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Bitterne Park - a village within a city? PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 14:57

swans group bigFrom the tiniest pub and Italian café in town, to our own ice cream parlour, walks by the river, rides on a miniature steam railway, period properties, nearby schools and even a club night for those who like to "get home in time to pay the babysitter" – what's not to like about Bitterne Park?

Fancy a visit to Bitterne Park - or thinking about moving to the SO18 area? Perhaps you already live here and are curious to find out more. We hope this work in progress offers a few pointers to some of the ups, and downs, of Bitterne Park.



riverside park path autumn 08 460
Riverside Park on the bank of the Itchen


Bitterne Park is often thought of as simply Bitterne Park Triangle (and woe betide anyone who misses out the 'Park' bit!). In fact Bitterne Park is a suburb and electoral ward of the City of Southampton, in England.

The Bitterne Park ward covers a surprisingly large area: its boundary extends from Bitterne Manor to Mansbridge along the eastern bank of the River Itchen; along the A27 via Haskins garden centre in the north; and returns through Townhill Park, bordering with various other wards along the way, including West End North and South, Harefield, and finally Peartree ward in the south. St Denys, which this website also covers, is in fact part of Portswood ward. There are about 6,300 dwellings, and a population of around 13,300 in the Bitterne Park ward.

View a map of Southampton Council Ward Boundaries | Click for more demographic information about Bitterne Park ward

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Historians will tell you that Bitterne Park was originally part of the parkland of Bitterne Manor. Jim Brown, in his ‘Illustrated History of Southampton's Suburbs’, explains how the rural character of the area changed beyond recognition when the National Liberal Land Company purchased over 317 acres of this land in 1882 for the Bitterne Park Estate, leaving some five acres for a cricket and lawn tennis ground, with the remainder scheduled for extensive development. For more on the history of the area, including stories of fights with sticks on Cobden Bridge and of times before Riverside Park, check our archive of articles and audio clips.

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Village feel
Bitterne Park has been described by one reader as “a special place - one of the last real villages in Southampton”. Many will tell you that they came to Bitterne Park for the friendly ‘village feel’, its period properties, the river, Riverside Park, to be in the Bitterne Park catchment area for local schools, and of course the local shops at the Triangle — regarded by some close to it as the ‘village hub’.

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Transport and parking
And yet it is only a short journey into either central Southampton, or, in the other direction, to Eastleigh. From Southampton Central or Parkway rail stations it can take just a few minutes to Winchester, and just over an hour into London Waterloo. The M27’s junction 5 is (sometimes) only a five-minute drive away, offering easy access to Bournemouth, Poole and the south west, to Portsmouth and West Sussex, and the M3 to London.

First's 7 route in town runs
every 7 minutes Mon-Sat daytimes

From Bitterne Park it is, in theory, also a short hop into town by train, from either Bitterne or St Denys stations, which are both around a ten-minute walk from the Triangle — although sadly connections with intercity routes rarely seem joined up. A cycle and pedestrian route links Horse Shoe Bridge in St Denys with Northam and on into the city - get to it by crossing over Cobden Bridge from the Bitterne Park side, and turning left along Priory Road. At the Junction pub turn left and the start is your left just before the Bridge crosses the railway. This forms part of cycle route 23 which continues through Riverside Park (download a cycle route map from the council's site - pdf). 

Or to get to the top end of town mainly using road via Horse Shoe Bridge, Empress Road, Kingsbury Road, Bevois Valley, up Rockstone Lane next to the Bevois Castle pub, to arrive on the Avenue just across from London Road. From here on a bike you are just a few minutes from the city centre. For more information about cycling in the City, see the Southampton Cycling Campaign website and the council's cycling pages.

On foot, Portswood is a 15-20 minute walk away — unfortunately mainly along the noisy St Denys Road - with Highfield and parts of the University of Southampton a few minutes further. Bitterne Park, though, isn't a major favourite for students.  And the city centre is a fair old hike from the area - so you may prefer alternative means of transport.

bluestar no 16 frontBy bus, First's 7 route (previously the 3) offers a very frequent link (every 7 8 mins Mon-Sat daytimes) from Townhill Park and the Triangle into town via Portswood and Bevois Valley, while Bluestar's 16 service was changed from a similar route to run into town from Townhill Park via Bitterne and over Northam Bridge (route map here)
. The U9 Service offers an infrequent service between Townhill Park and the Triangle to Portswood, Taunton's College and the General Hospital.

Of course living in Bitterne Park you also have all the advantages, and disadvantages, of having an expanding airport right on your doorstep; seek, and you’ll find many articles about that on this site.

If you’re visiting be warned that on-street parking is very limited at the Triangle; a 60-minute restriction applies — and is often enforced. Far better to train, bus, cycle, walk - or perhaps even boat! There is limited street parking on nearby residential roads; alternatively head along Manor Farm Road and use the free car park by Riverside Park (sharp turn by the Social Club): from here, it’s a brief, and lovely walk back to the Triangle along the river.

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The Triangle

Bitterne Park Triangle
Bitterne Park Triangle

The Triangle is often seen as the ‘hub’ of Bitterne Park. It has much to offer locals and visitors alike. For the former, a fair amount of day to day needs is available on your doorstep, without another tedious trip to the supermarket; far better, many feel, to buy from — and support — small and friendly shops on your doorstep, and to help preserve that village feel that may have attracted you to the area in the first place. And for visitors, the Triangle, and Riverside Park, are pleasant destinations for whiling away some weekend time with some mooching.

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As well as boasting a traditional baker's and butcher's shop [closed since the start of 2015], there's a small Co-operative store (you may need earplugs if you don't like Co-operative Radio, which plays loud!), you can browse the bric-a-brac in Barnardo’s, use a small DIY shop or even buy a Persian rug or a piano at the Triangle. Sadly the art scene in Bitterne Park is somewhat depleted since the closure of Spice Art Studios in the lovely old pharmacy shop - now run by Vineyard Church as offices and community space (hear an audio feature from this link). And the former picture framing shop near the clock tower has now morphed into micro pub The Butcher's Hook (read on for more on this development). Antiques are thin on the ground too, since the closure of various outlets over the last few years.

But you will find various options for preening, with barbers, hairdressers, and a couple of beauty businesses at The Triangle.

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Food and drink

Il Picchio shop front

Some really interesting new businesses are starting to make their home at Bitterne Park Triangle, well worth checking out whether you're a local or popping over to see us!

For sustenance try some of Sandro’s Italian treats in his tiny café and deli Il Picchio [under new management Sept 2015]. You can enjoy anything from a cappuccino to a full lunch by day. Evenings it becomes a restaurant by arrangement. Next door try Lite Bites Miss Ellie's café, or also at The Triangle the Riverside Diner – particularly popular on Sunday mornings.

You could also follow a much-loved local tradition and enjoy freshly-fried fish and chips from the wrapper beside the river. Could there be just time to pop over the road for a micro beer while yours is being freshly fried? But whose chips are best: Charlie's or Andy's? We really couldn't say...

Dan Richardson Anthony Nicholls butchers hook2

Our very own specialist real ale micro pub (not in fact a micro brewery as many assume), The Butcher's Hook, was opened by MP John Denham in February 2014 right on the Triangle. "Local beer enthusiasts... have restored the one-time butchers’ shop to a miniature gem and I would say easily the best pub in town," says a review of The Butchers Hook on Read it in full here. And you can listen to Dan Richardson and Anthony Nicholls (above) talking to us about their inspiration for the Butcher's Hook in our audio interview just before the micro pub opened.

If there's no room at the inn, you could walk up the road to The Bitterne Park Hotel, which saw a closure and uncertainty for a period at the start of 2014. It re-opened in May 2014 under new management. In the same month the pub was also listed by the council as an 'asset of community value', giving the community the right to bid on and potentially buy the property should owners Enterprise Inns ever decide to sell. Following this, the Bitterne Park Hotel was refurbished and re-opended in February 2015.


doras new owners


Another clue that, just possibly, Bitterne Park Triangle could start to really become 'up and coming' is the opening of ice cream parlour Dora's Cups and Cones – already looking like a big hit with the many families in the area, and pictured above with new owners. It's surely only bright new businesses like the Butcher's Hook and Cups & Cones that will bring new life to the Triangle. So what's next?

