The 1920s

Football in the Park

Ken Prior found the following notes from Southampton Town Council minutes, courtesy of Southampton City Archives:

On 23rd July 1920 a letter from Shirley Workmen’s FC was received, requesting permission to continue playing on Shirley Rec [as St.James’ Park was then known]; also a letter from the Old Comrades Association for the Church Lads Brigade, applying to play on Saturday afternoons. There was also an application from appeared to be The Maypole FC for use of the ground on a Wednesday afternoon.

The Old Comrades Association, for the Church Lads Brigade, applied again in 1921. In 1924 when Shirley Workmen’s FC applied for permission again, the council response changed to “the committee cannot guarantee any club the exclusive use of the ground”. In 1925 their request was turned down with that reason.

For those who’d like to read more, there’s an article by John Guillmant about the Church Lads Brigade on page 57 of “Shirley from Domesday to D Day”. It doesn’t mention the football, but it does mention that the Church Lads Brigade became a boys club in 1935 – one of the city’s earliest youth centres – led by Colonel Ashby, who was awarded a CBE for his work on behalf of the youth of Southampton. This was also the origins of the Ashby Centre in Stratton Road, very near St.James’ Park.

Ken Prior

The 1930s

Shirley Recreation Ground

Mrs Rita Judd’s family lived in Church Street, Shirley, where the Shirley Telephone Exchange now stands. From her earliest memories she remembers that many of her weekday afternoons in her early childhood were spent in St.James’ Park – then known as Shirley Recreation Ground – which was always considered a safe and very pleasant park.

Mrs Judd says:

“I was always accompanied by my mother and never went to the Park on my own when young. In those days there was a park keeper who ensured that the Park was kept in good condition. Every evening the gates to the Park were locked at dusk and re-opened in the morning.”

As a teenager, although living elsewhere, Mrs Judd remembers playing tennis on the courts in the Park, where there was an attendant to whom you had to pay a fee to use the courts for a set time.

“I think there were four grass tennis courts in those days, but I cannot be absolutely sure. The two that are there at present and two more – closer to Church Street. I think there were some toilets in the Park at road level at the corner of Winchester Road/St.James’ Road. They were removed many years ago.”

“I also think there were also a few items of play equipment in an area down the slope at the Church Street entrance to the right. They were outside of the inner railed area of the Park which contained seating, grass and flower-beds. The large grass area at the Winchester Road end of the Park was always used for football and according to Mr. Budd, a friend of mine who is in his eighties, he remembers every other Saturday – League Football being played there by the Shirley Workingmen’s Club.”

“The Park was a favourite place for mothers and children in the 1930s, where mothers could chat and children play. It was nowhere as busy in those days as it is today. A favourite pastime of children was climbing the banks up to the railings and running down the slopes.”

Mrs Rita Judd – telephone conversation, 18th May 2007

Memories from 1930

“In the early 1930s when I lived in Church Street, I can remember going out to the milk cart with my mother where she took out a large milk jug which was filled by ladle by the milkman from the milk churn. In later years the milk was brought round in glass bottles with round cardboard tops which if washed and holes carefully cut out of two, you could place these together and wind wool round through the hole until it was completely filled up – you cut the wool round the outside edge all round and then tied wool tightly round the middle before making a cut through the cardboard then squeezing it out – you then had made a round fluffy ball.”

Mrs Rita Judd – telephone conversation, 18th May 2007

Hicks Dairy’s delivery truck from the Shirley Carnival, at the Park, c.1930
Shirley Carnival, c.1930
Left to right: Tom Hicks (Mrs Crates’s father), Fred Hicks (Mrs Crates’s uncle), Hazel aged about 6 years old in fancy dress, an unknown lady, Mrs Dorothy Hicks (Mrs Crates’s mother), an unknown lady, and Aunt Beatrice (Fred Hicks’s Wife).

Shirley Carnival, 1930s

At the FoSJP First Birthday Party event in May 2007, Mrs Hazel Crates kindly brought along some interesting photographs from about 1930 of her grandfather’s dairy delivery truck, featured in the Shirley Carnival and pictured in the Park.

