Saturday, 16 November 2013

5 fun facts about Southampton University

Time for 5 more fun facts! This time I will focus on Southampton University; it's history and archaeology ~(mostly buildings based). Hopefully not as long as the last few articles I've done!

1.The University of Southampton was founded in 1862, with funds from the then-deceased Henry Robinson Hartley (hence why the University was originally called the "Hartley Institution")(Nash and Sherwood 2002). The son of a wealthy wine merchant, he actually disliked Southampton during his adult life, never actually living in the city itself! This was a time of great social and economic change in Southampton; the population roughly quadrupled in 40 years from 1815-1855, bringing the industrial revolution with it (ibid.). Nonetheless, he did enjoy Southampton as a child.
On his deathbed in 1850, he bequeathed his estate to the "Corporation of Southampton" (basically the city council), with the intention of creating "a small serve as a repository for my household furniture, books, manuscripts, and other moveables"(ibid.). This comprised most of the Highfield Campus in Southampton. The Corporation then spent the next decade arguing whether the money should be spent on a "University College" or an Institute, the main difference being that the college would be quite similar to the ones founded in London (University College London) and Manchester (Owens College, by then the only other "colleges" in England, in the strictest sense of the word; Durham University was founded in 1836, but wasn't really a "University College" by this point, having multiple colleges like Oxford and Cambridge). Meanwhile the Institute had members, but not students, although it gave lectures. There was also a small legal matter involving Hartley's relatives, who won half of the money bequeathed by Hartley to the Corporation! In the end, the Institute won out even though it would originally be designed for a smaller section (i.e. richer) section of society.

2.  However, in 1883, the Institute became a College, after a series of corruption allegations bought about by lecturers on the Institute's Council, leading to the Magnus Report of the Corporation's Technical Instruction Committee of the 1890's, that changed the Institute into a College (ibid.). After a few years of wangling, it became a University College in 1902 (ibid), which meant that some students could take their exams at Southampton and be awarded a degree from the University of London! Ultimately the University of Southampton came into being in 1952, being given a royal charter by Queen Elizabeth II, in one of the first acts of her reign (ibid).

3.  Other campuses in the area include the National Oceanographic Centre and the Winchester School of Art. The National Oceanographic centre was part of the University of Southampton. It was constructed in the 1980's to promote Southampton's maritime research. In 2010 it merged with a similar facility in Liverpool and owned by the Natural Environment Research Council (National Oceanography Centre, 2013). The School of Art is based in Winchester, and has been around in various guises since 1860, making it older than the Hartley Institute (Nash and Sherwood 2002: p.120)! During the 1990's it acquired a huge number of new students through expansion, but then also became part of the University of Southampton, after about 15 years of discussions that had started in the 1980's.

4. Avenue Campus was developed out of Richard Taunton's College, which was purchased in 1993. Founded by this 18th century mayor of Southampton, this school had been around since the 18th century, providing free education, although it had only been on the Avenue Campus site since 1926. Today the Richard Taunton school continues on Hill Lane in Southampton (Old Tauntonian's Association 2013).

5. Many of the University buildings described above survive today; the original Hartley Institute building was the Hartley library (mostly redeveloped though), the modern library was built in the 1930's to honour Edward Turner Sims, the Avenue Campus was developed on the inside, but the exterior largely untouched (although a new archaeology department was added recently to Avenue Campus). 

Image 1: The Hartley library, originally called the Turner Sims library, because it was built in mmory of Edward Turner Sims (Southampton University)

While a number of other buildings are largely modern, these reflect Southampton's rapid rise as one of the country's leading Universities in the modern era, catering for all students across the UK; a contrast to the selective institute that the University was founded on! However, it hasn't all been plain sailing: see here for a recent fire in the computer science building! Fortunately no one was hurt.
  So Southampton's modenr history has shown how the rapid expansion of the University can still complement the history and archaeology of the past; mainly by preservation and consolodation of multiple schools. By losing it's London connection, Southampton University was able to focus on it's local area, and forge it's own destiny as a successful independent University.

Any comments are appreciated!


Nash, S and Sherwood, M., 2002, The University of Southampton: An Illustrated History, James and James, London

National Oceanography Centre, last updated 2013, Our Organisation: About Us,, last accessed 16/11/2013,

Old Tauntonian's Association, last updated 2013, College History, last accessed 16/11/2013


Image 1: Southampton University, last updated unknown, Hartley Library,, last accessed 16/11/2013


Link: last updated 31/10/2013, Southampton Uni Research Centre Blaze,, last accessed 16/11/2013

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