Now dubbed with the title of Britain's Ugliest Town, Totton (locals call it Totton-on-the-Mud, because of its mud flats) once claimed the title of the largest village in England with around 29,000 inhabitants, but was given the status of a town around the 1960s. This is how the place of my birth back in 1945 has been described, cruelly but completely true it has lost a lot of its charm due to industry and bad management.


There has been  a settlement has been here for many centuries, and some Palaeolithic implements have been discovered and the nearby Tatchbury Mount Iron Age fort suggests occupation of the area from pre Roman times.

St Mary's church on Eling Hill

Maybe this was a good spot for settling with its natural harbour and outlet to the sea, and salt producing marshes. After the Norman invasion the area was divided into manors and these then became hamlets that grew together to form Eling or Totton as the two are combined.

Totton got its name from Totinctone in 985 Totyngton in 1174 - 1199. Old English Tot(r)ingtūn ' farm of Tot(t)a'. It is usual to identify the Domesday Book manor of Dodintune in Redbridge hundred with this place though not on liguistic evidence. There was a Doda who once held the manor of Bedecote in the New Forest before the Battle of Hastings and on later maps a form with an unrounded vowel Tatton is mentioned (source "The Place-Names of Hampshire by Richard Coates, published by B. T. Batsford, London, ISBN 07134 5625 6)

Eling Quay showing the tide mill in the background

There has been a tide mill has existed here for centuries, and it is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It was built for milling the local flour, and is still producing today, one of a few such mills in Europe and is a favourite tourist attraction. Opposite the Mill is a large warehouse which was once a part of Allis Chalmers tractors and has now been converted to dwellings and also the Eling Heritage site. Next to the mill are wharves where ship building once thrived but is now a part of Boltons timber, next door to this was the tar distillery. Eling Creek is a popular place for the mooring of private boats and the Anchor Inn which stands on the quayside is normally a busy place.

At the end of the tide mill can be found a toll gate and a charge is made for crossing the bridge, but those visiting the church or the cemetery are exempt. The church sits at the top of the hill on a sharp bend and is dedicated to St Mary and was built facing the mill during Saxon times. Its registers go back to 1537 and it is a wealth of history and is a favourite haunt for historians. Its main fame though is a painting of 'The Last Supper' which hangs over the altar, this was painted by the Ventian, Marziale who may have known Michelangelo and maybe copied his famous painting which hangs in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

There is an arch in the church that was there long before the Normans landed and nearby is a helmet which has a castle as its crest with red flames pouring from its battlements. Old carved chairs stand either side of the altar and a beautiful 17th century candelabra with a dove carrying an olive branch in its mouth can be found in the 13th century chancel. This has an odd story attached to it that, according t the vicar who noticed it was around 300 years old and saved it from being put into a melting pot of a visiting tinker. The church has a 15th century tower and the blessing of one of its bells Peace and good neighbourhood was once the salutation of neighbours passing in Worcestershire.

The churchyard has many fascinating headstones and some have ships and cherubs on them while others have heads. But most of these have now been taken indoors as the church overlooks Southampton Water and salt spray blows across here quite frequently.

One grave though is important and that is to William Mansbridge of Cadnam who died in 1703, and on it is engraved.....

Stop, reader, pray, and read my fate,
What caused my life to terminate.
For theivs by night when in my bed
Brook up my house and shot me dead.

Also buried here is John Pinhorne who was a vicar here and while he was the headmaster of King Edward VI's school in Southampton he had a famous pupil called Isaac Watts, and so great was Watts affection for his old teacher he addressed an ode to him in Latin, in which Watts felicitates his old master on the kindly skill with which he has smoothed the rough ways of his pupil through Greek and Latin and Hebrew, permitting him to enjoy not only the glories of Homer and Virgil but the sublime truths of the Scriptures.'

Another incumbent here was William Phillips from 1803 until 1855, his 52 years of service was only equalled here by James Olding who was sextant from 1744 to 1796. It was he who dug the grave of Susanna Serle, a bust of her by Rysbrack can be seen here accompanying a bust of Peter Serle who died 12 years before her in 1741..

  Not far from Eling on the Salisbury Road at Testwood, can be found a strikingly modern church, St Winifred's, which is constructed of brick with a great cross on the face of tower, with huge arches outside, and inside two brick arches with a span of fifty feet. It is built from the designs of Mr N. F. CachemaiIle-Day.

