Throughout its history, this location has witnessed the final moments of criminals, the gathering of soldiers before battle, the fierce roars of lions, the uproar of protests, and the ground trembling beneath the powerful strides of galloping horses.

Through the passage of time, Southampton Common has evolved into a serene sanctuary where tranquillity, leisure, recreation, and merriment intertwine.

The Southern Daily Echo looks at five facts you may find shocking about Southampton Common. 

Did you know about them all?

1) Public Hangings

For some time the town’s gallows were situated on the common, close to Burgess Road. During their existence, six people were put to death with the last public hanging taking place on July 27, 1785.

The condemned criminal was former servant Soane William Kerby Shawyer who was executed for stealing a silver plate from the home of his previous mistress.

2) Racecourse


A racecourse was built in 1822 and annual events took place there over two days. These included bare-knuckle boxing matches which were held in front on the stands.

By 1848 the racecourse had been shut down and the assets sold, but in 1859 the racecourse was back.

This second stint lasted until 1882 after a campaign was waged against the events which had slowly become a hive of crime and depravity.

3) Military Camps


The land was taken over by the military during the First World War and used as an army camp for soldiers waiting to embark.

The Common was used by the military once again during the Second World War, with the tin huts used after the conflict by residents who had lost their homes during bombing raids on the city.

4) Fascist Rally


Sir Oswald Mosley, founder of the British Union of Fascists, attracted a crowd of more than 10,000 people to the Common in 1937 - although not all of them were there in support.

The anti-Jewish and anti-Communist Mosley was ushered up a ladder to stand on a blue van to speak to the crowd through a loudspeaker, ignoring the constant boos and catcalls that were constantly called

Objects were thrown at him and one man attempted to climb the ladder before police reinforcements arrived to form a cordon around him.

For a short while he seemed trapped, but the way was cleared and he was led to The Avenue where he was placed in an empty tram for his own safety.

Within seconds, the front window was smashed and the tram was immediately driven away, taking him to Holy Rood Church before he was taken to the South Western Hotel for refuge.

5) Southampton Zoological Pets Garden

Ben the chimpanzee hands over the keys to mayor, walter Breenaway at the opening of Southampton Zoo. March 1961.Ben the chimpanzee hands over the keys to mayor, Walter Breenaway at the opening of Southampton Zoo. March 1961.

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

The gates to the new zoo were officially unlocked for the first time by the then-mayor, councillor Walter Greenway.

The mayor was handed the key by Ben, a four-and-a-half-year-old chimpanzee who went on to become a family favourite at the park.

Dogged by controversy as growing animal rights movement and local pressure groups campaigned for the attraction's closure, the zoo closed in 1985.