City of Southampton Society
Registered Charity No 1006256 England and Wales
caring for our city's heritage and its green open spaces
Webmaster John Avery
                                      Titanic departing from Southampton April 1912          John Melody Town Crier          
   About us      Talks & Events
Queen Mary entering KG DOCKOur outdoor visit to Minstead Church in 2011 image Will TempleWarrior who after service on the front in WWI became a Southampton Police Horse. Image by kind permission Bitterne Local History SocietySouthampton CenotaphJohn Melody Town Crier at Tudor Revels 2012 image Arthur Jeffery
 

 Our general meetings are held at the Edmund Kell Church Hall [ground floor] in Bellevue Road off London Road. There is a hearing loop and facilities for disabled visitors. The meetings start at 7pm. The February meeting is the AGM and our President the Mayor of Southampton takes the chair.
We attempt to have a variety of talks and speakers, some make return visits especially when a presentation has been well received by the members.  
We normally meet on the 4th Monday of specified months but occasionally alter this arrangement to avoid clashing with public holidays such as Easter. Please note SCC charge to park on the street until 8pm
 
We welcome visitors to our meetings Image courtesy Will Temple

 

City of Southampton Society

 Please note that from January 2014 SCC imposed street parking fee of £2 from 6pm to 8pm
but from 9th March 2015 a new charging structure: it will also include scrapping the controversial evening charge that forced motorists to pay £2 to park for even a few minutes, and replacing it with a new fee of 50p every half an hour after 6pm until 8pm.
 
 
 
2018
22nd January 2018  Southampton in Bloom by Jeanne Taylor


28th February 2018  The AGM chaired by our President the Mayor of Southampton followed by a short talk by Chris Litton on the charity 
The Southampton Area Talking Echo (SATE) which allows people with sight difficulties to have their copy of the Daily Echo. We also share in refreshments supplied by our members plus support of a raffle.


26th March 2018 
The Mary Rose by Margaret Braddock


23rd April 2018 Bevois Mount History by Allyson Hayes


21st May 2018 [date avoids bank holiday] A Trip Around Africa [some memories of The Union Castle line] by Nick Braddock


18 June 2018 Outdoor Visit  [guided tour of Romsey Abbey]


24th September 2018 Southampton and the Mayflower by Godfrey Collyer


22nd October 2018 Southampton Old Bowling Green by John Sanders


26th November 2018 Southampton Docks by Alistair Welch [director ABP]



Notes on talks presented to CoSS members and guests

24.10.2016 Meeting notes © Linda Pritchard

Lepers in Southampton by John Avery

John explained about the history of the treatment of lepers in Southampton, covering the period from 1173 to 1420.  The leper hospital / refuge was established outside the town walls, and dedicated to St Mary Magdalen, with the name later corrupted to Marlands.  Its foundation was established by St Denys Priory, and later financially supported by a tax on each tun of wine, by the Burgers of Southampton and then the King. Southampton's was one of 200 leper refuges in England. Interestingly John mentioned that bell ringing was not a forewarning of a leper's approach, but rather a call for alms.

The presence of the leper hospital and its burial ground is now commemorated more visibly by a blue plaque on a pillar at the entrance to Watts Park. In addition a new information board 'Time for Compassion' was unveiled in 2012 in a ceremony attended by the Mayor Derek Burke, members of faith groups, members of our Society, and by the Director of New Hope, Eliazar Tumari Rose, both of whose parents had leprosy.

John’s talk was followed by Jill Ghanouni’s account of her 30 years work with the New Hope Rural Leprosy Trust

24.10.2016  Meeting notes © Linda Pritchard

The New Hope Rural Leprosy Trust by Jill Ghanouni MBE

Jill started her talk with an account of her 30 years connection with leprosy, its treatment, and the repercussions on the lives of its sufferers and in particular, her work with the amazing New Hope Charity.

In 1980, before nurse training, Jill had visited a leper colony in Uttar Pradesh, housing 500 people. Here she learned about the devastating progress of the disease, the possibility of treatment, and saw how sufferers were, to an extent, adapting to their physical conditions to become useful and productive. With specially adapted looms, they made fabrics and especially mats, using yarn they themselves had dyed and woven.  (There is no cure for leprosy, but there is a drug that halts the deterioration that leads to disfiguration and limb amputations. Maybe a vaccine will be developed in 5 years, but so far, nothing).

Jill knew that although she was 'useful' in this colony, she did not feel essential there, and thought she could be more helpful to them, being trained back at home. This feeling was enforced when on an intended brief visit to a leper colony in Orissa, she was trapped for several months by a devastating monsoon flood. The flood had drowned 6,000 people it had swept away roads and a vital viaduct and there was widespread destruction of buildings as mud bricks disintegrated.

