerned that the loss of the trees would affect the beauty of the grounds, and wrote to Sir Hugh for a further report. He replied “As a lover of trees, I should hate to cut your beautiful elms, but from a point of view of safety first I think I should do so.” However, the Committee was reluctant to take action, and the arguments rumbled on until 1936 when some of the trees were finally removed. In 1935 Lord Swaythling got involved, stating that the trees were a danger to his property including his Fish House. The committee retaliated by saying the trees on his lordship’s property were also in a dangerous state, and sent a similar message to the vicar of South Stoneham regarding trees in his churchyard. This exchange does not appear to have injured relations with Lord Swaythling as in 1937, he sent gifts of rhododendrons for the grounds at South Stoneham as did Lionel de Rothschild of Exbury.

South Stoneham House [MS383 A4000/6/1/16]

South Stoneham House [MS383 A4000/6/1/16]

In 1931 pools were being proposed for the biological departments by damming the nearby brook “for culture of live stock”. Much work was being done to level and turf the area near “the new building” (now the Hartley Library). In 1935, the warden of South Stoneham House reported “continual damage being done by the students to the flower beds”. The committee decided he should treat this as a disciplinary matter. It seems that not much changed in the next 60 years, as the gardener at South Stoneham was complaining about “18 year old children” damaging his trees in the 1990s.

By 1936-37, eight men and boys were employed as grounds staff, and were paid a total of £12 17s per week, reflecting the low wages prevalent at the time. It was recommended that these wages should be increased to £17 for the year 1937-38. The Head Gardener also had the use of a tied cottage. At South Hill the gardeners’ efforts were added to by the “enthusiastic Navigation staff utilizing its leisure hours in destroying weeds”.

The increased likelihood of war breaking out caused the committee to recommend the siting of ARP trenches behind the engineering blocks in March 1939. Much time was taken up discussing the new layout of the site in light of the new buildings planned and huts to be cleared. Lionel de Rothschild continued to donate shrubs to the College from his gardens at Exbury.

Aerial view of campus with huts still present, 1928-9 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3211]

Aerial view of campus with huts still present, 1928-9 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3211]

After the outbreak of war, all development work was discontinued. Several of the grounds staff were called up, including two in the Balloon Barrage Corps, so it was proposed to reduce the number of men to six. The Curator appreciated the importance of maintaining morale, “I regard it as essential that we should keep the grounds as bright and cheerful as possible”. The shortage of petrol caused one of the large mowers to be laid up, but it was hoped that the lawns could be kept in “fairly decent order”. In October 1940, the Ministry of Agriculture ordered that one acre of ground at South Stoneham should be used for growing food. This was duly ploughed up and potatoes, carrots, onions and swedes were planted. Considerable quantities of tomatoes, lettuces and haricot beans were also grown in the College grounds. Bananas were still being grown, presumably in a greenhouse, and some were sent to Southampton Children’s Hospital in 1942. Later, a land girl was employed. Unfortunately she injured her hand while digging and was forced to leave the Land Army in 1943. The students of Highfield Hall volunteered to undertake the care of their grounds.

One of the gardeners fell off a ladder when investigating damage done to his house by a land mine and broke his ankle and wrist. The Curator reported the misuse of land by military trainees, and the committee resolved there should be a strongly worded protest sent to the authorities. In 1944 the Head Gardener’s cottage suffered bomb damage and he was slightly wounded. A former gardener who had been a prisoner of war returned to work in 1945, but was recalled by the army soon afterwards.

When the war ended, some of the grounds had become overgrown as a result of the reduced manpower during the war years. It was proposed that the bomb shelter in front of the Botany Building be removed and replaced with a pond for aquatic plants. The Curator reported difficulties in recruiting new gardeners due to the lower wages that the college was paying compared with those paid by Southampton Corporation. He was anxious to give up the kitchen garden at South Stoneham, and this was authorised in 1946 when it was returned to lawns. He applied for the use of German prisoners of war, but this request was declined so he accepted the offer of land girls instead. The Committee proposed to return the South Hill kitchen garden to grass for use as tennis courts. The old gun sites in front of the College were filled in and converted to lawn.

