Becoming a University

On 29 April 1952, in the very early days of her reign, Queen Elizabeth II founded the University of Southampton by granting it a Royal Charter. Fifty years after it had become a University College, the Hartley Institution had evolved into a fully independent university.

The University's Royal Charter

The University's Royal Charter

Granted by HM The Queen in 1952

The new era was marked with the arrival of a new Vice-Chancellor, David Gwilym James, in October 1952. The mild-mannered James had been Professor of English at Bristol University and was ideal for a small institution. With student numbers of around 1,000 and a staff of 100, the new University retained a ‘college’ atmosphere. Staff and students were invited to James’s house for sherry.

James didn’t favour expansion, nevertheless student numbers more than doubled during the 12 years between his arrival and 1963 – from 933 to 2,094. More students meant the squeeze on accommodation – for teaching and research, and residential – became even greater.

Building work continued throughout the 1950s and included the expansion of the Library and, by the end of the decade, new premises for Engineering. Although teaching was the main activity for the Engineering department at the time, its research included a project to determine the consequences of a deep water channel for tankers supplying a proposed oil refinery on the Solent’s east side. An enormous hydraulic model of Southampton Water and the Solent was constructed. Twenty years later, long after it had served its purpose, the model was demolished and its building became the John Hansard Gallery, hence the gallery’s unusual shape.

By the beginning of the 1960s, the University had either completed, was now erecting, or was planning a remarkable number of buildings on sites it already owned. They included a Mathematics building, a new Physics building, an extension of Chemistry, a third Engineering building, new accommodation for Geology, Botany and Oceanography and extensions to residences, including Glen Eyre.

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Rag week (1957)

Rag week (1957)

A popular event in the city

Lacrosse Team (1953)

Lacrosse Team (1953)

Lacrosse is still played today.

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English in the post-war years,