WHEN we think of Southampton’s Oxford Street we might picture the swanky bars and restaurants at night, or enjoying relaxed lunches in the sun.

Oxford Street is, however, steeped in history – an area once completely owned by the estate of Queens College at Oxford University.

King Edward III gave the land of St Julien’s Hospital, commonly called God’s House, to the college in the 14th century,

As Southampton docks expanded throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the surrounding farmland was developed and the college raised income through renting nearby property.

Maps would have been unrecognisable before 1842, with only Orchard Lane, now Orchard Place, existing as part of today’s street placements.

It was in that year when a linen draper by the name of George Laishley was leased a large portion of the estate. Laishley had it for a term of 40 years for an annual rent of £10.

Part of Laishley’s conditions for the lease stipulated he must construct Oxford, John and Latimer Streets at his own expense and to lay out within 14 years the sum of £20,000 for “the erection and finishing in good and substantial manner dwelling house, warehouse, store or factories” all to built using “suitable materials and for permanent not temporary use”.

Laishley went on to divide the site into a total of 187 lots and sublet them to under-tenants who would take control of the building.

Most of the houses built by 1856 were made of brick, had pitched slate roofs and stucco fronts, which gave them an aesthetically respectable look.

With the development of the nearby docks in late 19th century, along with the arrival of the railway between London and Southampton Terminus Station, the estate enjoyed a period of wealth and prosperity.

The financial boom in the area took a major hit in the early 1900s when part of the vital mail and passenger trade was lost to competing ports, and the country experienced a depressed economy.

The estate suffered greatly from this drop in fortune, and by the mid-’60s, the Terminus Station closed and the surrounding buildings became obsolete.

There was a high level of unemployment at this time, and the area lost its former decadent shine.

After the estate and its adjoining land was designated a conservation area in 1972, Oxford Street and surrounding roads were re-generated, appealing to businesses, patrons and people looking for homes once more.

This unique and history-rich part of Southampton has since become a much-loved part of town – rediscovering its former glory once again.