In May 1946 the Curator wrote “… a start has been made on the return to something like peacetime amenities, although there is still a long way to go.” By November, the grounds staff were up to their pre-war number of nine “and the work of restoring the condition of the grounds is well in hand”. The last minutes in the volume date from June 1948, and continue to record progress in improving the grounds and the appointment of a new Head Gardener, Mr Montague, having finally retired at the age of 71.

The next instalment of University Developments Through Time will look at something completely different – namely Student Rag over the years – so do look out for that.

Highfield Campus 100: 1950s

It’s a University!

The 1950s saw the move for Southampton obtaining university status gain ground more rapidly than anticipated.  In 1952 Southampton became the first university to be created in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, receiving its royal charter on 29 April of that year.

Blazer with badge of the University crest, 1950s [MS310/26 A1073]

In announcing that the University had come into existence, Sir Samuel Gurney-Dixon noted to the Council “those who in the past had worked long and hard to create the tradition and the conditions which had made this possible, in particular Dr Claude Montefiore, Alderman J.S.Furley and the late Principal, Mr Kenneth Vickers”.

The Duke of Wellington was appointed as the first Chancellor of the University, with Sir Robert Wood its first Vice Chancellor and Professor Forsey Deputy Vice Chancellor.  The University of Southampton Act which transferred all rights to the newly created University, received its Royal Assent on 6 May 1953. On 3 July the ceremonious installation of new Chancellor, the Duke of Wellington, took place at the Guildhall in Southampton.

Part of a congratulatory letter from the University of Manitoba

As well as representatives of many overseas universities attending the event, delegates from various universities presented their addresses of congratulations to the Chancellor at Connaught Hall.  A garden party was held at South Stoneham House –  at which a message carried in relay by members of the Southampton Athletics Union from the Chancellor of the University of London was presented to the Duke of Wellington – and in the evening the Chancellor hosted a dinner for the first honorary graduands of the University.

A message from the Chancellor of the University of London to the Duke of Wellington presented by Peter Holdstock of the Athletics Union at the garden party, 3 July 1953 [MS1/7/291/22/4]

It could be said that the decade started quietly with no major developments; yet by the end of the 1950s Southampton had embarked on a major expansion which was to continue well into the next decade. In 1952/1953, the number of students at the University was 935, rising to over 1,300 by the end of the decade. As it became apparent that a permanent increase in a university population could be expected, and that provincial universities would need to expand to take these increased numbers, the University began to proceed with its building programme and planning for future developments over the period 1957-67. Sir Basil Spence, the designer of Coventry Cathedral, was the consultant architect for the layout of the expanded University and for a number of buildings constructed  in this period.

The main building projects in the early part of the decade were the completion of the remaining blocks of Glen Eyre Hall in October 1954 and the conversion of a purchased site into the botanic gardens, supported by a donation from the former Mathematics’ lecturer Miss Annie Trout. By the late 1950s a number of building projects were in hand, some to be completed in 1960 onwards. The new Economics block was opened by Emeritus Professor Percy Ford in October 1959, whilst in December of that year Sir Samuel Gurney-Dixon opened the Library extension, the Gurney-Dixon building to extend library space to 400 user places and to accommodate 150,000 books.

Gurney-Dixon Library extension, 1959

With the acquisition of University status in 1952/3, changes were introduced to departmental structures and to courses as the University began to  issue its own degrees. In 1953, the Department of Legal Studies became the Faculty of Law, offering University degrees rather than preparation for Law Society examinations.

During the decade a number of new chairs were created: for German (Dr W.I.Lucas) and Geography (Dr F.J.Monkhouse) in 1953; in 1957 in Engineering as Dr P.B.Morice became Professor of Civil Engineering; in 1958 for Economic Theory and Geology; and in 1959 in Modern History (J.S.Bromley), Theoretical Mechanics (Dr Bryan Thwaites) and Engineering (Dr L.G.A.Sims).

