Research project

Swaythling in the Great War: Equine and Air support for the Front

  • Lead researcher:
  • Research funder:
    Arts & Humanities Research Council
  • Status:
    Not active

Project overview

This project seeks to highlight the importance of the small hamlet of Swaythling, Hampshire, to the First World War. During the war, the hamlet was part of the vast Stoneham Estate, owned by the Willis Fleming family. As the city of Southampton expanded during the mid-twentieth century, Swaythling became a Southampton suburb and its history was overshadowed by the bigger story of the city. As a result, Swaythling’s role during the First World War has been left largely undocumented.

Swaythling was vital to the war effort in two key ways:

First, as the site of a Remount Depot, used for the stabling and training of army horses and mules. The depot at Swaythling, one of four created to support the war effort, was the UK’s largest. Its primary role was as a collection point for animals being shipped abroad. Between 1914 and 1919 it processed nearly 400,000 horses and mules – essential to the success of the armed forces.

Second, as a base for the US Naval Air Service. North Stoneham Farm, on the edge of the estate, served as an airfield and service complex until 1919, when it reverted to RAF control. The intention of the base was to assemble and repair the aircraft of the Northern Bombing Group, in readiness for bombing raids along the Belgian coast planned for 1918.

This is a co-creation project. Residents and students work together in volunteer teams to generate research questions centred on a) the Remount Depot, b) the US Naval Airfield and c) Swaythling residents who fought in the war, leading to three co-designed, co-created and co-delivered workshops, each with a self-generated community outcome centred on local involvement in the war. Facilitating a knowledge exchange process, local resident volunteers are trained in digital skills by university students, and students as ‘heritage volunteers’ through the Eastleigh Borough Council programme. Research outcomes will be brought to a wider audience through participation in the University of Southampton ‘Great War: Unknown War’ series, encouraging and supporting public interest in the centenary of World War One, while instilling a sense of pride in their local area to the people of Swaythling.


Lead researcher

Dr Eleanor Quince

Principal Teaching Fellow

Research interests

  • The history of shopping
  • The reception, collection and display of cultural artefacts with particular reference to period rooms and the Country House
  • The decorative art and antiques market.   Art and architectural history and theory    The role of women in furniture design, manufacture and consumption in the eighteenth century  
Connect with Eleanor

Research outputs