History Past Events - Spring 2017

Group Visit to Hampshire Archives - Wednesday 1st March 2017

Updated: 6th May 2017

In March 2017, the Shirley Local History Group organised an evening visit to the Hampshire Archives in Winchester to look at the wealth of material held there which can support local and family history research.

The 14 participants were firstly given an overview of the reading room and a masterclass in how to search for various documents such as wills, deeds, and items on microfiche. Time was then spent perusing the many documents which had been selected for us to look at, including diaries, photographs, and decorative family trees. Of great local interest to us were the various maps, including the 1778 map of the "'Manor of Hill and Shirley"’- probably one of the earliest maps of the Shirley area - and the 1840 Millbrook Tythe map.

We were then shown "behind the scenes", with a guided tour of the strongrooms, an overview of the work of the conservation team, and an introduction to the Wessex Film and Sound Archive. The tour finished in the Archives cinema with a film show of local news items including the opening of Southampton Guildhall.

Our thanks go to Matthew Goodwin at the Hampshire Archives for an informative tour and insight into the work of the archivist team.

If you'd like to be informed of any future group visits, please get in touch with us via history@fosjp.org.uk and we'll add you to our email distribution list.

Group Visit to Bursledon Brickworks - Sunday 9th April 2017

Updated: 17th May 2017

In April 2017, a group of members of the Shirley Local History Research Group visited the Bursledon Brickworks Museum, where we were given a guided tour by Carolyne Haynes, the director of the brickworks museum (and also the speaker at our December 2016 public history talk).

Carolyn talked us through the site, from the beginning of brick making at Bursledon, through to the delivery methods used to distribute the bricks countrywide, the family who built up this brickworks and where they were before in Chandlers Ford, and their links to other well‑known local companies, for example "Hooper & Ashby". The connections with the Ashby family business and our "Ashby" locally can be seen on the family tree in the museum - our local "Ashby Club" is still running today.

We were talked through the processes of the labour‑intensive method of making bricks by hand and the tools that were used, child labour, and the workers' conditions and the hours that they kept for menial pay, having to produce 1000 bricks in a day before they took a wage, and how machinery took over to produce the vast quantities of bricks required for the mass building taking place all over the country in the early 1900s.

It was lovely to see the original Bursledon Brickworks fully operating machinery, which was reclaimed from a Cornish tin mine museum, back in its rightful place, lovingly restored by volunteer enthusiasts. The machinery is up and running on selected "Steam‑up" days throughout the year - visit the Bursledon Brickworks website to find out about these and other events at the brickworks.

The museum is well worth a visit - a place for the whole family, a trip through time that explains the process of the history of making the simple brick that we all take for granted on a daily basis... Take a look at your house and see if you can recognise the Bursledon brick - a large proportion of Southampton is built from them!

Many thanks to Carolyn for giving up her Sunday to show us around!

Photos courtesy of Ray Hancock, Madge Heath, Liz Webb, Patricia Yandell

Did you know that Shirley used to have its own brickworks?

George Harris, a prominent and well‑respected man in Shirley, ran a gravel pit at what is now St.James' Park until his death in 1906. He was also the proprietor of a local Shirley brickworks, which was situated in the area behind what is now Bridlington Avenue and Hanley Road, in the vicinity of Dawlish and Eastbourne Avenues. Clay soil would have been dug out to produce the bricks, which which is why houses there are situated significantly lower than those on St.James' Road, Wilton Road, and Hanley Road. This brickworks can be seen on the 1910 Ordnance Survey map at Southampton's Central Libraries and Archives.

George Harris also built a family home, at what is now 146 Wilton Road, which was also a working farm. The house was initially called "The Red House" - presumably so named as it was built in prominent red brick. There is a further assumption that George Harris would have chosen to use his own bricks to build the house. Previously, houses built in Shirley following the enclosure of Shirley Common (c.1830-1850) were built in a pale yellow brick. It is believed (not confirmed) that this was a locally‑produced Beaulieu Buff brick, from the New Forest area.

When George Harris died suddenly at age 44, many people attended his funeral, held at St.James' Church, including a representative of the Bursledon Brickworks. ‎George Harris's eldest son, also named George Harris, was a very young man at the time, but he took on the responsibility of his father's business interests. In 1907 the gravel pit opposite St.James' Church was purchased for the purpose of turning it into Shirley Recreation Ground, now St.James' Park. George Harris Junior further developed the building side of his father's businesses, and in partnership with others went on to build many homes across the region.


The Shirley Local History Group is always looking for volunteers to help with its research. If researching the building company of George Harris Junior, or trying to confirm whether George Harris Senior did indeed produce red bricks used locally, is a topic that appeals to you, please get in touch with us via history@fosjp.org.uk.

Further reading is also provided in the Shirley Heritage Project's book "St.James' Park - From Shirley Rec to Renovation 1907-2014".

Site location: Home > History > History Past Events > Spring 2017 Events