During the 19th century a fair used to be held — this was a two day event but was banned from 1892 because of unruly behaviour. It was brought back  in 1951 and held in the Eling Recreation ground, and incorporated a trade and industries section, flower show, show jumping where some of Britain's top equestrians such as Pat Smythe,  Lionel Dunning (a local lad) and Harvey Smith among others competed here in their early careers. The fair was part of the Festival of Britain only the annual carnival now survives, and even this is in fear of finishing due to lack of support.

The main shopping area used to be Rumbridge Street until quite recently, and is in a bad state of repair. The blacksmith's shop, carter's and wagon-maker were situated there.


At the beginning of the 20th century  a Mr C. F. Batt bought two cottages at a place where the coaches stopped. He turned these into a general stores and this is still a focal point in the area, known as 'Batt's Corner', which is where the High Street, Eling Lane, Junction Road and Rumbridge Street meet.

A well known antiques shop stood in Station Road, and it is said that Queen Mary and others shopped here after stopping the train . Another old name was Ashby's Brewery which was also here.

The Red Lion public house which stands opposite Station Road and is the first building you meet on the north side of the Redbridge Causeway when entering Totton from Southampton, the Elephant and Castle on the junction in the town centre, and the Anchor at Eling Quay were all mention in the 1859 edition of William White's Gazetteer. The Red :Lion being right on the edge of the reed beds has been flooded countless times due to the high Spring and Autumn tides that occur here, in fact the water used to reach right into the centre of the town and cause a lot of havoc and merriment for the local children!

An aerial view of Eling Tide Mill at low tide, click on image for more detail
©Eling Tide Mill Trust Ltd., 2001

On entering Totton from Southampton along Commercial Road which now converges onto a roundabout connecting the main Ringwood Road and Salisbury Road, in the newer part of the town the traveller will often come across traffic hold-ups as these two roads are nearly always busy. Junction Road which used to come off of Commercial Road by the Elephant and Castle is now closed here  and access can be gained via the Ringwood Road, this is always a bottle neck as Totton's notoriously famous railway level crossing is set in the middle!

The Totton Bypass which goes over the top of Commercial Road at the meeting of the River Test and Southampton Water leads to the New Forest and also to the Waterside, which eventually takes the traveller to Fawley and the huge Exxon oil Refinery there. But a lot of the traffic has been cut due to the M27 connecting Winchester to Cadnam from the M3 now carries it around the town. It was quite common to find tailbacks right from Lyndhurst to Totton or Romsey during the height of the tourist season.

The past few decades have seen a great amount of new housing in the town, with the Calmore Estate being built in the 1960s and 1970s and recently the large expanse of housing on the Ringwood Road to Netley Marsh - lush green fields that were playgrounds to myself and countless other children have now become and unsightly 'carbuncle' of brick and mortar!


Nowadays the Rumbridge Street and High Street side of Totton has become run-down with empty properties, take-aways and charity shops replacing the old family businesses which were here for decades. John Walters was a well known local man who started up as a carpet shop in Station Road and became very popular. The family business then moved to Rumbridge Street and was there for many years. But the business has now moved to Junction Road.

There are still some of the old names in Rumbridge Street though, and today I went into one shop which has many childhood memories of being the best toy shop in the area, Goldsmiths, which today is a newsagents, next door was Colletts and Matthews, the latter is still there. On the opposite side of the road was the White House fish and chip shop which was popular with people returning home from the Eling Fair and Industries Exhibition which was held annually in Eling recreation ground, and next door was Goddard's cycle shop which was changed to a Honda motorcycle franchise by the late Martin Goddard and his wife, one of his mechanics took over the business, and later this became part of a company in Shirley.

Eling Fair and Industries Exhibition was the biggest event held every July in Eling Recreation Ground. Here there was a funfair and also large marquees which held various exhibitions. The annual Horticultural Show, Industries of the local area were also displayed, the biggest usually the car sales of Streets Garage, a gymkhana took place every day with the final being held on the Saturday. Motorcycle display teams and other attractions were held here all week. The Totton and Eling carnival would start off at Testwood Crescent (later moved to the Calmore Industrial Estate) and would travel the full length of the Salisbury Road through Junction Road where nine times out of ten the Level Crossing would close and cut the procession in half!! And on to Eling Recreation ground for the prize giving. At the end of the week a large firework display would take place to announce the end of the festivities. During Carnival week the local shops would participate and a competition called Spot the Deliberate Mistake would be held, this entailed the shops having a 'foreign' object on display in their windows. I can always remember Andrews drapery shop having a tin of baked beans in their window and Goddard's Cycle shop having a set of baby clothes!!

