Proclaiming the Republic of Turkey

October 27th signals 100 years since the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed by Mustafa Kamal Atatürk following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1922.

An influential archive collection held by Newcastle University Special Collections is the UNESCO International Memory of the World listed Gertrude Bell Archive, a collection of personal correspondence and photographs of explorer, archaeologist and colonial diplomat Gertrude Bell, who witnessed and recorded many significant events involving the Ottoman Empire throughout her life.

In addition to this world famous archive, Special Collections is also custodian of the Sir Austen Henry Layard archive and book collection. Sir Austen Henry Layard was an archaeologist, politician and diplomat who was involved in the colonial administration of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. This blog post focuses on some items from the Sir Henry Layard Collection; it provides an additional perspective to elements of colonial administration inherent to understandings of the Ottoman Empire that is available for research through Newcastle University Special Collections

Before Sir Austen Henry Layard embarked on his diplomatic career, he was first and foremost an archaeologist working on excavations at Nimrud and Nineveh, former Assyrian cities in what is now present day Iraq. The following drawing of Lamassu, with handwritten annotations was located in a large red folder with other archaeological drawings and proofs for the publication, Monuments of Nineveh, along with annotated engravings in English and German.

Mounted drawing of the Lion from Nimroud
Archaeological Drawings, originally published 1849. Sir Austin Henry Layard Archive, LAY/1/5

Sir Austen Henry Layard had been on several unofficial diplomatic missions to Constantinople prior to 1845. However, in 1877 he took on the position of Ambassador of Constantinople which shaped  his attitude towards the Ottoman Empire and subsequent diplomatic career. Layard’s belief that Britain could encourage administrative reform in the Ottoman Empire through energetic diplomacy and capital investment and that Turkey should receive greater support from Britain as a bulwark against Russian influence in the region often brought him into conflict with prevailing government policy.

Correspondence in the archive details the connection that Layard had with the Turkish Parliament and the Sultan. Events are captured through the writings of Lady Enid Layard (née Guest) to her sister Charlotte Maria Du Cane (née Guest), which also describe elements of local life and family matters.

An excerpt from a letter from Lady Enid Layard to her sister, dated 29th December 1869, discussing how they are feeling settled in Constantinople now, and how she will endeavour to learn Turkish despite being concerned as to its difficulty
An excerpt from a letter from Lady Enid Layard to her sister, dated 29th December 1869, discussing how they are feeling settled in Constantinople now, and how she will endeavour to learn Turkish despite being concerned as to its difficulty. Austin Henry Layard Archive, Lay/1/1/1/106

The letters provide glimpses of a 19th century perspective to locations that would be encompassed by the modern republic of Turkey in the 20th century, whilst providing a flavour of statecraft conditions which would ultimately lead to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

Dr Gibb at Sandyford Park: Then and Now

If you drive (or walk!) west out of Newcastle along Sandyford Road, you will pass John Dobson’s Jesmond Cemetery on the left. Look over the road and you will see a stone wall with a grand entrance featuring two large stone columns on either side. A modern sign informs you that this is the entrance to Sandyford Park. Entering the grounds, a narrow winding road passes sheltered accommodation and mature trees before arriving at the main entrance to the Newcastle High School for Girls. This appears to be a large old house, which, in the late 19th century, was the home of Dr Charles Gibb. Dr Gibb was a respected Newcastle surgeon immortalised in the Geordie anthem, ‘The Blaydon Races’:

Sum went to the Dispensary an’ uthers to Doctor Gibb’s,  
An’ sum sought out the Infirmary to mend their broken ribs.  

Photograph of Dr Charles Gibb (CG/3/14)
Photograph of Dr Charles Gibb (CG/3/14)

The Gibb (Charles) Archive contains papers relating to Dr Gibb’s career as a local GP. It also features some interesting photographs of his home at Sandyford Park. We’ve been along to Newcastle High School for Girls and they very kindly let us walk around the grounds so we could attempt a then-and-now comparison of locations. 

