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Sir Sidney Kimber and the development of Southampton Sports Centre - Part 7


Work had been consistently going on at the southern end. The tender of Messrs. H. Osman & Co. Ltd., being the lowest at £41,575, had been .accepted, and the mechanical excavators and skips were very busy levelling and making the terraces. The sports pavilion was being erected, the specialised work of bowling greens and tennis courts were being dealt with by competent firms, and the time was coming for the completion of the whole centre and the official opening.

As was the case in regard to the Civic Centre, public opinion had completely turned in favour of the Sports Centre, and thousands walked through it each Sunday to watch the progress being made.

As we came near to completion, the only question that arose in the Council was a debate on the advisability, or otherwise, of all games being played on Sundays. The religious associations made representations as to this, and on February 23rd, 1938, I gave an undertaking to the Council, which they accepted, that very careful consideration would be given to this matter.

As a result, we had a conference, and it was decided that all games should be played on Sundays, none to commence earlier than 2 p.m. This arrangement has been maintained and is quite successful.


We had been most fortunate in securing the presence of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Kent for the opening ceremony, and we had arranged to utilise a position on No. 4 cricket pitch as being one where a large audience could be accommodated with an extensive view of the Centre.

The Duke and Duchess, attended by Lord and Lady Herbert, arrived at 11 a.m. by car at the Borough Boundary at Bassett, and were received by the Acting Lord Lieutenant, Brigadier-General Sir Bertram Portal, K.C.B., who presented the Mayor and Mayoress (Councillor G. E. H. Prince and Mrs. Prince) and the Chief Constable (Mr. J. T. McCormac). The Royal party drove to the Sports Centre via the golf course entrance to the temporary stand erected for the opening ceremony and the Mayor presented the Lord Bishop of Winchester (Dr. C. Garbett), Mr. and Mrs. Craven-Ellis, Sir Charles and Lady Barrie, Mr. E. A. Law, the contractor (Mr. H. Osman) and others. The Police Band, which had been playing to the assembly, led the singing of the National Anthem and the Mayor read the address of welcome to Their Royal Highnesses. He referred to "the amazing transformation of an unprofitable and ill-drained farm to this unrivalled centre for sport and recreation," and to my activities in the conception and supervision of the scheme, before requesting His Royal Highness to declare the Centre open.

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).