We are currently canvassing the residents to get as many opinions as possible about what makes the Oakmount Triangle special so this is a work in progress. As this is a conservation area, we tend to think first and foremost about buildings, but in this case it goes way beyond that. We have a very special community, so this character appraisal could be as much about the residents as it is about the location and the architecture. We believe we have something extremely special here – ranging from the houses themselves, to the feeling of spaciousness, the community “village-like” feel, the greenery, the wildlife, the low volume of traffic, the quietness and much more.
Location and Architecture
John Smith’s development draws on a new era of architecture which was lighter, often less uniform than the Victorian period. But the houses in the Triangle paradoxically seem to share both uniformity and individuality. At first glance the “John Smith style” houses might all look the same, but anyone would be hard pressed to find two identical houses in the way you might with a Victorian terrace or a modern housing estate. It seems each house has its own quirks, whether it’s the number or size of the bays, the width of the verandah, decorative features – even the front walls come in various styles. At the same time certain features such as the exposed rafters, casement windows, and the front facing gables give it some uniformity. But those are just the John Smith houses, many others contemporary to the original development are extremely varied, yet all exist in perfect harmony. Add to that the more modern buildings (most of which also fit in) and there is a real blend of styles.
The closeness to the common, along with the protected green corridor along the north boundary, means that we are quite blessed with wildlife – with one of the highest density of hedgehog population this side of Totton. Many residents have installed “hedgehog highways” to allow them to roam and flourish. There are also many properties with swift boxes.
There is some intriguing history, including the sixteenth century common boundary bank and ditch, Portswood Manor, Highfield House, and the the John Smith acquisition and development of what we now call the Triangle.
The structure of the street pattern may well be unique in Southampton. There is access at all three corners of the triangle, but only one of them being vehicular access (from Brookvale Road). The other two entrances at the west of Blenheim Avenue and Oakmount Avenue allow only pedestrian access from the common. So although traffic is quiet (no rat-run possible) it doesn’t feel deserted, as people wander through to access the common at the Triangle’s western boundary. This is brings us on to the next aspect of the Triangle’s specialness:
On any day you may find a mix of both residents and passers by, and it’s totally normal for people to say “hello” and give a friendly nod or smile whoever they are. However it’s the residents themselves we can look to for something extra special. The three roads that form the triangle are instersected by another to form an A shape, so although this is effectively a cut-de-sac, it’s not one long street. There is something about the trianglar structure that draws you in and brings people together. It almost seems to cry out for street parties and other community events – and that is exactly what we have in abundance – more of that later.
The residents are from all walks of life, absolutely not confined to the more affluent type you might naturally associate with conservation areas that can boast such beautiful architecture. We have detached houses, apartments, bedsits. Everybody seems to get along well.
We have a well used website with neighbourly discussion and neighbourhood watch. There is a virtual noticeboard so, people can sell, buy swap unused items, look for and offer tools to borrow, recommend tradespeople,
But on to the parties! In the last 15 years we have had two full on street parties with roads closed, bands, dancing and fireworks late into the night. There are also annual social events such as book sales, coffee mornings, picnics on the common and the ubiquious plant sale and sunflower competition. Recently we have also had an arts and crafts trail with residents wandering around the Triangle viewing such diverse exhibits as embroidery, model planes, dinosaur footprints, eco tips, bee keeping, oil painting, upholstery and photography all on display in peoples’ front gardens. Not to mention home made food, drinks, and kids’ events.
We also had a “green” event where we held large sale of pre-loved stuff and invited the repair cafe stalls. Thanks to SCC Voluntary Services we got a grant to have a marching band. And again of course, home made food, drinks, and kids’ events.
One of our residents owns a 60s milk float “Ernie” and organised a Santa drive round last December followed by a samba band. I don’t think there can be anything else quite like this kind of community spirit in Southampton.
Neighbourhood care and help
We are also very proud of how the community came together when the pandemic struck in 2020. Another street party was in the planning when suddenly the threat of COVID was upon us. Via our community website we were immediately able to get volunteers to leaflet the Triangle – to identify and help those who were vulnerable at this awful time and help with shopping, dog walking, and just general spirit raising and support. Many of us made new and enduring friendships during this time and have continued keeping an eye out for the elderly or infirm.
That’s what’s special!
If you want to add your own thoughts to this, please join the discussion here