by heritage editor Martin Brisland.
Did you skate at Southampton Ice Rink? If so you would have to be of a certain age as on August 22nd 2023 the ice rink will have been closed for 35 years.
Southampton’s very first ice rink was situated on Charles Knott’s Banister Stadium site just to the south of the speedway track. It was destroyed during the Blitz of 1940 and rebuilt on the same site in 1952.
Charles Knott (1890 – 1974) was a successful fish shop owner who branched out into property development. In the 1920s he acquired the Banister Court estate, demolished the house and built an ice rink, greyhound and speedway stadium complex, which opened in 1928.
From 1936 it was the home of Southampton’s ice hockey team, the Vikings, and the Southampton Speed Skating Club. It also hosted ice dance and figure skating competitions.
In 1963 it was taken over by the Top Rank organisation and reopened in 1964 after a major refurbishment.
Despite protests and petitions it was closed down in 1988. Modern housing was built on the site with Charles Knott Gardens named after the man behind the ice rink. Despite many in favour, a replacement ice rink has never been built in Southampton.
The DJ’s at the ice rink were local celebrities from the 1960s onwards, playing the hits of the day while you skated round. Bob Dene was one of the first and Tony Francis followed him. I recently interviewed former DJ Mike Joyce. He told me he would introduce the Southampton Vikings ice hockey team to Fanfare for the Common Man by Emerson. Lake and Palmer (ELP).
Mike only got started by chance in 1979 when he asked the DJ Tony Francis to play a record. Tony then asked him to keep an eye on the disco equipment while he went to the loo. They got talking and within a month Mike was working seven sessions each week including all the weekend ones.
Mike said he had only gone to the ice rink to keep a friend company and wasn’t even a good skater!
Bob Heather took over in the early 1980s and then Mike Joyce came back until 1985. The late Barry Sims then became the main DJ up to the closure of the rink in 1988.
Mike remembers that speed skating sessions were especially popular. He played fast songs such as Telstar by The Tornados, Nut Rocker by B. Bumble and The Stingers, Jungle Rock by Hank Mizell, Sabre Dance by Love Sculpture, Silver Machine by Hawkwind, Paranoid by Black Sabbath, Let there be Drums by Sandy Nelson, Wipeout by The Surfaris and Ballroom Blitz by Sweet.
Sadly accidents and falls did happen especially when the DJ told skaters to reverse their direction of travel around the rink!
Slow love ballad skate sessions were equally popular and many a romance was started there.
Mike recalled an early type of karaoke that he started. He went onto the ice and sang along to a song and a crowd of skaters would gather around.
After he left, Mike Joyce went on to become a local mobile DJ for 38 years. Since 2021 he has presented a popular show called Ice Rink Memories on local DAB community station Outreach Radio. It broadcasts from 6pm-7pm on a Sunday.
Charity events were often held when the ice rink was operational. Mike has continued the tradition by helping to organise four reunions which raised money for the Air Ambulance.
The first one was at the Malvern pub in Winchester Road in 2010. There were two more at the Bridge Tavern in Woolston and a recent one at the Empire Hall in Totton.
The Ice Dance & Figure Skating club that started in 1952 was finally closed in 2022. Club secretary Edna Boden said that “our greatest wish is that one day a permanent ice rink will be returned to the South Coast.”
Until then the temporary outdoor rink by the Western Walls at Westquay around Christmas time will have to suffice.
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