Other staff changes saw the departure of some long serving members of the University. Professor George Frank Forsey, resigned as Chair of Classics in 1954: he was replaced by Professor H.C.Baldry. Professor Neil Kensington Adam who had been responsible for development of the Chemistry Department stepped down after nearly twenty years service. And in 1957 Frank Templeton Prince, who was a reader in the Department of English, was appointed as Chair of English to replace Professor B.A.Wright.

Whilst it has been observed that there was more of a gender balance of male and female students at Southampton than some other universities, this was not reflected across all of the university.  There were, for instance, as one student recalls, no female post-graduate students in chemistry at Southampton during the period 1955-8. Indeed there was only one female member of staff in Chemistry at that time – Dr Ishbel Campbell.

Department of History graduates, 1959 [MS310/23 A1048]

Student life was still governed by a certain formality in this period. Students at Glen Eyre halls of residence were expected to attend dinner in the dining hall at 7pm on weekdays and for lunch at 1pm on Sundays. A former student noted that  “it was still an era when all students were required to wear a black academic gown at dinner in the evening”.

Signed programme for the University College Drama Society’s production of Hamlet, 1950 [MS416/15 A4311]

The Students’ Union was to be the hub of most student activities. Student societies encompassed a range of faculty and departmental societies, including Engineering, Law and Geography, alongside union societies such as the Camera Club, Choral, Debating, Jazz and Operatic Societies, the Organ Club, the Scottish and Old Time Dance Society and the Theatre Group. The Athletics Union supported clubs ranging from athletics, cross country, fencing, lacrosse to mountaineering, rugby, sailing and tennis.

Scottish and Old Time Dance Society, 1951 [MS224/16 A943/1]

Held on Shrove Tuesday each year, the annual Rag Day included a procession of tableaux on lorries, with a trophy awarded to the winning hall or society.

Rag day procession, 1957 [MS310/23 A1048]

As former student Peter Smith recalls: “The annual Rag Day was a highlight of the Winter term … Somehow the townsfolk tolerated generously the antics of the students in fancy dress out collecting money, including in the afternoon a procession of decorated floats on lorries lent by local firms… The Engineers were always very prominent during Rag – they were often accompanied by their human skeleton mascot “Kelly”…. There was always an annual Rag Ball … at the Guildhall and a revue format.”

Engineers Society with the mascot “Kelly”, 1956 [MS224/14 A941]

There were a wide range of other activities on offer in the student calendar. Dances ranged from the regular Saturday night dances at the Union called “hops”, to the formal Union ball at the Guildhall in Southampton in February, featuring a dance programme of quicksteps, waltzes and foxtrots. Societies produced performances and production of plays and shows and at Glen Eyre halls of residence the annual Christmas pantomime was written and produced by students.

The Union Ball, 1959 [MS310/23 A1048]

As the University moved into the 1960s it was already embarked on its ambitious programme of expansion, leading to a new and exciting phase in its development. To find out more about life at the University in the 1960s look out for the next blog in June.

They came from near and far to do their patriotic duty – staffing the University War Hospital

Staff at the University War Hospital [MS 1/Phot/39 ph3104]

Staff at the University War Hospital, 1918 [MS1/Phot/39 ph3104]

11 November 2018 marks the centenary of the end of the First World War. To commemorate this, we take a look at the contribution of the staff of the University War Hospital at the Highfield campus site.

Under the command of Dr Lauder, who had been the Medical Officer for Health for Southampton, the Hospital was staffed by professional nurses and members of the Volunteer Aid Detachments (known as VADs). As well as nursing, VADs also worked in a range of auxiliary capacities from driving ambulances bringing the wounded to the Hospital, to laboratory assistants, clerks, cooks, housemaids and laundresses.

With the start of the war, Southampton hospitals recruited every nurse, VAD and others who could be spared from auxiliary hospitals in the surrounding counties. But as the war progressed, the need for further staff increased.  Gwynnedd Lloyd, a friend of the daughters of Dr Lauder, was considered too young as a 17 year-old to volunteer in 1914. However, in the aftermath of the battle of the Somme, she was invited to join the VADs and to work at the University War Hospital.

