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Sir Sidney Kimber and the development of Southampton Sports Centre - Part 4


….Mr. Stanton (Borough Engineer) placed this specialised work in the capable hands of his Assistant, Mr. E. A. Law, and I take this opportunity of acknowledging Mr. Law’s capability and understanding of the matter. My association with him in the formation and the carrying out of this great enterprise was a remarkably close one, and only those who can remember this old, badly cared for farm, with its boggy watercourse running right through its centre, can appreciate his difficulty over levels and drainage and his scheme for the various terraces on which he placed the various football, cricket and hockey pitches was a touch of genius.

Before, however, we could make any progress, it was essential that the Town Planning Committee's decision to put the arterial road right through the centre of this land be defeated. Such a proposal would have completely spoiled the whole centre. So on November 28th, 1934, I moved an amendment to the Town Planning Committee’s report, "to delete this proposed road" from this scheme, and, notwithstanding Alderman Mouland’s opposition, it was carried by 43 votes to 8. The Ministry of Transport subsequently concurred, and this horrible menace was removed. At the same Council Meeting, the Sports Centre Committee’s recommendation that Messrs. Hawtree and Taylor’s tender for the construction of the golf course for £6,685 be accepted, and that a sum of £7,000 be spent on preliminary levelling work on the southern end of the land - by unemployed labour - was passed, and so at last the "bogy" of the golf course was laid and we were able to proceed with its construction. This commenced a close association with Mr. Hawtree and Mr. J. H. Taylor, which to me as a golfer was a most interesting one. Mr. C. H. Hawtree was an expert architectural golf course specialist - a golf course requires as much architectural knowledge as any building and he had remarkable successes in various parts of the country in laying out golf courses. Mr. J. H. Taylor had a world-wide reputation as one of the best professional golfers, and had won the Open Championship of the World for five years, so the combination was perfect and has resulted in one of the finest and most picturesque golf courses in the country, commended and enjoyed by players who use it. It comprises (a) eighteen-hole course of 6,163 yards; (b) nine-hole course, 2,391 yards; (c) a wonderful practice course for beginners and others of 18 acres; (d) putting course of eighteen holes; and a fine pavilion with lockers, dressing rooms, and a full catering and excise licence, open to all-comers, completes the whole ensemble. While the golf courses were being constructed, we turned our attention to the general sports section, and on November 5th, 1934, thirty-two unemployed men were put to work to clear off the furze bushes and small trees at the southern end. It was my sixty-first birthday, and with a grub axe I initiated this work by commencing it on the site which is now occupied by our immaculate and popular bowling greens, and this work proceeded - very slowly - for several months until the ground was cleared sufficiently for the main contract to be entered into.

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).