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Sir Sidney Kimber and the development of Southampton Sports Centre - Part 9


The Sports Centre Committee recommended, and the Council unanimously passed, that two tablets be erected, one near each Pavilion, each to be recorded as follows:


"This Sports Centre was conceived and brought into being by the foresight of Alderman Sir Sidney Kimber, J.P., was opened by H.R.H. The Duke of Kent, K.G., P.C., K.T., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., accompanied by H.R.H. The Duchess of Kent, C.B.E., on the 28th May, 1938.


Finally, may I quote here my concluding words to a Foreword I wrote to the official handbook, published in May, 1938:


"The whole scheme is unique because of two outstanding features. First, that it includes in one compact and extensive area within the Borough, opportunities for recreation for young and old and facilities for every kind of outdoor sport; and, secondly, because of its delightful, picturesque situation, a most beautiful setting, isolated from buildings and highways and lying in a natural valley completely surrounded by trees, providing a perpetual source of health-giving enjoyment for all those who wish to avail themselves of it and a priceless possession for the years to come."


WHAT THE TOWN LOST - The Second Site


You may have noticed, at the commencement of this chapter, I referred to two sites, but made no reference afterwards to the second one. I do so now. When in the earliest stages I was pondering over the provision of sport and recreation amenities, and had selected - in my mind - the Bassett site, I realised that it was not so available for the residents on the eastern side of the Itchen, and I carefully studied the map and visited the district, quickly coming to the conclusion that there was only one estate that would comply with the standard I required. That estate was the Harefield, at Bitterne, bounded by the West End Road on the one side and the main Bittern Road on the other, comprising over 200 acre - an estate of considerable beauty, having both level and undulating land, partly wooded. It had been the residence of the late Mr. Edwin Jones (a great benefactor to Southampton), and the firm of Messrs. Edwin Jones were the possessors - or interested parties - of it. I took a tracing from the map, and after two viits to the site, I got out a rough plan, which I found provided for an eighteen-hole golf course and most of the other forms of sport and recreation required.


Tactfully and confidentially, I approached one of the directors and ascertained it would be possible for the town to purchase it.


I then decided to make no mention of this idea, but to do my best to get the Bassett site first, as then I was bound to get some support for those who represented the wards east of the Itchen, and I might be able to induce the Council to purchase both sites.

From Chapter 10 in Thirty Eight Years of Public Life in Southampton” Sir Sidney Kimber

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10

Read the Southern Daily Echo’s report (28 May 1938) of the opening of the Sports Centre by the Duke of Kent (report located in Council Archives by Arthur Goode).

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