“I have fond memories of my Grandfather’s Dairy, Hicks Dairy of Shirley, and my Grandmother’s Dairy Shop on Shirley High Street. My Father, Tom, worked for my Grandfather and I remember as a child going out with my father, to local farms, by horse and cart to collect the milk. My Grandmother, Sarah, would make butter and sell milky drinks. My Grandmother would always have a chocolate finger biscuit waiting for me.”

“A special memory was when my Grandfather’s Dairy Float won first prize in the Shirley Carnival. After parading in the streets of Shirley, the carnival would finish in St.James’ Park, known then as Shirley Rec.”

“My father, Tom, continued to work as a driver at the dairy even when my grandfather sold the dairy to one of either the Brown or Harrison Dairies. I always forget which one he sold it to, as they later merged to form the Brown and Harrison Dairy. My father eventually left Brown and Harrison to open a grocer’s shop in Hamble.

Mrs Hazel Crates (née Hicks), June 2007

Seven years on from Mrs Crates’s contribution above, Kerri Humby‑Gibbings sent us this photo:

“We have recently had to re‑turf our garden, and upon digging over the soil my Dad came across this milk bottle…still intact with the name Brown and Harrison’s on it. My Mum said this was the milk bottles they used to have at school – she’s in her late 60s now.

I put the name into Google and the article came up on your website about how Mrs Crates’s grandfather owned this dairy in Shirley. I happen to work in Church Street, Shirley, so I know the Park well. So I thought she might be interested in this find.”

Kerri Humby‑Gibbings, October 2014

The Dustcart Horses and Street Cleaners that cleaned the streets around the Park

“Other memories of horses in the area are the dustcart horses which were stabled in Villiers Road. The horses pulled the carts along the streets whilst the street cleaners cleaned pavements and gutters with brooms and shovels, and placed the offending dirt into the carts. Everyone loved to see these horses around the Shirley area. On carnival day these horses were groomed to a high standard with fetlocks washed. Polished horse brasses were hung on their halters and I think they wore special coloured covers on their ears. They would all walk in procession driven by their drivers. A wonderful sight. Everyone was sad to see them replaced by mechanised versions of street cleaning.”

Mrs Rita Judd, 18th May 2007

The Children’s Hospital, Shirley

“The Children’s Hospital was situated opposite St.James’ Park on the far side of Winchester Road almost opposite Wordsworth Road, where there are now flats. I can remember the annual Flag Day which raised funds for the hospital before the NHS came into existence. There was a dental department also at the hospital in the 1930s and probably beyond, where children had to go to have their teeth extracted. I can remember having to have ten teeth out in one go; something which would not be done today. My friend remembers a similar experience.”

Mrs Rita Judd, July 2007

The 1940s – Wartime Years

ARP (Air Raid Precaution) Unit in the Park

“I remember being on duty in ‘Report and Control’ during the War (WW‑II), every 8th night at Shirley Recreation Ground.”

Mrs Gwendolyn Wardley, May 2009

ARP Unit 7, Shirley

“I remember Unit 7 – Dad is in the group photograph of the ARP Unit 7.”

Editor’s Note – FoSJP has been lent an SCC Museum photograph of a similar WW‑II ARP Unit to those based in the Park. This was on display at the FoSJP History Exhibition in May 2009.

Jo Ormond (née Clarke), May 2009

Many people have mentioned remembering the barrage balloon over the Park. We wonder how often it was there and indeed how many of them?

If you have any memories of this please let us know.

Mother’s War Effort

“My mother, along with a number of other mothers of young children, (mothers with only older children had to work in factories, shops etc.) were asked to take paying guests into their homes. My mother had two young girls from 17-18 years old upwards, for four weeks at a time, who lived with the family and were provided with full board and keep for a certain payment per week, to cover the cost of their care. These girls were trained in engineering skills and then sent off to work in factories around the country. One of the girls was sent to Seward’s Garage in Winchester Road, to work on the making of parts towards the assembly of the Spitfire – work which was contracted around many sites throughout Southampton after the Supermarine Works was bombed.”

