Dating back many centuries, Shirley, Southampton has a rich and intriguing history that spans from its early days as tranquil countryside to its current lively embodiment as a thriving suburban hub.

The name "Shirley" itself is derived from Old English and translates to "a clearing in a wood", reflecting its early character.

Evidence suggests settlements existed in the Shirley area as far back as the Saxon period, with a mill and village recorded in the Domesday Book.

Daily Echo: Shirley, Southampton in old postcards.

The entry offers a snapshot of the settlement in 1086, just after the Norman conquest.

The Book recorded 12 households in Shirley, indicating a small but established community but doesn’t explicitly mention specific landholdings or resources associated with Shirley.

Daily Echo: Shirley, Southampton in old postcards.

Later historical accounts mention that the manor of "Sirelei2 was acquired by Nicholas of Shyrle and was probably centred around the mill powered by the Hollybrook and Tanners Brook streams. It was located at the junction with the modern Redbridge Hill, Romsey Road and Winchester Road.

Nicholas was involved in a dispute with the Southampton Burgesses because he claimed the Common was part of his manor and he held the grazing rights. This was eventually settled by Nicholas receiving payment of 10 silver marks for relinquishing his claim on the Common, giving the town the right of pasturage for all time.

Daily Echo: Shirley, Southampton in old postcards.

Throughout the centuries, Shirley Manor exchanged ownership numerous times.

Records from the late 15th century paint a picture of prosperity, where the manor houses of Shirley were graced with opulence. Deliveries of exquisite French wine, succulent figs, luscious raisins, and exotic almonds adorned were made regularly.

Daily Echo: Shirley, Southampton in old postcards.

The lords of the manor from this period were the influential Whitehead family who held the position until the 18th century. Withedwood Avenue, named after this prominent family, stands as a testament to their legacy.

In 1895, the inclusion of Shirley in the County Burough of Southampton sparked a rapid transformation of the previously untouched landscapes.

Daily Echo: Shirley in old postcards

However, one small open space that exists to this day is the sunken and enclosed area of Shirley Recreation Ground - or St James’ Park as it’s known today.

The park was a worked-out gravel pit opposite St James’ Church, owned by George Harris of Whithedwood Farm.

Daily Echo: Shirley Recreation Ground

Its six acres were purchased for £1,000 in 1907 by Southampton Corporation.

Although the pictures and postcards featured in this article were taken long after the times mentioned, they provide us with an intriguing look into Shirley's long past.