The VADs lacked the training and skill of the professional nurses and tended to perform duties that were less technical. As a new VAD, Gwynnedd Lloyd noted that her duties consisted of “making beds and waiting on sister” as well as taking trolleys around and twice a day collecting rubbish. But as time went on, with the flow of the wounded into the hospitals and the demands it placed on the staff, the line between the professional and the volunteer became far less distinct, leading to recognition that the VAD and nurse differed little beyond the level of training. Gwynnedd Lloyd was assigned to assist with one of the hutted wards at the Hospital and even as a relatively untrained VAD was expected to cover shifts of around 10 hours.

Hutted ward decorated for Christmas, c.1915 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3108]

Hutted ward decorated for Christmas, c.1915 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3108]

The women who volunteered as VADs saw their work as a patriotic duty and a useful contribution to the war effort. Whilst some were local to Southampton, others who served as nursing staff at the University War Hospital came from all across the UK, the Channel Islands, Ireland and Canada. It is estimated that somewhere in the region of 4,500 Irish women served as VADs during the war effort, and amongst the staff of the University War Hospital were women from a number of Irish counties including Counties Kilkenny, Limerick, Longford and Tyrone. Canadian VADs were initially only employed in their homeland working in convalescent hospitals. However, as the war dragged on, it became apparent that they were needed overseas and the staff at the Hospital in 1918 included a number of nurses from New Brunswick in Canada.

Amongst the ranks of the VADs were not only nurses, but a myriad of auxiliary roles such as orderlies, stretcher bearers, clerks, cooks, housemaids and laundresses. Most of the women who served in these roles tended to be from the local area. Fanny Street and her two friends, Jennie Ford and Ethel Taylor, who feature in current Special Collections exhibition My War, My Story, were from Southampton. All three worked in the laundry of the University War Hospital for the whole duration, with Fanny Street becoming the Head Laundress by 1917.

Fanny Street (centre) with her fellow VADs Jennie Ford and Ethel Taylor

Fanny Street (centre) with her fellow VADs Jennie Ford and Ethel Taylor [MS416/13]

And we find that members of the same family all worked together at the hospital. Three members of the Trodd family from Southampton and members of the Bailey family from Eastleigh worked as maids and cooks. Annie and Hettie Needham from St. Denys were both employed as clerks. And Barbara and Gertrude Long, who lived in Freemantle, worked as a clerk and a laboratory assistant respectively. The Archives holds a notebook and three scientific reports kept by Gertrude Long during her time at the Hospital (MS101/8).

Notebook of lab assistant Gertrude Long [MS101/8]

Notebook of lab assistant Gertrude Long [MS101/8]

And so, as we come to the centenary of the end of the First World War, we remember all those who made a contribution, not least the young women who, in some cases, crossed an ocean to help staff the War Hospital here at the University.

“Be prepared”: Scouting in Special Collections

To mark World Scout Scarf day, we take a look at our material relating to Scouting in Special Collections.

Boy Scout troop at Hartley Witney, Hampshire, c.1910s-1930s [MS 6/16]

Boy Scout troop at Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, c.1910s-1930s [MS 6/16]

Scouting was born from Robert Baden-Powell, who was notable for his defence of the small South African town of Mafeking during the Boer War. A soldier and free-thinker, Baden-Powell wanted to give young people the opportunity to use the same initiative men were required to use during warfare. He had already written a handbook for soldiers, and was encouraged by his friends to rewrite this as part of his planned training programme for young people in Britain. The book was called Aids to Scouting.

Wishing to trial out this training programme, Baden-Powell organised a camp on Brownsea Island in Poole, Dorset, for 20 boys from different backgrounds. Following the success of the camp, he wrote the book Scouting for Boys, which was published in 1908. The book was released for 4d a copy in six fortnightly parts. The publication became the handbook of what was to become the Scouting Movement, which King Edward VII approved. This acceptance also led to the formation of the King’s Scout Award.

The Movement soon grew, with almost 108,000 participants recorded in in its first census in 1910, and over 100,000 being young people. In 1916 Wolf Cub groups were formed for younger Scouts, and in 1920 Rover Scouts for older Scouting members.

