Shirley Heritage Project – Public Talk #5


Public History Talks, October 2009 – March 2010

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Much to discuss over tea and cake in the interval!


Thank you to everybody who supported this series of public talks. Although it’s now finished, we hope to be able to arrange a further series of talks, starting in Autumn 2010.

This series was very well attended, with between 37 and 72 people at each session (average 52). We received very positive feedback from members of the audience at all the sessions, and at the final session 40 people completed a feedback questionnaire.


You can see the feedback results at the end of this page.

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5. “An Historical Snapshot of Shirley Recreation Ground / St.James’ Park through the Life of a Park Bench”

Speaker: Michaela Lawler-Levene (FoSJP History Coordinator)

Michaela drew together the threads of the previous talks and showed how they linked to the fascinating early history of the land which is now the Park.

Michaela’s talk was split into two halves: the pre-Park history and the subsequent formation of the Park, and a snapshot into the life of the Park through the story and images of a park bench.

This talk was dedicated to Mr Arthur House, aged 90 on 1st March 2010, and who had shared his personal story. Arthur had arranged his first date with Winnie Payne, aged 15, on a bench in Shirley Recreation Ground. The couple went on to marry in St.James’ Church in 1940. During World War II, Arthur, a Southampton FC player, was called away into the Navy, leaving Winnie and her young son behind. They would often use the Recreation Ground and think of Arthur whilst he was away at sea. On retirement the couple followed their son out to Canada, until the death of both his son and his wife, in 2006, brought Arthur back to Southampton to reunite with family. The bench became symbolic of Winnie’s and Arthur’s life together and he would pass by remembering that first date. This all changed when one day the bench had been vandalized and disappeared.

This was a moving presentation which highlighted the depth of personal attachment associated with local parks and special places of remembrance. Michaela also used video footage of the past Park Warden, Norman Burnett, and young FoSJP members, Abigail and Byron, to share past Park memories and future hopes for the Park.

 Sunday 7th March 2010


Your Feedback

Thank you to everyone who completed a feedback form at the final session. We thought you might be interested in the results, which have encouraged us to organise another series, starting in Autumn 2010.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2719″ img_size=”” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]

I enjoyed the series of talks:

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I learnt something new:

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I would come along to future free talks…

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…even if there were a small charge:

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I enjoyed the displays:

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The refreshments made a difference:

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I have done something new as a result of these talks:

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I feel that learning about the history of my local area is important:

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I am interested in joining FoSJP’s research activities:

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These results include feedback from additional forms returned after the Shirley Heritage Project newsletter of March 2010 went to press.


Additional comments and suggestions for future topics:

  • If talks are free anyone can come. A charge, however small, will exclude people on a low or fixed income. These talks must be inclusive: we are one community.
  • Thanks – had a lovely time.
  • Although I’m not from the Shirley area, I will make a point of visiting the Park. Thank you for an interesting talk.
  • I would be interested to hear about local architecture and building styles in the area.
  • It’s very important for younger people to appreciate what has come before them.
  • A talk for children about Shirley’s schools (from a junior FoSJP member).
  • Publicity for talks could have been better, e.g. via FoSJP newsletters.
  • Topics for future talks: History of Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway.
  • Topics for future talks: History of the Tramways:
    • Why did it become necessary?
    • Who built it?
    • Where were the trams manufactured?
    • Was the tramway life-changing for residents of this area?
  • Perhaps local schools could work with FoSJP and present jointly a topic of interest – community links are very much a feature of Ofsted!
  • Well done Michaela – excellently organised (from a FoSJP committee member).
  • Could not always hear well, even when a microphone was used, because head was turned away by speaker.
  • Tell how the gardens will be planted, and with what each season.


Shirley Heritage Project – Public Talk #5
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