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10 forgotten Southampton landmarks
SOUTHAMPTON has changed in many ways over the years, and here are some of the more notable landmarks which have vanished over the decades.
These were sited at what is now the junction between Lodge Road and The Avenue. Originally built around 1845, they were the entrance to the Bevois Mount, a large country estate and house.
The house itself was located on what is now a fitness club on the north side of Lodge Road. William Betts, had them erected when he owned the property, which itself was built around 1723.
The gate pillars were demolished in the 1920s when Lodge Road was being widened, but the metal gates themselves had long before been moved to the cemetery on The Common. Even today, many Sotonians refer to the junction as “Stag Gates”.
The Stadium, Banister Court
This was the home of speedway and greyhound racing in Southampton. It originally opened in 1928 and was the base for Saints, Southampton’s very own speedway team, although it also featured stock car racing and even boxing matches over the years. The track was 440 yards in length but later shortened to 333yds.
It was claimed the stadium could hold as many as 20,000 people for certain events. Both the speedway team and the greyhound racing quit the site in 1963. At the same time, the venue was taken over by the Rank Organisation and soon sold for housing.
Southampton Ice Rink
The Ice Rink was built next to the Stadium, and first opened its doors in 1931. The first ice hockey match was between the Southampton Saints and Bournemouth. The 3,000 capacity venue burnt down in 1940 after bit hit during a German air raid. However, Charles Knott, the owner of the adjacent stadium vowed to build a new ice rink.
The new Sportsdrome opened in 1952. He sold to the Rank Organisation, who initially wanted to turn the whole site into housing, but Knott refused to do business on those terms. As a result, Rank agreed to keep the ice rink along with the bowling alley. The site was later owned by Mecca, and they closed the venue in 1988, shortly after a refurbishment largely done by members of the community. The site is now housing.
A sketch of Southampton Castle in the 19th century, looking south from what is now a car park
Built shortly after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, Southampton Castle dominated the town. It stood on the western side of the town, overlooking West Bay and the River Test. Originally a timber motte and bailey structure, it was gradually rebuilt as a stone keep during the 12th century, during which the town was seen as a key fortification of the realm.
The town’s walls were improved but little was done with the castle until the 14th century, when it was repaired after years of neglect and even theft of materials by locals who used the timber, stone and metals in their own buildings.
By 1585, the castle was "very ruynaise and in greete decaye". King James I sold the castle to developers in 1615 and later a windmill was built on the motte and stone from the castle was used to improve the town walls. In 1808, a gothic mansion was built on the site by the Marquis of Lansdowne incorporating remains of the keep, but despite its sweeping views, was demolished in 1818 and the motte flattened and a new road – Upper Bugle Street – was constructed through the bailey.
In 1962, the Castle House tower block was built on the site of the keep and motte. Today, only the garderobe tower (part of the castle’s sewerage system) and part of the northern bailey wall survive.
Built when Western Esplanade was very much an esplanade along the waterfront, the Lido was a popular venue of people of all ages to enjoy the water. Constructed in 1892 to replace the 38-year-old baths, it jutted out from the shore. Even when the Western Docks were constructed and the land reclamation moved the shore several hundred meters away, it remained popular during the summer months.
Later, the lido was sandwiched in between the Pirelli Works and the power station. It hit its peak during its final years, when it broke attendance records during the hot summer of 1976. This however, was not enough to convince the powers-that-be that the Lido was worth the high operating costs. It closed in 1977 and was left empty for four years. Now, the site is occupied by a multi-storey car park and part of the West Quay retail park.
The final match at The Dell in 2001
Home to the Saints for 103 years, The Dell was a bijou venue for top flight football. Built on the site of "a lovely dell with a gurgling stream and lofty aspens", from which the stadium gained its name. Constructed in 1898, the purchase and clearing of the land cost £9,000 and the ground was rented by the football club for £250 a year.
There were many suggestions for the name of the ground, including Fitzhugh Dell, Milton Park and Archer’s Ground, before the The Dell became the de facto identity for the site. Originally it could hold 24,000 spectators and the West Stand, when later reconstructed, was designed by renowned architect Archibald Leitch.
A bomb fell on the Milton Road goal area during the Second World War, rupturing the culvert which carried the Rollsbrook stream under the ground, and flooding the pitch. The record attendance at the ground was over 33,000 for Mick Channon’s testimonial in 1976, but through the 80s and 90s, redevelopment restricted the capacity to just 15,200 by 1995. Saints left The Dell for St Mary’s in 2001 and new homes and flats were built on the site.
Opened in 1950, the art deco terminal was built alongside the Ocean Dock to serve the burgeoning cruise trade that played a key role at Southampton’s docks. It featured a railway station as well as shops, passenger lounges and bars, as well as facilities for cars, cargo and customs over the two levels.
Although demolished in 1983 – there was talk of the building being listed prior to demolition – the change in travel habits in the proceeding decades had long meant there were questions marks over the need for such a large and ornate building. When being demolished however, the building did put up a fight and managed to ruin a crane and wrecking ball which were meant to bring it down.
In recent years however, Southampton’s cruise business has exploded once again and a new Ocean Terminal was opened in 2009 on the opposite side of the Ocean Dock.
Daily Echo Office
Daily Echo office at 45 Above Bar Street
For decades, the home of this very publication sat on Above Bar in the heart of Southampton, with many a rendezvous beginning under the clock on the front of the building. This building – which was demolished in the 1990s to make way for WestQuay – was not the first Echo office to stand on the site. In 1914, the original office even displayed a giant map of Europe, which was seen by countless soldiers as they marched off to war.
The original building was destroyed during an air raid in the Second World War – but still the paper came out the following day. The building smelled of newspaper and ink and the floors vibrated when the printing presses were running at full speed, before the Echo vans, which were all lined up along the rear of the press in Portland Terrace raced off to deliver the news throughout the county.
It was demolished in the 1997.
The Polygon Hotel shortly before demolition
For many years, this was seen as many as the place to stay in Southampton. The Polygon itself was originally envisaged as Southampton’s luxurious answer to Bath’s Royal Crescent – at a time when the site was anything but central. However, only the original hotel and three homes were built before the money ran out in 1773. The final hotel to stand on the site was built in the 1930s.
During the First World War, the heads of the British Expeditionary Force, camped out in the hotel while during the Second World War the Polygon was HQ for the 14th Major Port US army in the lead-up to the D-Day invasion in 1944.
Famous names such as Muhammad Ali and comedians Tommy Cooper and Morecambe and Wise all stayed at the hotel. It was vacated in 1997 and demolished two years later to make way for the flats which now sit on the site.
Pirelli signed a deal to build the factory in January in 1914, and not long after it opened it was put to work supplying cables for thousands of field telephones used in the trenches of the First World War.
During the Second World War the firm supplied three-and-half-million miles of wire to the Royal Corps of Signals, provided special wiring rigs for the Lancaster bombers and designed and installed a submarine fuel pipeline to deliver fuel for the vehicles involved in the D-Day landings.
Thousands of people worked in the sprawling workshops, which were eventually cleared to make way for WestQuay – although a lot of wasteland left behind now remains and is the site of the planned Watermark WestQuay development, which is due to open in 2016.