Records of the University of Southampton

Scope and Content

Minute books: Council, 1869-1968; Senate, 1906-65; Court of Governors, 1903-51, with registers of members of Council and Court and of attendance, 1902-51; general purposes and finance committee, 1872-1968; Hartley bequest committee, 1860-8. Records of other committees including: apparatus grant committee, 1949-64; development committee, 1908-40; educational committee, 1894-1906; emergency executive committee, 1939-45; grants committee, 1919-20; grounds committee, 1930-48; halls of residence committee, 1930-52; laboratory technical staff committee, 1959-67; library committee, 1915-58; union facilities committee, 1964-7; works committee, 1938-52. Minute books for the Hartley Institution Library and Museum, 1872-98; Hampshire Loan Exhibition, 1866. Accounts and ledgers, 1912-43; accounts - hostels, 1908-17. Registers of contracts of appointment, 1892-1945 Letter books, 1894-8, 1907-15 Records of the University's central administration: selected files of the Secretary and Registrar and of the Academic Registrar from 1952 onwards. Some records from faculties, especially Arts, Education and Engineering. Papers of societies, including the Hartley University College Past Students' Association, later the Hartley Society, 1891-1964, the Engineering Faculty Society, 1956-71.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1850, Henry Robinson Hartley, a descendant of two generations of Southampton wine merchants, bequeathed nearly the whole of his estate, amounting to more than 100,000 li., to the Corporation of Southampton to be employed 'in such manner as [might] best promote the study and advancement of the sciences of natural history, astronomy, antiquities, classical and oriental literature in the town, such as by forming a public library, botanic gardens, observatory, and collections of objects in connection with the above sciences'. The will was contested and the terms of the benefaction, which were ambiguous in some degree, made the task of the Corporation more difficult; and it was not until 1862 that the Prime Minister, the third Viscount Palmerston, was able to open the newly built Hartley Institution, with its library, museum and lecture halls that had been constructed on the site of three houses leased by H.R.Hartley in the High Street in Southampton.

Between 1863 and the end of the nineteenth century, instruction was offered in a range of scientific, technical, engineering and literary subjects, and the Southampton School of Art was subsumed within the Hartley Institution in 1871. The museum of the Institution was open to the public on three days of each week and a number of important exhibitions was staged. Aside from its endowment, the Institution was partly subvented by Southampton Corporation, in particular for 'technical education'. The Institution was incorporated on 23 November 1902 as the Hartley University College, the result of recognition by the University Colleges' Grants Commission of the considerable development and achievement in the Institution's teaching of the sciences and the humanities and the campaign for a university for Wessex.

The activities of the College continued to expand and while limited additions could and were made to its accommodation in the town, a new site with potential for greater expansion was required. Land in Highfield was acquired but one of the effects of the First World War was to postpone for five years the move of the University College of Southampton, as it became in 1914, to its new site. For the duration of the war the new buildings in Highfield were used as a war hospital and Highfield Hall was lent to the Red Cross Society.

The College continued to expand, with the construction of further buildings and a very considerable increase in the number of students, particularly after the Second World War. The University College became the University of Southampton with the grant of a royal charter on 29 April 1952, with the seventh Duke of Wellington as its first Chancellor. In 1989-90, it had more than 7,500 students and approximately 1,615 academic and academically-related staff, divided into seven faculties, arts, social sciences, law, engineering, science, mathematics and medicine.

Access Information

The Special Collections Division is available for anyone to use, regardless of whether you are attached to an academic institution. Access to the Archives and Manuscripts and Rare Books reading room, however, is by prior appointment to access the manuscript material. See our website for more details.

Other Finding Aids

A summary description of the archives of the University and its predecessors is available in G.Hampson Records of the University of Southampton (University of Southampton Library Occasional Paper, 7; 1980).

Separated Material

Most of the archives of the Hartley Institution, the University College of Southampton and the University of Southampton are now held together in one collection in the University Library, although some early records form a part of the archives of the Corporation of Southampton and are preserved in the Southampton City Record Office. The papers of former students and staff are maintained as separate collections.


The history of the institution was written by A.Temple Patterson The University of Southampton (University of Southampton, Southampton, 1962); and there is a study of H.R.Hartley by A.Anderson Hartleyana, being some account of the life and opinions of Henry Robinson Hartley ..... (Southampton Record Series, supplementary volume, 1987).