Our Sources of Information

Our Park research journey began by asking local people about their personal memories. Information about the Park’s history came to light at FoSJP’s Reminiscence Day event in May 2006. Following this event, we were also helped by donations from individual collections and personal research – in particular from the archive of local historian Bob Grice and the research of Mr AGK Leonard who researched the Southampton City Council archives to discover how the Park came to be purchased.

Bob has also introduced us to the the books written about Shirley’s history. One of the most informative has to be the publication Shirley from Domesday to D-Day (right), published by Southampton City Council. One of the main local historians and contributors to this book, Rosaleen Wilkinson, was the opening speaker at the FoSJP 2009/10 series of Public Talkswhich started in October 2009.

Thank to Bob’s donation of the archive, FoSJP was able to produce the History Quiz which was organised as part of FoSJP’s First Birthday Party in May 2007. Material from the archive has also been used to produce a History Stall which is displayed at FoSJP events such as the Park100 event in July 2007. Photographs of Shirley for the displays have been kindly provided by the Southampton City Council Heritage Services Local Collections Service. FoSJP must also acknowledge the individuals who have shared their personal stories and photograph and postcard collections, so that we can share them with others.

It’s been a great honour for FoSJP to also share the archive with 120 Year 3 children from nearby Shirley Junior School, who came for history lessons in the Park in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Visit our Your Stories page for some of the memories and stories that people have already kindly shared with us.

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

A Potted History

St.James’ Park began life as part of the vast Shirley Common, lands which originally belonged to the Lords of the Manor of Shirley.

How You Can Get Involved

If you’d like to take an active part, we’re always glad to get offers of help – with the planning and running of events, providing refreshments, fundraising, gardening, or general administration work.

To find out more, please contact us or speak to any of the Committee.

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