During her extended time there, she saw girls of 13 or 14, 'coolie ladies' carrying newly made bricks to rebuild wards and the recovery clinic at the main base. Also, by bike and rickshaw she visited remote outlying leper colonies that had been damaged and were desperately short of medical help and supplies. Lacking buildings, the shelter of a tree was used as a treatment point during these visits.

Eventually, supplies arrived, and the situation eased somewhat and Jill returned to England determined to continue her connection and support of these people with whom she had built such strong bonds of affection and admiration.  

Over the years of her work in setting up New Hope, the scope of the care it provides has increased and widened enormously. Now in addition to care for lepers New Hope is providing education and homes for children orphaned by AIDS, street and railway children, those rescued from rubbish dumps, and abandoned babies.

Hostels are provided for the older boys and training is given in shoe making, tailoring, embroidery, brick making, mechanics, engineering, and in art - one foot and mouth painter's work is internationally admired.

22 years after her first visit, she took her daughter to India, where New Hope's schools and hospital surgery facilities are greatly improved and where her daughter joined in the care during their stay.

New Hope funds and runs the only home in Orissa for people with profound and multiple needs, including polio victims. Much effort is made to improve the quality of life for those whose life span may be very short.

Jill's charity works with tribal families from the hills, with their complex needs. It gives family planning advice, and classes in basic literacy, it also supplies first aid kits, and provides adapted equipment for the varied disabilities.   

Cataract operations are carried out in its own cottage hospital, as well as maternity care and vaccinations. Emergency bundles of sheets, food and sandals are prepared for distribution to the needy.

Much of the work in the settlement is self-supporting - they are self-sufficient in 68% of the fruit and vegetables used, and generate solar powered electricity. There is an anaerobic digester, providing 80% of the fuel for the kitchen, where everything is recycled, including human and animal waste.

The endless, limitless, work undertaken by Jill and New Hope is made more difficult by coping with the awful problems of the Indian caste system. Ostracism still causes immense suffering and has lead to an increase in the number of young people with leprosy.  One of New Hope's efforts to eliminate and destroy the stigma of the caste system is to give rescued orphans three names, one each, Hindu, Christian and Muslim i.e. Anil Paul Gupta, in this way to confuse local authorities by excluding automatic identification and consequent discrimination.


28th November 2016 Meeting            Notes © Linda Pritchard

Prisons and Punishment in the 19th century by Colin Moretti

Colin gave us the history of how 19th century offences had been judged and punished and described the conditions in the prisons in which offenders were detained.

At this time, prisoners were released only after the Head Jailer's fees for board and lodging had been paid. Release was often delayed until long after the sentence had been served.

Fees were not only paid to the Head Jailer, but also by a system of 'chummage' to the Top Prisoner. Conditions under which prisoners were kept were greatly influenced by their ability to pay, and varied enormously.

Prisons were dark, overcrowded, without sanitation or ventilation. The prisoners’ diet was poor and jail fever rife. As well as imprisonment, punishments included a variety of humiliating or painful treatments, such as being whipped through the town, pillorying, putting in the stocks, branding, even amputating ears, hands, or nose.

There were 220 offences punishable by death. These included oddities like ‘being with gypsies for a month’, 'malice in 7-14 year old children’, and ‘blacking face’ or ‘going disguised at night’, as well as more 'normal' offences like theft (of as little as 12d.), shoplifting, stealing sheep, cattle, and horses. Between 1770 and 1830 there were 35,000 death sentences, although the number actually carried out was considerably fewer.

Prisons had been using different systems for housing and controlling the inmates. The ‘Separate System’ separated prisoners totally except at exercise time, when they would wear hoods and were forbidden to talk during their walks around the yard.  The chapels at Wandsworth and Lincoln were built with semi-circular ranked seating with rows of individual booths isolating the prisoners from sight and sound of each other. The solitary cell design was 13' x 7' x 9', with toilet, washbasin, heating, and window. An illustration showed such a cell, with a loom for mat making.

Colin went on to describe changes in prison design, Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon was a successful one: a central tower overlooking radiating wings, giving a full view of activities.

He detailed the progress and improvement eventually brought about following John Howard and Elizabeth Fry's campaigns to reform the prison system. John Howard (1726-1790) was High Sheriff of  Bedfordshire, and Superintendent of lock-ups and prisons.  He devoted his life to the reform of prisons and the treatment of prisoners, both in England, and abroad.  The Howard League for Penal Reform was formed in 1866 by his followers, and is still very influential in continuing his humanitarian work in this field. Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), a Quaker, is called 'The Angel of Prisons'. She was appalled by the conditions she saw at Newgate prison, where men, women and children were crammed together in dreadful conditions.

In spite of some improvements, 'chummage' continued, there were frequent riots and disturbances, and overcrowding persisted in many of the 270 English prisons, as did malaria and other fevers, leading to a high turnover of governors.

