NORTHAM residents have always enjoyed a sense of community - and although the roads and buildings are vastly different to a century ago - it still has an identity all of its own.

Many Sotonians look back with a nostalgic fondness as they recollect tales of growing up in the area. Neighbours chatted at their windows and doors, residents boasted about not needing to lock their front doors and children played safely in the streets.

Many families were moved out of the area to live in other parts of Southampton as a result of redevelopment, especially after the Second World War.

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Northam was a collection of narrow streets with many terraced houses and a light smattering of industry.

Although many have fond memories, living conditions did not get any more adverse than when the nearby River Itchen breached its banks and flooded the streets.

Memories of those times were recalled more than 40 years ago when Pat Milnthorpe from Midanbury, Southampton wrote to the Daily Echo. These are her personal recollections:

“In the 1930s when I was very small, we lived in Northam with my grandparents in a public house. Many of the local men were unemployed but they always managed to buy their pints of beer. Their wives would find the few pence for this out of the meagre dole money.

“The River Itchen was not more than a few hundred yards away. In those days, when there was an exceptional high tide combined with heavy rain, the river would rise alarmingly and flood the wharves.

Daily Echo:

“One morning I heard shouting and laughing in the street; the river was rising fast with the incoming tide and boys with their trousers rolled over their knees ran hooting from the insistent waves as the water rolled along the streets.

“As I watched, the waters rose dramatically, great streams of grey river water rushing through the gutters, covering the pavements, splashing at the little front doors.

“Behind the doors the people were waking and calling ‘Flood, Mrs Davis’ and ‘Hurry up father, we’re flooded.’

“The public house was safe from the water, having six steps up to every door;

the waters had never risen higher than this.

“I watched as one by one the doors of the houses let in the water and the inhabitants became resigned to the invasion, putting furniture upstairs as quickly as possible or chairs on tables.

“Babies were brought to the back door of the pub for safety. There was no panic or crying, just stoic acceptance of the situation.

“The water was now at least three feet deep and Northam became ‘Little Venice’. I saw a rowing boat crewed by two men going from house to house to see if anyone needed help.

Daily Echo:

“Mothers leaned out of the upstairs windows and chatted across the street. Pretty girls were carried high on the shoulders of the men, giggling and laughing at the unusual excitement.

“With ebbing tide the water in the streets receded. Mud and silt were everywhere. Ironically as the people of Northam had never been able to afford fitted carpets, one problem was solved: the lino could be lifted and thrown over a clothesline to dry.

“The mud could be swept out and scrubbed away by the mothers in their crossover aprons and father would still have a ‘nice piece of fish’ with his hot strong tea.

“It took more than a flood of Itchen water to dampen the spirits of these wonderful people. I am proud that I lived among them.’’