In these days when the roar of motorway noise disturbs the peace of the otherwise tranquil suburb of Chandler’s Ford, it is hard to imagine the excited anticipation with which residents awaited the building of the Chandler’s Ford by-pass back in the 1960s.
In December 1967 the Otterbourne-Chandler’s Ford by-pass was opened. This six-mile stretch of dual carriageway created a fast link from Compton to Bassett. It cost three million pounds to build and two decades later it would become a part of the M3 motorway.
For many residents of Chandler’s Ford the by-pass had been a long time coming, as rush hour traffic on the Leigh Road was hazardous for both pedestrians and local motorists alike.
Oral History Project: Velmore residents’ voices
In a recent Oral History project residents of the nearby Velmore estate recalled their feelings about the building of the new by-pass. Children were fascinated by the concrete adventure playground which cut through their woods and no-one foresaw the noise and pollution it would bring.
“We used to go down to where the bungalows are on Belmont Road and you could watch them building the dual carriageway,” said Ian McGill, “…these huge yellow earth moving things. It was great. If you were a little boy it was fantastic – big machines!”
“Well I never heard that there was any objection to it,” said Joan Church, who had three small boys at the time. “Yes you could hear the motorway but even if we were in the garden we didn’t take any notice of it … I don’t know that anybody objected.”
Many families purchased their first car in the late 1960s. For Jane McGill the new road was a welcome fast exit to freedom:
“To me it was just an easier means of getting from A to B, because at weekends I used to travel all over the country showing my dogs, so it was easier to nip down the road and get on the motorway and go to north, south, east or west, wherever I was going.”
The speed and safety improvements which the new road brought created an irreversible cost to the natural landscape. Nick Jeffery, relief milker at Home Farm from 1965 to 1967, recalls how each day he would milk the small herd of twenty cattle and then run them up the fields towards the back of Belmont Road and the North End Copse woods:
“The fields used to be covered in buttercups, a truly lovely site – they looked like fields of gold.”
The new road cut a wedge through these tranquil pastures – situated today behind Fleming Park Leisure Centre – and destroyed forever the natural serenity of the country stroll to Eastleigh. The Leigh Road farmhouse was sold to the Council and it became the site of the Civic Offices for the town from 1976 to 2013.
What price have we paid for the convenience?
So whether for you the motorway represents a fast route to escape and adventure, or even a fast commute to wealth and fulfilment, it is worth taking a moment to consider the price we have all paid for this convenience.
This article is edited from Velmore: From Huts to Homes, a not-for-profit local history book about the Velmore estate.
If you have memories to share about the history of the Chandler’s Ford area, or wish to express your views about the M3 motorway I would welcome your feedback.