IT was a massive part of Southampton’s nightlife.

The Coliseum, which once stood in Portland Terrace, was the town forum if ever there was one. Flower shows, boxing, wrestling, performing dogs, politicians, even prime ministers and exhibitions at one time or another all ended up in the Victorian building.

The original corrugated iron building was torn down and replaced by an impressive brick structure in 1910.

The Blackshirts met there in 1934 when Oswald Mosley preached to the masses.

He was said to have gone down well - it was before the British Union of Fascists preached hatred and embraced anti-Semitism. In fact, the most controversial incident to have occurred at the meet was when a police constable lost his helmet.

William Joyce, later known as Lord Haw-Haw, praised the group and later was to gloat on German wartime radio on the Luftwaffe’s treatment of Southampton.

Redundant Lord Birkenhead spoke at the Coliseum, as did prime minister Ramsey MacDonald and Anthony Eden when he was a rising young politician.

Clara Butt, famed contralto singer performed on the stage, billiard balls clicked as Joe Davis met Claude Falkiner in exhibition matches and during the First World War it was used as an army clothes depot.

The Coliseum - Southampton

The Coliseum in Portland Terrace when it was used as a General Post Office sorting depot.

The building came into use again during the Second World War when it was utilised as an emergency telephone exchange.

The Coliseum, built by Jonas Nichols, first opened its doors in 1880 as the Victoria Skating Rink. It was the same man who built Nicholstown and the venue's big arena with its 12,000 square feet of exhibition space.

Back in 1881 customers paid sixpence (2p) for admission and another sixpence to hire a pair of “Plimton’s excellent skates.’’


The Coliseum - Southampton

An exhibition staged at Southampton’s Victoria Skating Rink soon after the building was first opened in 1880.

The Victoria was, as read in an advertisement at that time, a “fashionable place of recreation and amusement.’’ The same year the management introduced Professor Bair’s troupe of educated dogs and monkeys, 12 in number, from South America.

“The largest, smallest, prettiest and most highly trained dogs in the world, only to be seen at the Victoria Skating Rink… ‘’

Daily Echo journalist Colin Haxton was one of the last people to walk through the building. Its final days were as a Post Office parcel sorting depot until the demolition gang arrived.


Collect of Coliseum [exchange] in 1940 with Brenda Morris, front right, former GPO telephone exchange girls story

An exhibition staged at Southampton’s Victoria Skating Rink soon after the building was first opened in 1880.

In this newspaper Colin wrote: “Coliseum, the hall of memories is about to die. Wander up the wide staircases, with their ornate ironwork and stout polished handrails.

"The walls are dirty green and cream, faded like the memories.

“But the past still peeps through… the words ‘dressing room’ still showing on an oaken door. Everything looks solid and is so. It was built to last and it lasted.

“The solid floor that echoed to political stampings and dog show yappings, have borne the immense weight of parcels traffic to the four corners of the world.”

Portland Terrace in the 1960s

Portland Terrace in the 1960s.

In 1965 the old place found itself redundant and standing in the way of the new face of Southampton that had emerged from wartime bomb damage.

The Coliseum was razed to the ground to make room for the Inner Ring Road and an expansion of the Daily Echo premises.

Today, with the development of the Westquay shopping centre, the area where the Coliseum once stood has undergone dramatic change and nothing remains of the one-time popular venue.