Editor’s Note – The Supermarine Works was extensively damaged by the Luftwaffe on 25th September 1940, after which the Air Ministry ordered that production be dispersed; in Southampton alone, production was later carried out over 28 locations employing about 3,000 people. See here for more information.

“She lodged with us for many years, so my mother then continued to have just one of the trainees every four weeks. It seems strange in these days of instant communication, to remember that people rarely spoke about what they did. “Careless Talk Costs Lives” was a slogan given enormous heed to. Later in the war, a large number of Irish men worked in the city in the Pirelli factory in Southampton. They were also billeted with families.”

Mrs Rita Judd, July 2007

Brownies and Girl Guides in the 1940s

“When I was a Brownie I remember having to go to Brown Owl’s house in Bellemoor Road just opposite Shirley First & Middle School (the original old building). Of course there was rationing in the war so ingredients were hard to come by. I remember I had to peel, core and slice cooking apples then stew these. I then had to wash and dry all the utensils I had used. I must have been about 8 or 9 years old at the time. During the war, all Guiding activities had to be done on Saturdays as you couldn’t go out in the evenings in case of air raids. During the Second World War, I remember attending Brownies in the hall above Harrison’s Dairy (later joined up with Browns Dairies in Hill Lane), situated in Vaudrey Street which in those days went from Church Street through to Stratton Road. The horses for the dairy were stabled in Stratton Road (which could be where Dairy Crest now have their premises in 2009).”

“Later I became a Guide and went to St.Mark’s Guide Company. I remember going to camp (not under canvas in the War) and stayed in an empty farm house two miles up a country lane north of Alton. We cooked our food outside on wood fires, but slept inside the house on the floor on a straw-filled bag of white cotton sheeting and an army blanket.”

Mrs Rita Judd, 18th May 2007

The Blitz of Southampton

On the local history trail… Michaela Lawler‑Levene writes:

“Today I conducted the most amazing interview with Don Smith, who was involved with Spitfire production in Shirley during WWII. Don gave a great account of how the Shirley Parish Hall, then a Rechabite Hall, was converted to Spitfire assembly. Of course he mentioned the barrage balloon in the Park. He also shared memories of the Blitz… It’s 70 years exactly since the worst days of bombing during the Battle of Britain for Southampton. City records show that on 23rd November 1940, 407 bombs were released on Southampton, but the worst night was 30th November and into the early morning of 1st December, when in a constant bombardment lasting 13 hours, 712 bombs were released on Southampton.”

Don Smith, 23rd November 2010

Tremona Court

Tremona Court

“As a child I lived at Tremona Court with my mother and grandparents, my father was at sea and only came home on leave.”

“The large old house and grounds on the corner of Warren Avenue and Tremona Road was for many years the Southampton Seamen’s Boys Orphanage. When they moved to Berkshire the house became the offices of a local company, Woolley and Waldren, and Nana and Granddad took up the position of caretakers. Grandad looked after the two huge furnaces in the cellars which provided central heating, and the gardens. My mother cleaned the offices and Nana provided tea and coffee. The kitchen was enormous, two sinks, two ovens, a walk in larder. Next to the kitchen were two smallish rooms for our use and upstairs we had bedrooms and a bathroom.”

“I can still remember clearly the day we moved in, I really hated it, but in time grew to love the old house with the beautiful white marble fireplace and mahogany staircase with decorative ball at the bottom of the banister which my friends and I loved to slide down. The orphan boys left behind a rocking horse, books, party masks and a wind up Father Christmas. There were also a few pieces of china with shipping crests, probably donated from the liners. All this we were given permission to ‘inherit’. Grandad grew lots of vegetables in the garden and in the cellars cultivated mushrooms. At one time we looked after a pony which grazed on the large lawn at the back of the house. I loved rolling down the banks and one day chased a ball under one of the yucca plants, ending up at the Children’s Hospital in Winchester Road with a scratched eye.”

“I used to walk past the park each day on my way to and from a little school called Denehurst, in St.James’ Road, opposite Shirley Parish Hall.”

Editor’s Note – Denehurst School was in the garages of the house just opposite Shirley Parish Hall.

