In 1907 Alderman Henry Cawte persuaded the council to buy a piece of land, then a gravel pit, just to the north west of St James Church in Shirley and convert it into a recreation area for the children of Shirley. It took four years to reclaim the gravel pit and set out the park, which opened in 1911.

The land had originally been part of Nathaniel Jefferys’ Hollybrook House estate. In 1835 Jeffereys donated the land on which St James Church was built, and in 1841 he placed a covenant on the land which would later become the recreation ground to prevent building on it. The land was pasture in the mid-19th century before becoming a market garden in the 1880s and a gravel pit in the 1890s. The park, which is still in use, is sometimes referred to as Shirley Recreation Ground.

Further reading:

‘The Genesis of Shirley Recreation Ground’, by A. G. K. Leonard in Southampton Local History Forum Journal, no.12, Summer 2007, p 3-8. (HS/h)
Shirley from Domesday to D-Day, by John Guilmant and Hilary Kavanagh, p 14. (HS/h.SHI)

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