AN unknown Southampton writer, reporting in 1878 on the construction of a new road east of the River Itchen, praised the beauty of the nearby countryside, claiming “the views from Midanbury Heights are exceedingly fine’’.

Five years later hundreds of local people streamed across the newlyopened Cobden Bridge to put this description to the test, but nothing captured their imagination more than Midanbury House, lodge house and gateway, of an imposing country estate.

Dating back to 1790, the property, originally built by a Mr T Leversuch, came about during a building spree of large estates in the “spa’’ period of Southampton’s history.

During later decades the estate grounds were the venue for regular Sunday school “treats’’, with picnic tables, sweet scrambles and games, while fathers and grandfathers played bucolic cricket at a safe distance.

The lodge, which everyone called “Midanbury Castle’’, with its battlements and turrets, from which the view over Southampton was said to be most impressive, pointed gothic window panes, even arrow-slits and a crest, was at one time occupied by Mr and Mrs Grosvenor and their family, who served the big house as coachman-gardener and housekeeper. The Grosvenors’ distinctive home was a direct copy of the castellated lodge at Blaise Castle, designed by the architect John Nash, near Bristol, at about the same time.

The couple were well known in the area and many years later, in the early 1990s, they were fondly recalled by a local historian.

“Herbert Grosvenor, a quiet and gentle man, died in 1952 aged 83, but 21 years were to pass before he was joined by his wife, Alice,’’ said the history book.

“She died in 1973, a few months short of her 100th birthday. No one who met this kindly, indomitable lady with her forthright socialist views will ever forget her.’’ The estate’s main property was shielded by huge beech trees and a clump of these magnificent trees grew beside the lodge gate.

In the early 1930s, the house, the lodge and the trees stood in the way of speculative building and so were demolished and cut down.

The gatehouse, built about 1800, would today have been protected by listed status and would have continued to be a city landmark.

A story about Midanbury House, which appeared in the Daily Echo exactly 30 years ago in December, 1982, prompted a number of letters from readers who remembered the area during the early part of the last century.

Local historian the late Irene Pilson wrote: “As a small child I was taken up dark stairs to the top of Midanbury Castle.

“We lived at The Mount, halfway up the hill, from 1912 until 1915, and ours was the only house apart from the Castle at the top and Warren’s Farm at the bottom.

“The Midanbury I knew was surrounded by fields and Woodmill Lane had only one house.

“I stood outside the Castle in the summer of 1913 to see Gustav Hamel, the pioneering airman, ‘loop the loop’ over Lord Swaythling’s airfield at Townhill Park.’’ In another letter Harry H Meachen said: “My duties, during the 1930s, as a traveller called for visits to customers in this area, and I remember the lodge at Midanbury. “A resident in Castle Road told me that on a clear day it was possible to see the Isle of Wight, the Castle Hill being one of the highest spots in the area.

“Around 1930, from the Castle Lodge down the steep Witts Hill there were only two houses on the left-side leading to a farm at the foot. The land all around was used for farming as far as the eye could see.

“Many older Daily Echo readers recollect Price’s Bread vans towed behind a motorcycle combination. The driver called daily with this contraption on residents in the Bitterne and Midanbury districts.

“These bread vans were full of loaves from their bakery in Eastleigh, and being a motorcyclist, I used to marvel at the skill of these driver-delivery men, especially in winter with icy road and hills to negotiate.

“Woodmill at this time was grinding flour and baking bread for delivery in Portswood and Bitterne Park, while the brickworks in Sandringham Road were busy making bricks on the spot.’’