Scouting grew not only nationally, but also internationally. The first World Scout Jamboree was formed in 1920, and was held at London’s Olympia. Scouts from across the world came together to celebrate international unison and the growth of their Movement. Lord Baden-Powell died in 1941 but his legacy lived on. Scouting became a metaphor for adventure, usefulness and global friendship.

Our collections relating to scouting include a scrapbook containing photographs, newspaper cuttings, and programmes of Boy Scout activities at Hartley Wintney, Hampshire dating from 1913-31; and the Southampton Scout and Guide Organisation (SSAGO) archive.

Letter from Chief Scout Sir Charles Maclean to the University of Southampton Scout Club, 9 December 1964 [MS 310/59 A4018 2/1]

Letter from Chief Scout Sir Charles Maclean to the University of Southampton Scout Club, 9 December 1964 [MS 310/59 A4018 2/1]

Scouting and Guiding began to occur in universities as early as 1915, with the first units occurring at Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, and London. In 1947, the Varsity clubs gathered at Beaudesert, Staffordshire, for a camp, which began the concept of rallies. Up until 1969, rallies were organised in the way of taking place over 7-10 days, with an AGM.

The first logbook for Southampton Scout and Guide Organisation dates from 1961, with entries covering activities such as freshers’ coffee evenings to attract new members, night hikes, and inter-varsity rallies in various cities across the country.

University of Southampton Scout and Guide Club logbook, 1961 [MS 310/59 A4018 2/1]

University of Southampton Scout and Guide Club logbook, 1961 [MS 310/59 A4018 2/1]

The log books also contain other records, such as dinner menus and souvenir programmes for key events, such as visits of the Chief Scout.

Hampshire County Scout Council souvenir programme to mark the visit of the chief scout, 1964 [MS 310/59 A4018 2/1]

Hampshire County Scout Council souvenir programme to mark the visit of the Chief Scout, 1964 [MS 310/59 A4018 2/1]

Along with camping, night hikes, and national rallies, SSAGO have also taken part in the university’s RAG week. In 1964, the Club decided to build an elephant float.

“ A couple of weeks before Rag, devious goings on were observed at the Rangers’ hut in Broadlands Road, and a metal structure weighing half a ton was seen to be constructed…We didn’t win a prize, but everyone (even those who got a blast from Nellie’s trunk) enjoyed themselves”. [MS 310/59 A4018 2/1]

Nelly the Elephant - RAG

Nellie the elephant SSAGO float at RAG week, November 1964 [MS 310/59 A4018 2/1]

Other SSAGO activities have involved horse riding and swimming; and visiting local authorities and organisations such as the Ordnance Survey, the Southern Daily Echo newspaper offices, and Southampton Police Headquarters.

“We were met by an officer with lots of shiny buttons, who I believe was an inspector, and he was to show us the various departments. After a general introduction, we started our tour with a call at the Information Room, which we were told is the ‘nerve centre’ of all the activities, and immediately scenes from “Z-Cars” sprung to mind.” [MS 310/59 A4018 2/2]

The SSAGO archive continues to grow with two logbooks recently added to the collection, dating 2010-2015, and 2016-2017.

SSAGO logbooks 2010-2015 and 2016-2017 recently added to MS310/59

SSAGO logbooks 2010-2015 and 2016-2017 [MS310/59]

For further information on SSAGO go to:




Rowing against the tide: Boat Clubs at the University of Southampton

To mark this week’s annual Henley boat race between Oxford University and Cambridge University, we take a look at our collections relating to the University’s Boat Clubs.

Starting from Phyllis Court to Temple Island along the famous ‘Henley Reach’, the first Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race for men happened in Henley in 1829. The event didn’t occur again in Henley until 1975, when a Boat Race between men’s lightweight crews from Oxford and Cambridge was organised by Richard Bates, a Cambridge Undergraduate.

The Women’s Boat Race took place in Henley between the years 1977-2014, along with a race between the reserve crews Osiris (Oxford) and Blondie (Cambridge). In 1984, the women’s lightweight race was instated, and a 1,750 metre contest between the two top male and female crews from the Oxford and Cambridge bumps races was inaugurated in 2010.