Here’s the entrance to Villa Real/Sandyford Park in the 1880s and a current (March 2023) view (seen below). The two original inner columns have disappeared (from this location) but the lamps appear to have survived or are reproductions of the originals. 

Sepia photograph of the original entrance to Villa Real, c. 1890s
THEN: The original entrance to Villa Real, c. 1890s (CG/4/2/1) 

The house was built by Newcastle architect John Dobson for Captain John Dutton in 1817 and was originally called Villa Real. It was one of Dobson’s earliest designs, set in 21 acres of land featuring a fishpond, fishing house, and spring. There was a lodge on Sandyford Road, and wide curved lawns edged with woodland, with glasshouses to the north-west and two pineries and vinery sheds with a chimney in the woodland behind. East of the house was a vast walled garden with a cistern at its centre. Further east there was a melon ground.

Sepia photograph of Sandyford Road lodge in the snow, c. 1890s
THEN: Sandyford Road lodge in the snow, c. 1890s (CG/4/2/26)
Colour photograph of the Sandyford Road lodge
NOW: Location of the Sandyford Road lodge, March 2023

The impressive entrance porch was supported by Tuscan columns. The house was designed with large bow windows which gave views onto an expansive lawn and across the field to a fishpond.

Sepia photograph of the entrance porch to Sandyford Lodge, c. 1890s
THEN: The entrance porch, c. 1890s (CG/4/2/7)
Colour photograph of the entrance porch to Sandyford Lodge
NOW: The entrance porch, March 2023. English Heritage draw particular attention to the dome on the roof
Sepia photograph of the entrance porch and bow windows of Sandyford Lodge,, c. 1890s
THEN: Entrance porch and bow windows, c. 1890s (CG/4/2/9)
Colour photograph of the house, with a wooden conservatory visible on the brickwork
NOW: The house in March 2023. The outline of the wooden conservatory visible in CG/4/2/9 can still be seen.
Sepia photograph of the a person in a both with their door at the side, boating on the fishpond, with the house in the background
THEN: Boating on the fishpond, with the house in the background, c. 1890s (CG/4/2/15)
Sepia photograph of workers’ buildings and sheds which have been converted to homes known as Nazareth Mews. They are now isolated from the main house, c. 1890s
THEN: Workers’ buildings and sheds which have been converted to homes known as Nazareth Mews. They are now isolated from the main house, c. 1890s (CG/4/2/19)
Colour photograph of Nazareth Mews
NOW: Nazareth Mews, March 2023

Dr Gibb had taken up residence in Villa Real after living and practicing in the centre of Newcastle. His home/surgery is now memorialised with a blue plaque as Gibb Chambers at 52-54 Westgate Road, where the injured Blaydon Races revellers went to seek treatment. Villa Real became Sandyford Hall in 1883 and then Sandyford Park. When Gibb died in 1916 the property was taken over by the Poor Sisters of Nazareth for nearly 80 years, and was renamed Nazareth House. In 1996 the Sisters transferred to London and for a while the house was managed by Catholic Care North East. It is now known as Chapman House, the main reception for the Newcastle High School for Girls.  It was given an English Heritage Grade II listing in 1987.

The Gibb (Charles) Archive also contains internal shots of the house, showing the high Victorian penchant for rooms with an (over-)abundance of paintings, ornaments, and furniture.

Sepia photograph of inside of the house, showing floor-to-ceiling walls of paintings and fine furniture.
Inside the house, c. 1890s (CG/4/2/25)
Sepia photograph of inside the house, showing a large glass cabinet with glassware inside.
Inside the house, c. 1890s (CG/4/2/21)

Conservation: You don’t want to screw it up.

This year World Architecture Day falls on 03 October 2022, and, as one of the cataloguers of the Sir Terry Farrell archive it seems fitting to write another blog where we can revel in some of Sir Terry’s interactions with listed buildings and the conservation process.