By 1823, classification of prisoners was brought in. Men, women, juveniles and children were to be housed separately. A National Prison Department was set up, leading to nationwide standardised regulation of accommodation, diet, remission for good behavior, etc.  Reform schools instead of prisons for juveniles were introduced - the first one being at Borstal, Rochester. Above all there was a reduction by over 100 of  the offences incurring the death penalty.

Debtors prisons were abolished in 1869, but strict punishments were encouraged to deter repeat offenders of all crimes.  10,000 had been imprisoned for debt in a year, although conditions varied, and some prisoners were still able to conduct their business affairs from inside.  After 1869, imprisonment for debt was limited to 6 weeks, except for defaulters and refusers.

Transportation of offenders against a variety of laws had been used as punishment since 1600's with prisoners being shipped to work in Bermuda and North America to ease overcrowding in England's prisons.  Australia was the main destination from 1787 until 1868 when strong objections from there about over-loading with 'criminals' lead to the total abolition of transportation in 1877.

Public works prisons were a very important part of the system. In Chatham and Portsmouth prisoners built the dockyards, at Chattenden the arsenal, while at Dover and Portland prisoners built the harbour and breakwaters. Other activities undertaken were somewhat less productive - oakum picking was very unpleasant but useful, and Dartmoor and Broadmoor prisoners broke stone for road making. However other activities such as cranking and treadmilling, were intended to tire, exercise and occupy the prisoners, but served no other purpose.

Particularly close to Mr Moretti's heart was the story of his great grandfather, Joseph Moretti. As a prisoner serving 6 years hard labour, in Portland jail, for theft, he worked on creating Weymouth Bay breakwater and Portland Harbour. He was among the 2,000 prisoners who shifted 6 million tons of rock during their construction, using only their own strength and wheelbarrows, with a derrick and pulley for the very heaviest stones. They also dug by hand the impressive Verne Ditch,120' wide, 75' deep, surrounding  Portland army garrison, which they also built.  They did have much deserved and necessary extra rations as a reward for their hard labour.

Mr Moretti read us excerpts from the Governor of Portland Prison's journal.  This detailed arrivals and departures, visitors, punishments, health matters, accidents and deaths, rebellions and assaults on officers, escapes and recaptures, and, of course, the weather. Trafficking of candles, paper, carved souvenir bone work, tobacco (what's new?) were reported, as was the fact that the prison was a popular sightseeing resort.  Prince Albert with his sons Princes Arthur and Albert were among the notable visitors.

In summary reforms to the end of the19th century were;

Regulations to improve diet and living conditions.

Older prisons closed

End of unproductive labour

Fees abolished

End of transportation

Women and children housed and treated separately from men.

End of public executions

Reduction in capital offences

Sentencing rate reduced

Shorter sentences

Experiments in other prison regimes

Other non-custodial options sought.

A very thought provoking talk, for which we offer Mr Moretti our thanks.



23rd January 2017 Meeting            Notes © Linda Pritchard

Southampton – The Slavery and the Sugar Trade by Andy Russel

Andy Russel's talk on Southampton's involvement in slavery and the sugar industry started with a photograph of the bombed ruins of the huge Sugar House. This six-storey building had been built in the 1740's as a sugar refinery, on the site of the dissolved Franciscan friary.  The factory complex was well situated to take advantage of Southampton's trade links to import both the raw molasses from the West Indies, and the coal required to turn it into the highly desirable refined white sugar.

Andy gave us a brief history of the production of sugar from cane, which had probably developed in the Middle East, thence to Sicily, and onwards, feeding the increasing demand in Europe for the convenient sweet substance. The climate in the West Indies was ideal for growing sugar cane, but was not so for Europeans transported for penal servitude of 5,7,or 9 years on the plantations. Very few survived, and this led to an increased trade in African slaves, who were considered better able to survive the hot climate.

Well before this time, there were several mentions of African or Moors in the Southampton records, none of whom were slaves.  The first documentation of a black person dates back to 1546 when a ship carrying valuable cargo sank close to Southampton.  The ensuing court cases regarding compensation for salvage involved the testimony of one Jacques Francis questioning whether his word could be accepted as trustworthy as he was a non-Christian Moor.  The court decided he could be believed, and it is very unlikely he was a slave. A black trumpeter at the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII, ironically called John Blanc, is also mentioned in the city's records as such.  In 1555 a London consortium brought 5 Africans to England, not as slaves, but to be taught English, in order to improve trade as translators and interpreters.  In 1561, Queen Elizabeth I granted licences to adventurers to bring back African seamen, again, as interpreters.

According to Huyklyt, in 1562 John Hawkins captured 300 negroes 'by sword and other means'.  As these may have been purchased this might be the start of England's involvement in the slave trade, as they were taken and then sold in Domenica.  By 1596, there were complaints at the very highest level about there being too many blackamoors claiming relief which should go to the English, but just how many is not known.

