Public History Talks

Founded in 2009, through a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund(HLF), FoSJP Public History Talks continue to thrive and are a popular Autumn event attended by an audience of 20‑70 people.

Talks take place between October and December, usually on the first Sunday of each month, between 3pm and 5pm. The venue is Shirley Parish Hall, situated on the corner of St.James’ Road and Colebrook Avenue, a short walk from the Park. Talks are free and open to both members and non‑members of FoSJP. Refreshments are also available for a small donation.

Topics relate to the local history of Shirley and in particular the area around St.James’ Park. Talks are given by a variety of speakers, local historians, University historians, and also members of FoSJP’s own history team.

Since the completion of the Shirley Heritage Project in 2015, the talks have been organised by the Shirley Local History Group.

Shirley Local History Group Autumn Talk 10th Series 2018

October – December 2018

  • Sunday 7th October Title: The Theatre of the World’ a story of Tudor Southampton – an author’s journey‘ Speaker: Dr Cheryl Butler
  • Sunday 4th November Title: ‘Snippets of Shirley Life During WW1.’ Speaker: Michaela Lawler-Levene
  • Sunday 2nd December Title: ‘Notable and Notorious Women of Southampton’ Speaker: Sandra Lochead

Talks held 3-5pm at Shirley Parish Hall, (corner of Colebrook Avenue/ St James Road, Shirley SO15 5NS.

  • Talks are free.
  • Refreshments available.
  • Wheelchair accessible.

The history group is always grateful for assistance with the baking and serving of refreshments and donations for the raffle.  Baskets for making food hampers and tinned food / bottled drink donations are gratefully accepted in November ready for the December raffle.  (Please bring to the Shirley Parish Hall Nov meeting or leave with Theresa at the Shirley Parish Office, 133 Church Street).

Thank you for all the support received these past 10 years.

Contact email: Website:

Click on the links below for more information about past talks

October – December 2017

A ninth series was organised for Autumn 2017. Topics were:

October – December 2013

A fifth series was organised for Autumn 2013. Topics were:

October – December 2011

Following the success of the first two series of talks, a third series was organised for Autumn 2011. Topics were:

October 2010 – March 2011

Following the success of the first series of talks, a second series was organised for Autumn 2010, although because of poor weather, the final talk was postponed from December to March 2011. Topics were:

October 2009 – March 2010

Following the confirmation of HLF funding for the Shirley Heritage Project, our first undertaking was to organise a series of monthly public talks. The first series, held at Shirley Parish Hall, took place between October 2009 and March 2010. The purpose of these talks was to provide background information on topics relating to the Park’s history, including:

FoSJP would like to thank all who attended the talks, the contributors, and local groups who supported us – such as Southampton City Council Arts and Leisure, Museum, and Library staff, and Hampshire County Council – with permissions to use images, book stalls, off-prints, and advice.

The talks were very well received and requests were made for further talks.

The Shirley Heritage Project

May 2009 – December 2015

The Shirley Heritage Project was funded by the same Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant that contributed towards the Restoration & Improvementproject in St.James’ Park during 2010‑2011.

During discussions with HLF and Southampton City Council (SCC), FoSJPexpressed a desire to build upon the interest in local history that we saw at the History stall at the Park100 Centenary Celebration event in 2007. The History stall was extremely popular, and many people had stories of their own to tell. FoSJP asked that a Heritage Project be included within the HLF funding – this was agreed and the Shirley Heritage Project was launched in May 2009 to:

  • allow FoSJP to organise more history-themed events in and around the Park;
  • encourage interest and provide opportunities for participation in local history;
  • collect and share local memories of the Park and its environment;
  • create a permanent history interpretation display in the renovated Park;
  • work and share information with local people, schools, colleges, and other organisations.

We used all the fascinating information that we gathered over five years to produce a book on the history of the Park and its immediate environment – the book was launched in March 2015. We’d already shared some of the stories that we’d been given in our series of public history talks held each Autumn from 2009 through 2015.

We also developed the History pages here on the website to share further information that we received and to keep everyone up to date. We plan to eventually share clips of audio and video recordings made during the project – the HLF has funded the purchase of equipment to support this.

