highfield-house-wall

History

The Oakmount Triangle was built in the early part of the twentieth Century on the site of Highfield House and its triangular shaped grounds which bordered to the  south east with Westwood House, to the north east with Oakmount and to the west with Southampton Common.

Highfield House itself originated about 1810. This pleasant and agreeable villa was built by Captain (later Admiral) Edward James Foote RN (1767-1833), who lived there from 1819. He was acquainted with the novelist Jane Austen, but famous in his time for a published attack upon Nelson’s savage conduct against rebels at Naples in 17991. Admiral William Morier (1790- 1864), brother of the novelist James Morier, lived there in the mid nineteenth century. These naval connections might explain a cannonball recently found in the garden of 24 Oakmount Avenue.

Highfield House Garden Wall

Highfield House garden wall (next to 38 Oakmount Avenue)

Afterwards the house passed through a group of distinguished local and related families, ending with the Morley Lees who sold it in 1910, with the estate, for speculative development. It was purchased by John Smith.

The house was situated at the highest point of the area, and must have had a stupendous view across fields and woodland to Southampton Water, and possibly even of the Isle of Wight. The blocks of flats at the top of Oakmount and Westbourne Crescent are situated on the actual site of Highfield House, whose original lodge still exists at the northern entrance to Oakmount Avenue. You can see the distinctive yellow brickwork of the wall facing the common.

Other visible remnants include the garden wall adjacent to 38 Oakmount Avenue and parts of border wall between Highfield House and Oakmount, at the back of 24 Oakmount Avenue.

Highfield House Lodge wall, showing part of the (red brick) garden wall in the background

The hedgerow running south from what is now the junction of Oakmount Avenue and Leigh Road down to what is now Blenheim Avenue, is shown on the 1658, 1868 and 1910 maps. There is a well pump marked, which we believe is still in existence at number ?? Blenheim Avenue. The border between Highfield House and Westwood House is now in line with the borders between the gardens of Blenheim Avenue (south) and Winn Road.

Work commenced around 1910 at the southerly end (Blenheim Avenue) and continued for at least another fifteen years. The main builder/architect was John Smith whose yard and offices were on the southern side of Blenheim Avenue, presumably on the large L shaped area stretching down to Winn Road, visible on the 1933 map. This appears to have later been taken over by H.G.Lane who subsequently built on that plot circa 1947.

Most of the development in the Triangle took place between 1911 and 1930. Officers in the armed services, officials of the local council, clergymen, and other professionals found the houses attractive and affordable. More houses were built on vacant plots after the Second World War (notably along the south side of Blenheim Avenue, which is characterised by varied development), while those damaged by bombing were repaired and in a few cases rebuilt. The social mix of the area began to change as multiple occupancy increased during the 1950s and early 1960s, and a private hotel (subsequently a student hostel) was established. New development also continued. Town houses were added at the west end of Oakmount Avenue in the 1960s, while a spacious house at the west end of Blenheim Avenue (Gallia) was demolished and replaced by local authority sheltered housing (Gallia Court, 1977). By then, however, houses were being returned to family use, with the emergence of private restoration schemes. Nonetheless, No. 45 Blenheim Avenue was demolished and replaced with apartments (2001), while a small bungalow at No. 34 Blenheim Avenue was replaced with a house. New houses were built on double plot gardens (33 Blenheim Avenue, 5 and 6 Leigh Road) between 2001 and 2005.

 

Highfield House Lodge

Highfield House Lodge

 

We are very happy to receive any comments, further information or corrections. We are currently trying to locate maps from the later part of 1910 which show plans or actual new buildings, as well as a 1940 map and some early arial photographs.

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