• December 6, 2009
  • 12:00 am

Public History Talks, October 2009 – March 2010

Much to discuss over tea and cake in the interval!

Thank you to everybody who supported this series of public talks. Although it’s now finished, we hope to be able to arrange a further series of talks, starting in Autumn 2010.

This series was very well attended, with between 37 and 72 people at each session (average 52). We received very positive feedback from members of the audience at all the sessions, and at the final session 40 people completed a feedback questionnaire.

You can see the feedback results at the end of this page.


3a. “The Rescuers – Women and Philanthropy in the 19th Century”

Speaker: Dr Jane McDermid (University of Southampton)

As the first part of a double bill, Jane provided us with a fascinating background into Victorian charitable works and philanthropy.

Jane had been invited to provide the wider national context to the many Victorian charitable institutions around the Park. Her talk gave an insight into the religious links with charitable work and the opportunities these gave middle class women to participate in civic life. She gave examples of specific experiences of philanthropic couples, notably William (later Lord) and Georgiana Cowper-Temple of the Broadlands estate, and women such as Octavia Hill (1838-1912), Louisa Twining (1820-1912), Ellen Ranyard (1810-1879), and Mary Sumner (1828-1921).

This was also a period of Temperance movements, with issues around sexual morality high on the agenda. Jane linked these concerns to example organisations which were directed at the working classes, notably the Girl’s Friendly Society, the first of which was set up in Hampshire by Mrs Mary Townsend. Of particular interest to us in the Shirley area was the mention of Thomas Barnado’s First Ragged School which opened in London in 1867, since a Barnado’s orphanage overlooked the Park.

3b.”Charity begins in a Home – The Charitable Buildings around the Park”

Speaker: Mary South (self-professed “Jill of all Trades and Mistress of None”, local historian, biologist/ecologist, lover of the seamy side of life!)

As the second part of this double bill, Mary gave us an insight into life within a Charitable Institution with her very imaginative in-character performance piece.

Maggie and Effie are two sisters living at Millbrook. When their mother dies, Maggie, the younger, is sent to the Sheltering Home of Industry for Girls. This had been set up initially at Langton Cottage in Millbrook, but now overlooks St.James’ Park in Shirley.

Effie is too old to go to the home and, having no skills to offer locally, is tempted to go to Southampton. Suspected by the Police of being a prostitute, because she’s an unaccompanied female, she’s detained under the Contagious Diseases Act* and sent to the lock-up ward for venereal diseases, at the Workhouse. Mrs Kell helps Effie make her legal case against her incarceration and forced treatment.

[* Southampton was the only civilian port to have this Act enforced: the rest were naval ports.]

Meanwhile, Maggie is trained as a domestic servant and gets a job at the Children’s Hospital in Church Street. Eventually she moves with it up to its new home in Winchester Road, overlooking St.James’ Park. When she becomes too arthritic to carry out all her duties at the Hospital, she successfully applies for a room in the Barlow Almshouses, in Church Street. Coincidentally, it was Mrs Barlow who had given Maggie her uniform at the Sheltering Home of Industry; Maggie has a lot to thank the Barlows for. Now living in the almshouses, she supports herself by taking in laundry or doing a little occasional cleaning, such as helping to prepare the Rechabite Hall* for Mrs Lawler-Levene’s special meetings.

[* The Rechabite Hall is nowadays better known as Shirley Parish Hall.]

 Sunday 6th December 2009

Your Feedback

Thank you to everyone who completed a feedback form at the final session. We thought you might be interested in the results, which have encouraged us to organise another series, starting in Autumn 2010.

I enjoyed the series of talks:
I learnt something new:
I would come along to future free talks…
…even if there were a small charge:
I enjoyed the displays:
The refreshments made a difference:
I have done something new as a result of these talks:
I feel that learning about the history of my local area is important:
I am interested in joining FoSJP’s research activities:
These results include feedback from additional forms returned after the Shirley Heritage Project newsletter of March 2010 went to press.

Additional comments and suggestions for future topics:

  • If talks are free anyone can come. A charge, however small, will exclude people on a low or fixed income. These talks must be inclusive: we are one community.
  • Thanks – had a lovely time.
  • Although I’m not from the Shirley area, I will make a point of visiting the Park. Thank you for an interesting talk.
  • I would be interested to hear about local architecture and building styles in the area.
  • It’s very important for younger people to appreciate what has come before them.
  • A talk for children about Shirley’s schools (from a junior FoSJP member).
  • Publicity for talks could have been better, e.g. via FoSJP newsletters.
  • Topics for future talks: History of Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway.
  • Topics for future talks: History of the Tramways:
    • Why did it become necessary?
    • Who built it?
    • Where were the trams manufactured?
    • Was the tramway life-changing for residents of this area?
  • Perhaps local schools could work with FoSJP and present jointly a topic of interest – community links are very much a feature of Ofsted!
  • Well done Michaela – excellently organised (from a FoSJP committee member).
  • Could not always hear well, even when a microphone was used, because head was turned away by speaker.
  • Tell how the gardens will be planted, and with what each season.