The Shirley Heritage Project was officially completed in 2015, but its work continues, with an extended remit, under the auspices of the Shirley Local History Group.

Visit our History News page for the latest information on forthcoming history-related events and activities
Visit our Your Stories page to read some of the stories and memories that we received from local (and former local) residents.
Visit our History Past Events page to find out about past history‑related events that have been organised in and around the Park.

FoSJP History Research Group

FoSJP History Research Group – First Meeting, April 2010

The first group meeting took place on Sunday 25th April 2010 – meetings were originally held at Shirley Parish Hall but later in the ParkLife Community Room at St.James’ Park.

Subjects that were researched by the Group include:

  • The life of Andrew Barlow, a Victorian philanthropist famous locally for renovating the Barlow and Ellyett Homes on Church Street. He was also a resident of Oatland Lodge which used to be opposite the park on the corner of St.James’ Road and Winchester Road. We plan to share his story during the public talk series of Autum 2010.
  • Temperance Society activities.
  • Postcards of Shirley, particularly of the Park.
  • Nathaniel and Catherine Jefferies, local Victorian philanthropists, and their links with the Park.
  • The early Shirley Parish Church from 1836
  • Life around the Park.
  • Local architecture and its conservation.
  • George Harris, builder, farmer, brickworks and gravel pit owner.
  • Henry Cawte, JP.
  • Links with Old Shirley and Admiral Sir Charles Bullen, last surviving Captain at the Battle of Trafalgar, who died at Trafalgar House, Shirley in 1853.
  • The Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway 1881-1884 and local links.
  • The life of a child – changing times. This topic is being undertaken primarily through the Oral History Project, including play and school days.
  • Memories of Shirley School – again, through the Oral History Project.
  • The Park in World War II – its ARP history.

We’d like to thank everyone who offered help with our research to date  – the generosity of people who donated books, materials, or information was overwhelming.

The Group had its own Facebook page, kindly set up by the FoSJP webmaster. Everyone within the Group was encouraged to use this as a tool for exchanging information and ideas.

FoSJP was asked by Southampton City Council’s Conservation Team to contribute to the latest revisions of the St.James’ Road Conservation Area Document. The Group aimed to uncover information which would feed into this document and its aims.

We were particularly interested in receiving copies of deeds relating to Didcot, Newbury, and Stratton Roads around the Park, and from the houses that would have been on the proposed route of the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway, to establish whether or not the railway actually bought the land around 1881.

We’d like to thank everyone who offered help with our research to date  – the generosity of people who donated books, materials, or information was overwhelming.

After the completion of the Shirley Heritage Project in 2015, the members of the FoSJP History Research Group decided to establish the Shirley Local History Group to both continue and extend historical research beyond the immediate environs of St.James’ Park. Please visit our History News page to find out more!

St.James’ Park History Book

It was five years in the making, but was well worth the wait – the FoSJP History Team’s book “St.James’ Park – From Shirley Rec to Renovation, 1907‑2014” was published in February 2015.

The book is a colour publication full of photographs, old postcards, and fascinating information about the Park and the local area. It contains a potted history of the Park, the story of those Edwardians who strived to provide a Recreation Ground for Shirley, a 1907 photo of the original Recreation Ground opening, the story behind how FoSJPwas started, the Park’s renovation, and memories and photos of the Park from 1920 to the present day.

The book was launched on Sunday 22nd March 2015 at a special invitation afternoon tea event. A formal reception was held on Wednesday 1st April 2015 at Southampton Civic Centre to present copies of the book to the City of Southampton.

The book is available in local libraries, and can be purchased at £19.99 from Shirley Parish Office, 133 Church Street, Southampton; from the ParkLife Café in St.James’ Park; or from October Books in Portswood, Southampton. It can also be ordered from Waterstones at West Quay, Southampton, or purchased online at an RRP of £19.99 + p&p from Lulu Press.

All profits from this book will go to FoSJP to help produce more books
and to contribute towards community projects.

The Daily Echo said on Saturday 18th April 2015:

“It is quite simply one of the best local history books about Southampton…”

Other Activities

Recording Changes in the Park

In December 2009, FoSJP volunteer Margaret Osmond, supported by FoSJP committee members, recorded the last park warden, Norman Burnett, in the grounds and interior of the Park building. Norman recorded his memories of working in the Park and explained what used to be there during the 1980s.

Arthur House was also recorded talking about favourite places and the loss of his treasured bench to vandalism and deterioration. Clips from both Norman’s and Arthur’s interviews were used during the public history talks.

In anticipation of the changes that took place within the Park during the restoration and improvements project, FoSJP volunteers Helen Hazelwood and Lindsay Lee photographed the Park on a weekly basis between March 2010 and July 2011, in order to provide a record of the Park before and after its transformation. We hope to use this material creatively in the future.

FoSJP History Display

We’ve been developing a history display that can be shown at the Park and other local events. In 2010, this was taken to the Shirley Infant and Junior Schools Summer Fete in June, and to the Bourne Avenue Residents’ Street Party in July. In 2011, it was taken to the Southampton History Fair at Townhill Park House in April and the Foyes Corner Festival in May, and was present at FoSJP’s Play in the Park! event in July.

In July 2014, Madge Heath and Lindsay Ford took the history display once more to the Bourne Avenue Residents’ Street Party, along with bombing maps, an early picture of Bourne Avenue from the Peter Wardall Collection, and street directory entries for the 20th Century so that residents could trace who had lived in their houses.

In December 2015, we took the history display to the St James Road Methodist Church‘s Music & Christmas Tree Festival.

FoSJP History Presentations

In February 2012, we gave a presentation to the Shirley Women’s Institute, sharing photographs, maps, and a visual presentation of the history of St.James’ Park including people’s memories of the Park and before, during, and after photographs of the Park Building as it was transformed into a new Café.

In November 2012, at the Nursling and Rownhams History Group, we gave a talk entitled “The History and Restoration of St.James’ Park in Shirley”, which included how the Park’s history has influenced aspects of its recent programme of restoration and improvements financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

On 14th February 2013, at the Lordshill and Lordswood Historical Society, we gave a talk entitled “The History of St.James’ Park”, which traced the origins of the land that we now know as the Park, referenced through almost 1000 years of history. Since it was Valentine’s Day, a local park love story was also shared.

In April 2013, FoSJP History Research Group member Madge Heath gave a presentation to the Millbrook Local History Society on the life of Andrew Barlow of the Barlow and Ellyett Homes which are in Church Street, Shirley.

Later that month we gave a talk and a “Shirley and its Environs Then and Now” slide presentation at a new Lunch and Laughs club for senior citizens in Bassett Green Village, Southampton.

In May 2013, Madge Heath repeated her presentation on the life of Andrew Barlow of the Barlow and Ellyett Homes, this time to the Lordshill and Lordswood Historical Society.

In February 2015, following on from the Autumn 2014 series of Public History TalksMadge Heathpresented “Oatlands House – the Early Days” to the Lordshill and Lordswood Historical Society, and in May 2015 she presented “Andrew Barlow, Brewer and Benefactor” to the St.James’ Road Methodist Church Women’s Wednesday Group.

In May 2015, Michaela Lawler‑Levene was the guest speaker at the Shirley St.James Women’s Institute, where she presented the St.James’ Park History book with a slide show and talk.

Educational Workshops

In May 2013, we held an educational workshop, based on our Oral History project, at the Learn 2 Love Learning Club at the ParkLife Community Room at St.James’ Park. One of our more senior FoSJP members joined us to share his memories and photos of the Park.

Later that month we hosted another educational workshop in the ParkLife Community Room atSt.James’ Park for a group of children and toddlers.

If you’d like to invite the Shirley Local History Group to your event, please contact the team on

History Walks and Talks

In June 2010, FoSJP organised an historically-themed guided family walk, starting at St.James’ Park and walking along Lordsdale Greenway to Shirley Pond.

In July 2012, together with the Tudor Revels Project, FoSJP organised a Medicinal and Edible Plants Walkin St.James’ Park, looking at the wildflowers planted there and how they might have been used for medicine and food in times gone by.

Look out for more such Walks and Talks, where researchers share their findings and you can help keep fit and healthy at the same time!

