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The Model Village of St Denys

In 1851, because of overcrowding in the town’s slums, the model village of St Denys was born, built around St Denys Priory. All homes were 6 roomed, semi detached houses. Read all the background here!
The Model Village of St Denys.
In 1851 the Hampshire Advertiser reported a scheme to build a model estate on land around St Denys Priory which was bounded on one side by the London and South Western Railway and on the other by a sweeping bend in the River Itchen.
The population of Southampton had grown rapidly from around 10,000 in 1801 to 45,000 in 1851. There was a need to address overcrowding in the town slums with their health problems. The docks had opened and the railway had reached Southampton about ten years earlier. People moved into the town from the country following changes in farming methods to find work in manufacturing including shipbuilding as well as the service industries linked to shipping and the railways.
The St Denys homes were to be six roomed semi-detached houses built on plots of land 30 feet wide by 180 feet deep. The builder planned to utilise materials from St Denys Farm and its outbuildings so enabling the cost of the homes to be kept at £100 although their value would be greater which it was suggested would make this sum easily obtained from a building society.
The houses sold well and the population of St Denys grew putting pressure on Highfield Church. Between 1840 and 1870 ten new churches were built in Southampton including the church of St Denys named after the Saint of the nearby Priory. This was designed in the French Gothic style by the renowned architect Sir George Gilbert Scott and built by a Salisbury builder at a cost of £7,000. Today the church is grade II listed and is home to a stone coffin and other relics from St Denys Priory as well as a church organ believed to be one of the oldest in Hampshire and to have been played by Handel. The many stained glass windows include one detailing the WWI exploits of Daniel Beak VC who lived with his family in Kent Rd. The board School was opened in 1881 and nearby houses demolished to create a playground.
A temporary railway station was opened at Portswood Park for the 1844 Agricultural show and a permanent station was constructed in 1858 where St Denys Road crosses the railway. It was officially opened in 1861 and named Portswood. In 1861 an Act was passed for the construction of a railway from Southampton docks to the planned Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley. Portswood station was closed and moved to the present site and renamed St Denys to avoid confusion with Portsmouth and the branch line opened In 1866. It is said to contain one of the tightest bends on the railways. The line was originally single track and with a level crossing at Adelaide Road and a girder bridge to cross Priory Road.
The railway bridge over the Itchen proved to be a problem with the yielding nature of the river bed. Cast iron cylinders were sunk 60 ft into the river floor and reinforced with concrete to support the bridge. The finished structure required 270 tons of cast iron and 300 tons of wrought iron at a total construction cost of £15,000. The railway bridge remains to this day.
The Priory of St Denys was built in 1124 during the reign of Henry I and closed by Henry VIII in 1536 when it was granted to Sir Francis Dawtrey. An arch from the priory can be seen in the Tudor House and a remnant of the wall of the Priory can be seen in the back garden of a house in Priory Road.
It is said that this stretch of wall was saved as a consequence of the unexplained deaths of farm animals at the time. It was believed that the destruction of the Priory was the cause of the deaths so the demolition was stopped. What remains is a 14th century stretch of stone rubble wall about 25 feet long and 20 feet high with an archway. Both remains are Grade II listed.