Southampton’s suburbs contain many fascinating and important historic buildings and stories and none more so than Swaythling.

Reading recently about Charles Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle, I was surprised to discover that he met Juan Manuel de Rosas who was later to establish a totalitarian regime in Argentina.

At the time of their meeting, Rosas was a wealthy landowner renowned for his appalling treatment of the indigenous people.

Rosas was eventually forced to flee Argentina in 1852 after he was defeated in battle by Justo Josede Urquiza, who was a supporter of constitutional government.

Rosas was welcomed to Britain with a 21 gun salute when he arrived at Plymouth in 1852 and granted asylum as a reward for his support of British trade in South America.

He set up home in Southampton and became a tenant farmer renting Burgess Street Farm at Swaythling where he employed a housekeeper and labourers who were well paid.

Burgess Street near the Farm where Rosaas lived

Burgess Street near the Farm where Rosaas lived

This once very powerful man adjusted well to his new lifestyle and said: “I now consider myself happy on this farm, living in modest circumstances as you see, earning a living the hard way by the sweat of my brow”

He clearly did not feel totally safe in Britain as he carried a gun with him at all times.

However, it wasn’t an assassin that killed him but pneumonia which he is said to have caught after a walk on a cold day.

Swaythling Methodist Hall now a Gurdwara

Swaythling Methodist Hall now a Gurdwara

Rosas died on March 14, 1877 and was subsequently buried in Southampton Old Cemetery.

In 1988, after the Falklands War, Argentina’s President decided that the repatriation of the body of Rosas would be an opportunity to unite the country. His body was body was exhumed and repatriated to Argentina in 1989.

On the opposite side of Burgess Road, is the grade II listed former Methodist church designed by Herbert Collins.

Juan Manuel de Rosas

Juan Manuel de Rosas

In 1928 Collins’ father gave the land for this and the building costs were also met by Collins’ father and Joseph Rank of flour mill fame.

Herbert Collins was the architect and he constructed an octagonal building in his favoured Neo-Georgian style to accommodate 1,000 worshippers with additional spacious meeting rooms behind the church.

The Mayoress of Southampton, Mrs. Wooley, opened the Hall on October, 5, 1932 and in 1997 the church was grade II listed by Historic England.

Church of St St Alban Swaythling

Church of St Alban Swaythling

The building was recently sold but will continue its religious function as a Sikh Gurdwara.

Serving the Parish of Swaythling is the attractive and interesting, also Grade II listed, Church of St Alban. This is one of the earliest churches designed by the noted architect Cachemaille-Day and consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester in June 1933.

Cachemaille-Day was one of the most important English Architects of his time and became known for his churches which were amongst the most innovative having a noble simplicity which reflected the functional needs of worship.

The Fairy Village

The Fairy Village

The church is cruciform in shape built in the late Gothic style with a central tower topped with crenellations. A shortage of funds meant that the west end of the church was not completed until 1980.

In the grounds of the church is a memorial to those men from Swaythling who lost their lives in the First World War.

On a lighter note at the bottom of Burgess Road in one of the front gardens is what is known locally as “The Fairy Village”. This was created during the Second World War by Mr Harold Butler who lived in Honeysuckle Road.

As a boy the father of See Southampton guide Steve Roberts lived across the road from Mr Butler and he remembers watching Mr. Butler pouring the concrete into moulds and fitting mirrors on the little buildings to reflect the light. Mr. Butler moved to Burgess Road in the 1950s and took the Fairy Village with him erecting it in the front garden of his new home. This delightful construction is fondly remembered by generations of locals and visitors and still brings pleasure to small children today.

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Godfrey Collyer is a tour guide with .