One of the favourite places especially on walking back from the Eling Fair was the White House fish and chip shop!

The Co-operative Society had a grocery shop and butchers, Woolworth's was a few yards away with the International Stores (which used to be in the High Street) was next door where I did an apprenticeship during the 1960s, for the princely wage of £5 a week and later increased to £5 10s 6d. Opposite was a branch of the National Westminster bank which is now a religious hall and next door was Coombes the greengrocers. (Before Woolworth's took it over the shop was called Teedon's. There one could buy most items of household needs, from furniture to a duster to polish it.)

Junction Road has changed dramatically, One of the best known shops here was Percy Holmes the fishmonger. "Holmes is the plaice for fish" was the advert painted on the wall of his shop. At one time he had a Trojan three-wheeled van, used for deliveries. A motorcycle engine drove the front wheels Then  Gulliver's Off Licence pulled down to make way for the Department of Health and Social Security. Opposite was a little chemist shop called Eyre's and a few houses further down was St Elmos nursing home where I came into the world in 1945, with the help of a Nurse Diver.

North of the railway line, Blundell's florists opened originally as a fruit and veg. shop, run by Benjamin Blundell,  he lived in Sycamore Cottage next door, No. 39. The business was taken over by Harold and Vera Blundell in 1946. It was the centre of three shops: nearer to the railway was Woolgar's, a second-hand shop, Blundell's in the middle and Mr. Shergold, a cobbler, on the Cinema side. All of the properties were owned by Harold Blundell, and eventually knocked into one. Mr. Woolgar moved to Water Lane

Other memorable shops from my childhood were Waller's sweetshop,  a wool shop, St Mary's Hall, the Savoy cinema, Ted Copps barbers shop with Annette's ladies hairdressers next door and Gamages sweetshop all in Junction Road all recall happy memories. My mother had just left Annette's  after having her hair done when an ex boyfriend of Annette went in, suddenly there was a huge bang, he had let a hand grenade off! My mother nearly had to have her hair dyed again! There was also a butchers shop run by the Dunning family, a son of which is the International Show Jumper Lionel Dunning who took part in many of the gymkhanas held at Eling fair. Later another butchers run by Shelly's was sited on the corner of Commercial Road.

The Savoy is now an industrial garment factory but when I was a child the weekly treat was a seat in the 2/6d seats!!! Saturday mornings saw the children's cinema with old favourites like the Roy Rogers club, Hopalong Cassidy and the Three Stooges just to name a few. The manager Ted Clark used to put a Christmas tree up in the foyer every year and the kids used to get a cracker and a sweet on the nearest Saturday morning to Christmas. . His wife Vera Clark ran the Candy Stores on the corner of Popes Land and Water Lane. These were the parents of my first serious girlfriend and Mr Clark, her father used to get us complimentary tickets to all the concerts in Southampton to see all the 60s pop stars including Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Rolling Stones, Gene Pitney, Cilla Black, the Hollies to name but a few.

Between the cinema and the barbers was Hamilton Terrace a line of three storey houses that have been demolished to make a goods entrance for a large superstore.

Quite often I used to come out of the Saturday morning 'flicks' to find about two to three feet of water all over the village, caused by the spring tides at the Causeway. And to see the landlord of the Elephant and Castle mopping out!

Another favourite shop was the Double 'U' Library in Testwood Lane now an electrical shop and a doctors surgery, here you could indulge in all your childhood fantasies, not only did they lend books but had a great toy department that seemed to stretch for miles!!

Just past the Double U was the old fire station with its siren on a tower outside the wooden building that housed the town fire tender. The firemen were all voluntary and when the siren went you could see them speeding to the fire station on bikes or in cars from their places of work. At 8pm on a Monday evening the siren was tested and you could hear it for miles around. Nowadays a new police station (now manned part time only), Ambulance and Fire station and a health centre have all been built adjoining the magistrates court directly opposite the old fire station. The Police Station used to be a large house in Commercial Road on the left as you enter Totton, almost next to Strides cycle and second-hand furniture shop.

