In the third and final reminiscence from the late 1980s, Chippy tells us his memories of transport and travel at the time.
Strange as it may seem, I think there was more traffic coming through Winchester Road / Bournemouth Road in those days. I often drive that way on a Friday now, and the queues are nothing like I remember. A lot of local traffic would use that route rather than the notorious A33. Sometimes – especially on a Friday – I would get off the bus (Number 47 – Southampton to Winchester, or 54 via Badger Farm and Stanmore) at Central Precinct and walk, as it was quicker than sitting in traffic.
My discovery of the bus for my daily commute came about by lucky coincidence – and proof that every cloud has a silver lining. I’d fully anticipated driving to Winchester each day but the evening before I started work I my car suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure (the events of which is a whole story in itself) and I was forced to seek alternative transport. I waited at the bus stop expecting to pay a small fortune for the trip to Winchester. I was pleasantly surprised to find that fare was less than £1. That was cheaper than parking in Winchester, and a season ticket was cheaper still – and covered bus travel to Southampton.
The etiquette of the British Commute
Being British, of course we never spoke to our fellow commuters on the bus. We might eventually get as far as exchanging a brief nod with the people we saw every day, but there was never any attempt to strike up a conversation. For a short while around 1988/89 Hampshire Bus ran a couple of “bendy-buses” on the route. Even the first arrival of one of those wasn’t enough to stir us from our taciturn state – other than exchanged glances to signal “this is a bit exciting”.
On another occasion I had a day off and took a trip to London with a friend. Walking across Covent Garden I noticed someone I vaguely recognised. We nodded a “hello, how are you” as we passed and my friend asked me who that had been. I wasn’t sure at first, but after a few seconds remembered him as being one of my fellow bus commuters. I’m not sure what the chances were of the two of being in the same place at the same time were – and as we never spoke on the bus, we never mentioned it!
The A33 and M3
The M3 hadn’t been extended south of Winchester (it had only reached Winchester a couple of years earlier). The A33 was pretty much hated by anyone who drove it – especially the section round Winchester where the Hockley traffic lights (the only traffic lights between Edinburgh and Southampton) were guaranteed to cause long delays. These were on the crossroads where Five Bridges Road crossed the dual-carriageway by the railway viaduct. Five Bridges Road is a dead-end now, but you can still make out the road markings from the original junction. I remember cycling home from Winchester following a work social event where some alcohol may have been consumed. I was half way across the junction before I remembered that “red light means stop”!
South of Compton, and north of Bar End, the M3 follows the line of the original A33, but the route between these two points has changed.
The main difference is that the A33 ran to the west of St. Catherine’s Hill. There is very little evidence of this now because – in what is possibly the best road planning decision ever – the spoil from the Twyford cutting was used to cover the excavations for the original road and join St Catherine’s Hill back to the water meadows.
From here, the A33 crossed the current route of the M3 and ran slightly to the east. As you travel south from Junction 11 if you look to the left (only if you’re a passenger; not the driver) you can see the metal railway bridge that crossed the A33. You also cross the flyover that originally crossed the A33 when you head towards Bar End from Junction 10.
There was no access to the A33 in Chandler’s Ford. Where the road now bends to the left past the Yellow Dot nursery (the building was then referred to as “The Hammer House” owing to its ruined and creepy look), it went in a straight line over the A33 to the junction with Hocombe Road. The Allbrook Way link road hadn’t been built, and Boyatt Lane was fully open to traffic.
There was, however, a junction at Shawford / Compton. This was an example of road planning that has not, as far as I know, been repeated anywhere else – thankfully. The exit came after the entry and the same lane served as both the deceleration lane for traffic leaving the bypass and the acceleration lane for traffic joining it. To add adventure to the chaos, this lane was also used by local traffic travelling from Otterbourne to Winchester – traffic which was generally moving slowly having just negotiated a spiral down from the road above. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time.
Watch your speed!
One evening we were driving home from work (I’d graduated from the bus to a car-share, after a colleague moved in to the shared house) and as we passed the Shawford junction (keeping on the local road) I noticed a police motorcyclist coming up the slip road from the A33. “Watch your speed”, I warned the driver. Of course, a few miles later we had completely forgotten – but the flashing blue lights and headlamps as we came into Chandler’s Ford quickly jogged our memory. “Sarah, I think he wants you to stop!” we cried out as the driver initially seemed uncertain of the meaning of the signal.
