A Visit to the City Archive Gives Richard Taunton Students an Insight into Student Life in 1915

22nd February 2019

The Mystery of a Small Autograph Book

An invite to the City Archives for Richard Taunton students resulted in a historical revelation recently when a small item linked to the college was discovered in a small book shop, miles away from its original starting place.

Cat Whiteaway, professional people tracing expert and family history enthusiast, found a small autograph book belonging to one John Giblin. Filled with multiple sketches, anecdotes and poems dating back to the early 1900s with one page signed by a group of his friends, it was the perfect starting point for a journey of discovery.

Research and Reward

After months of research, it was discovered that John Giblin was a Taunton’s School Alumni along with many of those who had signed his book, who were all teenagers at the time of its creation. Cat was able to trace not only the family history of 15/18 of the boys’ named in the item but also located their descendants. With the help of various local people and members of the Old Tauntonians Society; additional details, information and some wonderful photographs stored at the City Archives have come to light and painted a fuller picture of the background of our former students and the autograph book.

A Visit to the Archives

Unaware of what had been discovered, the College, along with the descendants of John Giblin and his friends were invited to City Archives to the ‘Big Reveal’. All connected by this small century-old autograph book, the gathering was a great insight into family and local history, and that of Richard Taunton Sixth Form College alumni.

Becky Rowley, teacher of Humanities from Richard Taunton; who attended with a group of History, Classics and English students, said:

“It’s been a privilege to be here to discover new information about our College’s history and talk to those who are in some way connected to it. We’ve been able to look at so many historical pieces relating to the college that we didn’t know existed and it’s been interesting for them to see how student life has changed. This has been such a rewarding experience and it’s been great to show the students the City Archive and what they can discover down here. It’s a great place for them to test their research skills and hopefully it’s inspired the future historians in all of them”

English and Sociology Student Georgia Stephenson, formerly from Applemore College in Dibden Purlieu, said:

“It was an eye-opener to discover some of the history of the college that we never knew about, especially the incredible artwork. It’s amazing to think that the sketches found in the book were created by talented Tauntonian students from over 100 years ago! It was fascinating to be taken back in time, and to see photos of our college in 1915 and how much it’s changed since then. I would definitely recommend a visit to Southampton Archives, it’s full of so much local history!”

Take a look at a recording of the story from BBC South Today