If you spend a small portion of your day indulging in architecture news to keep abreast of current trends… just me then… a key theme that crops up is a concern, maybe an aversion, towards redesigning listed buildings. The reasons for this aversion include, but are not limited to, the protective legislation around listed buildings of various grades and the extent to which, or how, they can be extended and modified. Restrictions may relate to the types of materials used, styles emulated, and building techniques required, not to mention which local authority is involved. It’s a heady mix to comprehend, regardless of if you are an architect wanting to demolish a listed staircase, or a member of the public who wants to refurbish their home.

Never-the-less, architects willing to engage with the listed building planning and application process do exist and Sir Terry Farrell was one of them. He appears to have been very engaged with the redevelopment opportunities afforded by listed buildings, and developed innovative solutions to satisfy building inspectors, local planning authorities, clients and contractors. Sir Terry Farrell appears to have had logical reasons for preserving listed buildings: if a building is still serviceable, why destroy it. The reasons are also sentimental: architects should respect rather than erase what they find on the ground because buildings are containers for lived experience and memory. By repairing and modifying the original fabric of the building, as an architect you contribute to the tapestry of living history.

Grey Street – Newcastle-upon-Tyne

To start, something a bit local to Central Newcastle; the refurbishment of Grey Street. 52-78 Grey Street was designed by John Dobson for Richard Grainger in the 19th century (c. 1836) and is currently situated within the Central Newcastle Conservation area with a Grade II listed status. In 1995 Newcastle City Council approved a scheme by Terry Farrell & Company Architects in which Numbers 52-60 were restored and extended to the rear and the facade of Numbers 62-78 was retained to provide a frontage to a new open plan office space. Early planning applications included an archaeological survey, and the Sir Terry Farrell archive holds an array of earlier material detailing historic research and early building use plans. There are also some examples of pre-existing interior detailing that are not just random pieces of wood.

Example of historic floorplan (c1920-1925) detailing use areas along Market Lane and Pilgrim Street.
Examples of interior joinery details and associated photocopies of joinery profiles for 52-78 Grey Street.

Most of the external façade of Grey Street had to be retained during the redevelopment; however, the internal reconfiguration was extensive, improving access throughout 52-78 Grey Street and redesigning the courtyard spaces between High Bridge Street and Market Lane. So, whilst the external appearance of Grey Street looks unaltered, the internal layout has been greatly changed. Just something to consider next time you are off on a stroll from Grey’s Monument.

The Royal Institution – Albermarle Street, London

Axonometric Impression drawing detailing key improvements to the Royal Institution.

The Royal Institution was founded in 1799 and is based in a row of houses designed by John Carr and built in 1756. A later façade was added to the front of the terrace in 1838 by Lewis Vulliamy.  The rooms behind remained largely in their original layout; they were poorly connected and, by the 1980s, were also run-down and confusing to visiting members of the public. Rodney Melville and Associates were initially tasked with conducting an Impact on Heritage Assessment which influenced the refurbishment plans based upon the Grade I listed status of elements of the building. These listed elements included the external façade, main staircase, lecture theatre, and ‘Conversation Room.’

Terry Farrell and Partners were selected as architects for the redevelopment of the Royal Institution project which ran from 1999-2008. In the final design, circulation routes were reinvented and the difference between public and private spaces clearly demarcated. The aim was to create clear horizontal and vertical connections and, at the same time, re-allocate what had become a jumble of different functions to logical defined spaces. The result was a ground floor of interconnected public spaces, with a basement level public exhibition space largely focused on the Young Scientists Centre, a first-floor lecture theatre and library suite, whilst third floor offices and laboratories were located on the top floor. The director’s flat was changed from the second floor to the fourth floor, replacing the caretaker’s flat. The listed ‘Sad’ staircase nearer the rear of the building was refurbished and extended to the lower ground floor.

Key to the straightforward zoning was provided by a rehabilitated rear courtyard of workshops which formed an atrium, and a new central lift component was installed and glazed over. This project demonstrates how extensive structural changes can be made within a listed building whilst appreciating its existing fabric.

