The Daily Echo looks back at some of the weird and wonderful facts, traditions and institutions of Southampton.

From fish-slinging protests to Medieval purchases - did you know about these occurrences?

There was mayhem when the Post Office moved in 1837

There was a right old to-do in Southampton when the post office was moved from French Street to Hanover Buildings in 1837. 

A procession of officials marking the change of address was not appreciated by some locals who wanted the post office to remain in French Street.

“In passing through the fish market, the ladies of that establishment manifested their disapprobation of the removal by throwing unsavoury missiles at the leaders of the procession,” reported the Hampshire Advertiser at the time.

One can only assume the projectiles consisted of old or inedible pieces of fish.

St Mary’s Fire Station is more than 110 years old

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Southampton’s St Mary’s Road Fire Station celebrated the 112th anniversary of its opening in March this year

It was built by Dyer and Sons at a cost of £4,210 and included three bays for appliances, firemen’s married quarters, and even a stable and hayloft for the horses that pulled the pumps.

The three horses were Colonel, Turpin and Tom, and they were so well trained that at the sound of alarm bells they would make their way to the appliances and stand ready to be harnessed.

According to the history books, the first call from the new station after the official opening was at 10.30pm on March 31, 1909, to a fire caused by an upturned paraffin lamp at 27, Forster Front, where the first-floor bedroom was badly damaged.

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St Mary’s Road station became the nerve centre of Southampton’s fight to stay alive in the Second World War.

In the basement, steel-helmeted men and women plotted the fires and sent out the pumps during relentless bombing raids. Miraculously, despite its position in the front line, the station remained unscathed throughout the conflict.

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In 2000, Southampton’s oldest fire station underwent a £1.6 million redevelopment.

The last house lit by candles stood until the 1930s

THE last house in Southampton to be lit entirely by candles was 1 Cranbury Terrace.

Candles were still used here not only after gas had been in use for 80 years but after electricity had also been introduced. 

The Daily Echo in 1937 reported: “The explanation lies in the fact that for many years it was the home of two maiden ladies, who had the amiable weakness of preferring candlelight to any other form of domestic illumination, and the charming courage to indulge it.’’

The ladies likely used locally manufactured candles, perhaps from the candle factory in West Street.

The factory was a house that stood on the corner with Simnel Street and was estimated to be, at the very least, 300 years old.

Daily Echo: Simnel Street, Southampton in the Victorian era

Simnel Street

At the time of its demolition in the 1930s it was was owned by a Miss Potts and with its disappearance vanished the last tallow candle factory in Southampton.

There were those in the neighbourhood who were happy to see the candle factory close.

In the course of manufacture, a terrible smell was created which pervaded the whole neighbourhood.

Miss Potts was an elderly lady, quite a character in her way, but much liked locally and noted for deeds of unostentatious charity.

The archives say she was of “middle height, upright in her carriage with beautiful white hair, brushed very smooth and parted carefully in the middle.”

Her description says she was very pleasant in her manner, although her expression was rather severe.

Itchen Bridge cost £12m to build

The Itchen Bridge is one of Southampton’s most recognisable landmarks. 

Built for a cost of just over £12m, the 800-metre wide toll bridge was officially opened on July 13, 1977, by HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent. 

It replaced the Woolston Floating Bridge, a cable ferry – latterly two – that crossed the Itchen between Woolston and Southampton. 

The bridge opened to public foot traffic on May 31, 1977, when Edith Parks became the first person to cross.

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On  June 1, 1977, the first vehicle to make the journey over the bridge was an 18th-century landau drawn by a magnificent pair of greys with coachmen in period costume.

As the sun beat down on the new structure, then-Miss Southampton Julie Corps, stepped out of the equipage to release 50 hydrogen-filled balloons into the sky.

The first person to officially drive across the bridge was then-Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Joyce Pitter, who was accompanied by Councillor John Deacon, chairman of the city’s planning and transport committee.

The pair were followed by a bus full of councillors and civic officials. Then came the city’s grey Silver Jubilee bus with school children and adults aboard.

The Daily Echo reported at the time: “Lord Maybray King recalled that he was one of the first people to use the floating bridges when they were brought back into service at the end of the Second World War. “It’s a great day for this part of Southampton,” he said.

“”I am proud the City Council had the courage to make plans to go ahead.””

Southampton Common can be traced back to Medieval times

Southampton Common can be traced back to medieval times when, in 1228, it was bought by the town for ten silver marks from the Lord of the Manor of Shirley, Nicholas de Sirlie.

No other city in England can boast such a large area of common land. 

More than 350 species of flowers, together with 100 different types of birds, have been identified there.

The acquisition was made to provide the townsfolk with the right of pasturage on the land for all time.

For some time the town’s gallows were situated on the common, with the last public hanging taking place there on July 27, 1785.

The condemned criminal was former servant Soane William Kerby Shayer who was executed for stealing a silver plate from the home of his previous mistress.

A racecourse was built in 1822 but ceased to be some time after, before being rebuilt in 1860. Races were popular there once more until the final race took place in 1881.

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As well as being used by the military during both world wars, the ground was once used for annual agricultural shows.

Many people will have memories of the animals in the zoo that once resided there. It shut down in 1985 over concerns for the animals' welfare.

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Funfairs have taken place on Southampton Common since long before the Second World War.

The rides were very different to the boneshakers of today, with the most exciting and advanced ride being the big wheel.

B Cole & Sons Family Fairground still operate on the ground on a regular basis.

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