Andy then gave an illustrated description of the production of sugar from cane. The cane was planted, cut down by scythes in about 7' lengths, and hauled to a man powered mill where it was crushed, pressed, and the resulting liquid piped down to another shed, where it was boiled, barrelled, and then transported as molasses to England for refining. Southampton was ideally placed to carry out the other processes required to produce sugar, to feed the great demand for the 'white death' sweetener.  The Sugar House was the biggest building in Southampton and was built by the French Briseau family. They came to Southampton from being bakers in Whitechapel, in London, and set up an extremely successful and productive business, lasting for many years. The foundations of their large factory complex have been excavated by Andy and his team, and we were shown photos and plans of the dig.

Making sugar from molasses is a very skilled job. It has to be boiled to an exact temperature without burning, to crystalize.  After boiling the liquid was poured into conical clay moulds (by the thousand) to be stored for several months to drain and dry.  Bulls blood was added through the cones to extract impurities. The stacked cones were kept clean and warm on the top 6th floor, which was strengthened with extra beams to support the great weight. Large moulds made coarser sugar than smaller one.  Andy showed illustrations of the manufacturing procedure for the sugar loaves, which, when ready were wrapped in blue sugar paper for distribution across southern England.

A result of the increased consumption of white sugar, which was no longer highly taxed, was a severe deterioration in the teeth of the populace. From 18c onwards, skeletons show rotted teeth, signs of diabetes and arteriosclerosis in all ages.

From being an imported luxury item, sugar had become cheap and easily accessible, and now there were many refineries countrywide. This eventually led to M. Briseau Snr. going out of business, and becoming bankrupt. The company's assets were put up for sale, and it seems from the existing Bill Of Sale the auction was very successful. 5,000 clay moulds are listed, and so few pieces were found during the excavation of the area, that it would seem all the goods and equipment were sold and removed from the site.

Briseau's son-in-law became influential in the town, and lived very well.  His 3 houses were cleared by 1870's from the site now occupied by Telephone House and Gloucester Square car park.  Their original sugar factory complex had extended from the town walls to High Street.

When sugar refining ceased, the Sugar House was used for a while as a hospital for sick soldiers. However, close proximity, poor sanitation and dirty blankets lead to outbreaks of typhoid. Subsequently the building became White's Furniture Depository, and this was its role until bombed in the German air raids of WWII, which was the sad photo shown at the beginning of Andy's talk.

There is no evidence that Southampton was involved in the infamous 3-way trade, like Bristol and Liverpool. Nor is there any sign that rum, as a by-product from boiling molasses, was made here. However, there is much evidence of Southampton people being involved in slavery. After the abolition in 1836, compensation was paid by the government to plantation and slave owners. The records show many Southampton citizens received generous compensation for their 'loss'.  The Town Clerk, Mr Stebbing acted on their behalf to administer this. The extent of their ownership varied considerably, from modest, to numerous. The lists and records of compensation payments to Southamptonians exist, and show very widespread involvement, including several present day families.

Both sides of the slavery debate were represented locally - many wealthy local landowners were pro-slavery, while William Wilberforce himself, son of the vicar of St Mary's, Wm.Cobbett, and Chamberlain were abolitionists.  Their campaign, backed by Lord Mansfield was successful, and he decreed 'Let the blacks go free'.

Andy was thanked for his informative talk, full of interesting details, including his own family's (somewhat unwilling) slave owning past!


27th February 2017 Meeting            Notes © Linda Pritchard

 Admiral of the Fleet, John Rushworth Jellicoe, GCB. OM. GCVO. SGM. DL     by John Avery

John Jellicoe was born in Southampton on 5th December 1859, and joined RN Training Ship Britannia in 1872, as a midshipman. He served on several ships and saw much service, mainly with the Mediterranean Fleet.

 In 1893 he was aboard HMS Victoria, flagship of the Admiral of the Mediterranean Fleet, Vice Admiral Sir George Tryon, when it was in collision with HMS Camperdown. Tryon devised a berthing exercise whereby the five battle cruisers would enter a formation 1200 yards apart at Tripoli. The distance did not allow for suction created by ships’ propellers and the two ships collided. Jellicoe was one of a few survivors. This incident, and the loss of 22 officers and 336 men who died is commemorated on the Portsmouth memorial. A family headstone on a grave in Southampton Old Cemetery also records the event. The wreck of HMS Victoria, off Tripoli, is a protected site.

 He was badly injured at the Battle of Beicang during the Chinese Boxer Rebellion, in 1900, and after this conflict, he commanded HMS Drake in North America and the West Indies.

 Jellicoe became a Rear Admiral in 1907 and carried through many modernising measures in the Navy.  As a member of the Admiralty Ordnance Committee he supervised the introduction of  mechanical range finders to improve firing accuracy, and he also supported the construction of Dreadnought battleships, and Invincible battle cruisers.

