Beach Cottage is a unique example of a 'cottage ornee' - a rustic building of picturesque design - in Southampton. It was one of the first buildings on the Marsh, backing on to Porter's Mead. It dates from the early nineteenth century: it certainly existed in 1825 when it was burgled.
The cottage is described in July 1838, when it was sold at auction, as:
“forming the most complete Marine Residence in the Town of Southampton, immediately facing the Beach, commanding uninterrupted views of Southampton Water, and entirely secluded within its own grounds. It is admirably adapted for any nobleman or gentleman of the Yacht club, as a yacht may be anchored directly in view. It also claims the peculiar attention of those connected with mercantile pursuits, and who are anxiously awaiting the completion of the Railway and Docks, being immediately contiguous to the Terminus of the Railway. The House is approached by a carriage drive from Orchard-lane, near the Platform, only a short, but perfect, remove from the bustle of the Town, placed on a delightful Lawn, studded with Ornamental Timber, Pleasure Grounds, and walled Kitchen Garden, excellent attached and detached Offices, double Coach House and Stabling for four horses”.
The grounds exceeded an acre. The principal floor contained an elegant suite of rooms, 46 feet long, with French windows and trellis veranda opening on the lawn. On the first floor there were ten bedrooms, with dressing rooms, and water closet. It was leasehold, held under Queen's College, Oxford.
For many years Beach Cottage was owned and occupied by John Story Penleaze, pro-Reform MP for Southampton 1831-35 and owner of an extensive collection of pictures, water colour drawings and prints which were housed at Beach Cottage. He left c.1840 (see clipping 1 below)
The coming of the railways and the building of the docks reacted badly on the former pristine location of Beach Cottage. The extensive gardens were gradually sold off, and piecemeal development of the Queen's College lands meant that the surroundings were now decidedly urban rather than rural. The house was unoccupied for a time following the departure of Penleaze, and part of the boundary fence illegally removed for firewood. It was subsequently let to a succession of relatively short-stay tenants.
For a time in the early 1850s the property became “Watkin's Hotel and Boarding House”. In March 1856 it was the venue for a freak show: the daily exhibition, admission 6d, by Monsieur Chaville of a half European/half African boy. The end came in December 1856 when, to quote the Hampshire Independent (27 December), “the labourer's (sic) pickaxe has this week levelled to the ground Beach Cottage”: the destruction of another relic of old Southampton in an age of rapid modernisation (see clipping 2 below).
The building materials were sold off - presumably to be reused - and 40 large trees, mainly elms, were sold for timber. It was part of the development of a large tranche of land in Oxford Street, Itchen Bridge Road and Porter's Meadow. A proposal two years later, by the proprietors of Sanger's Circus, to erect a permanent circus on the site of the cottage, was refused by the borough magistrates.
- 1. Unique gentleman's residence, Southampton - (Hampshire Independent 10/10/1840)
- 2. Another relic of old Southampton has passed away - (Hampshire Independent 27/12/1856)
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