“When Woolley and Waldren relocated their offices in town Tremona Court was empty for some time. My grandparents were still employed as caretakers so we had the whole house to ourselves. Eventually it became the Southampton School of Nursing Training Centre, which is when the skeleton arrived. Our flat was upstairs and It was my job to hurtle down the stairs every evening to collect the ‘Echo’. I always imagined the skeleton might come to life and chase me down the long corridor. Sometimes I had to do the journey twice if the ‘Echo’ was late or I timed it wrong.”

“Many years later I returned with my family to look at the old house. I knocked on the door, but no reply. We crept round to the back and peered through the windows. Empty. Soon afterwards the house was demolished and now there are flats and houses where Tremona Court once stood.”

Lynda Chantler (1938 – 2012), 20th June 2011

Editor’s Note (September 2012) – We were very sad to learn that Lynda passed away on 28th August 2012. We are very grateful that she contributed this part of her personal history so that it can be shared with others. Our best wishes and condolences go to her family and friends.

Ashbourne House, pre-1900

Ashbourne House, Wordsworth Road

“I was born and lived in Radway Road for the first 21 years of my life and attended Shirley Avenue School before going on to St.Anne’s. I was friendly with Wendy and Heather Bland who kept their ponies at Charlie Ranger’s yard at the back of the Old House at Home public house in the Cannon Street, Milner Street area. Later on in my teenage years my parents rented an orchard in Wilton Road, opposite Osman’s Yard, where I kept a pony of my own: I think it was the only piece of Wills’ Nursery left at that end of Wilton Road. My pony was shod by Ken Tutt (I believe he is still alive) at the Depot, where the Corporation horses were kept in superb condition by head horse man Mr Wiseman.”

“My mother was a keen member of the “Young Wives”, the amateur dramatics, and the League of Health and Beauty held in the Church Hall and sometimes the Vicarage; the Reverend Marks was vicar at the time.”

Editor’s Note – The Reverend Marks was vicar from 1948 – 1959.

“My husband’s family have strong connections with the area too. They owned Ashbourne House in Wordsworth Road and my husband and I were the third generation to be married in St.James’ Church, in 1968.”

Editor’s Note – On a 1971 map we found Ashbourne Flats on Wordsworth Road, on the section between Church Street and Stratton Road, located between the house called “Red Cedar” and the terraced houses that lead to the corner of Stratton Road. Perhaps these flats were named after Ashbourne House?

“I am so pleased that “The Rec.” has taken on a new lease of life: when I lived in the area it was just the tennis courts and an area of grass with very little life or soul to it.”

Penny Hall (née Beytagh), April 2012

The Children’s Hospital, Shirley

“Here is a piece sent from my sister Rosemary, now living in New Zealand…”

“I must have been about three or four, 1946/47, little I know, when I was put on Mother’s bike seat in my best blue and white striped ‘French Dress’ dress (came from our relatives in Canada). I had two bows in my hair and was clutching my china doll, ‘Jane Blue Eyes’, also dressed in her best! So off we went up St.James’ Road to the Children’s Hospital to have my tonsils out. Mother must have been fit! I’ve a vague idea there is a photo somewhere so it must have been an event.”

“I remember being laid on a hard high wooden platform type bed/shelf with a small raised wooden side. I suppose for easy transference to the operating theatre and there was the awful smell of ether? I recollect other children lying in the row too! Head to feet. Like a production line! Then an injection, with a big needle. Don’t remember much after that apart from waking up in a hospital bed with a terrible sore throat and being very upset as my doll had fallen on the floor and no‑one had the time to retrieve it. I must have made a real fuss as eventually the dark nurse came and grudgingly got it for me. I had never seen a coloured face before so was pretty frightened of her but not too frightened to be stroppy!”

“My throat was painful so quite traumatic for a little girl plucked out of a secure home to the unknown. Things looked up when I had jelly and ice cream. As much as I wanted! I don’t remember how long I was in! Don’t think I had visitors. Perhaps a couple of days or more. Then home for recuperation which would have been a week or so?”

“I do remember that it was a nice airy and bright hospital. Children had their tonsils out as a matter of routine in those days. The building itself was pale brick as I remember.”