Another famous route used for boat races between Oxford University and Cambridge University is based along the River Thames from University Post, Mortlake to University Stone, Putney. The plan below shows the route, which is part of a handout for the river race that the University of Southampton participated in on 22 March 1952.

Route for river race from University Post, Mortlake to University Stone, Putney 1952 [MS 310/46 A2075/4]

Route for river race from University Post, Mortlake to University Stone, Putney 1952 [MS 310/46 A2075/4]

As part of the University Archives collection we hold photographs of the Men’s and Women’s Boat Clubs that were part of Hartley Society (previously called the Hartley University College Past Students’ Association). Dating from 1956, the photographs consist of formal ones with the men in their rowing blazers and women in their whites, and celebratory ones showing the christening of new boats given to the Clubs.

The photograph below shows the University’s first team to be entered for Henley Royal Regatta, in the Thames Cup division 1962-3. They also achieved 12th place out of 150 crews in the Reading Head of the River race.


1st VIII Boat Club team, 1962-3 [MS 1/7/291/22/4]



First president of the Hartley Society’s Women’s Boat Club, Miss Knowles, acting as cox, 1937 [MS 1/7/291/22/2]

Southampton University Boat Club (SUBC) registered with British Rowing in 1929, and its first president from that year was Mr Randall Cesson. The diagram below shows the planning of the Club’s logo during the late 1950s.


Diagram of SUBC’s logo as part of the Club Secretary’s Report, 1958-9 [MS 310/46 A2075/9]

In the University’s Boat Club papers (MS 310/46) can be found a range of resourceful items dating from 1946-2015; including correspondence, lists of race results and crews, pamphlets, photographs, and programmes.


University Women’s Rowing Association 17th Annual Regatta programme, 9 May 1959 [MS 310/ 46 A2075/7]

The correspondence relates to the organising of fixtures, the repairing of boats, and the purchase of equipment. Here is a quote from a circular relating to a Club meeting to members of the Men’s Boat Club dated circa 1960s:

“All present and past members and all newcomers who are interested in rowing are invited to attend. The year’s rowing programme will be discussed as will be the training of novices. The latter is considered to be of paramount importance; all novices who show keenness and interest as well as ability will find themselves rowing in eights after a few weeks initial training in small boats.”

[Men’s Boat Club circular, MS 310/46 A2075/4]


Launching for first outing, 9 January 1961 [MS 310/46 A2075/3]

An insight into the training regime for SUBC in the 1960s can be viewed from the body-building exercise sheets in the Club papers. Such exercises were suggested to be done daily for 45 minutes. Steps included “Sitting, legs straight, hands on floor near hips, alternate leg raising as high as possible” for 50 seconds, and “make like a windmill with arms in circles, breathe deeply” for 30 seconds. The sheet includes 38 steps altogether, ending with “Weight enough until tomorrow”!

SUBC is now one of the largest clubs of Team Southampton with over 100 members. Alumni include several world class athletes, notably Olympic Silver Medallists Per Sætersdal, Miriam Batten, and Guin Batten.


London Head Race, III Boat Club Team, 19 March 1955 [MS 310/46 A2075/2]

For further information on SUBC go to:




2017: Year in Review

This week we take a look at posts from the past twelve months highlighting key activities, events, and anniversaries from 2017.

Due to refurbishment work taking place in the Hartley Library, 2016 only saw a single exhibition appear in the Special Collections Gallery. While refurbishment continued this summer, we were able to provide a full programme. Our first exhibition of the year was Beyond Cartography: safeguarding our historic maps and plans which ran from 20 February to 28 April 2017. Showcasing maps from the Special Collections, it illustrated the challenges that these objects bring to conservators before conservation or long-term preservation takes place. This was accompanied by Cartographic Operations in the neighbouring Level 4 Gallery. Running from 20 February to 10 March, the exhibition brought together three alternative cartographic operations.