Tobacco Dock Shopping Village – Wapping, London

This project comprised the restoration and conservation of a significant historic Grade 1 listed dockside building dating from 1818, representing part of the early 19th century expansion of London docks.  The project lasted from 1985-1990 and was completed in 2 parts; the first being the restoration of the original building fabric, and the second part involved the insertion of shopping and entertainment facilities and rebuilding the original dockside.

Restoration methods included the repair and the replacement of missing sections of the warehouse structure with fragments of the same type from buildings of adjoining sites which were threatened with destruction. Material from the archive demonstrates how remnants of industrial heritage around London influenced the finished appearance of the Tobacco Dock, and provide minutely detailed instructions for the refurbishment of salvaged material.

Instructions and photographs for the refurbishment of salvaged telephone boxes to use at Tobacco Dock.

There is also evidence of the ingenious decisions made to protect the existing structure of the building, such as retaining sub-soil moisture to prevent timber supports from drying out by discharging rainwater pipes below the basement floor.

As the above projects demonstrate, the archive of Sir Terry Farrell is full of material detailing how listed buildings can be sensitively repaired, retained and modified for their overall improvement. Unfortunately, there is no time to share evidence of the extensive communication that occurs with the planning application process of a listed building or conservation area. However, if you are interested in research matters relating to building conservation or other architectural interests within the Sir Terry Farrell archive you can contact the cataloguing project team, either Jemma Singleton at or Ruth Sheret at who will be happy to assist.

Sir Terry Farrell’s archive has been generously loaned to Newcastle University Library and is currently being catalogued. Once catalogued it will be made fully available to the public.  All rights held by The Terry Farrell Foundation. 

Cartoons and Caricatures

Newcastle University is currently in the process of cataloguing the Sir Terry Farrell Archive, a collection of professional practice material from renowned architect, planner and urban designer Sir Terry Farrell. In amongst all the plans, correspondence and reems of project based material you would expect from an architecture firm there are also some more whimsical items. Namely caricatures and cartoons of urban features, people and the natural world.

Caricatures of employees often crop up in the collection. These caricatures entitled ‘The Tycoon Twins’ were intended to be hung in the company offices. They were created by Sir Terry depicting Stefan Krummeck and Gavin Erasmus, Directors of Farrells, Hong Kong. The correspondence note reads ‘I think the side by side pictures made them look as though they are arguing or not speaking, with the original option, one above the other, they look as though they are working together.’ The side-by-side option was clearly seen as being more effective.

Photograph of a selection of 4 items from the Sir Terry Farrell Archive, including a typed memo, notes and two drawing of caricatures of side portraits.
Memos and presentation options for ‘The Tycoon Twins’ (uncatalogued collection).
Two caricatures side-by-side, contained within 2 circles are side portraits of people, titled 'The Tycoon Twins'.
‘The Tycoon Twins,’ by Sir Terry Farrell 2008 (uncatalogued collection).

Other caricatures are less formalised and are dotted throughout the concept and design sketches, possibly as a moment of distraction or procrastination.

Stylised drawings also make an appearance in some project work. Here are some sketched images showing the historical development of the Hungerford Bridge District, London from 1669 at Hungerford House and the construction of the suspension footbridge in 1845. These were also displayed in the company offices.

Photograph containing 5 sketches of the development of the Hungerford Bridge from 1669-20th century.
Stages of development of Hungerford Bridge from 1669 – 20th century (uncatalogued collection).

Sketching on the move is a common theme that runs through this collection. Caricatures form some of the material presumably produced by Terry when he was on his various travels. These images were located in a peculiar folder titled ‘Train portraits’. Maybe someone you know has been unwittingly sketched by Sir Terry.

Aside from buildings and people, there are also some beautiful drawings of elements of the natural world which have been anthropomorphised. These trees form a series of artworks titled ‘The Old Men of Maytham,’ and include an Oak, a Beech and a Spanish Chestnut.