Before the shopping precinct was built  and on the opposite side of Commercial Road where the charity shop is now was J.D. Law a television and radio shop, next door was Roy Joyner's paint and wallpaper shop , another little shop then the Cross Keys public house, and the last shop was Bert Morris's car shop and car sales. The World Stores sat in the middle of the 'Y' junction of Salisbury Road and Ringwood Road with Barters ironmongers next door. Then came Water Lane. 

On the corner of Testwood lane and just before Beaumont Road were another collection of shops that lined both sides of Commercial Road. The bank on the corner of Testwood Lane, with Mallinsons the Chemist (another shop was in South Parade) and Card's Fish and Chip and Fresh fish shop, followed by Holgates Electrical shop with its old petrol pumps outside and a couple more smaller shops. Opposite this was The Royal Oak which boasted that it was the smallest pub in the largest village in England, next door was the Hampshire Car Bodies depot which made fire engines for all over the world. Next door stood Gordons Ironmongers and Andrews which was a drapers shop. A small wool shop and then  a sweet shop run by a Mrs Withers later to become Maynards, the wine gum makers.

At the Southampton end of Commercial road and the first shop in Totton was Strides cycle and second hand emporium, followed by Meachers Transport (they also had a depot in Water Lane) , T. Burts garage and then the entry to the railway station (Station Road).  Couple of run down buildings housed Deans the newsagent and a greengrocers then a row of terraced houses.

In Station Road there was the Welwyn Cafe, and John Walters carpets along with a model and wood shop on the end this was a dead end as the railway ran along here and was the site of Totton Station. Later Ted Copp moved from working for 'George' in Junction Road and had his own hairdressers here.

At the start of the Salisbury Road was Barters the ironmongers then a left turn into Water Lane and opposite was the South Parade set behind a large grass verge with the Conservative Club and the Empire Hall being a favourite place for the teenagers of the 50s and 60s who used to have many a good Saturday night dance to bands which would later make the top ten, one of these was Screaming Lord Sutch (late of a political party) who would set his hair on fire and sing "Fire, Fire!"
Henbest the jewellers, Mr Hughes who had the toy shop, and a branch of Mallinsons Chemists (They had another shop in Commercial Road)

Even though I lived at Testwood on the Salisbury Road, Totton was the place you could buy practically anything without having to go to the nearby town of Southampton. And one small hardware store in Water Lane. Holts, was a favourite place as no matter how small an object, whether it was one nail or piece of chain it was never too much trouble for Mr Holt to go out to the back of the shop and come back with the item. And he only charged for that one particular thing though they were often in packets of between 10 or 100! Service like this sadly has gradually disappeared.

Brockenford Lane led from Rumbridge Street to the railway line where there is a footbridge that took you to a path joining the Ringwood Road, next to the old Territorial Army Drill Hall, and the Army Cadet  Hut. The top end of Brockenford followed the line of the River Rum from Rumbridge and was a favourite spot for us boys with out fishing nets or just for paddling in, many of us had 'dens' built along there!

Their were three  favourite bathing places in Totton, one of these was called the Salmon Pool (Salmon Leap) where a large house used to be sited and during the end of the war military vehicles were parked. The other was Nutsey which is at Testwood, (accessed by the Industrial Estate). Here during the summer months families used to take picnics to sit beside the river across the field between the 'first and second' bridge. To access this there was a footpath that ran down beside the gravel pit that was owned by the Steve Bull and his brother. Swimming was also carried out from the bridge on the causeway Redbridge with youngsters diving off the top of the bridge into the river below. And many a picnicking family could be found at Goatee Beach behind Eling Church which now is a beach with its own suntan oil built in!

The main schools in the are were Eling School in School Road, Lydlynch Infants in Lydlynch Road and Ringwood Road Primary (later renamed Abbotswood Primary) in Ringwood Road, and the secondary modern Testwood school in Testwood Lane. There was also Totton Grammar School at the bottom of Water Lane and Calmore Road.

I can well remember my days at Lydlynch school where a Miss Little was the tyrannical headmistress, and often she could be seen chasing the boys out of the air-raid shelters in the school grounds. My first teacher was a Miss Wheeler and the school caretaker was a tall thin chap called Mr Appleton. who used to wear blue dungarees and a flat cap, most of us kids were scared stiff of him!

