Gangs fight with sticks on Cobden Bridge

clock in New Road Bitterne Park - from 1284 (part 3)
In part three of Jim Brown's history of Bitterne Park, read about the ‘Battles of Cobden Bridge’ and the development of the Midanbury Estate.

One of the first results of this splendid gift (Cobden Free Bridge — see part 2), was somewhat surprising — resentment between the old Bitterne Village inhabitants and the people of St Denys, said to have originated when St Denys residents went primrose picking on the undeveloped estate. This resulted in the ‘Battles of the Bridge’, when gangs, armed with sticks and stones, would sally forth from either camp to wage war on the bridge itself. Battles of such ferocity ensued that the Police had to intervene and the conflicts were eventually brought to an end. Bitter memories, however, were retained amongst the locals for many decades.

Clock in New Road
The Clock Tower in New Road c.1900. Officially unveiled in December 1889, it was “Bequeathed to the town of Southampton by the late Mrs Henrietta Bellender Sayers in evidence of her care both for man and beast. It also bears the inscription “Every beast of the forest is mine and the cattle upon a 1000 hills. Psalm L.10”. Over 43 feet high the monument was designed by Sydney Kelway Pope and built by the local firm Garret & Haysom at a cost of Ł1,000. It has 4 dials and a drinking fountain with a trough for cattle and horses and at the foot, on the north and south sides, small troughs for dogs. The drinking fountain was on the west side and had a small cup suspended on a chain.

The name of Cobden came from the famous Corn Law abolitionist Richard Cobden, a relative of the Land Company Chairman, after whom Thorold Road was named. Bullar Rd was named after John Bullar, the Chairman’s former schoolmaster. Many of the new roads were named after Liberal supporters, such as William Cobbett, Sir William Harcourt and Joseph Whitworth.
Expansion of the Bitterne Park area continued at an ever-increasing rate, fulfilling the high hopes of the developers, now called the National Land Corporation, and generating ever increasing traffic to and from the Southampton side.

Macnaghten Road c.1920
Macnaghten Road c.1920. This was originally called Station Road and in 1901 was renamed in honour of the Macnaghten family, following Bitterne Manor’s incorporation into Southampton Borough. The first small building, cum shed, on the left was the workshop of Sammy Griffin, a well-known deaf mute shoe repairer. Old Tauntonian Donald Finlay, international hurdler and Captain of the British Team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, lived at No. 115 as a young boy.

The Midanbury Estate, adjoining the initial development area, was sold to the local building firm T. Clark & Son in 1927 and they gradually developed the entire estate over the ensuing 20-30 years to the housing pattern of today. The mock-Gothic Middenbury Castle had become derelict around 1935 and demolished by 1939, when today’s Castle Inn was built on the site.

clock in triangle
The Clock Tower at the well-known Bitterne Park Triangle c. 1950. Henrietta Sayers’ celebrated clock tower was moved here in 1934 from New Road in Southampton, and has now become the distinctive landmark for the district. Because of the soft soil on which it was built the clock tower is regarded as something of a local ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ as it tilts towards the adjacent Cobden Bridge by at least 7 inches! It is on the triangular piece of ground where Alfred Chafen, the National Land Corporation’s local agent, had his office in a wooden hut. Nearby Chafen Rd, in Bitterne Manor, is, of course, named after him.

The district of Bitterne Park, with its population of around 13,500, is now well developed with a character of its own and residents fiercely proud of their full title, never, but never, to be confused with nearby Bitterne. Under no circumstances should one ever refer to the triangle of land at Cobden Bridge as ‘Bitterne Triangle’, without the inclusion of the essential word ‘Park’!



This is an extract from "The Illustrated History of Southampton's Suburbs", published by Breedon Books and available from Bitterne Local History Charity Shop for Ł14.
Reproduced here with kind permission of the author.

Further Reading

Brown, Doreen The History of Bitterne Park Parish 1899-1999, 1999.
Holt, John /Cole, Anne A Bend In The River, Bitterne Local History Society, 1992.
Mann, John Edgar The Story of Bitterne Park, Ensign Publications, 1992.

Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here

Various local history titles are also available from our Amazon shop, here.

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