St.James’ Parkway – Fact or Fiction?

Was St.James’ Park almost a railway station?

Back in 1881, the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway drew up a plan for a major scheme to extend their railway from Winchester to Southampton, with extra stations at Chilworth, Shirley, and at a town centre site now occupied by West Quay.

Although this extension never happened, there has been much debate amongst local historians as to whether the site now occupied by St.James’ Park would instead have been the site of Shirley’s local railway station.

Perhaps you could have caught the train there to go shopping at West Quay!

What do the History books say?

In his memoirs, Town Engineer James Lemon writes about the public meeting that was called on 4th May 1881 at the Southampton Skating Rink, to discuss the proposals for a railway extension to Southampton. The Mayor, Mr JH Cooksey, presented a signed requisition of 2,389 signatures in favour of the railway and £25,000 in pledges. The then town of Southampton was wholly behind the expansion, and the vote was unanimously in favour of the new railway.

The line would have passed up Hill Lane and cut across to meet Winchester Road. The Shirley station could have been close to where St.James’ Park is now located. TB Sands, 1971, writes that it would have passed near St.James’ Church – though he mentions that it joins Winchester Road near the junction where Wilton Road is today (north-east of the Park on our map). Opinion on where in Shirley the station was going to be is divided – though it’s local belief that the Park was going to be a railway station.

Work did begin on the railway; Sands states that most of the work was in the Hill lane area. Bob Culley remarks on evidence of an embankment near the convent in Hill Lane, and he suggests that the area where The Dell used to be situated was going to be a goods yard. Both Culley and Sands mention a viaduct that was to be built to carry the DN&S Railway over the main road in Southampton. However, the final destination station is confusing: Culley mentions a station near the Royal Pier – we have been told near West Quay – and Sands states that the DN&S Railway just bought land from Wyndham Place near the current Central Station – suggesting that it was going to link with the London & South Western Railway at Southampton.

Southampton spent about £100,000 on preparations for the railway line, but in October 1883 the works stopped, and when James Staat Forbes became Chairman of the DN&S Railway in February 1884, his first act was to stop all works in Southampton (Sands, 1971). The scheme for the Southampton to Winchester extension was discarded, but the road names by the Park still have a link – Newbury Road and Didcot Road are named after the railway line; Stratton Road was known as Station Road up to 1903, though this is believed to be named after the Police Station that was also situated on this road.

The Truth at Last!

Thanks to Nick McCullen of Upper Shirley, we can now confirm the proposed route of the line!

Nick’s grandfather, FW (Bill) Whitehouse, formerly of 145 St.James’ Road, was born at the turn of the 20th century. His working years were spent with the railways, as a Master Coachbuilder restoring royal coaches at Eastleigh. Always interested in trains and railway history, he had researched railway history and made copies of railway maps.

Since Bill died in 1975, this map had been stored in Nick’s mother’s house; a trip to the loft by a determined Nick revealed the answer to our puzzle.

Many thanks to Nick for allowing us to reproduce this map, from around 1881, below.

Abigail Caveney (aged 9), a Year 4 pupil at Shirley Junior School, wrote about this exciting find for her school assignment (right).

Railway Puzzle Solved

A special report from budding young FoSJP reporter Abigail Caveney (age 9)

Local historians disagree
At last the mystery of whether or not a railway was to go through St.James’ Park has been solved.

In 1881, plans were designed for a railway to be built but it never happened! Local historians have disagreed about the exact location of the proposed railway from Winchester to Southampton.

The Missing Link
On Wednesday 20th May [2009], Michaela Lawler-Levene, History Coordinator of Friends of St.James’ Park, was given a map showing the proposed route. It would not have gone through St.James’ Park. It would have gone beside the Shirley Junior School playground!

Just think – pupils could have waved at the trains at playtime!

The Proposed Route of the 1881 Railway

Map of proposed DN&S Railway Extension c.1881 (thanks to Nick McCullen)

The area marked as “Nursery”, slightly to the left of centre on this map, is the site of today’s St.James’ Park.

As you can see from the map, the railway wasn’t due to pass by the Park (where the Nursery was located at that time), but behind St.James’ Church, a few houses along Bellemoor Road. The line then curves northward, roughly next to where Shirley Junior School is located, and onwards across the current site of The Range on the other side of Winchester Road.

Would your house have been built if the railway line had gone ahead? Check the map to find out!

Further Reading

You can find out more about the history of local railways in the following publications:

  • Bob Culley – Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway
  • James Lemon – Public Life in Southampton, 1866 to 1900
  • Bert Moody – Southampton in “Southampton Railways”, Atlantic Publishers, 1992
  • TB Sands – The Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway, Oakwood Press, 1971