2 sketches of trees titled' Old Men of Maytham'. One is a sketch of an oak tree and the other a Beach tree.
‘The Old Men of Maytham,’ by Sir Terry Farrell, April 2010 (uncatalogued collection).
Sketch of a Spanish Chestnut tree, titled 'Old Men of Mayhem'.
‘The Old Men of Maytham,’ by Sir Terry Farrell, April 2010 (uncatalogued collection).

Material has been used with permission of Farrells. Sir Terry Farrell’s archive has been generously loaned to Newcastle University Library and is currently being catalogued. Once catalogued it will be made fully available to the public.  All rights held by The Terry Farrell Foundation. 

Gertrude Bell, Kingmaker? – January 2020

Newcastle University Special Collections and Archives holds over 1,800 letters written by Gertrude Bell to her family. One in particular was written on the 12th January 1920, where Gertrude Bell writes to her stepmother describing her concerns about the delicate political situation in the Middle East, her hopes for resolution and how she seeks to contribute. Through this and her other writing she demonstrates a depth of knowledge and involvement which contributes significantly to our understanding of early 20th Century politics in the region.

Gertrude’s journey to becoming an important figure in Middle Eastern politics began when she was born into a wealthy family at Washington New Hall in 1868 where she also spent her childhood. After studying at and graduating from Oxford University she was able to travel widely in the first years of the 20th century and developed a deep interest in the Arab region and people. Her knowledge of the region led to her being involved with the British Intelligence Service during the First World War and by 1920 she had been appointed as Oriental Secretary to the British High Commission in Iraq.

Throughout her time in the Middle East she regularly corresponded with her family in Britain, updating them on her life, travels, and thoughts about her work and the political situation in the Middle East. She wrote one such letter on the 12th of January 1920 to her stepmother, Florence Bell.

A transcript of part of this letter is below:

You say that when you open the papers the world seems tempestuous – one does not need to open the papers to realize that here. The Turks to the north of us, exasperated and embracing Bolshevik propaganda, destructive Bolshevism which is all the Turks are capable of – or the Russians either, for that matter, up to the present; the Kurds ready to anyone who holds out the hope that the massacres of Christians shall go unpunished, as in justice they should not, but we’re powerless to enforce justice; the Arab Syrian state to the east of us, feeble and angry, bound to founder in financial deeps, if not in any other, and yet determined not to accept the only European help offered, namely that of France. And then Egypt, turned into a second Ireland largely by our own stupidity; and this country, which way will it go with all these agents of unrest to tempt it? I pray that the people at home may be rightly guided and realize that the only chance here is to recognize political ambitions from the first, not to try to squeeze the Arabs into our mould and have our hands forced in a year – who knows? perhaps less, the world is moving so fast – with the result that the chaos to north and east overwhelms Mesopotamia also. I wish I carried more weight. I’ve written to Edwin and this week I’m writing to Sir A. Hirtzel. But the truth is I’m in a minority of one in the Mesopotamian political service – or nearly – and yet I’m so sure I’m right that I would go to the stake for it – or perhaps just a little less painful form of testimony if they wish for it! But they must see, they must know at home. They can’t be so blind as not to read such gigantic writing on the wall as the world at large is sitting before their eyes.

Well there! I rather wish I were at Paris this week.

I’ve telegraphed to Father saying I hope he’ll come. I would love to show him my world here and I know if he saw if he would understand why I can’t come back to England this year. If they will keep me, I must stay. I can do something, even if it is very little to preach wisdom and restraint among the young Baghdadis whose chief fault is that they are ready to take on the creation of the world tomorrow without winking and don’t realize for a moment that even the creator himself made a poor job of it.

I’ll go to Blanche for a month or 6 weeks in the middle of the summer.

We have no news yet who our new G.O.C. in C. is to be. It’s rather a disaster at this juncture to have a new man who does not know the country, but I expect that’s what it will be.

In this letter she describes the political situation in the region, her concerns and hopes about how the British Government might seek to resolve the situation and details how she hopes to play a part in setting the future direction for the Middle East.

