AFTER the Second World War, it became a wilderness of weeds as the blitzed bomb sites of Southampton’s London Road waited for a new beginning.

When the post-war redevelopment came the area emerged as a rather anonymous part of Southampton compared to the riches that once stood there in past times.

London Road is part of what is probably the oldest route through the city, from the High Street to the Common and Bassett.

Up until the 1890s, many Southampton residents thought of the lower end of The Avenue, where it joins London Road, as the start of open countryside.

Way back in the early part of the 19th century the highway from the Bargate up to The Avenue was the responsibility of the Southampton to Winchester Turnpike trust, and at times was so dusty the road had to be watered between March and September.

At the beginning of the last century the area was thriving and included many fine buildings from the central library to the art gallery, which was later moved to become part of the Civic Centre.

At the entrance to The Avenue was the Government Ordnance Survey Office, formerly the Military Asylum for Orphans. Opposite was Asylum Green, site of the old Padwell Cross pond.

A health inspector’s report in 1850 spoke of this pond being used as a dumping ground for unwanted cats, dogs, and, more darkly, human bodies.

Another landmark was St Paul’s Church, built as a chapel in 1828 to ease the pressure on All Saints. The church was destroyed in an air raid in 1940 during the Second World War.

In 1904 a John Wickham took over the shop at 39, London Road, previously occupied by grocer Frank Brecknell, and for the next ten years traded there as “furnishing draper, blind maker and bedding manufacturer” with a needlework department.

According to the record book of the time, next door at number 37, was Vinton’s Cycle Company which was soon to make way for the Maypole Dairy. At number 41, John R. Dodd traded as a “paperhanging merchant”.

London Road was also home, at one time, to what was claimed to be Southampton’s “cosiest” cinema, the Carlton, which stood at number 45.

It showed films up to the early 1920s, offered afternoon tea, featured music from an organist and pianist and was a favourite spot for children for Saturday morning screenings.

Much like Shirley and Portswood, London Road was once a popular shopping area.