Welcome to part one of the Daily Echo’s look back into what we were doing in Southampton in the 1980s and the venues we all loved to visit.


1. We took to the ice 

 

For much of the 1980’s, Sotonians, skated, glided, slipped, fell and generally had fun on the ice at Southampton’s ice rink.

Built next to Banister Stadium, The Ice Rink first opened its doors to the public in 1931.

The venue, which could hold 3,000 spectators, burnt down in 1940 following a Luftwaffe air raid on the town.

Daily Echo: Ice rink

The first hockey match to take place there was between Southampton Saints and Bournemouth.

Charles Knott, the owner of the adjacent stadium promised to build a new ice rink and in 1952 the new Sportsdrome opened.

Knott sold to the Rank Organisation, who initially wanted to turn the whole site into housing but he refused to do business on those terms.

As a result, Rank agreed to keep the ice rink along with the bowling alley.

Mecca later owned the site, and they closed the venue in 1988, shortly after a refurbishment mostly carried out by members of the local community.

The site is now housing.


2. We partied at Top Rank

 

Ask any Southampton resident over a certain age to name a nightclub from the city’s past and the likelihood is they’ll name Top Rank

The building that once stood in Banister Park, on the site of the Stadium, was home to a revolving stage that hosted many famous acts.

In the mid-1960s, the Top Rank opened its doors for the first time, and Southampton had never seen anything like it before. More than 200 guests flocked to the suite on most nights of the week.

Daily Echo: The crowds find it hard to stand let alone dance at the Top Rank Roller Disco. This roller disco was the first of its kind at Top Rank but became a regular fixture with crowds of people enjoying it on a regular basis. 21st July 1980. THE SOUTHERN DAILY

Known as The Mayfair towards the end of its life, the venue introduced an entirely new concept for the city with a nightclub, dance hall and disco all under one roof.

Overlooking the huge dance floor was a first-floor balcony with a bar and tables and chairs that ran around three sides of the suite.

Top Rank was best known for pop groups, discos and even roller discos. However, it was also used for dinner dances by local clubs, including the Southampton Press Ball with cabaret acts such as Jimmy Tarbuck, Ted Ray, and The Brothers Lee and Roy Castle.


3. We gave coins to birds

 

The Aviary, once in Andrews Park, was a prominent landmark of Southampton - one that couldn’t be ignored due to the incessant squawking.

Amid the cawing, some of the birds would talk, and one would even take coins from children through the fence.

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The coins were later collected by the keepers and given to charity.

Southampton’s Bird Aviary was originally near Upper Prospect Place but was located in the north-west corner of the park, near Above Bar Street, from 1934.

The aviary, which was home to 90 different birds, was pulled down in 1992.


4. We watched chimps smoke

 

Many of us loved Southampton Zoo - until we began to realise the living conditions for the animals were nothing short of cruel.

In the 1980s it wasn’t strange to have had the serenity of your relaxing picnic on Southampton Common rudely shattered by the booming roar of a lion or the trumpeting from an elephant.

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Southampton Zoological Pets Garden opened in March 1961 on one-and-a-quarter acres of Southampton Common.

The cost of entrance was one shilling and a ticket granted access to see a variety of animals including tigers, snakes, brown bears, zebra, monkeys, penguins, camels, bats, a llama and a kangaroo.

Later came Happy the giraffe, who became the proud mother of baby Edna in 1962. Then arrived Albert the 400lb alligator who sailed to Southampton on board the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth from Bronx Zoo in New York.

Next came Conrad the condor followed by Flipper, Dipper and Dixie, three young Californian sea lions who made their home in a round pond in the centre of the complex.

Daily Echo: Southampton Zoo

Many will remember Ben the Chimp, followed by James. They would take cigarettes off the public before smoking them themselves - something that wouldn’t be tolerated or encouraged these days.

Proprietor of the zoo was Jimmy Chipperfield, founder of Longleat Safari Park and part of the Chipperfield Circus family.

The zoo continued until 1985, but towards the end was dogged by controversy as the growing animal rights movement and local pressure groups campaigned for the attraction’s closure.

Actresses Joanna Lumley and Virginia McKenna even protested in Southampton, both condemning the cramped conditions with the latter branding them as “so poor one’s heart sinks”.


5. We drank from fountains

 

Many of us will remember drinking out of those strange-looking drinking fountains dotted all around the city.

A large concentration of them existed in Southampton Precinct and Southampton Sports Centre.

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Youngsters could often be seen naively clamping their mouths directly over the spout, which raises many questions about the cleanliness of the contraptions.

Still, they were a great way to whet your whistle on a hot day outdoors.


6. We swam, dived and slid at Centre 2000

 

For the majority of the 1980s, it was Southampton Central Swimming Baths and we all loved it. But when it changed to Centre 2000 and a water slide was introduced, we loved it even more.

The swimming baths were actually enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of swimmers for more than half a decade.

The £500,000 Southampton Central Baths was opened on March 24, 1962, when more than 1,000 keen swimmers and guests watched then-mayor, Alderman Gladys Barker, cut the tape.

Daily Echo: Centre 2000 swimming baths in Southampton..

The biggest wow factor was a feature that no other pool in the country offered at the time - a view of the the swimmers from under the surface of the water.

The spectacle was possible due to seven 1½ inch glass windows, each able to withstand a pressure of 5,000lb, giving those in the entrance hall an aquarium effect.

Whilst queueing to get in, eager swimmers could see the fun they were about to have as they watched people frolicking gleefully in the waters of the Olympic sized pool.

The pool was larger than that of the previous central baths, and one of only four in the country big enough to host swimming and games up to international standard.

It was hoped this would be a major attraction for both swimmers and event organisers.

By 1987, the Southampton Central Baths were losing money, so underwent a major revamp and rebranding - Centre 2000 was born.

With the refurbishment came the installation of a £½ million water slide, an investment which was hoped would pull in extra swimmers and would justify an admissions price hike.

Daily Echo: Centre 2000 swimming baths in Southampton..

Sure enough, attendance doubled and figures were up 75 per cent by the end of the year.

In June 1999 a new £10 million swimming and diving complex was opened to the public with a laser and diving show spectacular.

The new centre was called The Quays - The Eddie Read Swimming and Diving Complex, and consisted of a fun pool, a 25-metre, eight-lane swimming pool, a diving tank, health centre and a fitness suite.

In June 1999 a new £10 million swimming and diving complex was opened called The Quays - The Eddie Read Swimming and Diving Complex.


7. We gorged ourselves on pick-and-mix

 

You don’t get pick-and-mix sweets as we had in the 1980s - you just don’t.

Maybe it’s because the sweets have been made slightly healthier over the years or because they’re not as readily available loose as they once were.

Every local store had large sections dedicated to the sugary pieces of perfection with paper bags hanging up and scoops or tongs to grab them with.

Daily Echo: Woolworth 1987  1308 Woolies.

And then there was Woolworths.

Woolworths was always full of loose pick-and-mix, and they had toys too. It was every child’s idea of paradise.


  • More things we did in the 1980s next week
  • What did you enjoy doing in the 1980s? Let us know below.

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