Local history

Preserving the legacy of Southampton’s Sikh ‘father’

Harnam Singh Roudh cropped 600pxThe University of Southampton has led a project to ensure the legacies of South Asians who shaped modern Britain – including the ‘father’ of Southampton’s Sikh community – go down in history.



Article continues after this message...

The following is from the University of Southampton in their own words

The project will be celebrated at a community event at the university on Wednesday 10 July, also marking the fifth anniversary of the university’s India Centre for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development.

Ten hugely influential people of South Asian descent are at the heart of the Pioneers project. They include the late Sardar Harnam Singh Roudh, remembered across Southampton for his outstanding contributions to community integration and relations building.

Sardar Harnam Singh features alongside famous names including actress Meera Syal, co-deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats Lord Dholakia, former Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, and former Chancellor Sajid Javid.

Harnam Singh, born in 1923 in Multan (now Pakistan), moved to Delhi during the partition of India, and then arrived in Southampton in 1951, leaving his family behind. He arrived with £3 in his pocket, a small bag of clothes, and knowing just a handful of English words.

His immediate family joined him several years later, and Harnam Singh went on to open Southampton’s first South Asian corner shop, on the corner of Alfred Street and Derby Road, in 1961. He also opened a restaurant, the Star of India, in St Mary’s.

Harnam Singh Roudh courtesy the Singh familySardar Harnam Singh inside his store in Derby Road, Southampton. Photos: courtesy the Singh family

He was also instrumental in founding the first Gurdwara in Southampton, in Clovelly Road (now relocated to St Mark’s Road), together with other community members. He worked there as general secretary, president and a voluntary priest.

His family remains rooted in Southampton and his eldest son, the late Sardar Mulkh Singh, became the first Sikh to run a pub in the city when he took over the New Inn in Bevois Valley.

Son Dr Amrik Singh, now retired but was one of the city’s first Sikh GPs, said: “Dad was a man with vision, courage, and determination. It was daunting for all of us, but especially for him.”

Malkeat Singh, Community Engagement Officer at Southampton City Council and son of Harnam Singh, added: “People of colour were very few when dad arrived in England, and the appearance of a Sikh was not something you would see in this part of the world. There was also a lot of discrimination and racism in those days. He was very inspirational and his attitude to life was very positive. A lot of that came from his strong faith as a Sikh.”

When Sardar Harnam Singh passed away in January 1988, the Daily Echo described his funeral as “the biggest funeral Southampton has witnessed” with “all the pomp and ceremony usually reserved for monarchs and civic leaders”.

The legacy of Sardar Harnam Singh continues to inspire the wider community in Southampton.

We're reader powered! Please help us keep publishing today...

Our local news is currently free to view, but not to produce. Join people just like you who already chip in to keep our site going by becoming a 'Good Friend' supporter for just £2.99 a month - or more if you can.

Use the subscribe button below using a debit or credit card securely via PayPal. You don't need a PayPal account - just use the "Pay with Debit or Credit Card' option, when you click the 'Subscribe' button below, on the next screen. There's no obligation to open a PayPal account. Or use your existing PayPal account if you prefer. Or even better, contact us to set up a standing order so we get all your sub rather than PayPal taking a percentage.

Click here for other options/to set up a standing order - and help us keep on keeping on.

It's appreciated!

Subcription Options


Alternatively make a one-off donation here - you don't need a PayPal account for this option either.