Sir Sidney Kimber and the development of Southampton Sports Centre - Part 1
THE SPORTS CENTRE
The idea of a great public sports ground and parks had been simmering my mind for over two years before I brought the matter before the Council, and I had arranged my two summer holidays in motoring tours to inspect sports grounds, particularly Plymouth and two Scottish ones, Troon and Edinburgh. None of these, however, satisfied me. After a lot of consideration and careful inspection of the very few sites adjoining the town, I came to a definite conclusion that two sites were very desirable. I had spoken to no one on the subject because much bitter experience had taught me the lack of imagination and opposition for spending money, whether wise or otherwise, could be so easily aroused. But I had confidential interviews with the owners’ representatives of two sites and ascertained that both could be obtained on favourable terms. (Note: I will deal with particulars of the second site at the close of this article.) My chief negotiations were with Mr. Alan Arnold of Messrs. Pink and Arnold, who acted for Mr. Willis-Fleming, the main owner of the Bassett site, and after several interviews and correspondence covering the period April 5th to August 30th, 1930, I had come to an approximate agreement as to acreage and price for the purchase of Red Lodge Farm and some adjoining lands. Then I went to the Borough Engineer and had a plan prepared with some approximate costs, armed with which I was ready to open my campaign.
So it was that, the Civic Centre being well on its way and Thorner’s Charity purchase having been agreed to, I put down the following notice of motion for the first Council Meeting after the summer vacation, September 17th, 1930: "That, with the object of providing a large public sports park, comprising facilities for playing golf, cricket, football, tennis, bowls, etc., and for other sport or recreative purposes, the Council do purchase by agreement with the owners or, failing agreement, by compulsory powers, the whole or part of approximately 293 acres of land (which included Red Lodge Farm) lying between Bassett and Lordswood, and that the Parliamentary and General Purposes Committee do carry out the negotiations with the owners and other necessary preliminary steps and report to the Council."
At that meeting, I said: “By this proposal I am asking the Council to embark on a new and a bold municipal enterprise to add to its public lands a compact area of land almost as large as our famous Common, to convert it into a civic sports centre at an ultimate cost of nearly £1000,000 for the perpetual use and enjoyment of all ages and both of our townspeople. I hope to be able to convince you - as I have thoroughly convinced myself - that the scheme is an attractive, sound, valuable, and essential one."
FromChapter 10 in “Thirty Eight Years of Public Life in Southampton” Sir Sidney Kimber
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).