THE name means North Meadow in ancient English although little remains of Northam’s rural past.

It has always been claimed that Northam was the tightest of city communities, where in good and bad times, local people relied on each other as they lived side by side in the narrow streets of terraced houses.

Northam is a district over which the tide of 19th-century building and industrialisation flowed so strongly that very few landmarks survived to show its earlier history.

Towards the end of the 17th century John Winter acquired Northam Farm where he laid out a new yard and wharf at the nearby marsh.

That was the beginning of a small settlement that came to be known as Old Northam and remained mainly rural until the opening of the London to Southampton railway in 1842.

Then came rapid industrialisation and the marsh became profitable building ground. New streets with names like Princes Street, York Street and Clarence Street suddenly appeared on Southampton’s map.

Daily Echo:

According to the records of the time houses in Northam were on the whole haphazardly built by speculative builders with limited capital.

From 1851 onwards Southampton’s medical officer of health urged control of development or, at least, the provision of the main drainage.

By the end of the 1800s and the early 1900s, Northam was a crowded and lively place as this description from the time goes to show.

“Opposite the gas holder, on the corner of Britannia Road there was a small mansion, later to be a Co-op warehouse, occupied by a Mr Bull who built half of Northam. His carriage and coachman were often seen in the area which was known as Bulls Run.

Daily Echo:

“Most days an enormous traction engine, proceeded by a man with a red flag, drawing two or three huge wagons loaded with sulphate from the gas works came up Bulls Run and along Radcliffe Road. Due to the smell of the load the wagon had to be clear of the town by 8am.

“From Clarence Street to Cable Street, a distance of about 300 yards, there were no less than eight butchers. Many will remember the ribald shouting on Saturday nights between Messrs. Fletcher and Nelson, almost next door to each other, leading from ‘Buy, buy. Ladies you can’t be looking. I’ve got some lovely legs’ to down-right insults.

“Then there were the street traders including the muffin man with his little brass bell and tray of wares neatly balanced on his head.

“The flypaper man wearing a top hat with flypapers attached literally black with flies. ‘Flies, flies, catch ‘em alive, all alive.’ The blackberry woman and Mr Goodman with his truck of crockery crying: ‘Quock-way’. The paper windmill man, the one-man-band and the Italians with barrel organ complete with monkey.’’Daily Echo: