Sunday, 6 May 2012

Aiming Higher with the Millbrook Flyer [1]

Something New : A First for First?
A completely new concept in bus travel in Southampton, OR an attempt to pinch business from Go-Ahead's Bluestar subsidiary?

So, where and what is Millbrook?
This 1575 map shows what became the suburb of Millbrook as one of a number of small villages way out in the countryside, with the "big city" of Southampton on its promontory bottom right. All of the names will be more-or-less familiar to those who know the area, except, possibly the "mountain" called Towte Hill north of Nursling.
This is now Toothill, an ancient fort and signalling station in the appropriately named Telegraph Wood.

The Southampton and Dorchester railway came to Millbrook in 1847 and a station was opened on the edge of Southampton in 1861. Although it was called "Millbrook" is was nearer the "suburb" of Freemantle than its eponymous village. The area remained rural and up-market.
In 1850 the worthy residents could parade their finery on the beach as they watched the new fangled steam locomotives thunder by with terrifying force. The "flesh-pots" of the rapidly growing sea port are visible at a safe and remote distance.
Rural bus services passed that way in the early years of the 20th Century but it was the London and South Western Railway that changed the face of Millbrook for ever. The massive Western Docks complex, opened in 1936, was built entirely on reclaimed land ...
... the empty white chunk of this 1930s map extract. This meant that quiet bucolic Millbrook was removed from the shoreline and the former mansions gazed out on a growing sea of dockland industry. No longer would the children of the village paddle happily in the gently lapping tides of Southampton Water (aka River Test) ...
... but a busy and noisy dockland developed on the other side of the railway line. The area now looks like this:-
Western Docks today
And that pleasant country station, nestled peacefully beside the estuary, now looks like this ...
... unstaffed, largely unused and served by one local train every hour. And no beach! But, interestingly enough, this industrial landscape has very little to do with the destination screen on this bus ...
The Millbrook of bus service 18 is not the Millbrook of the railway and docks, neither is it the Millbrook of the pleasant church ...
... although the gate is much the same as ever (see bus picture above)! For the "Millbrook" of Southampton bus services, we need to go back to post-war-rebuilding Britain; which will be our starter for tomorrow's blog.
 Next : Monday 7th May 

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