Shirley, Hampshire

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Shirley High Street, Southampton - - 980446.jpg
Shirley High Street
Grid reference: SU400137
Location: 50°55’18"N, 1°25’56"W
Post town: Southampton
Postcode: SO15
Dialling code: 023
Local Government
Council: Southampton
Southampton Test

Shirley is a village in the south of Hampshire, to the west of Southampton, which has become a suburb of the latter city. It is a residential village, but also 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 public space.

The name Shirley is from the Old English scir leag, meaning 'bright meadow'.[1]


Shirley is recorded in the Domesday Book as a manor with a mill; the mill standing to the west 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. One of the three mill ponds remains today, accessed by following the Lordswood Greenway.

In 1228, Nicholas de Sirlie, lord of Shirley, surrendered rights to Southampton Common in return for a small payment and the agreement that the Burgesses of Southampton had no rights of common over the land that would later become Shirley Common.[2] 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 stream from the mill crossed over the Romsey Road until it was culverted under the major traffic junction, and thence continues to the River Test to the east of modern Tebourba Way, open in parts and culverted in others. A second mill was built 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.[3] The Hampshire Chronicle announced in April 1830 that "Several elegant villas are about to be erected on Shirley Common".[4][5]

On the 28 November 1830 in the context of the Swing riots there was a non-violent protest in Shirley and Millbrook by labourers demanding increased wages.[6] The parish church was built in 1836.

A council estate was built in the 1960s to replace relatively dense terraced housing.

Shirley and Freemantle Local Board of Health

The 1894 council building
Drinking fountain in the shopping precinct
Fourposts Hill drinking trough in Freemantle

The Shirley Local board of health was established in 1853 and it took in Freemantle also in 1880. There was a brief Shirley and Freemantle Urban District Council in 1895, between on 2 January and 8 November in that year, when the village was absorbed into Southampton's municipal boundaries.[7][8][9]

In 1885 the Board acquired as its headquarters house named 'Ravenswood' on Church Road.[10] The house and its contents had been sold by the owner, Mr Gabriel Scott, on his bankruptcy.[11] who was, however, still living there in 1876.[12] It later became the headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the British Isles.[13]

In 1887, the Board constructed a drinking fountain 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.[14] Another was constructed at Fourposts.[15]


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Shirley, Hampshire)


  1. Mills, Anthony David: 'A Dictionary of British Place-Names' (Oxford University Press, 2003) ISBN 978-0-19-852758-9
  2. Thomson, Sheila D (1989). Southampton Common. City of Southampton Society. p. 1. OCLC 655858743. 
  3. "Shirley July 29: The home for aged women". Hampshire Advertiser. 29 July 1876. 
  4. "Southampton". Hampshire Chronicle. 12 April 1830. 
  5. "Hill and Shirley Inclosure". Hampshire Advertiser. 9 April 1831. 
  6. Patterson, A. Temple (1966). A History of Southampton 1700–1914 Vol.I An Oligarchy in Decline 1700–1835. The University of Southampton. pp. 154–155. 
  7. Guilmant (ed), John (1997). Shirley from Domesday to D-Day. Southampton City Council. 
  8. Rance, Adrian (1986). Shirley 1836–1986. St James Church, Shirley. 
  9. Guilmant (ed), John (1983). Suburbs of Southampton III: Shirley. Local Studies Group, Southampton. 
  10. "Southampton News: Shirley and Freemantle Local Board of Health". Hampshire Advertiser: p. 4. 8 July 1885. "This board have removed their offices from Church-road (sic), Shirley, to Ravenswood, Shirley-road, and the first meeting in the new boardroom was held last (Tuesday) night, the inaugural assembly being of a rather turbulent character. The proceedings will be reported in Saturday's Advertiser." 
  11. "Near bottom of column 3". Hampshire Advertiser: p. 4. 16 April 1870. "...including a drawing-room suite in rosewood, mahogany dining and breakfast-room furniture, large chimney glasses, Brussels and other carpets, rosewood pianoforte, French and eight-day clock, prints, ornaments, plated goods, sewing machine ; brass, iron, and other bed-steads, and furniture; mattress, feather beds and bedding, mahogany chamber furniture, china, glass, books, linen, gas fittings, kitchen requisites, &c" 
  12. Cox's Street Directory. p. 180. "Scott, Gabriel, bonemills, artificial manure merchant, Test Valley Works, Redbridge; private residence, Ravenswood, Shirley road, Freemantle" 
  13. "History of the British Union Conference Headquarters (page 4 in booklet)". 
  14. National Heritage List @: Shirley, Hampshire (Grade II listing)
  15. Hampshire Advertiser. 7 December 1889. "The Finance Committee reported that the South Hants Water Company had sent in a claim of £4 8s for water supplied to the drinking fountains at Shirley and Four-posts"