Penny Hall (née Beytagh), October 2014

Judy’s Uncle’s and Father’s Football Team, Shirley Rec, 1948-49

Football in the Late 1940s

“[This] photograph was taken in 1948‑49 and shows a football team (I don’t know the name but would like to!) which was run and managed by my father and my uncle. My uncle, Bert Batten, is on the far left of the photo at the back, age 42 years old. My father, Ronald Wren, is on the far right of the photo at the back, age 32 years old.”

“The photo was taken in the left hand side of the Park, as you entered via Church Street, where all the beautiful cherry trees were – there was a row of seats backing onto the tennis courts, facing the trees.”

See Judy at the same location in 1970, below.

Judy Humby (née Wren), September 2014

The 1950s

Memories of the 1950s

“We remember during the 1950s the St.Faith’s Private School – where Wordsworth House is on Wordsworth Road. Also, just across from the Park was the Shirley Children’s Hospital – where the building just came down on Winchester Road.”

Editor’s Note – The site of the Children’s Hospital is now a housing development – June 2011.

Ron and Frances Heather, May 2009

“The Shirley Boys”

In March 2010, Lesley Stapley (née Shotter) sent us this photo of her father, Sidney Shotter (born 1928), and a group of his friends known as the “Shirley Boys”, sitting on the steps of the former Winchester Road entrance to the Park, between 1952 and 1958. Lesley’s father, believed to be the first on the left in the second row, has since passed away.

Lesley says:

“Dad used to play a lot of football in St.James’ Park (or the Rec as it would have been known), and I remember many times watching him from the steps in the picture. His family lived initially in Howard Grove and then in Lumsden Avenue until we moved to Bitterne when I was three years old. My youngest sister seems to think that my uncle Frank, Dad’s brother, is also in the picture on the right of the same row. He lived in Sir Georges Road, Shirley until his death. I wondered if anyone had any idea who the other chaps might be or any further history relating to this group?”

Lesley Stapley (née Shotter), March 2010

If you have any information for Lesley, please e-mail Michaela at Thank you!

Fond Memories of St.James’ Park

“I have many fond memories of the Park since a child in the 1950s. When I attended Shirley Junior School, during the summer term we were marched down to the Park to play rounders. Does anyone remember a Miss Bidwell who lived at the corner of Bellemoor Road? She used to invite the local Sunday School children around for a party in her gardens. The Summer fetes held at the vicarage in Church Street? The sweet shop on the corner where [Shirley] Parish Office is now? Playing tennis on one of the grass courts? I well remember the ‘Gents’ loo which was in a French style made of black wrought iron, at the corner of St.James’ Road and Winchester Road, and often used by the Sunday afternoon football players!”

Editor’s Note – The Gents toilets were just outside the Park railings.

“The children’s area of the Park declined in the late 1960s, but went through a revamp in the 1970s, and my children spent many happy hours there when visiting their grandparents.”

“I’m delighted that St.James’ Park is safe and is going to have a well-deserved facelift. It is such an asset for the people of Shirley.”

Jean Scott (née Brown), 31st March 2010

Editor’s Note – Jean now lives in Beverley, East Yorkshire; she caught up with St.James’ Park via our website.

Memories of the Children’s Hospital

“In 1954 I contracted tetanus (lockjaw) and was close to death in the Children’s Hospital, opposite the Park, for about a month. A Sister Boyce was in charge at that time, ably assisted by Nurses Middlewick and West. I had various operations: one such was a tracheotomy performed by Mr Rowntree; I still have a “Matchbox” toy he gave me for, in his words, allowing him to “cut my throat”. A Mr Shackleton was the anaesthetist who pioneered the deep sedation treatment which allowed the body to fight the infection to a greater degree.”

“It was in St.James’ Park that I learnt to walk again after the muscles in my legs had deteriorated due to the feet being flat whilst unconscious for so long. Bittersweet memories indeed. Every time I pass I think of those days and the wonderful people involved in my care. The beds in the hospital still bore the names of the sponsor in pre‑NHS days, one such being The Atherley Laundry.

