Days Gone By

About this page

This page will feature local events and experiences from the past. Through it, we hope to bring early and contemporary Highfield and Portswood to life. We would be very interested in receiving material from people who have lived in Highfield or Portswood for a while or who have longstanding connections within the area; this includes those who used to live here but who have now moved away.

Additionally, we would be very keen to hear from anyone who has a knowledge of local history which they could share with us. Photographs would be most welcome.

To read about the history of Portswood Residents Gardens, please follow this link: Portswood Residents’ Gardens Conservation Area.

Please contact Nadine Johnson using our Contact Form or email Nadine at:

Famous residents of Portswood and Highfield

Posted by on Dec 2, 2018 in Days Gone By

Famous residents of Portswood and Highfield
In 1851, Portswood was a rural area with cottages lining
Portswood Road on the east and Portswood Lodge on the west.
This was the home of Walter Taylor who manufactured pulley
blocks and pumps for the Royal Navy at Woodmill. Taylor’s blocks
contributed to Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar as they gave his ships
greater manoeuvrability and improved their firepower.
In 1844, Portswood Lodge was used for the meeting of the Royal
Agricultural Society Show. A temporary station was opened on
the L&SW railway line to enable livestock and agricultural
machinery to be offloaded. The Perkins family sold the Portswood
Estate in 1912 and the land facing Portswood Road was very
much in demand. The first building constructed was the Palladium
Cinema, built next to the library and opened in 1913. It was said
to be the prettiest picture house south of London.
Local builder W E Bennett had purchased most of the land that
fronted Portswood Road and he was persuaded by Portswood
councillor Sidney Kimber to sell 58ft of frontage next to the
cinema for £10 a foot. Kimber was keen for Portswood to have a
library and he transferred this land to the Council for building the
present library which opened in the Spring of 1915. Kimber lived
at 2 Welbeck Avenue. He was instrumental in the creation of the
Civic Centre and the Sports Centre among many other
achievements. He was Mayor of Southampton twice and was
awarded a knighthood in January 1935. He is buried in Highfield
Between Sainsbury’s and The Mitre from 1879 there was the tram
depot. As the tram network expanded so did the depot which
eventually housed the corporation buses.
31 Belmont Road was the childhood home of film producer Ken
Russell and at 116 lived William Murdoch, First Officer of the
Titanic who was in command of the ship when she hit the iceberg.
At number 2 Church Lane lived the Jeffery family whose eldest
son William was a member of the Titanic catering crew and
drowned in the disaster. Lodging with the family was Thomas
Davies a leading fireman on the Titanic, who too lost his life. The
Captain of the Titanic was Edward Smith and he lived in an
imposing twin gabled house in Winn Road, now the site of
Cheltenham Court apartments.
The Uplands Estate is one of the delights of Highfield and was
designed by Herbert Collins and built by his brother. For more
about Herbert Collins and the Uplands Estate, the library has
copies of Herbert Collins’ biography for sale at £10, with all
proceeds to the library’s funds.
Living at 6 Highfield Close was artist Ellis Martin who was
employed by the Ordnance Survey to illustrate their map covers.
His work revived their fortunes. Nearby in Russell Place was the
last home of R J Mitchell the aircraft designer who developed the
Schneider winning aeroplanes and the Spitfire. To learn more, join
a Spitfire Walk in Woolston or see “The Shadow Factory” play at
the Nuffield theatre (30th January – 2nd March, 2019).
The Portswood Shopping Centre is built on the former site of Alec
Bennett’s car showrooms and workshop. Bennett served as a
dispatch rider and later as a pilot in WW1. He raced motorcycles
and won the Isle of Man TT race 5 times in the 1920s.
SeeSouthampton Tourist Guide.
Godfrey Collyer

Nipper the HMV dog

Posted by on Nov 14, 2014 in Days Gone By

Seen in the Sunday Mail of 9 November 2014: The Highfield House Hotel is a major landmark in the story of Nipper, the HMV dog. Click image below to see full size article.
HMV dog

Highfield – the Village

Posted by on Oct 21, 2014 in Days Gone By

The map of Highfield below, which appeared in a commemorative booklet by Martin Dedman entitled ‘Highfield Church 1847-1997: A Story of Growth, Change and Development’, shows that the boundaries of the parish of Highfield are more extensive than many people imagine. These boundary lines, however, have been hotly disputed over the years but, for our purposes, form a baseline for our historical adventure.

(Click to reveal large version)

(Click to reveal large version)

The parish or village of Highfield is set in the middle of the University belt; steeped in academia. Flanked by Southampton Common on one side and Portswood on the other, it is a charming, leafy suburb of the now modern City of Southampton. Some refer to it as being the equivalent of London’s Hampstead in term of wealth and status. It is a place where students on foot or on bikes go to and fro en masse between University buildings; where the hustle and bustle of Portswood draws the local community to the large array of small shops, cafes and supermarkets; and where the local Church on Sundays is packed to the doors.

Highfield has retained a village atmosphere and is a quaint network of little communities such as Oakmount Triangle, Roselands Gardens, Portswood Residents Gardens and the more recent Crofton Close which was built on the site of the Old Oakmount School House over 20 years ago. However, the village of yesteryear was a very different affair.

To read more on this, click here.

And so from this brief snippet of early Highfield history, the years have rolled on and Highfield has inexorably evolved from a village into a suburb. In future updates and with your help, we shall be exploring the years in between to find out what happened to make Highfield what it is today. We hope that as many of you as possible can be a part of this voyage of discovery.

For further local history, please visit the Highfield History website.

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