Ringwood Road schools headmaster was a Mr "Pop" Singleton and some of the teachers were, Mrs Crook, Mrs Clarke, Miss Molyneux, Mr Benton, Mr Durrant, I think Mr Benton was the most popular teacher there during my 'confinement'!! Mrs Clarke was a good teacher despite being strict and unpopular with most of the school, and our favourite times were the last period of the afternoon when she would read from Enid Blytons Famous Five books, and on a Friday we had fresh ice cream from a fridge that was in her classroom!! She even organised trips for us, and one memorable one was to Cheddar Caves and Bath. Another trip was to London Zoo with Osgoods Coaches (based on Salisbury Road) and the coach broke down in London  which only gave us about an hour in the zoo itself!!

Sadly I did not attend Testwood School as my parents put me into a private school, the only time I went there was for my 11 Plus exam (which I failed!) and for the youth clubs in the evening. During the 11 Plus we were served dinner in the school dining room, and this caused much excitement among the children as it was far better than that at Ringwood Road school! Properly cooked cabbage instead of the "leather  which was good for soling the shoes", real boiled potatoes instead of the sticky mash, and Semolina pudding which I thoroughly enjoyed, and even had several other helpings from the boys who would not eat it!! The headmaster here was "Sid" Bowler and the PE master was the Rev Norman Bence, other teachers were Mr Stern and Mr Sterling. The  Rev Bence also took a keen interest in the Youth Club which was held in the evenings and he was also a keen trampolinist and used to coach the children in this activity.

Now there is a plan to revamp the town starting at the end of this year (2003) but will it ever be a host of memories to the generations that now live here? Back in the 60s there was a population of around 29,000 but the builder has gradually crept out into the neighbouring fields to build giant housing estates along the Ringwood Road right up to Netley Marsh.

(Or How I Came to Love Mr Eyre!)

Long before the National Health Service and free treatment came into being the local chemist was an extremely important person in the local communities as many people could not afford to pay for a doctor to treat them, unless it was an emergency so people used to visit the chemist.
One of these chemists immediately springs to mind and that was old Mr Eyre's who was a dispensing chemist and had a shop near the end of Junction Road near Batts Corner, ( And next door but one to. St Elmo, the nursing home where I was born).

He was a tiny man with almost white hair and always wore a white coat like a doctor, in fact I believe he did want to become a doctor but could not afford the training so instead had opted for being a chemist, or in today's language a pharmacist. Mind you he was also an optician, did ear piercing and syringing and would undertake a whole host of challenges. I remember having my mother dragging me in there screaming to have him lance a boil on the back of my neck, and Mr Eyre was renowned for his lack of Bedside Manner and just shouted at me and pushed me down into a chair! Some people used to say he was like a horse doctor and I believe he did dabble in veterinary practice!

Though the shortages caused by WWII  were extreme his shop was always well stocked with practically anything to do with medicine and all that you could see was a short piece of counter to be served at. Though often he would take customers to the back of the shop to discuss further any treatment they might require. In fact one particular day my mother took me there and I had to stand in the shop while she went 'round the back' and discussed the fact that I had a rash on a delicate bit of my anatomy and could he prescribe something to ease the itching. He soon concocted some evil smelling ointment that I had to have rubbed on my backside twice a day, and which you could smell hours later when back at school. I found out later it contained Wintergreen oil! But most times you went there you had to queue up outside the shop and not a sound could be heard from the inside.

He often had his son Timothy help him in the shop and he also had a daughter, in fact I went to school with Tim who if  I remember was a tall slim lad with a great big fuzz of fair curly hair.

Mr Eyre was one of the main players of the old Totton and I think everybody who was a child at that time lived in fear of him, but have a lot to thank him for, even though he died an early death he was a great loss to the town and will be remembered to this day.

The Toll Gate at Eling. 
The building on the left is the Tide Mill

The only surviving medieval toll in Hampshire has to be paid by owners of vehicles that cross the Bartley Water at Eling tide-mill. The causeway replaced a succession of bridges; the toll has been paid since at least 1418, the date of the earliest known lease. The mill and toll were owned by Winchester College until 1975/ when they were given to the local Council, and the tenancy of the mill has always included the right to charge a toll. The toll charge in 1418 is not known but in 1800 it was six pence for a four-wheeled carriage and in 1967 it was still only six pence. In 1988 it was 30 pence, an increase of over twelve fold in 21 years! Now in 2003 it is over a pound!!

To avoid the toll you must make a detour of about two miles, or have business at the church or cemetery.

FOOTNOTE: My thanks go to Colin Blundell for jogging my memory and pointing out a few errors!!