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Library Exhibitions and Events: 19th Century Southampton

The University of Southampton Library offers a varied programme of events and exhibition across its sites.


19th-century Southampton: a glimpse from the Cope Collection


Jenny Ruthven (Special Collections Librarian)

Items on display

1. Great Meeting of the Royal Agricultural Society of England: the Town and Port of Southampton (1844), F. Smyth, engraver

A birds-eye view of Southampton setting the scene for a changing town with the development of the docks and the arrival of the railway in 1840. Looking from the south-west to the north-east, the pier is prominent in the foreground with the town walls and West Quay to the left.  On the right are the Platform, the docks and the floating bridge.

Rare Books Cope double folio 91.5 v.4 illus.125


2. Bar-Gate, Southampton (T.H. Skelton, 1830-1835?)

A view of the 12th-century Bargate, the main entrance to the town for much of Southampton’s history.  Additional archways had been added on each side in the 18th century and despite some proposals that it should be demolished to ease 20th-century traffic flow, the problem was resolved by removing sections of the town wall on either side.

Rare Books Cope folio 06.5


3. Cross House: Southampton (T.H. Skelton, 1830-1835?)

The Cross House stands on the western side of the River Itchen at the landing place of the old Itchen Ferry. The shelter consists of two stone walls crossing each other at right angles to form quadrants, with benches attached to the walls and a conical tiled roof.

Rare Books Cope double folio 91.5 v.4 illus.228


4. West Wall (T.H. Skelton, 1830-1835?)

For much of its existence, the western wall of the town was washed by the sea, leaving the 15th-century Catchcold Tower, shown here, in need of regular repair. This view of the wall pre-dates the construction of the ‘Forty Steps’ constructed in 1853 to provide quicker access from Albion Place to the western shore.

Rare Books Cope folio 06.5


5. Assembly-Rooms (T.H. Skelton, 1830-1835?)

Originally known as the Long Rooms, the assembly rooms at West Quay were built in the 1760s during Southampton’s spa period. The complex included a ball room, card rooms, dining rooms and adjoined seawater baths. Its popularity declined as similar establishments were developed and it was demolished in the late 19th century.

Rare Books Cope folio 06.5


6. Above Bar Street, Southampton (P. Brannon, 1855)

Above Bar Street looking south towards the Bargate. The Royal Hotel and Andrews’ coachbuilding premises feature prominently on the left; other named establishments include A. Mordaunt, the chemist, on the right.

Rare Books Cope c SOU 91.5 ABO pr 921


7. High Street, Southampton (P. Brannon, c.1850)

Southampton’s High Street, looking north towards the Bargate. For most of Southampton’s history this had been the centre of commercial activity; here some elaborate shopfronts can be seen on the left, whilst on the right are the Crown Hotel and beyond it All Saints Church, with the distinctive columns of its west front.

Rare Books Cope double folio 91.5 v.4 illus.193


8. The Gas Column, Quays & Victoria Pier (P. Brannon, c.1850)

The cast iron Doric column, with gas light, was erected in gratitude to Sir William Chamberlayne for his funding of the town’s first streetlights. It stood on Town Quay from 1829 to 1865 and is now in Houndwell Park. On the right is the Water Gate and Castle Inn, which incorporates part of the town walls.

Rare Books Cope double folio 91.5 v.4 illus.200


9. Southampton from the Millbrook Shore (P. Brannon, c.1850)

A view of the original curved shoreline of the western bay, with the railway track alongside and a train approaching from Southampton West Station. To the right are the town walls with the spires of All Saints, Holy Rood and St Michael’s churches rising above. The pier can be seen on the extreme right.

Rare Books Cope double folio 91.5 v.4 illus.119


10. The West Gate: Southampton (Frank McFadden, 1890)

Southampton’s 13th-century West Gate, seen from inside the town walls. Known as the gate through which Henry V’s army marched to the ships for Agincourt in 1415, its connection to the shore was removed by the land reclamation of the 1920s.

Rare Books Cope c SOU 91.5 WES pr 972


11. Arundel Tower: Southampton (Frank McFadden, 1891)

The 13th century Arundel Tower (also known as Shoemaker's Tower and Windwhistle Tower) stands at the north-western corner of Southampton's medieval town walls. In front of the tower is the Old Tower Inn (now demolished).