Stephen Westwood, February 2014

The 1960s

Memories from the Midlands

Joan Cook, who now lives in Nottingham, grew up near St.James’ Park in the 1960s; she writes:

Joan and her brother on the balcony
of the flat above the bank, 1963

“We lived in the flat above the National Provincial Bank on the corner of Romsey Road and Anglesea Road. There was a small yard at street level with a bike rack, and metal stairs up to the balcony where the front door was. I don’t know how Mum managed to get the pram up the stairs.”

Joan in the Park, c.1963

“The park was the nearest open space, and was also half way between home and school – Shirley Infants – so we spent a lot of time there when I was little. I loved running around the rough track worn into the embankments around the sides of the park.”

Joan Cook, 8th July 2011

Editor’s Note – Our Heritage Coordinator was invited to a conference of the Oral History Society at the University of Sunderland to share how people’s memories have been integrated into the new designs in the park, and whilst there met Joan.

Joan followed up these two photographs with two more of her and her brother in the Park.

Joan and her brother on the seesaw, 1964
Joan and her brother on the swings, 1964

“I think you’ll be excited about these pictures that my Dad has fished out, taken by my Mum, we think probably in 1964.”

“I wasn’t very clear about the seesaw, and this sort of explains why. It’s a wooden boat type of thing, with the middle portion that could be sat inside, a raised seat at each end, running boards all along each side, and a wooden crossboard with studs on in the middle. You can see quite a bit of detail on one photo, and see the seesaw in the background between the swings and the church on the other photo. I don’t remember seeing a similar seesaw anywhere else.”

“The seesaw photo also shows details of the sliding covers on the brick hut windows, and a wooden hut at or on the north side of the brick building. Dad thinks that the wooden hut was where you paid for tennis court hire.”

Joan Cook, 28th August 2011

The 1970s

The Lifeline for Mums

“I moved to Shirley Towers shortly before 1966. My family and I moved to Howard’s Grove until a couple of years ago (about 2005) when I moved to an elderly person’s flat in Lordshill. The Park hasn’t changed much. I used to take my two children there as youngsters. My daughter was born in 1966 and my son in 1972. They loved it. We’d have been lost without the Park – most mums take their children there after school for a run around, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Even my two grandsons enjoyed it when they were tiny. They still love it. My 13-year old grandson loves the football and the 7-year old the swings. It was a good idea to open a Kiosk. If they change the Park, they should think of the little toddlers, whose parents take them up there when the other kiddies are at school. Otherwise they’ve got nothing. What else have we got in Shirley as a lifeline for mums? They need the Park and they need the toilets.”

Valerie Minchington, June 2007

“I also remember watching them build Wordsworth Infant School from the house in Howard’s Grove.”

Valerie Minchington, September 2009

The Children’s Hospital, Shirley, in the 1960s & 1970s

“I remember the Children’s Hospital in Shirley which used to be opposite St.James’ Park on Winchester Road. My mother, who had eight children, worked there in the evenings. We used to get taken to the Children’s Hospital as children if we had an accident or emergency or were referred by our GP. As a child, my sister Teresa caught meningitis and was taken to the Children’s Hospital to be treated. I remember how upset we were and how worried and anxious we were for her safe return. We missed her very much. We weren’t allowed to go in and visit her and I remember standing at the bus stop opposite, waving to Teresa, who was waving from the Hospital window.”

Editor’s Note – Teresa was waving from the balcony of the Children’s ward – a photograph of this is held by SCC Museum Services.

“In those days children were not given antibiotics and medication intravenously and my sister had to have medication through regular injections. There was a wonderful nurse there called Rosie, who had emigrated from Trinidad. My sister wouldn’t let anyone else give her the injections. She was so dedicated to the care of the children that Rosie even came in on her days off to administer the medicine. Without a doubt, Rosie saved my sister’s life.”

“Rosie and the other staff of the Children’s Hospital, including my mother, were transferred to the East Wing of the new Southampton General Hospital, presumably in 1974. As an adult I became a paediatric nurse and when I worked at the Southampton General Hospital, I had the absolute honour of working with Rosie who as far as I am aware still works on G ward till this day.”

Editor’s Note – The Children’s Hospital was indeed transferred to Southampton General Hospital’s G Level East Wing in 1974. See here for more information on the history of the Children’s Hospital.

