SOUTHAMPTON CENTRAL Southampton is a busy modern city that has attracted some sizeable companies, including Price Waterhouse and Skandia Life, and the Marine and Coastguard Agency. Its increasingly aggressive commercial face, unrivalled shopping, strong cultural identity and proximity to the sea and the New Forest are all major assets. Ambitious developments are underway, with street makeovers and a north-south spine to link the centre with the waterfront. The former Pirelli factory site is being transformed into Watermark WestQuay with an IKEA store, and Southampton University’s Boldrewood Campus is the location for the Maritime Centre of Excellence.
There are three galleries, including the elegant art deco City Art Gallery, cinemas and nightclubs. The Mayflower Theatre stages West End musicals, ballet and opera, Southampton University’s Nuffield Theatre offers a range of productions from Shakespeare to contemporary drama, and the Turner Simms Concert Hall features both classical music and jazz. Rock concerts and other music events are held at the Guildhall. Southampton Football Club is based at St Mary’s and there is first-class cricket at Hampshire’s Rosebowl county ground. Participation sports include golf, and tennis, athletics, swimming and diving in a complex at The Quays. Southampton Airport provides flying lessons for those with strong stomachs and the money to match. But the principal leisure activity is still probably sailing. There are clubs, moorings and dinghy schools all along the coast.
Ocean Village is the place for weekending sailors – a mixture of docklands architecture, shopping, cinemas, bars and restaurants, the Port Grimaud of southern England. A two-bedroom apartment with a berth for the boat costs £205,000 or more; a town house might cost £245,000, rising towards £300,000 if it has a berth.
Old Southampton stretches from the historic Bargate, once the main entry into the town, to Town Quay – a good vantage point from which to watch the ocean-going liners sail into port. A weekly Friday market takes place around Bargate, with monthly crafts, antiques and farmers’ markets on Saturdays. There are new developments of luxury flats and listed warehouses converted into apartments on the seafront. Inner Avenue is one of the best places to look for older town houses. A two- or three-bedroom house within walking distance of the city centre would cost between £160,000 and £200,000. For cheaper housing you could look at Shirley, where a two-bedroom late-Victorian terraced home would fetch £140,000 to £150,000.
Further out from the town centre is Bassett. This has become rather chic because of its proximity to Southampton Common, the university and two good schools –King Edward VI independent school and The Atherley independent school for girls. A three-bedroom Thirties’ semi here might cost £150,000; a three-bedroom detached house around £300,000 upwards. There are some larger, rather distinctive, four-bedroom houses which sell for over £400,000.
North of Southampton is Chilworth, which is considered irredeemably smart. Wealthy businessmen are attracted to the individually built large houses with anything from half an acre to two acres of ground. Smaller three- or four-bedroom houses start at around £500,000, with prices rising above £1m as you enter the mini-mansion market.