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Sir Sidney Kimber and the development of Southampton Sports Centre - Part 3

"Mr. Mayor, just as this Civic Centre has been carefully planned to fulfil the indoor requirements for business, educational and social uses for the present and future generations, similarly do I wish you to create for the present and future generations another civic centre - an outdoor sports and recreation centre under one management and control, large, central, compact, beautifully situated for the use of thousands of both sexes, young and old, robust and frail, rich and poor, for the provision of all known outdoor games, which centre is bound to promote health, enjoyment and happiness to untold numbers; and, as the years roll on and the population multiplies enormously, will prove to be one of the outstanding assets of a town and port destined for unrivalled supremacy."

History repeated itself Just as the Labour Party had frustrated the Civic Centre scheme the first time and supported it the second, the same procedure operated over the Sports Centre, and now Alderman Lewis ‘jumped in" and seconded my proposal and, of course, practically the whole of the Labour Party voted for it.

Alderman Mouland led the opposition, but the Council decided by 42 votes to 13 to pass my resolution. Those voting against were Messrs. Mouland, Blakeway, W. Lewis, Dixey, Bell, Howard Mayes, Foy, Trim, Sinclair, Tolfree, Freemantle, Ponsford and Powdrill.

I then proposed that the Sports Centre committee be set up, comprising the Mayor and sixteen members, and the following were elected: Messrs. Alford, Blanchard, Buck, Bowyer, Dunsford, Kean, Kimber, Lewis, Mouland, Plascott, Prince, Pugh, Smalley, Vincent, Waller, Woolley and Young. Alderman Mouland, however, resigned, and his place was taken by F. J. Smith.

The Committee inspected the site, gave instructions to the Borough Engineer to produce plans, and settled down to the question of purchase of land.

I became increasingly anxious to purchase the part of the Romandene site which had been part of my original plan, and the Committee empowered me to negotiate for its purchase. I had some interviews with Mr. Ebenezer Dibben, representing the owners, and eventually it was agreed that the Corporation should buy these 19 acres for the sum of £4,672. It was agreed to purchase the 250 acres of Mr. Willis Fleming’s land for £45,000, and application was made to sanction the loan of these sums from the Ministry of Health. This amounted to a cost of £185 per acre. When the recommendation came to the Council on July 4th, 1934, the opponents of golf had their last fight. Councillor M. H. Pugh proposed, and Councillor Hector Young seconded, that the golf-courses be excluded, but they lost by 34 votes to 13. Then came the good news that the Ministry of Health had granted the sanction to borrow £45,000 for the purchase of the 250 acres without asking for any public enquiry, and the Committee proceeded to get out a detailed layout of the land….

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).