Cathy Barraclough (née O’Neill), June 2007

The Children’s Hospital, Shirley 1970s

“When I worked at Wordsworth First School in the early 1970s I used to take pupils who had suspected concussion, or various serious injuries, straight up to the Children’s Hospital where the staff would check and treat the children. Being a small hospital they did not find it as intimidating as when later the hospital closed and we then had to travel to Southampton General Hospital.”

Mrs Rita Judd, July 2007

“My sister Rosemary, now living in New Zealand, remembers well having her tonsils taken out at the Children’s Hospital and being looked after by the nurse from Trinidad who had very little patience with her! My son Andrew was the last child to be admitted to the hospital before it moved up to Level G at Southampton General Hospital.”

Penny Hall (née Beytagh), April 2012

St.George’s Day parade – Church Street, early 1970s

Brownies and Girl Guides in the 1970s

“Over the years I became a Brownie Guider and later a Guide Guider.”

“I enclose a photo taken by my late husband of a St.George’s Day Parade in Church Street in the early 1970s. The service had taken place in St.James’ Church and the parade had passed the Park and continued towards Shirley High Street.”

Mrs Rita Judd, 18th May 2007

One of our other contributors has spotted her father in Mrs Judd’s photo above!

“My late father is second from the left in this photo, standing looking on, with his beret on at an angle. He was a Venture Scout leader.”

Penny Hall, April 2012

Trees around the Park

The trees on Winchester Road used to be within the Park, but when the road was widened from a two-lane to a three-lane highway (some time in the 1970s we believe), the boundary of the Park had to be moved back. Thanks to a campaign by local residents, the trees were saved from destruction, although they’re now outside the Park itself. It seems that there have also been other such campaigns – for example, one to save an evergreen oak tree.

Mr and Mrs Hobbs, 5th July 2008

Peter Slack, Ivy Doreen Wren, Stephen Slack, Judy Wren – June 1970

An Afternoon’s Entertainment at the Park

This photo was taken at the same location as that of Judy’s uncle’s and father’s football team above, on Sunday 27th June 1970.

“It shows Peter Slack, Ivy Doreen Wren, Stephen Slack and Judy Wren, i.e. me!”

“I was thirteen at the time, and had been living in Shirley Towers for two years – Shirley Rec was very popular and we’d visited it many times from when I was small.”

“As a child there were certain things you had to do in the Park – enter the Park via the Church Street entrance, go down the slope, have a go on the swings, etc. Go past the now Café, which was then only toilets, with the Park Keeper’s office on the right‑hand side (to play tennis you had to go and book a time and court). Then climb halfway up the embankment where there was a little track and follow it all the way along to the far end, looking down at the tennis courts and empty half of the Park on the way round, all the way round back to the Church Street entrance and down into the most beautiful part of the Park – the area on the left hand side as you entered via Church Street where every year there was a small avenue of glorious cherry trees and I think roses in the beds. Another play on the swings, etc, and that was an afternoon well spent!”

Judy Humby (née Wren), September 2014

The 1980s

Rain or Shine in the Park

“In the 1970s and 1980s my son Paul had excessive energy. Rain or shine I used to take him to the Park every evening before he went to bed. I would count him round 7 times, to run round the Park. Then I would bring him home to sleep all night! The Park Keeper was permanent then.”

Mrs Wendy Hobbs, May 2009

Photograph donated by Mrs Irene (Rene) Johnson

Mrs Johnson is pictured with her grandmother and her siblings after they won a prize for their miniature car in the Shirley Carnival, c.1930.

Dangerous Park Railings!

You may have noticed that the railings around the Park have had their spear-like ends sawn off. We have a photo from the 1930s (kindly donated by Mrs I Johnson) that shows very pointed railings. A lady once told us that a boy had been killed whilst climbing the railings at the Winchester Road end of the Park, and this was why they were sawn off.

However, at FoSJP’s Tee in the Park! event in July 2008, we were told that the boy didn’t die, but survived – apparently he was a boy from Bellemoor School at the time of the accident. People were guessing that this happened around about 1986, but if you know any better, or if you happen to know the boy in question, we’d love to hear about it!