Pages from a letter from Gertrude Bell to her step mother, Florence Bell, written on the 12th January 1920
Pages from a letter from Gertrude Bell to her step mother, Florence Bell, written on the 12th of January 1920
Letter from Gertrude Bell to her step mother, Florence Bell, written on the 12th of January 1920, a full transcript of the letter can be viewed online. Ref: GB/LETT/370

The following year she was present at the conference held at the Semiramis Hotel in Cairo in March 1921 alongside others including T.E. Lawrence and Winston Churchill. Here, the British Government met to discuss the future political shape of the Arab region and it was decided that the choice that Gertrude advocated, Faisal I bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi, would become the first king of the newly formed Kingdom of Iraq. The events of the Cairo Conference are also documented in the letters she sent to her family in Britain and are part of the archive.

The Gertrude Bell Archive is one of the most important and widely accessed within Newcastle University Library’s Special Collections and Archives. It contains over 1,800 letters, 8,000 photographs, diaries and other papers including lecture notes, reports and newspaper cuttings. Together they document her life and travels and form an important record of the archaeology, culture and political landscape of the Middle East in the early decades of the 20th Century. The archive has been recognised for its significance, including the insight it gives into political developments in the Middle East and the formation of Iraq in 1921, through its inclusion on UNESCO’s International Memory of the World Register (a press release regarding UNESCO’s recognition of the archive in 2017 can be found here).

Most of her letters have been fully transcribed and can be browsed and searched on our dedicated Gertrude Bell website. Additionally the photographs she took can also be seen on the website. These photographs, digitised in the 1990s, document many of the archaeological sites that particularly interested her, as well as the people and places she encountered on her earlier travels.

As the photographs are now over 100 years old, and the historic negatives are now unstable and fragile, a project is currently underway to re-digitise the collection to bring it up to current day standards, revealing hitherto unseen detail, and preserving the photographs for future generations.

Making the Archive Public #3 – Women’s Work: Oral Histories of the Women’s Institute

This is #3 of the ‘Making the Archive Public‘ series, where we are showcasing examples from this project, using the rich archive and rare book collections on offer to researchers in the North East.

Women’s Work: Oral Histories of the Women’s Institute


This website was created by Jess Kadow and Shelby Derbyshire as part of the Making the Archives Public: Digital Skills, Research and Public Engagement project at Newcastle University.

The Women’s Work project is a collaboration organised between Newcastle University, the Northumberland Federation of Women’s Institutes and The Northumberland Archives. The project consisted of recording and archiving the oral histories of the North-Eastern WI community, particularly its oldest members, as a means of preserving the tradition and heritage of the Women’s Institute.

The diversity of each woman’s experience with the WI, the changes they have witnessed, the friendships they have made and the activities they have participated in have given this project a great level of depth. This exhibition hopes to showcase its best elements.


Making the Archive Public #2 – The Execution of James Maben

This is #2 of the ‘Making the Archive Public’ series, where we are showcasing examples from this project, using the rich archive and rare book collections on offer to researchers in the North East.

The Execution of James Maben

An eighteenth-century execution: Industry and Idleness, Plate XI, 'The Idle 'Prentice Executed at Tyburn', William Hogarth (1747).

An eighteenth-century execution: Industry and Idleness, Plate XI, ‘The Idle ‘Prentice Executed at Tyburn’, William Hogarth (1747).


This project, by Robyn Orr, uses a digitised version of the eighteenth-century pamphlet, A True copy of the papers written by James Maben, held in the Newcastle City Library Special Collections. The themes that are discussed are Newcastle in the Eighteenth Century, Coins and Counterfeiting, and Prisons and Executions.

The pamphlet demonstrates that a single piece of archival material can be used to create a wider narrative (the front page and page 2 from the digitised pamphlet is shown below).

