July 29th 1973

“Dad’s Birthday – gave Dad card and chocol. Had a game of snooker wiv ‘im and lost”

This magnificent-looking building seen on the right was the Railway Institute and once sat on the northern corner of Market Street and Leigh Road in Eastleigh.

It was built in 1892 as a bar/entertainment venue for the workers employed by the Eastleigh Railway Works – the town’s first ever major industry – since 1884.

As if to highlight how important and ‘rich’ the railway system was in Britain during that period, this building was as impressive inside as it was outside. The entrance was massive featuring a wide set of stairs which snaked up to the other floors. Wood panelling, heavy doors, brass and marble was everywhere.

There was a sizeable snooker hall on one of the floors where me and my Dad would often go and play a few frames on the immaculately-maintained baize-covered tables. I remember Dad telling me they professionally vacuumed and ironed the table tops every night after the building closed.

The rear of the building featured a pair of crown-green bowling courts, invisible to the street (thanks to high walls) but doubtless a relaxing ‘oasis’ for players of the gentle sport. Only people who worked for the railway could use the Institute.

These days, the building would probably be considered of historic interest and placed on a protected register. Somewhen in the 1980’s it was razed to the ground and developers built a really ugly Safeways supermarket, a bus station and car park on the site.

Bloody shame.

Especially you consider when the Railway Institute built and moved into the super-ugly building shown here…

(The photo of the Institute shown was snagged from Rob Byrne’s  flickrstream. I have been unable to contact him to ask permission to use the photo, so hope he doesn’t mind. He can contact me if he’d prefer I didn’t)

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