About Bitterne

Bitterne Church, School and Red Lion circa 1905
Postcard view of the junction of Pound Street and High Street, with Bitterne Pound in the foreground and Bitterne Church and School in the rear, circa 1905.
From the BLHS collection.

Bitterne is now a suburb of Southampton, on the eastern side of the River Itchen. Prior to 1920 it was a village outside of Southampton that developed at the top of a rise that overlooked the river and town. Earlier references to Bitterne [Byterne] are to Bitterne Manor near the Roman site of Clausentum by the river. 

Following the construction of the first Northam Bridge in 1799, the village grew in the nineteenth century to support a number of large houses built along the ridge and with its growth came a Parish church as well as a selection of public houses and shops that moved out of peoples’ front rooms into purpose made buildings. The centre of Bitterne has wandered a little over the years as it was originally in the area between the present library and parish church. It gradually moved to its present position in front of the oldest extant pub in the village, The Red Lion. This was the site of a bottleneck where the toll roads to Botley and Bursledon, which finished construction in 1801, met; fine in the days of the stagecoach but suffered with modern traffic.

Gradually the estate houses and farms were sold for building and there was large population growth. The extra pressure of this caused further deterioration of the traffic situation leading to the construction of a by-pass in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the creation of the new road necessitated the demolition of many of the older buildings of the village but this enabled the pedestrianisation of the old high street.

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