 He become Commander of the Grand Fleet and was awarded many national and international honours.  By August 1914, and the start of WW1, he was a full admiral, and was mostly much admired throughout the nation.

 At the Battle of Jutland, in May 1916 his command of the Great Fleet was considered disappointing.  Despite enormous losses on both sides, neither could claim 'victory' and he had ordered his remaining ships from Scapa Flow to turn back to avoid further losses. His decisions and behaviour were compared unfavourably with Admiral Beatty who had joined the battle from Rosyth.

He became at odds with Government and the Admiralty. Among these disputes, Jellicoe disagreed with ships being deployed to convoys, which he disliked, but which, in fact, were a successful way of protecting convoys from attack. In 1917 he was removed from the post of First Lord of the Admiralty by David Lloyd George.  

In 1918 he was created Viscount Jellicoe of Scapa Flow and from 1920 - 1924 was Governor of New Zealand. On his return to Britain, he became Earl Jellicoe and Viscount Brocas of Southampton. He died of pneumonia in London in 1935, and is buried in St Paul's Cathedral. His bronze bust is on a plinth in Trafalgar Square - a great Sotonian, indeed!


William Walker - The Diver at Winchester Cathedral by Margaret Braddock. - 27.3.2017.      

Meeting notes © Linda Pritchard

   

The original Winchester Minster, built in 635 was demolished and replaced by a new church consecrated in 1093. However its waterlogged peaty site has meant the Cathedral has suffered continually from severe subsidence.  Until 1905, the work to repair damage had been carried out by Cathedral staff in a piecemeal fashion and without great success.  Architectural surveyor, John Colson reported an alarming degree of subsidence and of cracked walls with daylight visible between the stonework. The Cathedral was in danger of collapse. Thomas Jackson, the Diocesan Architect, was appointed to assess the work required to save the Cathedral. A trial dig found that the foundations, a raft of beech logs laid in part over peat had moved or rotted. Francis Fox, the eminent civil engineer estimated that the cost of repairs and underpinning the sagging structure would be £20,000,

The Dean appealed for financial support by writing to newspapers and eminent, powerful people. Fundraising events were held throughout the years of work, as costs continually rose. These included the Winchester Pageant and selling items crafted from the old timbers as well as appeals for money.

The repair work commenced, scaffolding erected, damaged stonework replaced with new Portland stone and tie bars fitted. The tie bars are still checked for movement. 500 tons of 'cathedral quality' grout was pumped in to stabilise the walls. The exterior walls were shored up with oak timbers leaving 'cup' marks in the grass.

Francis Fox's plan to stabilise the foundations was to drive drift tunnels beneath the Cathedral and fill them with cement. However the tunnels flooded and it’s here that the wonderful William Walker enters the story. William Walker born in 1869, was senior diver for Siebe Gorman. His single-handed work was to take bags of cement under the Cathedral and position them by touch alone in the pitch-black peaty water. Starting at 8am he worked 6 hours a day 5 days a week, for 6 years eventually putting in position 25,000 bags and 110,000 brick blocks.

He wore a red woolly hat and wore wool underwear under his rubberised twill diving suit. The suit, pulled feet upwards had greased tight cuffs but no gloves. His boots, breastplate, helmet and knife, weighed a total of 200 lbs. William West was the main signal / linesman who kept check on his airflow tube, assessed the depth of the water, and prepared for his swift removal if an emergency occurred. Francis Fox also dived to inspect the work, and was famously photographed wearing a diver's suit. When the Cathedral work was finished, William was presented with a silver rose bowl, and was appointed Member of the Royal Victoria Order. He died from Spanish flu on 31 October 1918 and is buried in Beckenham Cemetery in London.

In the Cathedral grounds there is a small statue of a diver. When the statue was unveiled a grandson declared "That bugger ain't Grandad" its likeness having been taken from the diver's suit photograph of Francis Fox. A true likeness is now in the Cathedral, as a fitting tribute and memorial to a remarkable man and his efforts, to whom all lovers of the Cathedral owe an enormous debt of gratitude.


Meeting 23 4 2017 “The Lost Pubs of Southampton” by Dave Goddard. Some brief notes © Linda Pritchard 
Dave Goddard’s talk was based on research for his book. He mentioned a 1878 map by the Temperance Society, produced to shame the licensing authority [A copy is in Tudor House Museum]. The map became a drinkers' guide to the many establishments serving alcohol in Southampton. His book 'Southampton’s Lost Pubs' was published in 2014. Dave illustrated his talk with slides, in roughly alphabetical order, with a commentary of short descriptions of the pubs and ale houses, their situation, age, incidents which had happened in the pubs, and their changes of name, and eventual fates. Some had become residential accommodation, or retail premises; some were demolished for development, and many were lost by wartime destruction. Some were not 'lost' at all, but are still in business. The talk was followed by an opportunity to see Mr. Goddard's memorabilia and research material.