Dramatic Performances

Plays have been written, based on the Park’s history, and performed in and around the Park. We hope that our research into the fascinating lives in and around the Park will inspire more creativity.

We’re very keen that different generations get to know each other better through this project. We particularly value the experience of our older members, and seek to provide opportunities for their contributions to be shared with younger generations.

Make Do and Mend – Craft and Sewing Classes

Starting in October 2011 and running through to July 2012, FoSJP organised a series of craft and sewing classes for all abilities, held in the ParkLife Community Room at St.James’ Park, with the aim of passing on skills and memories from older to younger generations.


The first edition of the Shirley Heritage Project Newsletter, keeping everyone informed, was sent out to FoSJP and FoSJP History Research Group members in March 2010, followed by further editions in October 2010, April 2011, April and October 2012, April and October 2013, April and October 2014, and April and October 2015.

The Tudor Revels Project, 2012

Southampton hosted several Tudor‑themed events throughout 2012 in celebration of the re‑opening of the Tudor House and Garden.

Through the Tudor Revels Project, which was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, FoSJP linked St.James’ Park to its earlier history, as during Tudor times it would have been common land – Shirley Common in fact. Shirley Common went beyond Winchester Road and bordered Southampton Common at Hill Lane.

FoSJP helped organise a Tudor Costume Workshop at the ParkLife Community Room in September 2012, to help prepare costumes for those who took part in the Tudor Procession which was part of the Tudor Revels Michaelmas Fair on the weekend of Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th September.

Click on the picture of the leaflet for information on Tudor Revels events from August to November 2012. [This is a large document and may take a while to download.]

Edwardian Photography Studio

In February 2014, the FoSJP History Research Group marked St.James’ Park‘s 1907 Edwardian origins with a “pop‑up” Edwardian Photography Studio.

Graphic from The Royal British Legion

Remembering World War I

Among the many names recorded on gravestones and plaques in St.James’ Church and graveyard are those of four men who died during World War I.

The inscriptions read:

  • BURT Frank William, Lieut of 1st Sherwood Foresters who fell at La Boiselle 5 July 1916 age 20
  • MASON Albert Ernest, Died at Lahana, Salonika 4 September 1916 age 30
  • ORPET Fred, Killed in H.M.S. Broke at Jutland 29 May 1916 age 37
  • THOMAS Cecil, Bombardier R.F.A. Killed in action 11 October 1918

Both Frank Burt and Cecil Thomas have war graves in France.

Fred Orpet is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. His brother William, who died on the S.S. Titanic, is also recorded with him on their parents’ gravestone.

Oral History Project

Spring 2009 Onwards

Following the success of the Park100 History stall, FoSJP wanted to include an Oral History project, which would involve recording local memories of interest to the Park.

During Spring 2009, under Stage 1 of HLF funding, FoSJP volunteers were trained in Oral History Recording, with expert help from Padmina Broomfield of the Arts and Heritage Services (the former Oral History Unit). Training included what equipment to use, the techniques involved in recording, and how to organise and store information.

Following FoSJP’s success in gaining Stage 2 HLF funding in October 2009, the Oral History Project was given the green light to buy equipment and start recording memories.

Some of this information will shared on the FoSJP website. Eventually, we’d like to deposit this archive with local library/archive services for future generations to listen to, view, and appreciate. Some of the material received will also be shared via other parts of the Shirley Heritage Project.

February 2014 – Oral History Workshop

Padmini Broomfield, now regional representative of the Oral History Society and formerly of the Southampton City Council Oral History Unit, gave a workshop to members of the Shirley Heritage Project on the transcription and archiving of oral history records, to help with the Oral History Project.

This workshop was funded courtesy of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

April 2014 – Oral History Tea

The FoSJP History Research Group hosted a special invitation‑only afternoon tea for Oral History Project interviewees in the ParkLife Community Room at St.James’ Park.

November 2015 – British Library Directory of UK Sound Collections

The FoSJP History Research Group‘s Oral History recordings are now registered with the British Library’sDirectory of UK Sound Collections, a collection of 3015 collections from 488 collection holders, containing 1.9 million items.