As well as Il Picchio's weekend evening dining, later in the day for Indian food to eat in or collect, try the Bitterne Balti (can get busy at the weekends), or, for takeaway only, try the Bengal Paradise. There are various other takeaways at the Triangle including Chinese and pizza — in fact many feel there are too many and priority should be given to other businesses (whether there is demand from 'other businesses' is perhaps debatable). There is also a plethora of other takeaways further afield, which will happily deliver hot food to your door in the evenings — and menus through your letterbox on an almost hourly basis!

swans group big
Swans at Riverside Park

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Boom or bust?
to let signIt’s not all a bed of roses at the Triangle: businesses come and go (this page seems to need constant updating!), and ‘to let’ signs are all too familiar. The names the buildings are known by say it all: there is an 'Old Chemist' and an 'Old Post Office', but you can't pick up a prescription or get a parcel weighed at the Triangle.

Health centre: a steep climb

There was a time not so long ago (OK –  probably a decade!) when you had to queue to get in the door on a busy Saturday at Kenman's fruit and veg shop, which also did a fine line in wholefoods, herbs and spices, and an array of other comestibles. It became veg and wholefood store Fruitopia, which itself closed in July 2007. Since then there have been various efforts at running different forms of greengrocer from the same premises, but as of April 2014, Manor Farm fruit and veg closed, (it's now rideride cycle shop), so you'll need to take your greengrocery custom elsewhere....

veg shed opening day

.... perhaps to The Veg Shed, that currently trades most Saturday mornings from 9am -12 pm at the Triangle near the clock tower, offering a good selection of fruit, veg (some organic), and some other goods including olive oil and coffee. Organisers have however recently appealed for help to keep the Veg Shed going.

Of course, Triangle traders face stiff competition from 'newcomer' Tesco Express, on Cobden Avenue (many locals still resent its appearance and won't shop there), another Tesco Express on Witts Hill, and, just up the road in Portswood, a massive Sainsbury’s store opened in spring 2012 on the site of the old bus depot (which has now moved to Empress Road).

Triangle estate agents' offices are also on the way out, blaming the lack of Triangle footfall and the shift towards online searching – although you'll still be spoilt for choice if you head up the hill to Bitterne or into town on London Road. Read our feature on Bitterne Park property from this link.

The old Bitterne Park post office
Old post office

Some say the closure of the bank in the 90s (in what is now H Palace), and the closure of Triangle post office 2005 made a significant impact on passing trade (if you need a post office now the nearest are at Witts Hill, Midanbury or in Portswood). The chemist closed in 2007, again reducing Triangle footfall, and moved up to Thorold Road in the then new health centre (a steep climb too far for many). And it’s been suggested that, if the Triangle ‘fails’, and can no longer boast at least the basics - a local butcher, bakery and greengrocer - every property in Bitterne Park will drop in value by at least £10,000. Whether or not that's true, despite rumblings, a significant, joined-up, imaginative campaign to encourage ‘local Triangle shopping’ has yet to emerge.

Nonetheless, if new businesses like the micro pub and ice cream shop can inspire others to set up original and sustainable enterprises at the Triangle, maybe it does stand a chance of reinventing itself.

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shops at Witts Hill
Witts Hill shops

Witts Hill
As well as the post office, there are various other shops at Witts Hill, Midanbury, including a couple of
small supermarkets, a baker, takeaways and a Boots chemist, in a small parade next to what was the Castle pub. The pub closed in 2012, and re-opened as Tesco Express in May 2013 – a move opposed by many local traders, residents and the MP. You can find several articles about Tesco Express, including audio interviews, by following this link.

tesco witts hill big

The summit of the hill offers a fine view towards the airport runway, and if you do your time on the council waiting list, you could one day even be rewarded with your very own key to the Witts Hill allotments (other allotments are available - close to our area over Bitterne Road West you could also look at Athleston Road allotments, which offer stunning views across the river).