The talk 22/5/2017 “Berthon and his Boats” by Barbara Burrudge. Some brief notes © Linda Pritchard
The Reverend Edward Lyon Berthon 1813-1899. Barbara Burridge treated the members to a fascinating talk about this remarkable polymath whose achievements had a worldwide effect and influence. After studying theology at Magdalene College, Cambridge Edward was ordained in 1845 however he maintained his many early interests in inventions, engineering, architecture, astronomy, and writing. The sinking of SSOrion in 1850 inspired him to invent a collapsible lifeboat.The Orion had sunk within sight of land with great loss of life because there was no lifesaving equipment on board. Edward had become Vicar of Romsey Abbey and he lived for many years [1859-1899] in Folly House, the vicarage that he had designed. With encouragement from Samuel Plimsoll, he set up theBerthon Boat Co.Ltd. within the grounds of the Abbey from where he could oversee the work in the factory. The finished boats were tested on the nearby stream.Among the many contracts he received were orders worth £15,000 came from the Admiralty. The long lasting waterproof coating of the double-skinned canvas sheeting of Berthon's folding boat remains a secret. It is impermeable and flexible, and enables the sides of the boat to be erected or collapsed quickly and easily around a central keel. The boats were made in many sizes, from 7'-30' (capable of carrying 70 people). They were flat packed and could be transported by horse. The use of the Berthon boats was worldwide, they were used on explorations from the Arctic to Africa, and in later years, on a circumnavigation of the globe! General Gordon had them in Khartoum, H.S.Stanley used them in his African explorations on the Zambezi. In addition to his business activities, he also initiated and carried out many alterations, renovations and improvements to Romsey Abbey itself. He wanted to return the Abbey to its original authentic Norman / Romanesque style, and removed many unsightly extensions. The demolition work at the east end Lady Chapel revealed that the windows were askew and required his workmen to lower them to match. Rev. E.L. Berthon's funeral was attended by many hundreds and his memorial in the Abbey depicts the famous collapsible folding boat for which so many have so much to thank him.

‘Jane Austen and Southampton Spa’. a talk by Cheryl Butler 25.9.17

Notes © 2017 Linda Pritchard edited by Brian Sefton

Doctor Cheryl Butler treated us to an interesting, amusing and wide ranging race through Jane Austen and her life, her family, and their connections, with an overview of her times here in Southampton.

Jane's immediate family, the Austens of Steventon had many relations richer than them, possessing grand houses all over England, which Jane visited. During these visits, and on many  extended stays, Jane developed her close and incisive knowledge of the life styles of 'high society', with its oddities and rigid expectations of manners and behaviour.  This clear observance is shown well in her books and letters, because she, with her mother and beloved sister Cassandra were the poor relations, especially after the death of her clergyman father in 1805.  They went on seasonal rounds of touring staying with friends, acquaintances, and relations and Jane created her style from being a keen observer during these quite difficult times. These, however, are probably responsible for the enduring popularity of her witty books.

Jane's family background and her wider family were explained by Cheryl, with their many relations and connections through marriage.  

Her first stay in Southampton was not a happy one.  She had moved from Reading to Southampton with Mrs. Cawley's Ladies Boarding School as an 8 year old  pupil, together with her sister and cousin Jane Cooper.  However, although Southampton had become a fashionable spa town partly due to the Prince of Wales's visits,  little Jane, Cassandra, and Jane Cooper all contracted 'putrid throat', diptheria. This illness probably left Jane Austen weakened for the rest of her short life.

Her happier times in Southampton as a teenager coincided with its heyday as a spa town. She attended dances at The Dolphin, and The Assembly Rooms, and many social gatherings.  These were remembered later, in a letter to Cassandra, and were enlivened by a Master of Ceremony at the Assembly Room, who set the manner of fashionable styles.   Interesting and varied people came to these events, including Nathaniel St. Andre, anatomist to King George, and infamous for endorsing the verisimilitude of the claims of the multi-birthing Rabbit Woman.

Jane's third stay in Southampton, for the 3 years, 1806-09, was after a period in Bath, which she appears to have hated and despised.

Cheryl explained that after Jane's father's death in 1805, their remaining income dropped, and it was with Naval Officer brother Frank's help that Jane, Cassandra, and their mother settled in lodgings in Castle Square, together with Frank's wife, and a friend Martha Lloyd. The property was prestigious, with the highest rent in Castle Square, (£40 pa), and very pleasant gardens down to the town walls, and beautiful views over Southampton Water.   The site is now occupied by The Juniper Berry pub.

