IT was the out of town retreat with idyllic charm and a slow-paced way of life – Millbrook was far different to the buzzing streets and urban corridor we know today.

In October 1899 a great many local councillors and business people gathered at Millbrook Lodge in Millbrook Road the home of Alderman James Appleford for his funeral. Appleford had died the previous week.

Just before two o’clock the bearers raised his coffin onto their shoulders and followed by the mourners slowly walked the two hundred yards east along Millbrook Road to the bottom of Regent’s Park Road and across the road to the old parish church of St Nicholas.

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After the funeral service the coffin was carried across the road once more and interred in the nearby graveyard.

Today it would not be possible to repeat such a feat for the road is a busy six lane carriageway with a relentless stream of traffic heading for the docks, the industrial estate or west out of the city.

In 1899 however Millbrook was a rural retreat with Millbrook Road a quiet country lane with several grand houses.

The 13th Century parish church of St Nicholas is no longer there.

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Its location meant that it suffered with damp and regular flooding but it was popular and despite its replacement, Holy Trinity church, having been completed in 1874 it remained in use right up until 1920.

The last service was held there on December 27 that year.

A few days later part of the building collapsed and eventually the church was completely demolished.

Many locals and drivers are unaware that the Church’s graveyard still exists as a grassed area enclosed by its original walls and located on the west corner of the junction of Regents Park Road and Millbrook Road.

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Opposite St Nicholas’s church was Blighmont House built by Admiral Sir Richard Rodney Bligh for his son George Miller Bligh who served as a Lieutenant with Nelson aboard the Victory and was shot in the chest at the battle of Trafalgar.

He was taken below deck and was present at the death of Nelson and attended his state funeral as a mourner.

George died at Blighmont in April 1821 after which the house had several owners including at one time Lord Nelson’s grandson.

The house was used as a hospital during the First World War and later as a nursing home.

The property was bought by British American Tobacco in 1963 and subsequently demolished.

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Travelling west the Millbrook Road crossed Tanner’s Bridge over the Holybrook rivulet and then passed Holy Trinity Church with its 150 ft high spire and attractive Lych Gate which survives today.

Opposite the church was the Manor House the site of which is today buried beneath the eastern approach to the Millbrook flyover and recalled in the name of Manor House Avenue off Third Avenue.

A few hundred yards further along was the nucleus of the original parish of Millbrook located just beyond where Wimpson Lane and Tebourba Way meet today. This was the most picturesque corner of the village.

Clustered around a pond was the Swan Inn, a blacksmiths, a post office, a school and Village Hall plus the Royal Oak Inn as well as Pondside Farm.

A road to the west went towards Redbridge while the road to the north went to Wimpson.

All of this was to change for Southampton had a rapidly expanding population following the success of the docks and in January, 1895 a Local Government Enquiry decided that Freemantle, Shirley, and part of Millbrook be included in the Borough of Southampton.

Many of the large houses were sold off with their land being divided into building allotments and purchased by members of the Hants Freehold Land Society.

Land Societies came into existence in the 1840s to effect Parliamentary reform by encouraging home ownership and hence voting qualification.

Large areas of Shirley and Freemantle were developed and became united with Southampton by a network of modern cottages and villas and served by the tram network.

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At the end of the Second World War Southampton Corporation was able to compulsory purchase large tracts of land in Millbrook for social housing for the many families that had lost their homes in the bombing and as a consequence Millbrook’s rural idyll was lost forever.