Shirley Heritage Project – Autumn 2013 Public History Talk #1
“Images of Shirley from Old Picture Postcards”
Speaker: Peter Wardall
Peter Wardall, a prolific postcard collector, shared over 100 Victorian and Edwardian images of Shirley and their modern corresponding photographs with a 40‑strong audience: a truly “Then and Now”‘ experience and a real insight into the social changes of Shirley. Some 3D effects made the audience feel as though they were walking down Church Street in the early 1900s, among boys in caps and girls in white pinafores over their dresses.
One of the most visible changes was the differences in Shirley High Street and Shirley Road shops, especially the types of businesses: originally independent traders with very smart, beautifully presented shop windows, with awnings to protect their produce from the midday sun. Peter featured images of tea merchants, biscuit shops, family bakers, butchers, and shoes shops, and the audience reminisced about fish shops, grocery shops, and many more well‑loved shops including a bootmakers called “Jesus Strong’s”!
In contrast, the view expressed was that today’s shops seemed to have a higher proportion of charity shops, bookmakers, and fast food restaurants, although in 2013 there are some changes to this trend, with new coffee shops beginning to open. The changes in transport from trams, bicycles, and pedestrians to many cars and vans was very evident.
Most noticeable by their absence were the trees that lined avenues such as Cecil Avenue, and the rows of smart wrought iron garden fencing that lined many of Shirley’s streets, including the wall around St.James’ Church, which were needed for arms during World War II and were forcibly removed. Don Smith clearly remembers them coming round and cutting all the fencing off: there was no choice in the matter.
Mr AGK Leonard kindly donated two of his books on local postcards to the FoSJP History Research Group:
- “Southampton in Old Picture Postcards” (Leonard AGK, 1992, Zaltbommel)
- “Images of England, Southampton The Third Selection” (Leonard AGK, 2006, Tempus)