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Local History Section Spring Symposium

Literary Hampshire: Historical Perspectives

Date: Saturday, 22nd April 2017, 9.30 am - 4.15 pm


This year’s Local History Section Spring Symposium comprised the following talks:

  • 'Neither Fish nor Fowl': An Appreciation of Izaak Walton and Gilbert White - Dr Mary South, University of Winchester
  • The Winchester Races and the Death of Jane Austen - Professor Emma Clery, University of Southampton
  • Twenty Million Words and Strong Opinions: William Cobbett on and in Hampshire - Dr Richard Aldous, University of Winchester
  • On the Trail of Flora Thompson in Hampshire - John Owen Smith, Local Historian and Publisher
  • Nevil Shute, Engineer and Author: his Life, Work and Hampshire Connections - John Anderson, President, Neville Shute Norway Foundation

A pdf of the programme is also available for download. (0.4 mb)

The Speakers & their topics:

Mary South, University of Winchester.
Mary South trained as a biologist and ecologist. Switching to local history for her PhD, she was unable to wrench herself free from her scientific roots and studied the role of inoculation against smallpox in Southampton. This became an ecological study looking at the role of cowpox in providing protection for rural communities. She taught science in a comprehensive school, but also worked in laboratories, tourism and finally as Head Education Officer at Hampshire’s Hillier Gardens, where she claims she ‘was paid for playing silly games with children all day long’! Since retiring she has written various articles and three books, Titanic Threads, The Southampton Book of Days, and The Inoculation Book 1774-1783 (Southampton Records Series). She is a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Winchester.

Izaak Walton’s (1598–1688) Compleat Angler and Gilbert White’s (1720–1793) Natural History of Selborne still have the power to delight and enlighten we lesser twenty-first century mortals. White’s painstaking observation of weather conditions throughout the seasons, has sometimes earned him the title of ‘the father of phenology’, while Walton’s practical ‘hands-on’ approach records the gentler side of the countryside and its people, with their customs, recipes and songs. Both were members of the clergy, both lived through turbulent periods of English history, both lived in the Long Eighteenth Century and both in their own ways contributed to that development of thought called the Enlightenment.

Professor Emma Clery, University of Southampton
Emma Clery is professor of English at University of Southampton, with ties to the Centre for Early Women’s Writing at Chawton Great House, formerly owned by Austen’s brother Edward. She is the author of works on Gothic, women’s writing, and connections between literature and economics, and lectures and broadcasts on Jane Austen and her contemporaries. Her latest books are Eighteen Hundred and Eleven: Poetry, Protest, and Economic Crisis (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and Jane Austen: The Banker’s Sister (Biteback, 2017).

Mortally ill, Jane Austen came to Winchester in May 1817 in order to receive treatment from Mr Lyford, Surgeon-in-Ordinary at the County Hospital. She had abandoned a new novel, published after her death as the fragment Sanditon. Her very last literary work, composed just three days before her death in lodgings in College Street on 18th July, was a playful poem about a planned race meeting at Worthy Down, to the north of the city. In this paper, I will discuss the choice of subject, the depth of knowledge of Winchester folklore and history revealed by the poem, and the surprising controversy it generated when Jane Austen’s fame increased later in the nineteenth century

Dr Richard Aldous, University of Winchester
Dr Richard Aldous is a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Winchester, Honorary Treasurer of the HFC Local History Section and a keen cricketer. After a long career as a civil servant and management accountant, for much of it combining both roles, he returned to academia. In 2014 he gained a PhD for a thesis exploring electoral registration and politics in Winchester in the mid-nineteenth century. Early in that period Cobbett addressed meetings in the city.

William Cobbett (1763-1835) led a life of controversy and remains a controversial figure. He was self-taught, but once he could write he wrote with enthusiasm. His published and private output has been estimated at twenty million words. His work may lack literary merit but it was passionate and provides insights into the age in which he lived. This paper focuses upon the influence on Cobbett’s writings of his connections with Hampshire – fifteen years farming at Botley and his peregrinations through the county as reflected in his Rural Rides.

John Owen Smith, local historian and publisher
John Owen Smith researches and publishes local history in the area where he lives, at Headley Down on the Hampshire/Surrey border. This began in 1993 following a request from East Hampshire District Council to write a play about the Swing Riots of 1830. Having caught the local history bug, he has now written over a dozen books himself and published several more for other local historians. While doing this he discovered that Flora Thompson had crossed his ‘patch’ twice in her life before she became famous, and decided to investigate her local connections. He is now the publisher of Heatherley, her sequel to the Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy, which relates to her time in east Hampshire.

Flora Thompson was born (née Timms) in 1876 in Oxfordshire. She started working for the Post Office at fourteen. At the age of twenty-one, she became sub-office assistant to the postmaster in Grayshott, Hampshire, and was to stay in Hampshire for the next thirty years. She married John Thompson in 1903 and moved to Bournemouth (then in Hampshire). In 1916 the family moved back to near Grayshott. Here she wrote her nature notes, The Peverel Papers, from observations during her walks in the area. In 1928 the family moved to Dartmouth. There she wrote Lark Rise, about her childhood. The success of this led to the trilogy Lark Rise to Candleford. She wrote a further sequel, Heatherley, which was not published in her lifetime. Her final publication was Still Glides the Stream. Flora Thompson died in Devon in 1947.

John Anderson, President, Nevil Shute Norway Foundation
John Anderson is a Chartered mechanical engineer who worked in industry for over 40 years on research and consultancy. He has an MPhil in the History of Science, and is currently President of the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation. Parallel Motion, his biography of Shute, was published in 2011.

Nevil Shute Norway trained and worked as an aeronautical engineer before he became a full me writer just before the Second World War. As an author he used his first two names, Nevil Shute, and in the 1940s and 50s he was one of the most popular authors of his generation, known as “The Prince of Storytellers”. Shute lived and worked in Hampshire from 1933 before emigrating to Australia in 1950. He died in 1960 having published 23 novels and an autobiography. All his books are still in print. Arising from his love of sailing, technical and war time work in the area, Shute’s books contain many scenes set in Hampshire including the Beaulieu River, the Solent and Southampton.


Any questions about the Local History Section?
Then email Roger Ottewill Local History Section Chairman