Shirley resident Grace Wathen tells us:

“My family and myself moved here from South Wales in February 1980 and for approximately the first three years that we lived here I played in a brass band – I think it was Solent Brass but I am not sure. One Saturday I was given a lift home from an event where the Band had been playing by a gentleman who took me home (I live in Stratton Road in one of the old houses). As we drove along Wordsworth Road there was a boy sat on the pavement by the park crying. At the next band practice evening the same gentleman picked me up on Winchester Road and he told me the lad had still been in the same place when he went back along Wordsworth Road and he either took him home, to the hospital or called an ambulance. It is so long ago that I cannot remember exactly what he said. I do not think it was as late as 1986 since by then I had had to stop playing in the band for medical and family reasons as having two young sons who played football I had busy weekends and evenings.”

Grace Wathen, June 2009

Plane tree down in Wordsworth Road, October 1987
(Ray Hancock)

The Great Storm of 1987

The Great Storm of 1987, during the night of 15th and 16th October, was the worst storm to hit England since the Great Storm of 1703. Ray Hancock tells us:

“At your presentation last Sunday [7th March 2010], there was a reference to the severe storm that occurred in the early hours of Friday 16th October 1987. I had previously booked that Friday off, and I remember phoning work to ask if they needed me to go in but they said what had happened had happened and that nothing could be done immediately. Anyhow, on the Sunday when it was a bit quieter, I cycled around town taking photos of the damage. My itinerary took me past Shirley Rec, up Bellemoor Road , through the Common to Cemetery Road, then to Hill Lane, down to Town Quay, up through the Central Parks, the Avenue, by which time I had run out of film. Rather stupidly, I had not taken any money with me, and therefore had to call it a day. By the following weekend, much of the damaged had been partially cleared up.”

“I have enclosed a copy of the first photo I took which was of a fallen plane tree at the Church Street end of Wordsworth Road. You can still see a slight depression in the top of the bank and just to the right (east) of this is a younger replacement tree.”

Ray Hancock, March 2010

The 2010s

Carl at work in the ParkLife Café

Well Done Carl…!

On Saturday 15th September 2012, Carl Harvey worked his last shift at the ParkLife Café before moving onto a new job at the Olive Tree Restaurant in Southampton. Carl’s story is a real success for the restoration & improvement project, and stands for everything we have been trying to achieve.

Carl, 21, is father of Mia Louise, aged 19 months, and partner to Holly. Although originally from Shirley, the family were offered accommodation near Bursledon, which meant that Carl has been balancing the job, new parenthood, and lots of travel by public transport over the past two years.

Carl shares a little of his story…

“I came to the park from Job Seekers and started first working with the construction company, Graham Moyse, who were doing up the park. I was taken on as a labourer and had to do the lifting and general odd jobs. When I first came to the park it was a construction site: open ground, lots of holes, and some foundations had been laid. I enjoyed working with the builders: it was good experience, but I was worried about being laid off if I put a foot wrong: builders can let people go and I really needed the job. I had been so down before I got the job in the park and I really wanted to keep it.”

“After the building project finished, everyone seemed pleased with my work and I was managed to get a job in the Café. I was over the moon, very happy. The best bits of working here have been the lovely staff, the lovely community, and all the experience I’ve gained.”

“Now I’m going to work at the Olive Tree Restaurant and I’ll be preparing starters and desserts in an established restaurant. I’ve already worked a couple of shifts and I really like it. I’ve been taught to cook since I was the age of 12: I’d always wanted to do it, but I didn’t think it would actually happen to me.”

“I would really like to say thank you to everyone for this opportunity and I’ll be available for staff socials!”

Carl Harvey, aged 21, 15th September 2012

If you’re a customer of the Café and have a message of support which might help Carl with job hunting in the future, we’ll ensure that it gets passed on.

Your Stories about the Park

Here are some of the stories down the years about St.James’ Park that you’ve shared with us, from the 1920s onwards.

1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 2010s

If you have any memories or pictures relating to the Park, and you’d like to share them with us, please contact us by letter, telephone, or email at, for the attention of Michaela Lawler-Levene, our FoSJP History Coordinator. We’d love to hear from you!