2nd page

Front page

Front page

Page 2


Making the Archive Public #1 – William Corbett’s Bookshop

Making the Archives Public was a UTLSEC Innovation Fund (University Teaching, Learning and Student Experience Committee) project in 2014/15. Devised by Dr Ruth Connolly and Dr Stacy Gillis from the School of English with further expertise and access provided by our own Special Collections, Queen’s University Belfast, and local heritage partners, it incorporated traditional curation and digitisation with web based visualisations. As an introduction to some of the concepts behind Digital Humanities, these online exhibitions served to widen the understanding and availability of physical documented heritage to the public.

In this blog series, we will be showcasing examples from this project, using the rich archive and rare book collections on offer to researchers in the North East. 

Here is the #1 in this ‘Making the Archive Public‘ series:

William Corbett’s Bookshop

William Corbett's Bookshop


This site, created by Claire Boreham, allows users to browse the shelves of a seventeenth-century bookshop.

William Corbett was a bookseller in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the seventeenth century. When he died in 1626, an inventory of his shop was made, listing over a thousand books, mentioning around two hundred of them by name. This is an incredible insight into what books the Newcastle public were buying and reading in the early years of printing, such as Bibles and theological books (an example is shown in the image below).

William Corbett’s will and the inventory of his house and shop are held in Durham University Special Collections and the exhibition also includes rare and unique material from Newcastle University Special Collections, Newcastle City Library, and Queen’s University Belfast Special Collections.


Christopher Barker, “The Bible, that is, the Holy Scriptures, contained in the Old and New Testament,” William Corbett’s Bookshop

Pioneers: Photographs from the Spence Watson/Weiss Archive (SW 11) – January 2009

The Spence Watson/Weiss Archive consists, for the most part, of letters they received, which are evidence of their involvement in both local and national matters of politics, education and society. They were visited by politicians, reformers, artists, writers and diplomats.

Included amongst the papers are a box of photographs of well-known figures such as William Morris, David Lloyd George and Myles Birket Foster. The images featured below are part of that collection and have been selected as representing some of the pioneers of the Nineteenth Century.

Sir John Herschel (1792-1871)

Photograph of Sir John Herschel
Sir John Herschel [English Mathematician and Astronomer] (Spence Watson/Weiss Archive, SW/11/18)

Herschel began his career as a distinguished mathematician who also worked in the fields of chemistry, botany and, like his father Sir William Herschel, he applied himself in the field of astronomy. In 1834, surveying the sky from the Cape of Good Hope, he mapped and catalogued the southern skies, discovered thousands of new celestial objects, discovered 525 nebulae and clusters and named seven of Saturn’s satellites (MimasEnceladusTethysDioneRheaTitan and Iapetus) and four moons of Uranus (ArielUmbrielTitania and Oberon).

Furthermore, he wrote many papers on such subjects as meteorology and physical geography. However, he actually made a large impact in the field of photography: one of the original researchers of celestial photography not only did he make significant improvements to photographic processes, discovering the cyanotype (blueprint) process in 1842, but he went on to research photo-active chemicals and the wave theory of light. He coined the term photography and was the first to apply negative and positive to it.

His son, Alexander, would become Professor of Physics at Armstrong College (now Newcastle University) in 1871 where he continued pioneering work in meteor spectroscopy.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

Photograph of Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin [English Naturalist] (Spence Watson/Weiss Archive, SW/11/6)

Darwin’s is, even today, a household name – made famous by his theory of evolution which completely revolutionised our approach to the natural world. Against the tide of belief in the biblical description of a world created by God, Darwin turned instead to Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830) which argued that the Earth’s geological history and the progressive development of life could be explained as gradual changes and that fossils were evidence that animals had lived millions of years ago.

Darwin’s scientific expedition on board the HMS Beagle (1831-35) impressed upon him the rich variety of animal life and geological features and he spent the next twenty years solving the question of how animals evolve. In 1859 he published his ground-breaking On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, a first edition of which is held in the Pybus Collection. The Church, seeing the prevailing orthodoxy threatened, attacked Darwin and the idea that homo sapiens could have evolved from apes caused a backlash with satirists of the day lampooning Darwin in simian caricatures.