Visitors at the Wellington and Waterloo exhibition

Visitors at the Wellington and Waterloo exhibition

The early summer saw a rerun of the Wellington and Waterloo MOOC (originally run in 2015). To coincide with the MOOC, Special Collections ran a number of related events in June. These included a Wellington and Waterloo exhibition, drawing heavily on the Wellington Archive, and a special Wellington and Waterloo revisited event on 17 June, which included a private view of the exhibition, a lecture on the Waterloo Despatch by Chris Woolgar (read by David Brown), and dancing with the Duke of Wellington’s Dancers.

The autumn brought Between The West and Russia, running from 23 October to 15 December 2017. The exhibition considered impressions of pre-revolutionary Russia from western perspectives and revolutionary ideas and influences.  The following month saw the arrival of this year’s Istanbul Biennial, titled A Good Neighbour, in the Level 4 Gallery on 20 November. Curated by the artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, the exhibition explores notions of home, neighbourhoods and how private spheres have changed in recent years. It runs until 4 February.

In addition to our exhibition programme, we also continued our ongoing series of Explore Your Archives events. To tie in with the map related exhibitions in the spring, our first drop-in session was Exploring Maps in the Special Collections on 28 February. The event included a talk by Chris Woolgar, Professor of History and Archival Studies, discussing a range of map material from across the collections.

While the galleries were closed for summer refurbishment, we hosted a drop-in session with a local focus on 31 July. Hampshire people and places provided the opportunity for visitors to discover more about the resources we hold for Hampshire ranging from topography to details of everyday life, including an array of printed sources from the Cope Collection.

Visitors to Hampshire people and places

Visitors to Hampshire people and places

In addition to taking part in Hands-on Humanities day on Saturday, 18 November, our last drop-in session of the year took place during Humanities Week on 22 November. The topics covered in Exploring Protests, Rebellion and Revolution in the Special Collections varied greatly, from the Peasants’ revolt of 1381 to the Swing riots in Hampshire of 1830, from the English Civil War to the European revolutions of 1848.

As ever, cataloguing remains a key activity of the Archives with cataloguing projects over the past year focusing on a broad range of material from across the collections. Blog posts highlighting recent cataloguing activities included a look at volumes relating to Sir David Salomons, baronet, and his nephew and heir, Sir David Lionel Salomons, second baronet, and papers relating to the author Pamela Frankau. Meanwhile, February saw descriptions for an additional one hundred archive collections added to the Special Collections website, including collections relating to Anglo-Jewish institutions and individuals, the Duke of Wellington, Alan Campbell-Johnson, Frank Temple Prince, and knitting! Recent acquisitions include papers relating to the pianist, and celebrated child prodigy, Solomon Cutner and Honor Frost, a pioneer in underwater archaeology (with more details on the latter to come!)

Rehousing illustrations from the printed collections

Rehousing illustrations from the printed collections

Behind the scenes posts included the rehousing of illustrations from the printed collections and a look at the procedure for answering researcher enquiries for Ask an Archivist Day. User perspectives included reflections on MA History Research Skills sessions (including the discovery of a cook by the name of Mary Berry at Broadlands!) as well as post graduate work on the Nuremberg trials and the discovery of a unique copy of Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol.

The past year marked a range of anniversaries which tied in with the collections, including: the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth; the arrival of Basque child refugees into Southampton; the accession of Queen Victoria; the creation of the House of Windsor (and Mountbatten); the deaths of Jane Austen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Princess Charlotte of Wales; the publication of Florence Greenberg’s Jewish Cookbook; the Balfour Declaration; and the birthday of Jonathan Swift. Posts on commemoration days included International Women’s Day; International Children’s Book Day; Earth Day; International Jazz Day; and World Baking Day, while University related posts tied in with Southampton Science and Engineering Week, and explored student balls and dances; student publications; the history of the University’s Library; and the University’s sports heritage.

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

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

With the arrival of new acquisitions, a full programme of exhibitions, and preparations already underway for next year’s Wellington Congress, it looks to be another busy year ahead. Be sure to keep an eye on the blog to keep up to date on all our latest activities!