Rare Books Cope c SOU 91.5 ARU pr 925


12. Holy Rood Church, Southampton (Frank McFadden, 1891)

A view of Holy Rood (or Holyrood) Church in the High Street as rebuilt in 1848, the tower being the only part remaining of its 14th-century predecessor. The lamp post stands on part of the burial ground of the first church.

Rare Books Cope c SOU 26 pr 826


13. The South Castle: Southampton (Frank McFadden, 1890)

God's House Gate and Tower (also known as the South Castle) as seen from the Platform. The statue of Albert, Prince Consort stood close to the east side of the Tower for around thirty years before being removed in the Edwardian period.

Rare Books Cope c SOU 91.5 GOD pr 953


14. Blue Anchor Lane: Southampton (Frank McFadden, 1890)

Blue Anchor Lane, named after the 18th-century Blue Anchor Inn, leads from West Quay up to St Michael’s Square, running alongside Tudor House. The houses shown date from the Tudor period, but at the lower end of the lane are the remains of Norman buildings.

Rare Books Cope c SOU 91.5 BLU pr 943


On display

Thursday 23rd May 2024 - Sunday 23rd June 2024


Level 4 Gallery, Hartley Library

Check the opening hours to see when all our libraries are open.


This pop-up display of copies of prints in the Cope Collection highlights the work of Thomas Henry Skelton, Philip Brannon and Frank McFadden, all well-known local illustrators of 19th- century Southampton.

The images demonstrate a focus on the town’s antiquities whether as souvenir prints for visitors or as a means of recording their appearance – some antiquities being under threat of demolition from time to time. For the commercial publishers, Skelton and Brannon, there was also a desire to portray the town to its best advantage in their illustrated guidebooks. Many of the prints show how close the connection was between the old town and the water, something that it is hard to imagine today after many years of land reclamation.

The Cope Collection of material on Hampshire and the Isle of Wight was bequeathed to the Hartley Institution in 1892 by Sir William Cope of Bramshill, Hampshire. Included with the books and pamphlets were seven massive albums of local prints as well as many individual illustrations. Covering the whole of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, the Cope prints provide an important visual record of the local area. To make them more easily discoverable, descriptions of the individual items are being added to Library Search.


Thomas Henry Skelton

The Skeltons were a family long involved in the local printing, publishing and bookselling trade, and when Thomas Henry Skelton (1800-1856) married into the Pether family of landscape painters, a professional as well as personal union was formed: Thomas Henry's collaboration with his brother-in-law Henry resulted in the creation of a series of views of 1830s Southampton. Skelton’s publications are well-represented in the Southampton material already catalogued; the hand-coloured images are a recent ‘find’, having been pasted into a separate album compiled by Sir William Cope which contains both text and illustrations.


Philip Brannon

Philip Brannon (1817-1890) was the son of George Brannon, the Isle of Wight engraver, printer and publisher responsible for the much re-printed guide Vectis Scenery. Moving to Southampton in the mid-1840s, Brannon used skills learnt in the family firm to produce illustrated guides to the town: The Southampton Drawing Book, or Graphic Delineations of Southampton (c.1848) and The Picture of Southampton, and Stranger's Hand-Book to Every Object of Interest in the Town and Neighbourhood (1850). His many steel engravings, although now thought to involve a degree of artistic licence in terms of perspective, are the best-known views of mid-19th century Southampton. A man of many talents, but unsuccessful in business, Brannon was amongst other things the architect of the Unitarian Church of the Saviour, and designer of a navigable ‘balloon ship’.


Frank McFadden

Frank McFadden (1856-1933) lived in Avenue Road, Southampton for most of his life. Together with his father John, and brothers Rowland and William, McFadden worked at the Ordnance Survey, though by the time of the 1891 census, he was described as an ‘artist, etcher, sculptor’. He is best known for a series of topographical etchings of Southampton in the 1880s and 1890s, a collection of twelve of these being published, as Vestiges of Old Southampton (1891) with descriptions provided by T. W. Shore. A preface by G.D. Leslie highlights the ‘simplicity, accuracy of perspective and the feeling of sympathy with their subjects’ which characterise the etchings. Their accuracy is attributed to McFadden having based some of his etchings on photographs by his contemporary, Thomas Hibberd James.