Dr. Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930)

Photograph of Dr Fridtjof Nansen on skiis
Dr Fridtjof Nansen [Norwegian Polar Explorer] (Spence Watson/Weiss Archive, SW/11/33)

Nansen was a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate whose devotion to humanitarian causes such as refugees, prisoners of war and famine victims had saved many lives after World War I. First and foremost he was a scientist and explorer. In 1888 he crossed the Greenland icecap by ski and man-hauled sledge during which expedition he and his team of six collected scientific and meteorological data.

However, he became one of the pioneers of oceanography after sailing from Christiania (Oslo) to the New Siberian Islands on board the Fram in 1893. The boat froze into the ice and drifted until it was able to sail south in August 1897, following a strong east-west current that Nansen had argued must flow from Siberia towards the North Pole and Greenland. Although Nansen had not stayed with the boat, having instead made an unsuccessful bid for the Pole, his team collected information about currents, winds and temperatures and proved that there was no land near the Pole on the Eurasian side, but an ice-covered ocean. From this point, Nansen focused his research on oceanography, specifically compiling data from the Norwegian Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

The Spence Watson/Weiss Archive contains several letters from Nansen to Robert Spence Watson, and the extract given below complements the photograph of him on skis.

“… now I am again back in my dear country and am happy, one of the first days my wife and I will take to our ‘ski’ and go up in the mountains to live their [sic] for some time I must get some pure Norwegian mountain-air into my lungs again. It is a charming life to be in the mountains in the winter to feel oneself like a bird as one rushes over the snowfields undisturbed by human foot and then when the night comes to sleep in the snow with the sky as a tent. Oh you are so free, we both enjoy it immensely.”

Letter to Robert Spence Watson: Lysaker, 7 March 1892 (SW/1/13/3)

Professor Richard Owen (1804-1892)

Photograph of Sir Richard Owen
Sir Richard Owen [Biologist and Palaeontologist] (Spence Watson/Weiss Archive, SW/11/35)

Owen, an anatomist and palaeontologist, had a long and distinguished career in museums and created a name for himself as a controversial but brilliant scientist. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, designed the life-sized dinosaur exhibits for the Great Exhibition (1851) and his Hunterian Lectures were well-attended but his successful campaign for a dedicated natural history museum, thereby founding the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, was one of his greatest achievements.

Furthermore, although Owen rejected Darwin’s theory of evolution, being convinced of the immutability of species, he nevertheless published notable works on fossils and it was he who, building on the work of others, first classified dinosaurs and coined the term. (Owen came to revise his ideas on transmutation but maintained his belief in a divinely-created species model.)

Goldwin Smith (1823-1910)

Photograph of Goldwin Smith
Goldwin Smith [Historian and Journalist] (Spence Watson/Weiss Archive, SW/11/45)

Smith’s roles were many and varied: historian, journalist, poet and translator to list a few. He was well-known as a writer on religious and political issues and was an early advocate of colonial emancipation, House of Lords reform and the separation of Church and State.

However, it is his work as a university reformer which stands out. Smith had demanded a Royal Commission of inquiry into the administration of Oxford University and its report (1852) suggested that religious tests should be relaxed, and that a teaching professoriate should be created. He also sat on the Popular Education Commission of 1858, chaired by the Duke of Newcastle. In his pamphlet, The Reorganization of the University of Oxford (1868), his recommendations included the abolition of celibacy as a condition of the tenure of fellowships and that the individual colleges merge for lecturing.

That same year, he left England for the professorship of English and Constitutional History at Cornell University – the institution to which he would later gift his private library and a $14, 000 endowment. He moved to Toronto in 1871 (where he lived out his remaining years). Here he sat on the Council of Public Instruction and wrote about the place and function of universities in Canada.

Throughout his life he argued that men of all classes should be afforded the opportunity of university education, that universities should be free from political domination and called for the raising of standards and the establishment of provincial universities.