Our contribution to this directory comprises more than 100 audio files of Oral History interviews with local people with memories of Shirley including:

  • memories of St.James’ Park;
  • World War II in Shirley (including Spitfire manufacturing and ARP Warden duties);
  • Shirley High Street;
  • schools in Shirley;
  • and many other aspects of social history of the early 20th century.

The Oral History Society

FoSJP’s Shirley Heritage Project is a member of the Oral History Society. As such, the project is following Oral History Society guidelines of professional practice and undertaking training in Oral History Recording and Archiving.

Our Oral History Project was featured in the Oral History Society’s national publication “Journal of the Oral History Society” in Autumn 2009 (vol.37 no.2 pp.17-18 under “Current British Work” – South East Region – Southampton).

Michaela tells delegates about
the Art for the Park project

Oral History Society National Conference – University of Sunderland – 1st & 2nd July 2011

Our FoSJP history coordinator, Michaela Lawler‑Levene, was invited to present a paper at this prestigious conference. Michaela shared how older people’s memories and stories about St.James’ Park have been included in the art works in the Park through the Art for the Park inter‑generational project carried out jointly with the Media Workshop and students at Upper Shirley High School.

Michaela also shared testimony from Bill Smith about playing in the Park during World War II, and how the Park’s World War II links are now depicted on the windows of the new café building.

The history behind the Art in the Park project was the subject of the first presentation in our Autumn 2011 series of public history talks on Sunday 2nd October 2011.

Educational Links

Local Schools

FoSJP has developed links with local schools to help encourage pupils to understand their own local environment and heritage.

  • Shirley Infant School were donated a mangle for use in their studies on “The Victorians”.
  • FoSJP gave history lessons in St.James’ Park for Shirley Junior School Year 3 children in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010: these were enthusiastically received by both children and parents.
  • FoSJP interviewed former students of Shirley School from the 1930s, as part of the Oral History Project.
  • In June 2010, the FoSJP history display was present at Shirley Infant and Junior Schools’ Summer Fair.
  • In January 2011, FoSJP started working with pupils from Upper Shirley High School on our Art for the Park project (see above).
  • In March 2011, FoSJP gave an interactive assembly to two Year 6 classes at St.Mark’s Primary School, who used the information to write a community newsletter for distribution to houses around the school.
  • From March to June 2012, the FoSJP History Research Group helped Shirley Infant School and Shirley Junior School with their Shirley Schools Centenary 2012 project, culminating in an evening celebration and an exhibition in June 2012.
  • In May 2013, we met up again with the Shirley Schools Centenary 2012 team to capture the information recorded before and during the June 2012 exhibition, with a view to producing a celebration book.
  • In June 2013, we shared a stall with the Shirley Schools Centenary 2012 team at the Shirley Schools Fair.
  • In June 2015, we ran a stall at the Shirley Infant and Junior Schools Summer Fayre to sell copies of our book “St.James’ Park, from Shirley Rec to Renovation, 1907 – 2014”.

University of Southampton

FoSJP was nominated as an organisation to work with a group of Second Year students from the University of Southampton during 2009-2010.

The students had to work together as a group, on a subject of which they might have had little or no previous knowledge, and demonstrate that they could work well as a group, undertake research, and present their findings to their lecturers. Their work also had to have a public outcome.

Part of their research involved gathering information at their “Shirley Remembers VE Day” event, supported by FoSJP, on Saturday 8th May at Shirley Parish Hall, and some of this information was used in their public presentation “St.James’ Park during World War II”, also held at Shirley Parish Hall, on Sunday 23rd May.

University Project Group 20, pictured here with
FoSJP History Research Group members at the
Avenue Campus (formerly Taunton’s School)

The FoSJP History Research Group was also invited to the students’ internal presentation on Admiral Sir Charles Bullen and his links with Shirley and Shirley Parish Church (near St.James’ Park).

Art for the Park

Historical Interpretation in the Park through Inter-Generational Workshops

FoSJP asked the Media Workshop to help us by facilitating and running inter‑generational art‑based workshops, providing an opportunity to share research and oral histories of older people with younger generations, and resulting in a creative piece of historical interpretation artwork to be displayed in St.James’ Park. The artwork was to be sensitive both to its location in the Park, and to the Park being within the St.James’ Road Conservation Area. The design team for the Park suggested that this artwork be located on the wall of the new zipwire platform.