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Bitterne Road West
Other retail outlets are dotted around the crossroads at the bottom of Bullar Road as it intersects with
bitterneroadsignthe busy Bitterne Road West. It's as hard as it is unpleasant to negotiate on foot - or by using any other transport! It marks a boundary between Bitterne Park and Bitterne wards. Some businesses are positioned in the middle of what is affectionately known as the “Bullar Road gyratory”.

Around this area you'll find a carpet shop, hairdresser, barbers, garage, takeaways, a newsagent and others. There's also a recycling point on the approach to Bitterne railway station - and here too you'll find The Station Hotel pub (SO18 1GT) - part of the John Barras chain.

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bitterne park secondary exterior

Bitterne Park is mainly served by Bitterne Park Primary School (Outstanding - Ofsted September 2014) – which until September 2013 comprised Bitterne Park Infant School (Good: Ofsted January 2012) and Bitterne Park Junior School (Good - up from Satisfactory - Ofsted September 2012) on Manor Farm Road – and Bitterne Park School, the secondary on Copeswood Road: "specialist performing arts and applied learning school" (Good: Ofsted 2014 - down from Outstanding in 2009). It also includes a fairly new sixth form centre with, among other things, excellent theatre facilities. Bitterne Park sixth form boasted A level results of: "100% A – E pass rate (National = 98%), with A – C grades at 77% and A – B grades at 40%" in 2015 on its website.

Bitterne Park School is also a teaching school, and the lead for the Bitterne Park Teaching School Alliance, a partnership of schools working with the University of Southampton. There's more information about the Bitterne Park Alliance on the Bitterne Park School website.

It's planned that a new Bitterne Park secondary school, to offer modern facilities and take the roll from 1500 to a whopping 1800 secondary school pupils, is to be built in the school grounds. When complete, the current buildings will be demolished and replaced by sports fields. All this is due to happen by 2018. Search this site to find various articles about this, and the possibile impact on the local community during and following construction.

St Denys Primary School is a stone's throw away over Cobden Bridge, and further afield are Highfield C of E, Bitterne Manor Primary and Portswood Primary Schools.

Or go private: St Mary's College is an independent day school for boys and girls on Midanbury Lane, while The Gregg School is at Townhill Park House, Townhill Park. Both have their own junior schools. For more information, see our listings of schools - the links lead to schools' websites and to their Ofsted reports.

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civic centre under CC2 by Nochn Nordlicht
Civic Centre Photo under CC2 by Nochn Nordlicht



Bitterne Park ward has in recent years voted Conservative in local elections — we have three Tory councillors; Southampton City Council, which is a unitary authority, is since 2012 Labour controlled again. Bitterne Park ward Conservative councillors hold regular surgeries at the local library. Bitterne Park is in the Southampton Itchen parliamentary constituency, and former council leader Royston Smith overturned a very small Labour majority to become our (Conservative) MP in 2015, securing a 2,316 majority. 

The seat was previously held by John Denham for Labour, who'd held it since 1992, and was Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government prior to the fall of the Labour government. He retired at the 2015 election, and Labour selected journalist and Peckham councillor Rowenna Davis to contest the ultra-marginal constituency.

Contact details are in this section.

Over the Itchen, Porstwood Ward, which includes St Denys, is currently represented by three Tories (the leader of the Lib Dem group lost his seat in May 2014). It falls under the Southampton Test constituency. Alan Whitehead for Labour held on to the seat in 2015, making it the only red constituency in a sea of southern blues.

Bitterne Park Residents' Association operates in Bitterne Park; a
ccording to e.VOLve - a database of voluntary and community organisations serving Hampshire and the Isle of Wight - BPRA aims: "To sustain/improve the environmental quality of Bitterne Park and to encourage a cohesive and supportive community." e.VOlve also says BPRA "holds 1-2 public meetings a year": if you find out when they are, do let us know! 

