Waterloo and Battlefield Tourism

At the time of William Fulton Jackson’s trip to Waterloo in June 1903, battlefield tourism to the site was long established. By the 1830s English stage coach owners based in Brussels advertised trips there and Thomas Cook had organised his first tour to Waterloo in 1856.

DC111 270

Jackson group (including guide Sergeant Little) at Well, Hougoumont near Waterloo

This article from the University of Southampton via FutureLearn on battlefield tourism gives a useful overview and states that:

Visiting battlefields was not a new phenomenon that developed in the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo. What did evolve in the post-Waterloo period, and as the nineteenth century progressed, however, was battlefield tourism as a more formal and commercial enterprise. Guided tours of the battlefield were available from 1815, but from the 1830s, notices appeared advertising visits from England to the battlefield of Waterloo.

Many of the sites photographed by Jackson are mentioned in the 19th Century tourism literature such as the Lion’s Mount, the Wellington Hotel, the Church of St Joseph, Hougoumont Farm and the Gordon Monument.

The Waterloo Uncovered team is currently on site again at many of these locations and project updates are regularly posted on their website and twitter @DigWaterloo. The Jackson photographs have been a particularly significant find as knowing where tourists were encouraged to visit and how they travelled there provides useful context as the Waterloo Uncovred team identify the finds.

We would like to see other examples of tourist photos that could shed new light on the way the Waterloo battlefields have been managed and accessed in previous generations. Do you have any in your collections? The team would love to see anything right up through the 1950s and 1960s.

You can get in touch on twitter at @UofGlasgowASC  @ProfTonyPollard and @DigWaterloo or through uofglasgowasc on Instagram. Please join in using the hashtag #WaterlooUncovered. If you are not on social media, please get in touch with us through our email address: library-asc@glasgow.ac.uk

For those who couldn’t travel to the battlefield there were exhibitions in museums across the UK and panorama theatres which had become popular in Europe in the early 19th century were used for this purpose too exhibiting vast panoramic views of far-off places and great events. The panorama of the famous Battle of Waterloo, at which a British and allied army defeated Napoleon in 1815, would have excited the curiosities of martially-minded patriots as well as those in search of spectacle.

Waterloo Panorama

Coloured cartoon from the Glasgow Looking Glass 25 June 1825, advertising a grand Panorama of Waterloo at a rotunda theatre in Buchanan Street.

Waterloo Uncovered Project 

In April 2015 initial survey work was done on the battlefield by Waterloo Uncovered, a ground-breaking archaeology project thought up by two soldiers from the Coldstream Guards, a regiment that played a vital role in the battle, and led by Dr Tony Pollard. The project brings together professional archaeologists from across Europe and wounded veterans from recent campaigns with the aims of transforming the understanding of the Battle of Waterloo through archaeology and providing a unique opportunity for veterans to participate in an important dig and support those that are injured in their recovery.

To support this project Archives and Special Collections had Archives Graduate Trainee Alicia Chilcott and Great War Project Researcher Warwick Louth research our medical alumni for those who served in Waterloo and in 2015 we identified 15 graduates who served as medics and surgeons at the battle. See our Waterloo website for more information and biographies on these individuals.

To help you with your Waterloo research we have created a source guide summarising where you can find out about the University of Glasgow’s Waterloo links across our heritage collections including some volumes detailing models and tours of the Waterloo field, medals from the Hunterian Museum, and early student records from the Napoleonic period at the Archives.

Further reading online about Waterloo and battlefield tourism are:



Categories: Archives and Special Collections

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