Rebuilding Southampton – 1998

Towns have to re-invent themselves from time to time. It has been amazing, recently, to hear how Detroit has slumped. The car industry has declined and, it seems, nothing has replaced it and we understand much of the town is now deserted.

Southampton was, for many years the major port for transatlantic liners. As a train spotter in the London area, I used to watch the boat trains, often headed by one of the graceful Lord Nelson class of locos hurrying passengers down to the docks, quite often in luxury Pullman coaches.

Then jet airliners came along and the days of the liner were over. A big new container port was built – hardly as glamorous as the ocean terminal, but it provided a continued raison d’etre for Southampton.

By the 1990s it seemed that to encourage people into a town, though, you had to have a shiny new shopping centre. I believe that was what was under construction here. I have to say that back then, I wasn’t much interested in what was being built. I was just seeking opportunities to try out my brand new first digital camera and I thought those tower cranes were fantastic.


They were so good, in fact, that I took two shots.


This one shows a part of the old Southampton walls – the ‘Catchcold Tower’.

For the record, the camera (which actually belonged to my place of work) was an Olympus and at maximum resolution it took photos with 640 by 480 pixels in size. It came with a one megabyte memory card which was quite inadequate, so I often used the smaller 320 by 240 size – what we might call a thumbnail picture these days.

I was back in Southampton in 2009 and once again found Catchcold Tower.


On this visit the West Quay Shopping Centre was complete.


It may not have been of much interest to me (except that it was where buses went and I was a bus passenger) but by heck it was attracting people. Southampton was reinvented.

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