IT’S one of Southampton’s busiest shopping districts, crammed with shops, takeaways and bars. 
Shirley High Street and Shirley Road have long been a buzzing hive of activity where patrons have been catered for in a variety of different ways.

New Forest Post:
The bustling high street in July 1960

1. Shirley once had a roller rink

Southampton Skating Rink, close to Janson Road, kept residents entertained, and was even used as a transit camp for German prisoners during the First World War.
Opening on January 12, 1910, the venue boasted a special spring floor for smooth running and little sound, as well as a cafe for skaters in need of sustenance.
The building was seemingly not used for skating after 1921 but continued life as a function hall.

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2. Shirley had four cinemas at one time

The four cinemas of Shirley were regular haunts for locals, playing a major part in their lives.
Shirley Electric Cinema was opened on Boxing Day 1910, situated on Shirley High Street between Howard’s Grove and Shirley Avenue. 
The cinema was capable of seating 800 people within its corrugated iron structure. 
The Electric closed down in 1922, making way for Gordon Buildings, where Halifax, Savers and Plested Pies now trade.

New Forest Post:
The Atherley

The Atherley cinema screened the best of Hollywood when it opened in 1912. The picture house changed to a bingo hall in 1975 and became The Atherley Leisure Centre - although It now trades as New Century Bingo. 

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The Cinema Hall opened in Park Street in 1913 before changing its name the following year to The Regent. 
The cinema shut in 1929 and reopened three years later . The site of the new cinema is where Wilko now stands, and not only did it have an entrance on Park Street, but one on Shirley High Street where Tan tanning salon is now located. Concrete lettering spelling the word “Regent” is still visible on its facade. 

New Forest Post:
The Regent Cinema in 1962

Lastly , The Rialto opened its doors in 1921, and was rebranded as an Odeon cinema in 1939. 
The picture house closed in 1960, before becoming a bingo hall and then a furniture store.
The building was demolished in 2006 and the area it once occupied is now part of Puccini’s. The area behind in Janson Road is now dwellings. 

3. Shirley once had slipper-baths for those without bathrooms

The Shirley slipper-baths were well used in the 1930s, as few houses had their own bathrooms. This provided locals with the opportunity to soak themselves and get clean. 
At that time,between Park Street and Marlborough Road, were England’s the ironmongers, Turner’s grocery store and Brook’s Haberdashery – the latter an establishment famed for having its own floor-walker . 

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4. The bell tower of St Boniface Church has been a landmark since 1927

The bell tower of St Boniface Roman Catholic Church could be seen from here – an instantly recognisable structure built in 1927 for £15,000 – more than £850,000 in today’s money. 

New Forest Post:
The looming bell tower of St Boniface Church can be seen on the left - 1987

5. The drinking fountain has had many homes 

The Jubilee Memorial Drinking Fountain has been a familiar feature of the area since 1989.
Paid for with money left over from Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebration in 1887, the ornate drinking fountain has been moved various times in its history.
Originally located near the Salisbury Arms, it was moved to the opposite side of the street in the 1920s to make room for the tram terminus
It was removed in the 1970s after being damaged in a traffic incident but was repaired and rehoused in the shopping precinct.
The fountain is no longer functional.

New Forest Post: The drinking fountain while it was still operational

6. Many businesses have been and gone

In the 1932 edition of Kelly’s street directory , they named some of the businesses as Winter and Worth, The Bungalow Cafe, Clack and Back the furnishers, International Stores, the Home and Colonial, Delbridges corner store and wallpaper merchant Ely, Arter and Hay.
In more recent times there was Woolworths, Spud U Like, Gibbs Electronics and Oswald Bailey to name but a few.

New Forest Post:
Robert Gibbs with his staff in 2008

Click on the gallery at the top of the story for pictures of Shilrey High Street through the ages