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
“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