Origins of The School of Navigation

What is now the University of Southampton grew out of the Hartley Institution, which owed it's origin to some £103,000 willed to the Corporation of Southampton in 1850 by an eccentric inhabitant of the town called Henry Robinson Hartley, on condition that it employed "the interests, dividends, and annual proceeds (thereof) in such a manner as (might) best promote the study and advancement of the sciences of Natural History, Astronomy, Antiquities, Classical and Oriental literature in the Town, such as forming a Public Library, Botanic Gardens, Observatory and collection of objects in connection with the above sciences; to be set up in his house in the High Street.

His will was strongly contested by various relatives and an eight year lawsuit followed and after the lawyers and their clients had been satisfied, only £42,524 19s and 3d remained of the Hartley Bequest.

A Committee was set up by the then Borough Council to inspect the High Street site and make suggestions. One of these suggestions was that the projected establishment should include a school of navigation suitable to a great seaport. A further suggestion led to the building of the Hartley Institute on a site which much later became the Post Office. The Hartley Institute was opened by Lord Palmerston on 25th October 1862, but another 70 years had to elapse before the envisaged School of Navigation began to materialise.

On 30th November 1902, Hartley College was granted University College status and in 1914 the new college buildings were opened by Lord Haldane, Lord Chancellor, but due to World War 1, its first use was as a Military Hospital and the overall move did not take place until 1919.

In 1932, the Borough Council decided to take over the Gilchrist Navigation School, a private enterprise established many years previously, located at the corner of Bernard Street and High Street, opposite Holyrood Church and to conduct it for an experimental period of 2 years at "South Hill" a large house in Glen Eyre Road. The sole member of staff at that time was Captain McEwan. If the venture proved to be successful, it was hoped that a residential cadet course could be opened for young men aspiring to become officers of the Mercantile Marine.