The driver was given a stern talking too, but no further action was taken (of course – otherwise I would never have told the anecdote). I should add that this was the first and only time I have been in a vehicle that has been pulled over by the police.
The junction to the A33 at Leigh Road was pretty much the same as the M3 junction now – though with a sharper hairpin bend. Apparently the original plan for the M3 was for this junction to be closed – all traffic for Eastleigh would use either the Chandler’s Ford junction or junction 5 on the M27. But maybe this had been planned much earlier – Woodside Avenue was obviously built with the option of upgrading to dual-carriageway at a later date (wide verges, long footbridge).
I know I’m moving a bit away from Chandler’s Ford, but writing about major roads reminds me that the A34 wasn’t dual-carriageway for all its length. There were two or three single-carriageway sections between Winchester and Newbury – though, other than immediately south of Newbury, I can’t remember where.
Although I car-shared to, from time to time work or social commitments meant I would make my own way to Winchester (I saved parking fees, by the way, by parking in Christchurch Road, which was not then a Residential Parking Zone). One morning my car had a flat battery. Flagging my college down as he drove past, I got him to give me a push-start. We went all the way down Chestnut Rise without success. I was beginning to worry what we would do if we reached the bottom, as there was no way we would be able to push the car back up the hill. Then I glanced at the dashboard and realised I hadn’t turned the ignition on!
The flat battery, incidentally was caused by a loose switch on the “headlamp flash” lever, causing the lights to switch on during the night. This fault was easily rectified with a piece of card stuck over the connection to insulate it. Car mechanics was so much easier in those days.
Eastleigh town centre
In Eastleigh town centre, High Street was one-way in the opposite direction to today and Romsey Road was one-way from Leigh Road to Twyford Road. I think you could only travel south along Station Hill; traffic coming along Southampton Road had to turn left into Leigh Road – which was then fully open (and two-way traffic).
The three roads – Leigh Road, Romsey Road and Station Hill – formed a triangular gyratory system – which presumably you had to use to get from Southampton Road to Bishopstoke.
Of course, not all road schemes come to fruition. I’m pretty certain that even back then there was talk of a link road between Bishopstoke Road (somewhere near Chickenhall Lane) and Southampton Road (somewhere near Parkway station).
Chandler’s Ford Station didn’t exist – or rather it did, but wasn’t open. There were no passenger trains along that line at all, apart from the occasional ‘on diversion’ service at weekends.
On one occasion I was chatting about the history of the station with some friends.
“Where was the station?” I asked.
“Just along Hursley Road from the roundabout”, came the answer.
“Oh yes, I know,” I replied, “by the railway”. It immediately dawned on me the obviousness of what I had just said.
Chandler’s Ford station later celebrated its 10th anniversary of re-opening in October 2013.
Eastleigh station was a bit more basic back then too. The area where the coffee shop and ticket office now is hadn’t been built – the ticket office was at the top of the stairs. There was a rough wooden floor across the bridge, and possibly a sliding grille shutter between the ticket office and the bridge – but I might be confusing that with another station of the same period. You could also clearly make out the remains of a disused platform and track running along the front of the building.
Southampton Parkway was still Eastleigh Airport and even more basic – I’m not even sure that there was a ticket office.
But now Southampton Airport Parkway station is very different. Here are a few photos showing the new look of Southampton Airport Parkway today.
What can you remember about transport and travel from the 1980s and 1990s? How has it improved – or deteriorated? Leave a comment with your memories.
Chippy bonus answers
- The Homebase store was originally Texas Homecare.
- The first store to occupy the site of Poundland in the Swan Centre was Mortimer’s – a greengrocer.
- The pub that is now Stones originally opened as The Hogshead (how much beer does a hogshead hold?)
Give yourself a pat on the back if you got any right.
- Chandler’s Ford from the 1980s – Part 1
- Chandler’s Ford from the 1980s – Part 2
- Chandler’s Ford from the 1980s – Part 3
Follow the link to read more posts from Chippy Minton.