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Visiting the Hartley Library, Southampton University, Southampton, England: recalling an Institution dating from 1862

Updated on January 22, 2014
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Front of the Hartley Library, University of Southampton
Front of the Hartley Library, University of Southampton | Source
Uni-link bus passing the Hartley Library, University of Southampton
Uni-link bus passing the Hartley Library, University of Southampton | Source

Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, opened 1935

As a book collection, the University Library, known as the Hartley Library at Southampton University, Southampton, England has its origins in the establishment which formerly bore the name Hartley Institution (1) in 1862.

The Hartley Institution eventually developed into Hartley University College, Southampton, in 1902. The University College, in turn, received its Royal Charter of Incorporation in 1952 as a University in its own right.

In 1935, the University College saw the opening of the Turner Sims Library by The Duke of York, who the following year acceded to the Throne as King George VI (2). Features of this structure include recurring Syrian arching and elongated, vertical windows.

This red brick building was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960)(3). This choice of building material at 'provincial' British universities in the 20th century gave rise to the term Red Brick Universities, mainly in distinction to Oxford and Cambridge (themselves often abbreviated 'Oxbridge').

The Library was first named the Turner Sims Library, after a bequest from two wealthy sisters; in more recent years, the term Hartley Library has been used.

The Library is located on the Highfleld campus of Southampton University; this site, subsequently greatly developed, was opened in 1914, a few weeks before the outbreak of World War One.

A few of the well-known people associated with Southampton University have included:


Sir Donald Acheson, former Chief Medical Officer of the UK

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, to whom the invention of the World Wide Web is attributed.

Alfred Mason, chemistry lecturer at Hartley University College who in 1917 was convicted, in a notorious cause célèbre, of plotting to murder British Prime Minister David Lloyd-George on evidence later found to have been fabricated (4).


Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development and former Secretary of State for Transport

Gloria, Baroness Hooper, lawyer

Caroline Wyatt, BBC News journalist


Judge Sir Adrian Fulford of the International Criminal Court

Sir Christopher Ingold, award-winning chemist

George Thomas (Viscount Tonypandy), former Speaker of the British House of Commons

Thus, this fine facility with a long history has been referred to by various names: the Turner-Sims Library, the Hartley Library or even simply as Southampton University Library. In my humble and probably irrelevant view, calling it the Alfred Mason Library, in honour of the Hartley University College lecturer (see above), whom the British state tried to disgrace because of his anti-conscription views, would also be appropriate.

January 23, 2014


(1) The original benefactor was Henry Robinson Hartley (1777-1850).

(2) See also:

(3) The architecturally prolific Sir Giles Gilbert Scott included Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, Battersea Power Station and Cambridge University Library among his well-known works.

(4) In British society in the early 20th century, Hartley University College was not reckoned to be part of the British Establishment. Chemistry lecturer Alfred Mason, who opposed conscription and also held socialist views, was chosen, together with his wife Winnie Wheeldon Mason, his mother-in-law Alice Wheeldon and sister-in-law Hettie Wheeldon, for victimization in a propagandist, judicial framing exercise. He and his relatives were all known to hold similar views to one another. Attorney-General F E Smith, later Lord Chancellor and 1st Earl of Birkenhead, and who previously headed the British government's censorship and propaganda department, successfully prosecuted all these defendants (except Winnie Wheeldon) on the evidence — later found to have been fabricated — supplied by an agent from MI5. This agent, however, was not called to present the evidence in court or be cross-examined. Anglophone Canadians, some of whose forebears were conscripted and ordered to machine-gun protesters against conscription in Quebec City in World War One, might take note of the sheer lengths that the British state was prepared to go to smear the reputations of those who held views deemed inconvenient to the Imperial political leadership. (This is not to deny the honourable military service of many British and Canadian service personnel in World War One and subsequent conflicts.)

(Some sourcing: wikipedia ; spartacus.schoolnet )

Map location of Southampton, England
Map location of Southampton, England | Source

Also worth seeing

In Southampton itself, visitor attractions include the Bargate and the Medieval city walls, its Civic Centre; the Mayflower Memorial, commemorating the Pilgrim Fathers; and many others.


How to get there : United Airlines flies from New York Newark Airport to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Distance from Heathrow Airport to Southampton is 108 kilometres. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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    • MJFenn profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      SheilaMilne: Good to have a reader who has been personally acquainted with the Library for many years. Thank-you for your comment.

    • SheilaMilne profile image


      4 years ago from Kent, UK

      I used to work at the University of Southampton for many happy years, so I was a regular user of the library. Thanks for the memories! :)


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