Although born in London (in 1833) the famous Victorian soldier regarded Southampton as his home for about twenty years. His father Lieutenant General Henry Gordon retired to the town in c.1857, living at 5 Rockstone Place with his wife and daughters. Charles Gordon, whose army duties often took him out of the country, stayed there occasionally on his periods of leave and was there for several months in 1865 following his Chinese campaign. After Gordon’s death at Khartoum in 1885, his sister Augusta occupied the house until her death in 1893 when it passed to their younger sister Helen who was there until her own death in 1919.

There are four reminders of General Gordon in modern Southampton: his family home at 5 Rockstone Place (image 2), a memorial to him was erected in Queen’s Park in 1885 (image 3), Gordon Avenue in Portswood was named after him, and at the Old Cemetery on the Common there is a panel on the Gordon family tomb which refers to him.

The Gordon Boys' Brigade in Southampton was founded in his memory, to support orphans or street children who were given uniforms (blue serge and pill hats) and employed to do odd jobs, gardening and take messages. The organisation's headquarters was first in the High Street and later in Ogle Road. The boys held parade drill every morning. Each boy kept three-quarters of the fee for whatever work they did, with the rest going to the Brigade. There was an annual dinner for the boys. Kelly's Directory for 1898 describes the Brigade as follows:

The Southampton Gordon Boys’ Brigade and Parcel Delivery and Emigration Agency was founded in 1888, and has head-quarters in Ogle road. The objects of the institution are to establish a registry, where the cases of boys of all classes are thoroughly investigated, and where steps are taken to provide them with employment, and, when possible, emigrate them; to establish a Corps of boy messengers in uniform, to receive parcels or messages in the street, and watch the windows to see where the “M” card is placed, to signify that a messenger is wanted; to provide a library and reading room for the boys, where evening classes are to be held; in December, 1897, there were 86 boys in the houses, 91 joined during the year, and 74 left. During the same period the boys earned £1,782 8s. 9d.

In Chapel and Northam: An oral history of Southampton's Dockland Communities, 1900-1945 (Sheila Jemima), one of the contributors describes his time in the Brigade:

"I used to take old ladies out in bath chairs, take blind ladies for a walk, deliver picture papers for all the picture houses, worked at washing, scrubbing, polishing, bill delivering. Our job at the Dell was taking the results at half time to the Post Offices and at the Cricket Grounds diong the score cards. We were treated like being in the Army with Lance Corporals and Sergeant Majors."

Gordon, an intensely religious man, attended services at St Luke’s Church when in Southampton and in 1913 Alderman Edward Wise gave to the church a stained glass window in Gordon’s memory. In 1983 when the church was sold, the window, which depicted Gordon kneeling before the altar, was taken down and offered to Gordon’s regiment, the Royal Engineers. The window eventually found a new home in the Gordon Boys School near Woking.

1. Charles George Gordon

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Photograph of Gordon aged 32, taken by J. F. D. Donnelly

2. 5 Rockstone Place

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Photograph, c.2005


See also:


Further reading:

Southampton People, by John Edgar Mann, p46-47. (HS/t)
More Stories of Southampton Streets, by A. G. K. Leonard, p158-162. (HS/h)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, Volume 22.
Gordon: The Man Behind the Legend, by John Pollock. (HS/t)
Events in the life of Charles George Gordon, by Henry William Gordon. (HS/t)


Gordon Memorial
This monument, situated in Queen's Park, is dedicated to General Charles George Gordon, slain at Khartoum 26 January 1885. The monument, built by local firm Garret and Haysom, was erected by public subscription and was unveiled on 15 October 1885, nine months after his death. It stands on a mound, nearly 50 feet high. There are four columns of Aberdeen granite on a marble base and surmounted by a floriated capital and a cross. It is Grade II listed.

3. The Gordon Memorial, Queen's Park

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Photograph, c.2005


Newspaper clippings (available online or from the Local Studies Library):

The Home of a Hero - (Chambers' Journal, 1903?)
Enigmatic Life of General Charles Gordon - (Southern Evening Echo 27/08/1966)
"General Gordon a citizen of Southampton" - (Echo 14/02/1973). Article discusses the Gordon Boys' Brigade and Gordon's time staying with his mother in Southampton, "assisting her with the shopping in High Street and Above Bar". Talks briefly about Gordon's relationship with his family, and at more length about his military career.
Memorials and mementoes of General Gordon - (Hampshire, January 1985)
Gordon's Southampton home - (AGK Leonard, no date)


Further reading:

Buildings of England: Hampshire and the I.O.W., by Nikolaus Pevsner and David Lloyd, p553. (H/i)
More Stories of Southampton Streets, by A. G. K. Leonard, p159-160. (HS/h)
Building Stones of Southampton, by Anthony Wadham, p62-63. (HS/i)


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