The Echo looks back at one of the most-loved entertainment venues Southampton has ever had and explores the memories that help keep it alive - the ice rink.

In his transition from a thriving fish store owner to a visionary property developer, Charles Knott exhibited a deep affection for Southampton. His devotion to providing the town's residents with ample entertainment opportunities was unwavering.

Acquiring the Banister Court estate in the 1920s, he wasted no time in transforming the landscape.

The original house was razed to the ground, paving the way for the creation of a multifaceted stadium complex boasting an ice rink, greyhound track, and speedway.

Opened on July 18, 1931, Southampton’s first permanent ice rink welcomed eager visitors through its doors for the very first time.

Daily Echo: Ice Rink

The new Bannister Road venue offered general skating sessions, speed skating shows, ice dancing and barrel jumping.

Inaugurating the city's ice hockey era, the first official game at the rink occurred on October 13, 1931. This historic match featured the national teams of England and Germany, setting the stage for an exciting new chapter in local sports entertainment – despite Germany beating England 7:0.

Southampton Ice Hockey Club played in Division 2. Their first game was against Oxfordshire in November 3, 1931, in which they lost 7:0.

They beat Oxfordshire 5:3 during the reverse fixture later in the season.

A spark was lit by Great Britain's gold medal triumph at the 1936 Winter Olympics, setting ablaze a newfound passion for the game.

Daily Echo: Heritage. southampton Ice Rink in its heyday.

Emerging during this era were the Vikings, named in homage to the distinctive V-adorned shirts they inherited from the defunct French team, Club Francais Volants.

Their first game, a resounding 10-5 win against the London All Stars witnessed by a boisterous crowd exceeding 3,000, marked the beginning of their journey.

However, the winds of fortune shifted, leading the club towards financial woes and ultimately dissolution.

When Southampton found itself under a blanket of Luftwaffe bombs in 1940, a parachute land mine struck the ice rink directly, causing devastation to the building.

After the devastating Nazi bombing raid, the town - as it was back then - found itself deprived of an ice rink for more than a decade, creating a void in the town's recreational offerings.

Daily Echo: Ice Rink

The town’s time without an ice rink ended on March 27, 1952, when a new rink was opened.

Many members of Facebook group We grew up in Southampton wrote about their memories of the rink.

“Met my husband there. Celebrated our Golden Wedding last October,” wrote Kay Thorne.

Rach Murphy said; “I remember sneaking a bottle of my mum’s Gin in my bag and my friend and I got a bit drunk and decided it would be a great idea to go on the ice during the men's speed session.

“We both got dragged into the manager’s office and we had a lift home by a policeman.

"We were 15 and can remember us both begging the policeman to not tell our mums."

Daily Echo: Southampton Ice Rink

The Vikings ice hockey club made a triumphant return in 1952 by clinching the championship title in the Southern Intermediate League during their first season.

Their first match was against the Wembly Terriers which ended in a 3:3 draw.

A group of passionate ice skating enthusiasts united to establish the Southampton Ice Dance and Figure Skating Club, sharing a common interest in the sport.

The group were together for 70 years until it was dissolved in March 2022.

But, as with any ice rink, there was the occasional accident.

“Fabulous memories, even the one where I sat on blade and ended up in hospital,” wrote Karen Brooks, Facebook member.

Denise Chapman remembered: “Loved going there, every Sunday. One memory I had was when I fell over and broke my wrist on the ice“

Daily Echo: Dancing on the ice rink in 1964

But it was not just broken bones - there were less dramatic injuries too.

“Remember the blisters from the boots,” commented Ann Simpson.

The Rank Organisation acquired the property where the ice rink was situated in 1963.

While the majority of the land, housing the cycle speedway track and dog track was sold for residential development, the ice rink and bowling alley were retained by the organization.

Following the acquisition by the Rank Organisation, the ice rink underwent renovations, while the Top Rank dance hall was established in close proximity.

Despite efforts to improve the ice pad, it remained inadequate for hockey games, leading to the disbandment of the Vikings for the second time in 1964.

However, they regrouped and reformed once more in 1976.