In January 2011, the Media Workshop met with the FoSJP History Research Group to find out about the Park’s varied and rich history. Oral history interviewees have also been sharing memories of the Park from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s; at workshops with pupils from Upper Shirley High School, the children spoke to two of these interviewees and used the information that they learned to inspire some photographic artwork.

The pupils and the artist came up with some wonderful ideas. To get the opinions of a wider group, Anna Vickers from the Media Workshop presented some examples of the artwork during the interval at the Public History Talk on Sunday 6th March 2011, which generated much interest. Anna also consulted Southampton City Council: because the Park is in a conservation area, she was advised that the designs should be subtle, rather than multi‑coloured. The accepted technique is water jet‑cut metal (3mm thick aluminium), powder coated in black.

Initial ideas were gathered and the artist’s designs, which include some of the students working on this project, were approved by a group including representatives from FoSJP and our sponsors Southampton City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Zipwire Wall Artwork – the final design

ParkLife Café Windows

This creative design for the windows of the Parklife Café in St.James’ Park is by Sarah Silverstein, an illustration student from Southampton Solent University:

Café windows design, by Sarah Silverstein

The design show the links between the park building and its World War II origins as an Air Raid Precaution (ARP) building. During this period the RAF/WAAF also operated a barrage balloon in the park to deter enemy planes. The building subsequently became the changing room for football teams, public toilets, a park staff canteen, and more recently the FoSJP Kiosk (2006‑2010).

In 2010‑2011, thanks to a Parks for People award (from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund), the building was converted to a Café and Community Room. The design challenge for the building was “to deliver something of great value to the community yet retain the integrity of our heritage” (Design Engine Architects Ltd).

The artwork based on this design was installed in the Parklife Café shortly before it opened in July 2011:

Café windows artwork in situ

FoSJP particularly wanted to give a young artist or illustrator the opportunity to work on a high profile piece of public art, and Sarah was chosen by her tutors as a student with talent, potential, and motivation. Sarah worked with FoSJP under the guidance of her supervisors, Peter Lloyd and Jonny Hannah.

Limited edition prints of Sarah’s work are available by appointment; please contact Sarah via

Click here for more information about Sarah.
Click here for Peter’s comments on Sarah’s work.

Shirley Timeline

On Monday 4th May 2015 the Right Worshipful Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Sue Blatchford, unveiled the FoSJP History Research Group‘s Shirley Timeline at a special Timeline and Music event inSt.James’ Park.

The Shirley Timeline is an interpretation panel displayed on the Park building. It depicts the history of the Park, both visually and in text, set against a backdrop of British and world history, and includes maps, photographs, old postcards, images of artefacts from museums, and photographs donated by members of the public.

There are also silhouettes on the timeline cleverly revealing changes in fashion and children’s toys – some of these silhouettes are of real Shirley people dressed in period costume; others were created by artist Anna Vickers, who took the design concept and crafted it into this visual masterpiece.

You can click on the image above to see a larger version (it might take some time to download) but there’s no substitute for visiting St.James’ Park to see the real thing!

Craft & Sewing Classes

As one of the Shirley Heritage Project‘s inter-generational projects, FoSJP organised a year’s worth of craft and sewing classes, aimed at all abilities, with a modern twist on World War II’s “Make Do and Mend” approach to home crafts.

Fees were £6 per session (£5 for concessions and FoSJP members), paid for in 6‑week blocks.

Two free places on each session were also made available to those with World War II “Make Do and Mend” experiences to share.


All sessions were held on Mondays, 1.00pm – 3.00pm, in the ParkLife Community Room at St.James’ Park.

Autumn 2011 31st October – 12th December Making Jewellery
Spring 2012 9th January – 26th March Mending & Darning Clothes
Summer 2012 16th April – 16th July Sewing Machine Skills

For more information about this course, please contact course tutor Hilary Moore on 023 8070 4441 or via

This course was part‑funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.