No.2 Castle Square was close to the Marquis of Lansdowne's newly built castle, where many social events were held. The stories of the behaviour of the eccentric marquis and his wife must have given Jane much amusement, but sadly Cassandra burned the majority of Jane's correspondence after her death 'to save her reputation'.  Given the caustic and waspish content of the surviving letters, one is left to wonder about the destroyed ones!!

The Austens enjoyed crossing the Itchen by ferry for walks along the nearby shore, as far as Netley Abbey, which may have inspired ' Northanger Abbey'. They also called on the David Lances at Chessel House.  Jane took with her on some of these expeditions, two little orphaned nephews, who she looked after and with whom she  was extremely close.

Theatre-going with Jane's friend Mrs Fitzhugh to Sarah Siddons' performances at the Theatre Royal in French Street, were enjoyed as Mrs Fitzhugh was a great fan.

Among Jane's many relatives was her cousin Elizabeth, of the Kent Austens, who had married John Butler Harrison. He was a wine importer who became Mayor of Southampton.  Jane was godmother to their daughter, and Elizabeth and John are memorialised in Peartree Church.  Harrison Cut off St Mary's Road is named after him.  

Cheryl's talk covered a wealth of Southampton related  subjects, and touched on:

The slave trade, paintings and drawings by Turner, Constable and Tobias Young  Pebber, The Marchioness of Lansdowne's plastered face, Charles Dibden's hymns and songs, Nelson's battles (a propos brother Frank's naval career) , Wm Cowper and his Millbrook strawberry growing,  and gas lighting in Bugle Street following Thomas Lintott being crushed against a pole in the pitch black night.

Mention was made by Cheryl of Thos.Telford and MacAdam's road improvements,  which made Jane's journeying sometimes more comfortable. (Apparently, more wooden legs were needed because of coach accidents, than from warfare.)  The halted development of the Polygon, God's House Tower and the penal system, ship yards, Horace Walpole, King Edward VI school, the East India Company, Taking the Waters, and the Flounce, the French Revolution, emigres, Hants Militia and Edward Gibbon's hat, Captain Bligh, flogging, Beau Brummel's trousers, were all referred to, along with Jane's teasing of the Rev Mount's rebuilding of All Saint's Church as a Greek Temple, and his imaginary romances. 


‘Memories of the Great War’ a talk by Geoff Watts 23.10.17 

Notes © 2017 Linda Pritchard edited by Brian Sefton.

Geoff Watts' talk was full of anecdotes, information, and was well illustrated with photographic slides, postcards and included a moving poetry recitation.  

The photographs showed before and after depictions of the devastation caused by the brutal conflicts of the Great War. Others were illustrations of the memorials raised across the countries affected. These were very varied, and range from the immensely imposing to the very simple. The exception in the cemeteries is the standardised design and shape of the official individual War Graves markers of white Portland stone.

He related the widely reported legend of the strange events of 23/ 24 August 1914. The BEF was pinned down under heavy pressure by German forces near Mons, and were in a desperate situation.  Apparently, the German onslaught was halted when an odd vision appeared in the sky of shining shapes that resolved into angelic warriors or an army of archers, like Henry V's army before the victorious battle of Agincourt. In an interview with The Echo in 1964, a veteran of this conflict declared he was at Mons and had seen the apparition in the sky for himself. This account somewhat coincides with another version, where the German advance was halted by a 'mad minute' of rapid firing at 15 rounds per minute from the BEF allowing them to retreat.

In 1922, King George V visited the cemetery at Etaples, where 11,000 war dead are buried.  Queen Mary had been asked by the mother of a Captain Mathews to lay a bunch of forget-me-nots on his grave, which the King did on her behalf. The impressive memorial and Cross of Sacrifice at the War Cemetery frames a nearby tall column topped by a statue of Napoleon commemorating his attempt to invade England.  He is facing inland....

We were also shown photographs of some French memorials: - a huge hand and torch to symbolize tunnelling, and on the Marne battlefield an enormous 33m high redstone structure, which took 5 years to build. It honours, chiefly, Field Marshal Foch whose huge image is flanked by statues of 4 other war leaders, including Joffre and Haig - but much smaller! A detailed description of the conflict is deeply incised into the memorial.

In England, before WW1, there were few public war memorials, except inside churches. After the Great War, the design of memorials was decided locally, leading to a countrywide variety of styles. There was a generally accepted symbolism regarding the Cross of Sacrifice, a frequent choice, and the significant details were explained by Geoff.  At many of these, throughout the land, the names of those commemorated on them are read out of Remembrance Day, so that hopefully 'Their name liveth forever more' is not just an empty phrase.

