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Sir Sidney Kimber and the development of Southampton Sports Centre


The history of Southampton Sports Centre and much of the development of the City in the 1900s are intimately linked to Sir Sidney Guy Kimber, one of the greatest and most far sighted visionaries the City has ever seen. He was the driving force behind most of the most important civic developments in the City Centre; the Civic Centre, Law Courts, Art Gallery and Guildhall (Northguild) as well as the Sports Centre and Golf Course and he also facilitated develpment of the major social housing scheme which we now call the “Flower Estates”. He fought long battles with fellow Councillors to try to persuade them to back his schemes, often being rebuffed, yet never giving up home and returning to Council again and again to win hearts, minds and council votes in order to realise his vision for the Ciity and its people.

Sidney Kimber was born in Highfield in 1873, the son of a local businessman who ran a brickworks on what is now part of the University’s Highfield Campus which employed some 300 people. By 1981, Sidney was assistant manager of the works. He married Helen Sarah Walker in 1898.

He entered local politics as a councillor in 1910 , served 2 terms as mayor (1918 to 1920) and then became an Alderman. He was knighted in 1935 in  recognition of his services to the City (he  was also a JP and awarded the OBE). A keen golfer, he was also chairman of Southampton Camera Club from 1941 to 1948 and was a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.

He privately published his memoirs, “Thirty Eight Years of Public Life in Southampton”, copies of which still command a high price on the second hand market. The City’s Archives also hold extensive material relating to his long service for Council.

He died in October 1949, aged 75 and his ashes were intered in the grounds of Highfield Church (along with Helen who died in 1958). A gravestone marks the site and the west porch of the church (built in 1955) is dedicated to him..

Sir Sidney’s memoirs contain a detailled account of the planning and building of the Golf Course and Sports Centre and of the long battles which he fought at Council to realise his vision. You can read this fascinating account here (or follow the dropdown History menu at the top of the page)

Sir Sidney Guy Kimber
OBE JP FRPS
1873 -1949

This portrait of Sir Sidney by Thomas Cantrell Dugdale is in the Collection of Southampton City Art Gallery and hangs on the landing of the central hall in the Civic Centre.

(click for full view)

More information on Sir Sidney Kimber:

City of Southampton Society

Highfield History

Wikipedia

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Plan of the Sports Centre and Golf Course from Sir Sidney’s memoirs:  “Thirty Eight Years of Public Life in Southampton” - click on image for larger view

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