The drinking fountain in Shirley's shopping precinct
Shirley shown within Southampton
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Shirley is a district on the Western side of Southampton, England. Shirley's main roles are retailing and residential. It is the most important suburban shopping area in the west of the city. Housing is a mixture of council houses in the centre of the district surrounded by private housing, with larger suburban houses concentrated in Upper Shirley. Shirley is separated from Highfield by Southampton Common, a large green park-like area which sees many dog-walkers, joggers.
The place-name "Shirley" means 'bright glade', from the Old English scir (bright) and leah (cleared land in a wood). Local belief today suggests it was meant as a ' bright clearing in the woods', and later referenced to 'a place of hope' for those who settled there.
Shirley is recorded as a manor with a mill in the Domesday book, 1086. Shirley Mill originally stood to the east of the present Romsey Road/Winchester Road junction, at the confluence of the Hollybrook and Tanner's Brook streams. Shirley Mill had three large ponds, to the north of Winchester Road. Only one of those three mill ponds remains today, accessible by following the Lordswood Greenway. In the nineteenth century an iron works was built, which was converted into a brewery in 1880 and subsequently into a laundry at the beginning of the 20th century. The laundry was owned by Royal Mail and used to service the mail ships visiting Southampton.
The outflow from the mill was crossed by a ford on the Romsey Road. The stream is culverted under the major traffic junction which stands there, and continues to the Test to the east of modern Tebourba Way, open in parts and culverted in others. A further Mill was also constructed at what is now the Junction of Oakley Road and Tebourba Way. This site was later a paint factory known as Atlantic Works and mill buildings survive in commercial use on both sides of Oakley road astride the old mill leat.
The district grew rapidly in the 1830s following the enclosure of Shirley Common (not to be confused with Southampton Common) in 1829. The parish church was built in 1836. The Shirley Local board of health was established in 1853. It merged with Freemantle in 1880. Shirley and Freemantle Urban District Council was formed on 2 January 1895 but was abolished on 8 November 1895 when the district became a suburb of Southampton. In the late 1800's the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway planned to build a railway through Shirley, to a new station near Sothampton's Royal Pier. In the event the line was only built as far as Winchester Chesil Station. Deposited plans showed a the line continuing South via Twyford, Chandlers Ford, Chilworth, Lordswood, the East side of Dale Valley, under Winchester Road, through land now occupied by Shirley Junior School and on to the East side of Hill Lane near Archers Road where there is a surviving (but never used) embankment to the North of Commercial Road. A story grew up that St James' Park, Southampton, in Shirley was to have been a local railway station (still repeated in books) but plans deposited with Hampshire Record Office for this and later versions of the same scheme show this not to have been the case, with the intended route of the railway passing to the North East. Although some land was purchased and work undertaken, the large depression in which St James Park sits was in fact caused by gravel extraction, although there are Didcot, Newbury and Stratton (formerley Station) Roads to the South of this park. Station Road did contain a Police Station at one time. Nothing came of this or later similar schemes which finally petered out prior to World War One.
A route of Southampton Corporation Tramways operated along Shirley High Street until 1949 as far as what is now the current Shirley Precinct. This stop is still known as "Shirley Terminus" to some residents when using bus services. A large Tram depot was located in Carlisle Road, later being used as a bus depot until demolition in the 1980's.
In 1887 a drinking fountain was constructed to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Originally in Shirley High Street, the fountain has now been incorporated into the shopping precinct. The fountain is Grade II listed.
The council estate was built in the 1960s to replace relatively dense terraced housing.
Shirley is home to several schools including Upper Shirley High School (formerly Bellemoor Boys School), Richard Taunton Sixth Form College (formerly Taunton's College) and the 450-year-old King Edward VI School. The area is also served by Regents Park Community College (formerly Regents park Girls School).
Shirley also has a mixture of both infant schools and junior schools for mixed abilities and genders.
The nearby Hollybrook Cemetery is notable for being the resting place of several famous individuals, including the 1966 World Cup winning footballer Alan Ball (1945-2007) and the comedian Benny Hill (1924-1992). It also contains the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's (CWGC) Hollybrook Memorial to 1,883 Commonwealth land and air force personnel who were lost at sea in World War I and have no known grave; those listed include Field Marshal Earl Kitchener and those of his military entourage who were lost on HMS Hampshire in 1916, and most of the South African Native Labour Corps personnel who were lost in the sinking of SS Mendi in 1917. The CWGC also maintain and register graves within the cemetery of 113 Commonwealth service personnel of World War I, most of them in a war graves plot before the Memorial, and 186 from World War II, including three unidentified Merchant Navy seamen, besides 67 non-Commonwealth war graves, mostly German (two of them unidentified). It also contains the grave of Frederick Fleet, lookout of the RMS Titanic on the night of its loss in 1912. Fleet was buried in a pauper's grave which went unmarked until 1993, when a headstone bearing an engraving of the Titanic was erected through donations by the Titanic Historical Society.
- John Ayto, Ian Crofton (2005). Brewer's Britain & Ireland. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-304-35385-X.
- Guilmant (ed), John (1997). Shirley from Domesday to D-Day. Southampton City Council.
- Rance, Adrian (1986). Shirley 1836–1986. St James Church, Shirley.
- Guilmant (ed), John (1983). Suburbs of Southampton III: Shirley. Local Studies Group, Southampton.
- Deposited Plans Hampshire Record Office Collection DP/384/1 Didcot Newbury and Southampton Junction Railway: deposited plan 1881
- Southampton City Council: Listed buildings in Southampton Accessed 13 September 2007.
-  Hollybrook Memorial CWGC Cemetery Report.
-  Hollybrook Cemetery CWGC Cemetery Report.
- Shirley Baptist Church
- Shirley Junior School
- Southern life: Shirley
- St Boniface (Roman Catholic) Church
- Southampton Christadelphian Church