Welcome to the first in the series of Special Collections blog posts that chart developments at the University through the themes of sporting facilities, the grounds, Rag, and the Hartley Institution’s museum. This week, we focus on the development of the University’s sports facilities.Before the 1920s, the University hired pitches from various clubs for cricket, football, and other games. It is recorded in the Hartley University College Athletics Committee minute book and accounts on 3 March 1904, that “On the proposition of Mr Daws seconded by Prof. Chapple the following sub-committee was elected to make enquiries as to the best means of obtaining a field, suitable for the cricket, football, & tennis clubs & make its report to this committee.” [Hartley University College Athletics Committee minute book and accounts, 1903-8, MS1 A4089/1] Circa 1925, the University was gifted a field at Swaythling opposite south Stoneham House by Mrs Montefiore. A generous donation from her husband, Claude Montefiore, enabled the field to be fitted up and a pavilion to be erected. This greatly aided the student social scene. Football, hockey and netball were some of the sports in which the students could partake and these activities are well reflected in our photographic collections. A new assembly hall with a gymnasium and changing rooms was completed by March 1949. The gymnasium was used for badminton, gym, and boxing. In 1950, additional grounds for playing fields were obtained by buying 26 acres at North Stoneham. Many sports clubs were formed in the 1950s, including Golf, Squash, Basketball, Archery and Judo. The Wessex Sailing Club was also admitted by the Athletic Union during the 1952-3 session. Financial support was provided to develop sports facilities during this decade, such as the University Grants Committee providing funding towards a new Sports ground. Connections through a Mr Robertson and Chairman of the Athletic Union at the time, Dr Chapman, also achieved an additional grant for a pavilion. The new Sports Ground would provide a cinder running track and be one of the best laid-out Sports Grounds in the South-West of England according to the 1955-6 annual report. The North Stoneham sports ground began to be used in October 1957, and the new Wellington Field was opened by the University’s first Chancellor, Gerald Wellesley, 7th Duke of Wellington, during the 1958-9 session. During the 1955-56 academic year, a financial policy was designed to place in reserve monetary funds to enable the Student Union to eventually take over the West Building and run it as a Union building. The West Building dated back to the 1940s and was built in red brick style. By the session 1960-1, the Union had expanded into almost the whole of this building, and by 1967, the new Students’ Union building was completed as part of architect Basil Spence’s masterplan, offering indoor sports. The two buildings were connected by an underground tunnel. The sports facilities included provisions for squash, badminton, basketball, fencing, cricket, and tennis practice as well as gymnastics, a billiards room, table tennis room, and a judo room. “With the large and pleasant multi-purpose sports hall, the battery of six squash courts, the judo/exercise room, ands the table tennis area, together with ancillary changing accommodation, the University is fortunate to have some of the best facilities for indoor games in the country. Furthermore, they are ideally situated in the centre of the campus. The sports hall are equipped to house badminton, basketball, fencing, olympic gymnastics, trampolining, table-tennis and volleyball to international standards, as well as being able to cater for archery, cricket, nets, indoor soccer and hockey, tennis, vaulting and agility, netball, and weight training. There are also excellent facilities and equipment for team and personal training and “keep fit” exercise. It is evident that the sports complex is being well used.” [University of Southampton Proceedings 1966-67 Univ. Coll. LF 786.4 ] To promote the indoor sports centre a University Sports Week was hosted during November 1967, of which over 1,700 people attended. The aim of this venture was to promote the indoors sports centre and to provide the opportunity for the public to experience sport played at a high level in the hope that spectators would be encouraged to get involved. Well-known sportsmen and women including international golf, badminton and squash players and gymnasts, were invited to take part in demonstrations and exhibitions. This event helped strengthen links between the University and local sports associations. In line with the recommendations of the Government Sports Council, organisations outside the University were encouraged to use sports facilities during the vacations when they were not needed by students. Coaching courses and competitions in badminton, netball, tennis, trampolining and squash run by local sports associations took place in the indoor facilities. During the 1968-9 session an appeal was launched by the University of Southampton Swimming Society to provide funds for a swimming pool, and a retractable golf practice net was installed in the Sports Hall. Plans were also accepted for the construction of a climbing wall on the outside, south wall of the hall. A first class rifle range was also built at the Boat Hard, Woodmill, with funds provided by the Students’ Union.
In the 1970s, the provision of a slipway and the development of instructional courses in sailing and canoeing at the Boat Hard helped popularise water-based activities. Rowing and sailing were seen to expand rapidly, and a canoeing club and sub aqua club were also formed.Unfortunately, the development of an alternative route for the M27 South Coast Motorway in the 1970s led to the demolition of the pavilion, athletics track, and other playing areas at the Wellington Sports Ground, as well as first class pitches at the Wide Lane Playing Fields in Eastleigh. Proposals for the Stoneham Interchange and the Portswood Link also threatened the six tennis courts at the Montefiore Sports Ground and additional pitches at the Wide Lane Ground. To compensate for these losses, the University acquired 34 acres of land at North Stoneham Park, which it proposed to prepare immediately for use as playing fields. Here the University laid artificial playing surfaces for hockey, tennis, and cricket. During the 1974-5 session, the University successfully completed negotiations with Winchester College for the purchase of a second boathouse. Further losses ensued as a result of the development of the Montefiore House halls of residence, this time being the Montefiore Sports Ground during the 1975-6 session. Sporting activities, which previously took place at the Montefiore Sports Ground, were transferred to the newly developed playing fields at North Stoneham Park. During the late 1970s, the indoor sports facilities were unable to satisfy demand, due to the facilities only being appropriate to a university half its size. There was an urgent priority for the provision of a second sports hall, extra squash courts, and a fitness training room.
First class facilities for various types of fitness training became available for the first time in the University indoors sports centre in January 1980. Circuit and weight training apparatus as well as a multi-gym were installed in the new area. In the same year, a replacement pavilion at North Stoneham Playing Fields was made available, and the Wellington Sports Ground was opened by Bruce Tulloh, champion runner of the 1950s and 1960s.In the 1991-2 session came the University’s new climbing wall. It was the only one of its type in the region at the time, and was available for use by local climbing clubs and individuals. The wall was constructed outside of the Students’ Union and the cost was met jointly by the University, Athletic Union, and Students’ Union. In 1991, the University submitted a planning application for another building on Wide Lane Sports Ground. In 2004 the University unveiled the Jubilee Sports Centre, at a cost of £8.5 million, on the Highfield Campus. Its facilities include a six-lane 25-metre swimming pool, 160 workstation gym and an eight-court sports hall.
Wide Lane was refurbished at cost of £4.3 million during the 2005-2006 session and was unveiled by BBC sports presenter and Southampton alumnus, John Inverdale. The 73-acre (30 ha) complex includes flood-lit synthetic turf and grass pitches, tennis courts, a pavilion and a ‘Team Southampton’ Gym. The University also runs facilities at the Avenue Campus, National Oceanography Centre, the Watersports Centre on the River Itchen and at Glen Eyre and Wessex Lane halls.
The sources that we hold on the history of the development of the University’s sports facilities include committee minute books, and reports, Department of Physical Education statements of accounts and estimates, as well as photographs. We also hold a University College Southampton rugby first XV team rugby jersey, dating around 1930-4. This belonged to an R.E. Brown, who was rugby captain. In our Printed Collections are annual reports, which contain updates provided by the Department of Physical Education, and prospectuses can be useful for seeing photographs of the developments of the facilities.Look out for our next blog post, which will focus on the history of the University grounds.
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Like!! Great article post.Really thank you! Really Cool.