Unlikely scene of fights between warring Romeos Today Southampton's Cobden Bridge is a peaceful sort of place and despite sometimes being clogged with rush-hour traffic the nearby riverside park is a popular place for a quiet stroll towards Woodmill and Mansbridge.

However, at the end of the 19th century, Cobden Bridge was the unlikely setting for a series of pitched battles between warring local Romeos.

The bridge, built in 1883 when the surburb of Bitterne Park was expanding, was a gift to Southampton from the National Liberal Land Company.

Problems came to a head when lads from St Denys used the free bridge to journey over to Bitterne and West End. Once there they chatted-up the local girls - much to the annoyance of their love rivals on the other side of the river.

Resentment grew and finally, armed with sticks and stones, gangs of Bitterne youths and men would meet up with opposing groups from St Denys on Sunday afternoons at the bridge. The confrontations became so bad that the police had to intervene.

Some decades after the Battles of Cobden Bridge an eyewitness to one of these fights, a Mr C E Godwin of Bursledon, wrote to the Daily Echo with an account of the disturbances.

"I think it would be in the year 1884, as I was 17 years of age, and I am now 64, I well remember the first Sunday with two friends I went to Mr Dyer's boat-house, and on returning over the bridge we were set upon by about 100 lads, who knocked us about like ninepins,'' said Mr Godwin.

"One of my friends, Mr N Rocket, son of the old Bitterne carrier, had both his eyes closed. The following Sunday brought hundreds of men and lads of all ages out from the town, when a sharp fight took place with fists, boots and sticks.

"The finishing touch occurred the following Sunday, when thousands went over and marched to Lance's Hill. If I remember rightly, the police were hidden ready to meet them, and arrested the leaders, who, I believe, were sent to Winchester Prison for a few weeks.'' In her book Memories of Bitterne, published in 1984, local historian the late Irene Pilson, wrote: "What were a few black eyes and bloodied noses when such prizes had to be protected from the lecherous lads of the town and St Denys?

"From all accounts they certainly showed they townies when they came over'. And no wonder that the son of Bitterne's long-established carrier was in the forefront of the battle.

"I knew all the Rocket girls at school as well as their popular brother, Roley. Their fine features and lovely dark eyes are proof that their ancestors had a girl well worth fighting over.''