Many German war dead are also buried in England. In 1959, those who were not already in war graves were exhumed, and reburied in an isolated cemetery for 5,000 on Cannock Chase. He showed a photograph of a black ledgerstone engraved with 15 names and a date. The memorial was for the crew of an airship, shot down having been on a bombing raid on London. The pilot, Lt. Leefe Robinson, was awarded the VC. for his action, and later met Baron von Richthofen’s squadron in combat but was shot down and taken prisoner. He was ill treated as a POW when his identity became known. He escaped but was recaptured. Following repatriation sadly he died of Spanish flu in December 1918. The airship crew were among those exhumed to be taken to Cannock.

We were reminded of Southampton's own Jack Mantle VC, and Fl. Lt. Nicholson VC, both memorialised here.  We also heard the sad story of a Welsh farmboy and poet, Ellis Humphrey Evans.  He was conscripted in 1916, and is better known now as Hedd Wyn. He had submitted a poem to the Eisteddford but on presentation of the winner's Bardic Chair, when his name was called it was learned that he had been killed on the first day of the battle of Passchendaele and had been buried at Artillery Wood Cemetery. The posthumous award was announced and the Chair draped in black has become his memorial.

Throughout the war, many postcards were produced, by both sides.  Some patriotic, some satirical, some sentimental, and many in beautifully embroidered silk. These can frequently be bought now for little money. We were shown one purchased recently, it was from a French soldier and addressed to Edith --------, The Garage, Methuen Street, Avenue, Southampton.  Louis' card, appreciating Edith's letters, is dated 19.2.15 and says he has been on the front. It is known that he died on 28.2.15, so was probably already dead when Edith received it.  We do not know the story behind this card, which was found in perfect condition after her death.

After the war, a League of Hope was set up to help the devastated French towns. Money was raised by a Flag Day, and many English towns, including Southampton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth and London, all adopted French villages.  In 1921 thousands of little paper flags were sold to raise funds, here, depicting the arms of Southampton, and the fleur-de-lys.

The Dolphin Hotel was a BEF HQ in 1914, and until a recent refurbishment, had a brass plaque referring to this, and also a Haig Room. The Polygon Hotel was also BEF General HQ. and Geoff wondered where the plaque commemorating this is now - he has been told it is in the care of the City Council, but specifically where, he has been unable to ascertain.

Still mounted on the wall near the entrance to Ocean Village, is the London and S.W.Railway's Docks memorial. It carries 75 names. Another wall plaque memorial is by Dock Gate 4, to the many members of South Western SSC. The names of their fallen employees are listed, along with their position i.e. stewardess, cook and their age, and includes poor little Horace Wood, a 15 year old deck boy.

Following the discovery of the disgraceful neglectful treatment of so many war memorials in defunct or refurbished business premises, or even redundant churches, Ian Davidson set up The Friends of War Memorials. Shamefully, many brass memorials were being melted for scrap, and a beautiful large brass one was retrieved from a Bournemouth scrap yard. Detective work, compared names on Southampton's own impressive Lutyens' designed cenotaph, with other records and the plaque was found to have belonged to St Luke's Church in Bevois Valley.  Presumably it was found to be surplus to requirements when this church became a Sikh temple.  It is now believed to be in the care of the Council.

Geoff told us about Southampton's ancient Sword of State. It is of 16C German design, and although refurbished in 1870's by Mayor MacAlmont, is very fragile. The custom is that it is unsheathed when England is at war, and replaced in its scabbard when peace is declared. Sir Sidney Kimber did this in 1914, and it was kept unsheathed beside the mayoral chair throughout WW1.  (He referred to it as the Sword of Fate, as it is quite plain in design, and State swords are usually much more decorative) When the war was over, it was put up in its sheath and despite subsequent conflicts and probably because if its fragility may not have been removed since. However Carol Cunio, is sure that during her mayoral year, a young visitor did indeed remove the ancient sword from its sheath and according to her recollection it was replaced unharmed.

A particularly moving local memorial is that to the ex-war and police horse ‘Warrior’. When this venerable and famous horse died, instead of being consigned to the knackers yard, he was buried with great ceremony at the Sports Centre, the place clearly marked with a commemorative engraved stone.

Thank you Geoff, for such an interesting, fact-filled, and appropriately timed talk.


 

Mural unveiled 25th May 2013 Image Jill Ghanouni
Image Jill Ghanouni
Our summer visit in June 2010 was to Chawton where we visited the Jane Austen Museum. For part of her life Jane resided in Southampton and the Society has with the help of Southampton Council developed a Jane Austen trail and published a booklet.
Jane Austen Museum at Chawton image by Will Temple

Monday 27th June 2011 
We visited  Minstead Parish Church and then continued on to The Swan at Emery Down. The church has many interesting features and in the churchyard is the grave of the author of Sherlock Holmes.

The churchwarden kindly explained some of the features of minstead Church. Image Will Temple




  © Copyright City of Southampton Society 2011/15/16/17/18

Outdoor visit to Minstead Church image courtesy Will Temple Outdoor visit on a Guy Arab open top busTug tender Calshot in preservation