During its peak, more than 300,000 individuals flocked to the frozen surface to gracefully glide and skate across the ice.

Occasionally, they would take a break for a few frames of bowling or just to listen to the music.

Daily Echo: Ice rink

“Had the happiest of times here with old school friends. We loved it,” wrote Penny Pearson on We grew up in Southampton Facebook page.

“I loved that place. I met my first boyfriend there and had our first kiss too.” replied Sue Monks.

A sharp rise in property values in the region during the 1980s spelt the end for the remaining parts of the complex.

Despite the enduring popularity of the Top Rank dance hall, along with its ice rink and bowling alley, the temptation to capitalize on the land proved too strong for the Rank Organisation, leading to its sale in 1988.

Following the sale, the existing structures were demolished to make way for residential developments.Daily Echo: Ice rink reopening by mayor. 28th Mar 1952. ? THE SOUTHERN DAILY ECHO ARCHIVES.  Ref  1037a.


Many have memories of those that worked there.

Tracy Reay wrote: “I used to work there in the 1980s, skated every day. Mum worked in the skate hire and then the shop.”

“I remember Mrs Bird who was my skating teacher and got me through my grades . Fond memories” wrote Julie Folan.

Subsequently, the Vikings franchise disbanded for the third time, marking an uncertain period for ice sports in the community.

Southampton Ice Dance and Figure Skating Club fought the closure and then campaigned for the ice rink’s return for the following 34 years.

The original owner, Charles Knott died in 1974 - more than a decade before its closure

To pay tribute to the beloved community figure, a street within the estate was dedicated and named Charles Knott Gardens.

More comments from We grew up in Southampton include:

  • Had to watch your fingers if you fell over, which I did a lot - Deb Drummond
  • Remember went only once and broke my ankle and never went again - Daniel Moulsdale
  • I don't really miss it. smashed up my wrist there in 1981 - Dudley Barnes
  • Went there almost every night in the 50’s. Loved it - Pam Rogers
  • My 2nd home in the 60s/70s - Paul Key
  • Basically lived there in the late 70s early 80s - Rick Stedman
  • I used to really like that place as a kid, made so many friends .. happy memories - Darren Mills Daz
  • The highlight of my week as a school girl in the '50s! - Viv Butler
  • I remember my mom taking my sister and me there. We struggled round in funny skating boots that we hired there. Great happy memories - Angela Muncer
  • Went Wednesday nights and Saturdays as well as supporting the Vikings till the rink closed. Had some ice hockey boots - Mike Shillabeer
  • Loved it!! Undying memories 1, speed skating. 2, space invaders, 3, not being allowed in because I had a crew cut. Due to skinheads fighting in the Top Rank... Oh the good old days - Richard Mumphry
  • Many a Saturday morning spent at the rink for an hour's lesson and then the free time up to midday - Karen Hunt
  • I never skated but went with my then boyfriend and another couple who did skate, great fun when the DJ was there on a Friday (I think ) evening. - Angie Williams
  • (70's) Hockey in the morning. Open skate about 9 am. Abba, Bee Grees, Bay City rollers, Leo Sayer on the Jukebox. Then there's the pinball. The now ladies I skated hand in hand with, whom I don't remember nor kept in touch with after I moved to the states. - Travor Gray
  • Happy. I went there in 1966 when I was 12 - Susan Godson
  • Loved it. I used to work at BAT as a teenager, and when I had a week of 6-2's I'd walk up there for the afternoon sessions. - Elaine Munday
  • It was my most favourite place to be in my teens, in the early 70s . The bowling was good too - Lyn Noice
  • Loved it went 4 times a week Monday night Wednesday night Friday night and Saturday night cleared the ice sometimes - Madelene Gladys New
  • Loved going there with my Dad, we had our own skates, really enjoyed it my dad used to watch the ice hockey too - Jillian Onslow
  • My mum working in the shop and me having lessons and falling miserably. - Peter Horning
  • I worked there all day Sunday in the skate shop - Thereasa Hunt
  • My fondest memory was being told that a new one would be built when it closed... I'm a lot older now but I'm certain it was said lol - Paul Gale