THOSE who recorded the twist and turns of the county’s history are being celebrated in style by the Hampshire Field Club, writes Barry Shurlock...

NEARLY 140 years ago, in a room in the Hartley College in Southampton, Thomas Shore, a curator cum librarian with a patchy career, met up with the rectors of Ropley and Swarraton and a distinguished geologist, William Whitaker FRS, dubbed “the father of hydrogeology”. Together they decided to found the Hampshire Field Club, which later added ‘and Archaeological Society’ to its name.

It was a bold move. The college was a successor to the Hartley Institute which had been founded in 1862 by Southampton Corporation to make use of a fortune bequeathed by Henry Robinson Hartley, who had himself acquired the money from two generations of wine trading.

Shore had not been to university himself and was hardly the sort of person you would have ‘put your money on’, though, as it turned out, the HFC has ever since been the backbone of local studies in the county and the Hartley became the University.

Before coming to Hampshire, he had taught in an elementary school in Gloucestershire for a few years. Then he moved to Burnley or thereabouts as secretary of the East Lancashire Union of Institutions, which promoted science teaching. When he came to Southampton in 1873 his main interest was geology. But by 1892 he had published a substantial book, History of Hampshire Including the Isle of Wight (still available in reprints).

His story, which demonstrates the way in which some people come to local history, has recently been included in the HFC Celebrating Hampshire’s Historians project, which is recognized nationally by the Institute of Historical Research. Together with 30 other historians, his profile is being posted on the HFC website.

An interest must be declared: I wrote the profile of Shore, but there are many other contributors from around the county, led by former HFC President, Dick Selwood. It is the first stage in a programme expected to chart the lives and the contribution of some 200 historians of all kinds.

Amongst this first batch are several clerics, who had the advantage of holding the parish registers and a church full of memorials. These include Robert Hawley Clutterbuck, researched by David Allen, Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Field Club’s journal, Hampshire Studies.

Clutterbuck was a Londoner, who was ordained and served in the capital, where his father was a “citizen and draper”. Overwork caused his health to fail and he took the country living of Knight’s Enham, near Andover, and later nearby Penton Mewsey.

Like so many local historians, he was a ‘stranger’, but once out of the City he immersed himself in the locality and wrote prolifically for local newspapers and journals. He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and served the HFC and other local organisations. In particular, he was regarded as ‘a perfect mine of information’ on the border parishes of Hampshire and Wiltshire. Also, he deciphered and published the ancient records of the borough of Andover and transcribed the Black Book of Southampton.

There were many other clerics in the mould of Clutterbuck: they cured the souls in their parish as well as capturing its heritage. To name a few, Sir William Cope of Bramshill, left a collection of books on Hampshire, still in the Hartley Library, with many rare volumes. William Gilpin of Boldre was a pioneer of the picturesque. And J Silvester Davies, published History of Southampton based on the work of Dr John Speed (1703-1781), a descendant of the famous mapmaker.

Even the renowned curate and naturalist Gilbert White, felt obliged to add a section on ‘antiquities’ to his Natural History of Selborne. He was probably influenced by his brother Thomas, a wholesale merchant, who had toyed with the idea of a book on the antiquities of the whole of Hampshire.

Newspapers have often provided a basis for introducing local history to a wider audience. A profile in the project by Roger Ottewill recalls that Echo reporter Edgar Mitchell wrote many articles on the history of Southampton under the pen-name ‘Townsman’. This led in 1938 to a bestseller, Southampton Occasional Notes, but materials for a follow-up were all lost in the 1940 blitz.

Elsie Sandell, the daughter of a shipping broker, followed in Edgar’s footsteps, with many articles and another bestseller, Southampton Through the Ages, published in 1976. She broadcast on TV and radio and aimed much of her work at children. She is also probably the only local historian to have had a development of flats named after her, Sandell Court in Bassett.

Another band of contributors to the county’s story are the archivists and others who have preserved the material that allow historians to get to work. An early saviour was John Chase, the Winchester Cathedral’s ‘chapter clerk’, who in the Civil War recovered many manuscripts from the streets in the city, where Cromwell’s soldiers used them to make “Kytes withall to flie in the ayre”.

Less dramatically, Austin Whitaker was for many years Winchester City Archivist, and supervised the transfer of the records to the Hampshire Record Office in 1975, as researched by David Allen. He has also profiled the husband-and-wife team of Frank and Eleanor Cottrill. In 1947 they both came to Winchester from professional jobs in Leicester, she to become the first County Archivist at the new-born HRO, and he the first post of Keeper of Archaeology at the City Museum.

Winchester College, too, has had its past sifted, arranged, organised, catalogued and written about by a succession of influential archivists, all struggling with 600 years’ worth of records. Chaplain William Gunner produced an extensive catalogue in the 1850s, but it was lost for 50 years, and meanwhile the bursar Thomas Kirby compiled another, running to 1,900 quarto pages. However, it wasn’t until 1984 that Sheila Himsworth produced a definitive printed catalogue.

The HFC project Celebrating Hampshire’s Historians expects to have a happier history. But with an estimated 200 or more profiles to be researched and written it could take some time. Almost every one of the 100 or more local societies in the county with an interest in history must have at least one candidate for consideration and are urged to volunteer names and information to Dick Selwood (

As an example, most recently, Carole Oldham of the Ropley History Society has come up with the story of Marianna Sophia Hagen, born in Australia, whose father made a fortune from gold in the Adelaide Hills and then settled in Alresford. Later he bought Ropley House, previously named New House and belonging to John Duthy, author of Sketches of Hampshire (1839).

Marianna devoted much of her life to good works, railing against drunkenness and building an iron-and-timber mission hut for the navvies building the Watercress Line. She also provided the village with a Coffee Room in Church Street, still used as a meeting place. Towards the end of her life she wrote Annals of Old Ropley, published in 1929, which captured records and reminiscences that might otherwise have been lost.

Celebrating Hampshire’s Historians plans to honour people like her, simple chroniclers, as well as learned men who were later able to pursue an academic career in the subject, rather than fit it in between matins and evening service. To view the first batch of profiles, visit:

For more on Hampshire, visit:


Thomas Shore, a founder of the Hampshire Field Club

Rare volume collected by Sir William Cope. Image: Turley, 1975

Eleanor Cottrill, first Hampshire County Archivist

Ropley historian, Marianna Hagen

Rev. Robert Clutterbuck

Sandell Court, Southampton, named after a local historian