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Cobbett Road Library
Cobett Road Library

There are the groups and activities that meet in more formal settings, such as at the excellent Cobbett Road Library (sadly only open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday mornings - one of the many libraries under threat of closure up and down the country), which offers an oasis of calm for individuals and groups, in lovely art deco surroundings right on the Bullar Road gyratory system, or at the nearest community centres in Bitterne Manor, St Denys and Meggeson Avenue (the Bitterne Park suburb itself is sadly devoid of its own community centre).

The Junction in St Denys
The Junction in St Denys

And like anywhere else, there are many networks and communities based around Bitterne Park: whether it's informal groups of parents who originally met at the school gates or at a children's activity, communities of dog walkers, park users, football players, church-goers, skateboarders, duck feeders, or regulars at one of the few pubs in Bitterne Park, and several others on the other side of the river (perhaps we'll save a more in-depth look for a later update!), there's plenty for many in Bitterne Park.

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Feel there's essential information missing — or would you like to add a section? Then contact us. 


The Triangle’s most famous landmark is the clock tower, which was moved to its current spot from New Road in 1934, and which apparently leans towards Cobden Bridge by several inches.

Or is it by more than that?


©  Bitterne Park's local website -


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Last Updated on Saturday, 02 January 2016 23:31


0 #1 Ann MacGillivray 2010-01-17 12:28
Well done!
I really like what you have done with this article.
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0 #2 Rose Nicole 2010-01-17 17:47
Yes, it's great. Shows why we all like it here.
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0 #3 lbluemel 2010-03-13 11:42
I agree that it's a pity about Spice Art and, before that, Public Hangings, which I, for one, was very sorry to see close. However, I maintain one room in my house as a mini art gallery and everyone is welcome to come and see the art works, including paintings by myself of local buildings and street scenes and sculptures by local artist Ann MacGillivray. There are also cards for sale at a very reasonable price. Visitors are welcome at any time, but ring first (023 8033 2926) if you want to be sure of finding me at home.
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-5 #4 Abduldabadoo 2010-06-26 15:50
This is a great article however it fails to highlight the importance of the islamic asian and somalli community groups, hopefully with goverment and lottery funding we can set up the al hazzarld islamic refuge community centre, and sharia law drop in clinic. For the displaced afgan and iraqi peoples coming to southampton for the first time.
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-3 #5 qwerty 2011-09-19 14:49
ive grown up in bitterne park and there is no way that bitterne park is a village, have you seen a village. the people who call this place a village are derranged snobs living in the past.
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-2 #6 koolduke 2011-11-20 04:40
Ann Mac'told me about this comment the other day and I'm afraid I didn't take in what she was saying!! Now I have read it I totally agree with you qwerty! I grew up in Harcourt Road and I would never call Bitterne Park a village. For a start there is a busy road running straight through the middle and it has been busy for over 50 years and my mum got knocked over on the then zebra crossing when returning from walking the dogs and I was with her as a small child! I now live in Netley Abbey in Eastleigh Borough which I would class as a large village and we have a parish council! Anyway I adored your comment about derranged snobs in fact the only reason I registered was so I could comment on your comment!! sorry about the exclaimation marks!!!! My real name is Patricia Gibson nee Shutler. Can someone tell me the boundaries of Bitterne Park village?
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+1 #7 koolduke 2011-11-20 14:41
I am sorry but this has got to be a joke. Yabadabadoo? --- Abduldabadoo? I apologise if this your real name.
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0 #8 Odessa 2012-03-29 14:50
A village within a village maybe?
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+2 #9 Rose Nicole 2012-06-11 09:28
On Sunday I was in Oxford, and popped into a cafe to have a drink and some bruschetta - a favourite of mine. But, despite the promise of something tasty to eat in a thriving and cosmopolitan City, I was very disappointed; a very small portion, no oil, no flavour. Thank goodness we have Il Picchio in the Triangle where the food is always excellent. Well done Sandro, and thank you.
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+3 #10 BitternePark1961 2013-10-04 13:13
I moved to Bitterne Park as a 7 yr old, in 1968. I still live in the same house 45 yrs on... It is not a village, but is a suburb to the city. In all my years, I have had a wonderful life in Bitterne Park.I have not encountered any anti social problems, and feel very safe in my area ! Love the Triangle ..Love Bitterne Park.. Heaven !
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