Audio: Remembering Bitterne Park 1925-1940

Mary LongMary Long, who was eighty when we talked to her, has lived in Bitterne Park for most of her life — and loves it. Hear how her father bought their house for £500 cash, about shopping at the Triangle, where she used to play, and why she wasn’t allowed to go to what is now Sandringham Road (but did anyway!).

Using the players below, just click the forward arrow, or ‘play’ button for the clip you wish to hear (your computer obviously needs to be capable of playing audio).

We’d very much like to thank Mary for sharing her memories with us.

Clip 1: 1925-1940; unemployment; her house; childhood; playing; school; the war; bomb in Bond Road;

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Clip 2: Local shops; buying a bike; shop in Hillside Avenue; Xmas savings club; Southampton Lido;

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Clip 3: Before the clock tower; leaving children while mothers shopped; Triangle today; before Rverside Park; homework in Cobbett Road Library; playing; Sandringham Road;

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Audio copyright

If you, or someone you know, has lived in the area for a number of years and would like to share some thoughts about times past in a similar way, do get in touch. And if you’d be interested in helping to compile such material, and maybe even some other audio spots for the site too, we’d also like to hear from you.

Below is also the text which Mary supplied, which some of the clips are based upon.

Bitterne Park 1925-1940

"My father bought a house in Dimond Road in 1924, built by Mr Jupe, He paid for it in cash Ł500. My father was in the Navy.  There was a lot of unemployment and poverty.  My mother on her own cooked a nice dinner, she asked the lady, with a baby, next door, if she would like to come round.  The lady told her that she only had a small pie in the house, and she was keeping it to give her husband when he came back from looking for a job.  He got one as a chauffeur at Beechwood House

Most people could not afford to buy furniture for the front rooms, that wasn’t really a problem for us as they would let us all come in and play there on wet days.
By 1936 the depression was over I think and people had more money to spend, by then three piece suites and carpets were in all the houses.  Then we used to be invited to Christmas parties, which we enjoyed.

Mary LongMy sister and I loved the house as there were allotments across the road, and a small copse of trees.  In the summer all the children in those houses played there, and some older boys built a den for us, with bushes, so we could have picnics there. Another favourite place to play was a large empty mansion, before it was pulled down, to make way for the Midanbury estate and Castle public house.

We all went to Bitterne Park School in Manor Farm Road, it was a good school.  The headmaster arranged for poor children to have breakfasts. All the children in my road passed the scholarship to go to Grammar schools.  The most popular boy we knew, John Hall, was given a bicycle as a present.  He promised his mother that he would not go into town, but he did and was killed in the High Street.  We all missed him.

Once a year we all went to the seaside, it was called the Bevis Treat.  An old gentleman, Mr Bevis, left money in his Will for all Southampton children to have a day at the seaside.  The Vicar organised this outing and we usually wen to Ryde on the IOW, we all loved that day.  It was probably the only time we went away.

There used to be lovely Garden Parties in some of the big houses, Deepdene and Beechwood house, it was a chance to see the beautiful gardens, and ice creams were given to us.  Some children who could dance put on a display.

Things were beginning to change, a picture house, The Lyric, had been built on Cobden Bridge.  We loved the Hollywood films¸ especially Shirley Temple.
If we could persuade our parents to give us three pennies we went every Saturday.

The biggest event to completely change our lives was, of course, the War II, because all the schools were evacuated to Andover or Bournemouth, so we only managed to get together at the weekends.  The oldest boy in our group joined the RAF and was a prisoner with the Germans.  We all worried about him, but he came home safe and sound, a bit thinner, and eventually was the editor of Southampton “Echo” newspaper.

The nearest the bombs came to our little road was the end house, on the corner of Bond Road, the outside wall collapsed in an air raid.  We all went round to see what the inside of the house looked like, and we could see unbroken eggs in the larder, people were full of praise at how tidy the lady kept her house.

Bitterne Park shops

The Triangle was our big shopping centre, and we were always happy to do the shopping for our parents.  The Co-op and Lankester & Crooks were the largest food shops.  The Co-Op was the most popular with our families because there was a dividend, we always had to quote a special number, and then for every one pound we spent a shilling was saved. Mothers usually spent this on the children’s, clothes.

Brown and Harrisons had a lovely shop, with a big white swan in the window filled with cream.  It was a big treat to buy some of that.  Lowmans was the popular cake shop; if you bought six cakes they gave you another one free.  Elliots was the paper shop, and a lady there used to cut our hair for sixpence.  We all had the same style, a fringe in the front.  There was a drapery shop where my mother used to buy us wool to knit us jumpers. Mr Riddell was the chemist and he sometimes pulled out teeth, although there was a real dentist, but perhaps you would have to pay more.

Mr Lancey ran the Post Office, it always had a lovely smell of new notepaper, and you could buy pens for school.  Wheatleys was a hardware shop, where we went for brushes and clothes pegs. I think Haytons had the fruit shop.  Mr Robinson sold sweets, but it was really a tobacco shop, and he didn’t have a large selection of sweets. We went there because Mr Robinson was so nice to us, he seemed like a gentleman, and always wore a smart suit.  Later in life his son was my son’s Maths teacher at Bitterne Park school.

There was a nice fish and chip shop called Elliots, we would think fish and chips a cheap meal. It doesn’t seem like that now.  There was a bike shop and my father gave me Ł10 so I could start a savings account, but I bought a Ł10 bike there instead.
I thought I would get into trouble about that but nothing was said.

The trams into town left from the Triangle, and it wouldn’t matter if you missed one because there was always another one following.  The best trams were the open top ones that went through the Bargate.”

Mary Long

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