the online A-Z of Southampton's history.

Old Central Library reading room, 1920.

Image Unavailable

One hundred years ago, the newspaper reading room at the Central Library, London Road stood empty except for a single member of staff. Our libraries have been empty except for staff since March.

Southampton City Libraries are looking forward to welcoming back customers from Monday 6 July 2020, with a phased reopening of services beginning with a select and collect service. Our priority will be staff and customer safety and as such the service offered will be limited.This webpage will be continually updated to reflect changes in service availability and opening hours.

If you had come to the Central Library in London Road to borrow a book before 1913, you would not have expected to be able to go to the shelves and browse for your books. The library was "closed access." You would have had to use "the old indicator system, whereby borrowers were forced to wade through pages of catalogue, and then consult the intricacies of "in or out" numbers." (Hampshire Advertiser 6 September 1913.) Once you knew that what you wanted was available, you told staff what you wanted and they fetched them for you.

Just for now, Southampton City Libraries are "closed access." But modern technology means you do not have to consult a printed catalogue, just visit the online library catalogue and place your request from home. Or you can telephone us 023 8083 3007 and we will check the catalogue and place your request for you. When your item is available , it will be prepared for collection and made available on dedicated shelves. We will then let you know it is ready to collect in whatever way you have asked us to do so.

When you come to the library, all you will be able to do is collect your item(s) or return any items you have out at the moment.

See more about the Central Library here

These are the first Library Rules, from 1889. The rule on p vii about newspapers, magazines, and periodicals staying on the desks still applied in 1920 (see above).

Basque Child Refugees and North Stoneham Camp

Read the story of the Basque Children who came to Southampton in May 1937 on the SS Habana.


Newtown Wesleyan Chapel, Alfred Street: a gift with strings attached

VE day celebrations: a new photograph showing Library staff on VE Day.

George Walters Bleckley, John Mansell, and Richard Wake: three local tradesmen who spoke up for themselves.


Follow Southampton Cultural Services on Facebook at Southampton Stories

Look out for #ThrowbackThursday and #Maritime Monday on Southampton City Libraries Facebook page.

Links to local history societies and other resources.

News and Events

West End Local History Society

Nursling and Rownhams History Group

The City of Southampton Society

The Southampton branch of the Hampshire Genealogical Society Family History Group

Getting Started

This is a community resource about Southampton's history and we very much welcome your participation.

Browse the site by clicking on one of the letters below, look at our list of themes or use the search box.

To make comments, contribute or suggest amendments/improvements go to the Contact page.

Sotonopedia last updated 7 July 2020

Browse A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y-Z